Little Folks - Salem, Massachusetts

Little Folks Magazine Subscription (c. 1914-1928)

Subscriptions to magazines published by Salem's Cassino publishing company were popular gifts, especially for children. S.E. Cassino Co. was a Salem and Boston based publishing company, operated by Salemite Samuel Edison Cassino and his daughter Margherita Cassino Osborne.

The two branches of the S.E. Cassino Co. focused on vastly different topics. The Boston branch, which was run by Samuel, focused on naturalist topics; the Salem division, which was edited and operated by Margherita and her husband Frank Wellman Osborne, concentrated on the more profitable sector of children’s magazines and books. One particularly popular publication was Little Folks, which was a children’s magazine published in Salem from 1914-1928.

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

Ghost Signs of Salem, Massachusetts

Newmark's Ghost Sign on Essex Street c. 1970

The term "ghost signs" refers to now weathered, hand painted brick advertisements that were popular during the late 19th and early 20th century. In the days before digital marketing, this form of advertising was used by a variety of local and national businesses to promote their locations and products. Remnants of these signs can be seen throughout the city of Salem, Massachusetts. Though multiple ghost signs remain, many have been lost over the last century to revitalization projects, rezoning and demolition. 
Pillsbury Ghost Sign on Endicott Street
The most famous of these advertising signs are for Coca-Cola, many of which are still visible throughout North America. Between 1890 and 1920, an estimated 16,000 murals were painted across the United States. In 1910, a quarter of Coca-Cola's advertising budget was used solely for the creation of wall murals. 

Lost Coca-Cola Advertisement on Boston Street c. 1930

Recently, Coca-Cola launched a ghost sign revitalization project, where the company employs artists to restore their ghost signs. The project has already breathed new life into over two dozen murals, across fifteen states. 

Almy, Bigelow & Washburn Ghost Sign on New Derby Street
Beeman's Pepsin Ghost Sign on Peabody Street

Harry Houdini - Salem, Massachusetts

Courtesy: Salem Patch
Courtesy: Hawthorne Hotel
In April 1906, Harry Houdini visited Salem while on tour. For three consecutive nights he performed sold out shows at the Salem Theatre on Essex Street. During his stay, he was challenged by the skeptical chief of police to escape a locked cell in Salem’s police station, at the time located on Front Street. It is said that Houdini, stripped of his clothes, was placed in three sets of handcuffs and two pairs of leg irons, in the jail’s middle cell. In a reported 13 minutes, Houdini had freed himself and opened the neighboring cell, where his clothes were being held. He then proceeded to unlock all of the remaining cells and handcuffed himself to a fellow prisoner. Fully clothed, prisoner in-tow, he walked outside and mockingly stood in the window where the police chief was waiting.

Courtesy: Salem Memories II -
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.
Harry Houdini died in Detroit, Michigan on October 31, 1926 after days of suffering complications of a ruptured appendix. Following a large funeral of over 2,000 mourners, he was laid to rest in Queens, New York.
On October 30, 1990, a séance was held in the grand ballroom of Salem’s Hawthorne Hotel in the hopes of summonsing the spirit of Harry Houdini on the 64th anniversary of his death. Despite being unsuccessful, this séance helped lead to the introduction of the annual Halloween Party, which premiered in 1991.

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

The Witch House - Salem, Massachusetts

The Jonathan Corwin House, more commonly known as The Witch House, is located at the corner of Essex and North Streets and built in the early 17th century. It was believed that Roger Williams lived in this home in 1630 and until the mid-20th century the house was named after him. Research and modern technology later dated the house to post-1640; however the time frame is still heavily debated.

In 1675, the home was purchased by Judge Jonathan Corwin. He would go on to gain infamy when he was called upon in 1692 to investigate accusations of witchcraft in Salem. He served on the Court of Oyer and Terminer, which sentenced nineteen people to be hanged, despite their claims of innocence. One additional victim, Giles Corey, was crushed by stones for "standing mute" and not offering a plea of guilty or not guilty. Contrary to popular lore, there is no documentation that Judge Corwin used his own home to interrogate those accused during the 1692 hysteria. Judge Corwin died in 1718 and the home remained in his family until the mid-nineteenth century.

This first period home has undergone extensive changes over its nearly 400 year lifespan. In 1856 it was purchased by George Farrington who attached a storefront to the home. For nearly 100 years the space operated as a pharmacy, gift shop, and museum entrance. Farrington was one of the early Salem business owners to embrace the nickname “Witch City.” In a time predating Daniel Low’s souvenir witch spoons, Farrington was already including witches in his marketing. He shifted the focus of the house’s interpretation from Roger Williams to Jonathan Corwin and renamed it the Witch House. A large number of postcards were created, popularizing the house and Salem as a tourist destination for dark history.
In the 1940s, the Witch House and neighboring Bowditch House were slated for demolition in an effort to widen North Street for automobile traffic. The formation of Historic Salem Inc. saved the structures and preservation of the Witch House was overseen by Gordon Robb, a Boston architect. The shop was detached and the home was moved 35 feet back from its previous location. The Witch House was renovated to reflect how it was thought to have appeared in the 17th century and gables were rebuilt. In 1948, the Witch House opened as a city run museum and continues to operate as such.

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.
Images are from their collections.

Dating the Past - Civil War Revenue Stamps

Courtesy: Salem State University Archives & Special Collections

During the American Civil War many soldiers took with them mementos from home, including photographs of loved ones. Photography had improved dramatically over the previous decade leading up to the war, both in quality and accessibility. This created a boom in portrait photography during antebellum that still continues.

In order to finance the war, the Union government instituted the Revenue Act of 1862, which taxed luxury items. Photographers were required to collect tax for each image and to show the tax was paid by affixing a stamp to the back and cancelling it with their initials and date. Although photographs were one of the most taxed items, photography did not have its own stamp. Often stamps for telegraphs and playing cards were used. 

On August 1, 1866 the tax on photography was repealed, making these revenue stamps indicative of the Civil War era. They do not appear on images prior to or after the war, making them easy to date. 

This particular image was taken in the heart of downtown Salem, Massachusetts by Essex Street photographer, D.W. Bowdoin. The 3 cent stamp attached to the back indicates the keepsake was purchased for between 25 cents and 50 cents. 

Java Head (1923) - Salem, Massachusetts

Courtesy: Streets of Salem
The silent motion picture Java Head, released in February 1923, is based on the 1919 book by Joseph Hergesheimer. The story chronicles the tragic marriage between Salem ship captain Gerrit Ammidon played by Alan Roscoe and a Chinese princess portrayed by Leatrice Joy.

Java Head was filmed at many locations in Salem mentioned in the book, including Derby Wharf, Central Wharf, the Custom House, Hardy Street and Salem Common. During the month of filming, the Salem Evening News reported daily on the crew's progress, stating "never before has this city been picked as the location for a moving picture."

Courtesy: Salem State University Archives & Special Collections
The first scenes of Java Head were filmed on October 12 and 13, 1922 outside 26 Hardy Street (nonextant.) The location was chosen based on Hergesheimer's book, which named the home as the residence of Edward Dunsack, played by Raymond Hatton.

$75,000 of the film's $200,000 budget was allocated to filming in Salem, the crew began restoring Derby Wharf to its 1840's glory in early October 1922. Alterations included: stabilizing the neglected wharf, building several warehouses, covering rail lines and placing cobblestone. Ships brought in from nearby Gloucester and the whaler Charles W. Morgan from New Bedford were docked at the wharf. Studio artists rendered a large painted backdrop to conceal the mills of the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Co. in the distance. 

Courtesy: Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Like 75% of the silent films made in Hollywood, the 1923 version of Java Head has been lost. Only a few still photographs exist. In 1934, however, another version of Java Head was made, set in Bristol, England, and starring the Asian-American actress Anna May Wong. This version is still available. 

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Edited by Emily A. Murphy, Ph.D. 

Hawthorne Hotel - Salem, Massachusetts

Images courtesy of Salem State University Archives and Special Collections

The Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts came to be as the result of a community effort begun on May 27, 1921 at a Salem Rotary Club meeting. It was then that George Hooper, Salem Laundry owner, lobbied the importance of building a hotel in Salem. At the time, Salem was bustling with tourists and businessmen, who were unable to find lodging and would therefore leave the city, stifling Salem’s economy. Following this meeting, the Rotary Club appointed Frank Poor of the Hygrade Lamp Company (Sylvania) to assist Hooper in drawing up a proposal.

Incorporated on August 27, 1923, the Salem Hotel Corporation began with a 52-member committee consisting of Salem business owners and philanthropists who all believed in the importance of building a hotel in the city. In July of that year, fundraising for the new hotel kicked off with a group of 175 volunteer businessmen, all strategically trained to sells stocks by the Hockenbury Co. of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which was brought in to manage the campaign. The volunteers were divided into 16 competitive teams. A rally was held at the Salem YMCA on July 16, 1923 to celebrate the beginning of the fundraiser. Daily meetings continued there to discuss sales results, which were posted on a large billboard in Town House Square. Results were also advertised in the committee’s “Ho! Tell!” literature. On the first day alone, $500,000 was raised, more than half of the original $750,000 goal. By the end of the week long campaign, the total raised was $527,000.

Following the fundraiser, planning for the new hotel began with location proposals. The Franklin Building, sitting at the corner of Essex Street and Washington Square was offered by the Salem Marine Society with the condition that a room would be built for exclusive use by the society. 

The Franklin Building was razed and construction began on the hotel in June 1924 with contractors Pitman and Brown and architect Phillip Horton Smith, of Smith and Walker, in Boston. Shortly before the hotel’s completion, an additional $90,000 was raised to expand the ballroom and reduce the hotel’s mortgage. Members of Salem Hotel Corp. donated goods from their businesses. Hygrade Lamp Company supplied light bulbs and Naumkeag Steam Cotton Co, provided sheets.

Inspired by the success of the hotel’s fundraising, an additional $10,000 was raised for the Hawthorne Memorial Association, which was looking to buy a statue of Nathaniel Hawthorne by Bela Lyon Pratt from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, with plans to place it on the newly completed Hawthorne Boulevard, adjacent to the hotel. The statue was purchased and dedicated in December 1925. The Hawthorne Memorial Association’s chairman, Judge Alden White, suggested the hotel be named in honor of Nathaniel Hawthorne, as it was situated near so many significant places from the author’s time in Salem.

Earlier than expected, the Hawthorne Hotel opened to much fanfare, which kicked off with a multi-day celebration. On June 21, 1925 a parade was held that included the Salem Cadet Band, Salem Chamber of Commerce, Salem Rotary Club, and other local organizations. After the parade, Frank Poor and Mayor George Bates raised the American flag for the first time atop the roof of the new hotel.

The celebration continued with private parties for stockholders and contractors. On July 23, 1925, a banquet was held in the new ballroom to celebrate the public grand opening of the Hawthorne Hotel. Over 400 people were in attendance and dined on delicacies of the time, including turtle soup. The Salem Evening News reported that in a single day, as many as 2,500 people toured the hotel during its opening week. Just a few short months after opening, the Hawthorne Hotel hosted its first wedding. Lucretia Johnson Perkins wed William Russell Burns on October 17, 1925. The couple had met while Burns was working as one of the principle architects during the hotel’s construction.

In the late 1940’s, the hotel purchased the Crowninshield-Bentley House at 106 Essex Street, located directly behind the Hotel. The house was built in 1724 for Captain John Crowninshield and was home to the Crowninshield family for multiple generations. The house has additional historical significance due to its connection with Reverend William Bentley, who boarded with the family from 1791 until his death in 1819.

In 1959, the Crowninshield-Bentley House was donated by the hotel to the Essex Institute (now Peabody Essex Museum), which moved the building to 126 Essex Street. At this time, in order to modernize, the hotel changed its name to Hawthorne Motor Hotel and added a parking lot in the Crowninshield-Bentley House’s previous location.

The hotel continued to thrive as a local gathering place, hosting weddings, and community functions. In the 1960’s, the hotel began offering dance lessons in the ballroom with legendary Salem instructor, Harriet James. Large annual celebrations showcased the student’s abilities and were well attended.

In June 1970, Hollywood came to Salem with the filming of Bewitched. The cast and crew stayed at the hotel while filming in the city and nearby Gloucester, even filming some interiors in the hotel, most notably in the lobby’s elevators. The Hawthorne Motor Hotel, as it was called, appears in name and can be seen in the background during travel scenes however, the hotel’s facade was replaced with a Hollywood set.

Towards the end of the 1970’s, the hotel once again altered its name, this time to The Hawthorne Inn, which it remained until 1989 before finally reverting back The Hawthorne Hotel.

Hawthorne HotelOn October 30, 1990, a séance was held in the Hawthorne Hotel’s grand ballroom in hope of summoning the spirit of Harry Houdini on the 64th anniversary of his death. Despite being unsuccessful, this séance lead to the introduction of the annual Halloween Party, which premiered in 1991. The month leading up to Halloween is now the hotel’s busiest month, as it coincides with Salem's Haunted Happenings celebration.

In 2003, the Hawthorne Hotel purchased the Suzannah Flint House located behind its parking lot on Essex Street. The home had previously served as a bed and Breakfast. Upon acquiring the Suzannah Flint House, it was discovered that the house had been misnamed for one that had stood nearby. In 2011, the Suzannah Flint House was renamed for Fidelia Bridges, a famous painter who had once resided there. The building now serves as a guest house for the hotel. 

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

Woman's Friend Society - Salem, Massachusetts

Images Courtesy of Salem State University Archives and Special Collections
The Woman’s Friend Society stems from a town meeting proposal made in 1875 by Kate Tannatt Woods, a Salem schoolteacher and representative of the Moral Education Society of Boston, who recognized the importance of promoting the “moral elevation of women.” Woods was backed by Salem’s Marshal, William M. Hill, who also called for a meeting at Salem’s Town Hall in order to raise money to help purify the area. Both were appalled by the lawlessness and lack of etiquette displayed by young women throughout Salem.

On March 22, 1876, the Moral Education Society of Salem was officially formed, a few months later changing its name to Woman’s Friend Society. The group was designed to combat what Woods viewed as the community’s withdrawal from Puritan values, noted by the amount of crime and vulgarity in Downtown Salem at the time. The organization created a Girls Reading Room in the Mayne’s Block building on Essex Street (Across from Derby Square). This room was used as a meeting place, where local displaced youth could learn to read and have access to wholesome books.

Looking to expand the Society’s outreach, they began searching for a home to shelter homeless women and girls. The wife of Joseph Hodges offered her property at the corner of Essex Street and Daniels Street in Salem for three months, rent free. It came to be called “The Daniels Street Home” (Present day, The Daniels House Bed and Breakfast)

In 1876, the Bureau of Employment (Later the Intelligence Office) was added to the Society’s programs. It served to connect woman with stable jobs in the area.

In 1878, outgrowing their current operations, the Society placed an appeal in the local newspaper, requesting a home for their organization that would also serve as a shelter for women. Their appeal was answered by John Bertram, who despite being on his death bed was still practicing his well-known philanthropy. He offered to them half of a house he owned located at 12 Elm Street (Hawthorne Boulevard) for a period of five years. If within those five years, the Society was able to maintain the home and continue their community efforts, the home would be gifted to them. The Society moved in on May 9, 1879 and the building was named the “Working Women’s Bureau.” The success of the Intelligence Office prompted the creation of a Committee on Registry to oversee it. That same year, Mrs. George D. Putnam, an early member and leader of the Society, was officially named President.

In 1880, the Committee on Needle-Work was created. They taught sewing lessons and handed out supplies, enabling woman to sell garments and linens out of their homes, while caring for their children. The following year, Mission to the Sick began, which brought care to those who were bound to their homes by illness. This program would later evolve into the Visiting Nurse Association of Salem.

In 1884, Jennie Bertram Emmerton, gifted the house at 12 Elm Street to the Woman’s Friend Society on behalf of her deceased father, John Bertram. The Society began raising money to purchase the other half of the house but was initially met with resistance by the owners who asked for an unattainable sum. That same year, Esther C. Mack bequeathed money to create an industrial school for woman to learn sewing and cooking skills. In 1906 the Mack Industrial School opened at 17 Pickman Street where it operated until 1920. In 1908 the school recorded having over 500 students. In 1910 these classes were opened to immigrant woman arriving in Salem.

The Woman’s Friend Society continued its community outreach into the 20th century, adding classes for expectant mothers in the 1940’s. In 1977, the Visiting Nurse Association branched off of the Society’s district nurse program but the two organizations continue to work together. In 1971, the Woman’s Friend Society offered the first Christmas in Salem house tour as a fundraiser for the VNA. This event remains an annual tradition in Salem and is now operated by Historic Salem, Inc. In 2008 the Emmerton House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.


Walter George Whitman

Courtesy of  Science Education 
(Volume 37, Issue 1 - February 1953)

On May 4, 1874, Walter George Whitman was born in Norway, Maine to George Washington Whitman and Eliza Jane Davis Whitman. Following his graduation from Norway High School, he attended Tufts College, where in 1898; he received an A.B. degree (artium baccalaureus) and began teaching at Goddard Seminary in Barre, Vermont and later at high schools in Gloucester and Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1906, he received a M.A. degree at Columbia University, while teaching at New York City’s Ethical Culture School. On August 20, 1912, he married Grace Bates. Together, the couple had three children, George B. Whitman, who became the eccentric owner of the bookstore, Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France, Mary C. Whitman and H. Carlton Whitman. Whitman continued to teach at a number of universities and secondary schools. His longest tenure was at State Normal School, Salem Massachusetts, where he taught Practical Science and served as Head of the Science Department. 

While teaching, he also established and served on boards of numerous science-based organizations, becoming the founder of General Science Quarterly in 1916. In 1925, Whitman took a yearlong sabbatical from Salem Normal School and along with his family, moved to China, where he taught physics at Nanking University. While living in China, Whitman chose to live among the Chinese instead of the homes provided for Americans. While there, Whitman took a number of photographs and lantern slides, chronicling the everyday life of the Chinese people. While in Asia, Whitman traveled to multiple countries including Japan, India and Egypt, also making stops in Europe. Keeping records and taking souvenirs of his trips. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Whitman authored and co-authored a number of science textbooks that included lesson plans and exams. These textbooks were widely used across the country and abroad, they remained relevant for many decades.

Walter George Whitman died in his Orlando, Florida home at age 78 on November 2, 1952, following a heart attack. He is largely recognized as a pioneer and leading force in general science and science education in the first half of the 20th century. 

View Salem State University Archives' collection of postcards belonging to
Walter George Whitman 

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

Sonia Schreiber Weitz

Images courtesy of Salem State University Archives & Special Collections

Sonia Schreiber Weitz was born on August 27, 1928 in Kraków, Poland. Sonia, her older sister, Blanca and their parents, Adela Finder Schreiber and Janek (Jacob/Jakub) Schreiber lived in the Jewish section of Kraków, where Janek owned a small leather goods shop.

In 1941, the Schreiber family was relocated to the Kraków ghetto by German forces and Adela was taken to Belzec death camp, where she was killed. In 1943, Sonia and Blanca were removed from the ghetto and sent to Plaszów slave labor camp. Their father and Blanca’s husband, Norbert Borell were sent to Mauthausen concentration camp, where their father was killed. 

In December 1944, Blanca and Sonia were moved to Auschwitz, where they were forced on a death march to Bergen-Belsen and later taken by cattle car to Venus-Berg. The sisters were again moved, this time to Mauthausen, where they were liberated in May 1945. Sonia and Blanca survived five concentration camps and out of an extended family of eighty-four, they were the only survivors of the Holocaust.

Following liberation, Sonia and Blanca were reunited with Norbert. The three lived in Displaced Persons camps until 1948, when they immigrated to America, settling in Peabody, Massachusetts with the assistance of Norbert’s uncle, Harry White. Sonia became a United States citizen a year later. On September 7, 1950, Sonia married Dr. Mark Weitz,. The couple had three children, Don and twins, Sandy and Andi. 

After raising her children, Sonia focused on writing and activism. In 1981, she co-founded the Holocaust Center Boston North with Harriet Tarnor Wack and later created the Holocaust Legacy Partner, which recorded and preserved the testimony of Holocaust survivors. In 1986 in an attempt to mend Boston’s Catholic-Jewish relations, she accompanied Cardinal Bernard Law on a trip to Auschwitz and her childhood home in Krakow.

Sonia’s aptitude for writing stemmed from her time in concentration and Displaced Persons camps, where she mentally penned many of the poems that appear in I Promised I Would Tell, (available free onlinewhich was published in 1993.  Following the release of her book, she began offering lectures at area schools and touring the country, sharing her story. I Promise I Would Tell,  was later adapted into a play, which was performed at high schools and colleges across Massachusetts. In 2002, Sonia was appointed by President George W. Bush to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Over the next seven years, Sonia received many awards, including recognition by Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick.

Sonia Weitz died of cancer on June 23, 2010. She was 81.

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

Jet on MLK - 60 Years Later

Images courtesy of Salem State University Archives & Special Collections

Jet magazine began in 1951 as a “Weekly Negro News Magazine” and covered everything from beauty advice to the start of the Civil Rights movement. Sixty years ago, April 1956, Jet magazine chronicled a young pastor from Montgomery, Alabama by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At the time, Dr. King had recently been chosen to be the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Montgomery Improvement Association, following Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus.

Jet magazine dubbed Dr. King as “Alabama’s modern Moses” and shared an in-depth look at his childhood as a quiet boy from Georgia whose family was rooted in the church and had a history of social action. These experiences would shape Dr. King’s style of protesting into peaceful, non-violent activism.
Jet magazine wrote: “To Montgomery, Alabama’s 50,000 Negroes, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is no ordinary Baptist minister. In fact, he never wanted to be a minister at all. But as the pacifist leader of the city’s thousands of footsore Negroes, who have traded their crushed spirits for new dignity and tired feet, Rev. King has become a symbol of divinely-inspired hope, a kind of modern Moses who has brought new self-respect to southern Negroes.”

Dr. King and his supporters spent a little over a year boycotting Montgomery’s bus system. Although their protests were peaceful, they were met with violent attacks and harassment. After many setbacks, the activists were granted victory when the Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was illegal, on November 13, 1956.

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

Salem Public Library - Salem, Massachusetts

Images: Salem State University Archives and Special Collections
Courtesy of Salem Public Library.
The building that now houses the Salem Public Library was once the home of one of the wealthiest men in Massachusetts, a merchant and ship-owner by the name of Captain John Bertram. The house was built in 1855 for Bertram and his family, which sat on the former estate Caroline Plummer. Bertram and his third wife, Mary Ann Ropes occupied the house along with Bertram’s five children with his previous wives, both of which died in childbirth. His daughter Jenny would become the mother of Caroline Emmerton, founder of The House of the Seven Gables historic site and settlement house.
John Bertram was born in 1796 into a middle class farming family, off of the coast of Normandy. In July of 1807, Bertram, his parents and his five siblings embarked for America in hope of finding a better future. Their ship was destined for Baltimore, Maryland but experienced malfunctions during its voyage, docking in Boston. Upon a recommendation, the Bertram family settled in nearby Salem.

Despite Salem’s industrious maritime history as one of the richest cities in the world, its great fortune was halted due to the Jefferson Embargo of 1807 and the war with Great Britain. With trade being cut off from America, Salem’s economy experienced a depression. John’s father, Jean Bertram, a master carpenter was unable to find work. He in turn opened a grocery store but with customers unable to afford to pay their credit, his business quickly failed. When John was 11, his father built a family home and a carpentry shop on Central Street and took John out of school to assist him. Unhappy with working in the carpentry shop, John enlisted as a cabin boy at age 16 and began his life at sea. His pay helped alleviate his family’s debts back in Salem and steadily earned him a fortune. John became a Master in 1824, earning the title of Captain. At the age of 36 in 1832, Captain John Bertram was able to retire from his work at sea. Bertram was known for his ability to successfully take risks with new ventures and elements of trade. He established his own shipping firm in Salem and successfully invested his money in railroads.

Captain John Bertram, understanding the plight of poverty, helped aid and establish many of Salem’s charities including Salem Hospital, Women’s Friend Society, Plummer Farm for Boys, Bertram Home for Aged Men, and the Old Ladies’ House (present day Brookhouse.) He also served on many area committees such as Salem Common Council and Massachusetts General Court. John Bertram died in 1882, at age 86. Following his death, his widow and remaining children donated the Bertram mansion on Essex Street to the city for use as a public library. The Salem Public Library opened on July 8, 1889.

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

Valentines in Massachusetts

Salem State University Archives & Special Collections
The first massed produced valentines in America came courtesy of Esther Howland in the 1840’s. She received a valentine in the mail from a friend in England, where the paper cards were already popular. Esther, then 19, loved her valentine so much; she began making her own out of elaborate lace patterns and colorful ribbons. Esther provided her brother, a stationary salesman, with samples of her cards to take on a sales trip. Her brother returned with over $5,000 in orders and Esther quickly opened a business in Worchester, Massachusetts. Esther Howland would be nicknamed “Mother of the Valentine” before selling her business in 1881 at the age of 53.

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

The Salem Armory - Salem, Massachusetts

Images: Salem State University Archives & Special Collections

In 1890, the Second Corps of Cadets purchased the Francis Peabody House at 136 Essex Street to convert to the Salem Armory’s head house and used the land behind the home to construct a drill shed. The Francis Peabody House was a Federal style mansion but featured an addition with an extensive Gothic-style banquet hall built for the Peabodys. The hall contained tall fireplaces with carved medieval lions and leopards and was also adorned with large antler chandeliers. The Second Corps of Cadets razed the main portion of the Peabody house in 1908 in order to build a new, larger head house. The new Armory incorporated the original drill shed from 1890 and Francis Peabody’s ornate banquet hall. The new castle-like building was designed by John C. Spofford and was also styled in the popular Gothic design of the time.
In addition to housing the Second Corps of Cadets, the Armory was used for a variety of civic purposes including celebrations, fairs, dances and performances by Salem’s Cadet Band. On November 1, 1933, during his first presidential campaign, Franklin D. Roosevelt greeted a crowd of over 5,000 at the Armory. He was quoted by The Salem News as telling the attendees that he was very excited to be back in Salem, a city he had visited many times while attending Harvard in nearby Boston.

In February 1982 the head house of the Salem Armory was destroyed in a series of arson attacks that ravaged the city. That time would be referred to by local police and firefighters as “a reign of terror.” More than 30 communities sent firefighters to aid in battling the inferno at the Armory, as well as fires set at the Power Block and Masonic Building, both on nearby Washington Street.
Unfortunately, many of the Second Corps of Cadets’ records and artifacts were lost in the fire. The surviving drill shed, located in back of the property, was converted into Salem’s Visitor Center by the National Park Service in 1994. The facade of the Salem Armory remaining after the fire, stood until 2000, when the lot was purchased by the Peabody Essex Museum. Despite multiple proposals for the building's reuse, it was ultimately demolished. The location where the head house once stood was transformed into Armory Park to commemorate the military members of Essex County.

View a video by Zingerplatz Pictures of the Salem Armory Fire

Salem Common - Salem, Massachusetts

Images: Salem State University Archives and Special Collections
Salem Common has served as public land since the 17th century. Originally comprised of a swampy area with hills and small ponds, the Common was used for grazing by the townspeople’s goats and cows. In 1635, the first muster took place on the Common, establishing a militia for the defense of the community. Regular drills were held on this location and in 1714, it was voted that the land should be "forever kept as a training field for the use of Salem." Due to this first muster, Salem was designated the home of the National Guard in 2010, which still gathers on the Common annually.
In 1801, Elias Hasket Derby Jr., raised $2,500 for the expansion of the Common. This included filling in the swamp area, leveling the hills and lining the park with poplar trees, which would later be replaced with elm trees following a storm in 1815.

The newly beautified open space became an ideal location to hold parades and social gatherings. George Ropes Jr. depicts this in his 1808 painting “Salem Common on Training Day.” The painting shows local militias gathering in Salem in full dress uniform, a sign of strength and a great source of pride for the town. Training days featured a series of events including puppet shows and athletic competitions.
In 1850, the cast iron fence was added to the previously unenclosed land. In 1976 the Salem Common Fence was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2002 the designation was expanded to include many of the Federal style buildings overlooking the park, creating the Salem Common Historic District.
In the weeks following the Salem Fire of 1914, many displaced Salemites found refuge on the Common, creating temporary camps with tents and salvaged household goods.
In 1926, a bandstand was built on the Common to commemorate the town’s tercentennial. Designed by Philip Horton Smith, the bandstand is indicative of the Colonial Revival style. In 1976 the bandstand was dedicated to Jean Missud, a beloved director of the Salem Cadet Band.

Salem Common’s nine acres still serve as a civic space, used for weddings, community events and October’s Haunted Happenings. The Common is the focus of multiple revitalization campaigns that aim to restore and preserve the park for future enjoyment.

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

The Peirce-Nichols House - Salem, Massachusetts

Image Above: Old House Online
The Peirce-Nichols House located at 80 Federal Street in Salem, Massachusetts, is a representation of transitional architecture between the Georgian and Federal styles. Designed by famed Salem architect Samuel McIntire, the late-Georgian home was constructed in 1792 and later revitalized by McIntire in the Federal style to celebrate the marriage of Sarah Peirce to George Nichols. The property features a fence in front of the home that highlights McIntire’s signature hand-carved urn ornamentation. The house was later restored in 1920 by Colonial Revival architect William G. Rantoul.
The home was originally built for Jerathmiel Peirce who was part owner of a 171-foot, three-masted Salem East Indiaman called Friendship, a recreation of which now resides at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. The ship was built in 1796 and was used primarily for trade. The Friendship traveled the world importing and exporting exotic spices and coffee until its capture in the war of 1812. During Jerathmiel Peirce’s ownership of the Peirce-Nichols house, the property line extended as far back as the North River, approximately 500 feet from his home, allowing Peirce to dock the Friendship at the end of his property.
The postcards below feature George Nichols’ granddaughter, Charlotte Sanders Nichols. She resided in the home until her death in 1935, which ended the Nichols family presence on the estate. These photos show Charlotte in the early 20th-century seated in front of the home's carriage house, which still stands. In the photos, she is showing a young girl a doll. It is unclear whether the doll was hers. Was she the photographer's great-grandmother referred to on the card or was she showing the girl her own great-grandmother's doll?

In 1917, Charlotte and her two sisters, Augusta and Martha, donated their stately mansion to the Essex Institute (Now Peabody Essex Museum) with the stipulation that they could remain in the home. Charlotte, the youngest, was the last Nichols family occupant; she passed away in 1935.

Postcard Images: Salem State University Archives & Special Collections

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

The Joshua Ward House - Salem, Massachusetts
The Joshua Ward House, designed by Samuel McIntire, is a Georgian style building featuring Federal style interior details. The home was built between 1784 and 1788 on land that previously belonged to George Corwin, the sheriff of Essex County during the Witch Trials of 1692. The Joshua Ward House with its sloping front yard would have once overlooked Salem Harbor and Ward Wharf, which over the centuries has been filled in to expand Salem’s downtown. Joshua Ward, a ship owner, merchant, and rum distiller would have watched as trade ships returned to Salem from the West Indies with spices and molasses, ingredients vital to his distillery.
On October 29, 1789, Joshua Ward hosted President George Washington, who was visiting Salem during a tour of New England and spent a night at the Ward home. Upon Joshua Ward’s death in 1825, the house was transformed into a hotel, appropriately named Washington Hotel.
In the late 1970s, the Joshua Ward House underwent extensive preservation and restoration. The work was spearheaded by Salem architect Staley McDermet and paid for with grants provided by the Salem Redevelopment Authority. In 1978, the Joshua Ward House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places; it is also part of the Downtown Salem District, a national historic district that was established in 1983.
In 1994 the home was purchased by Robert Murphy, an antiquarian book dealer and owner of Higginson Book Company, who headquartered his business out of the Ward House.
In 2015, The Joshua Ward House once again was transformed into a hotel, fittingly called The Merchant.The hotel boasts newly remodeled and painted rooms that harken back to the time of Joshua Ward’s ownership but with a modern style.

Postcard images: Salem State University Archives & Special Collections
Photograph courtesy of The Merchant

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

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