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.

Charlotte Forten in Salem, Massachusetts

            In November 1853 at the age of 16, Charlotte Forten, the fourth generation of a wealthy and influential free black family arrived in Salem, Massachusetts to stay at the home of Charles Lenox Remond and his family at 9 Dean Street (present day Flint Street.) [1] The Remond’s were abolitionist and previous neighbors of Charlotte and her family in Pennsylvania, who relocated to desegregated Salem. Upon her arrival in Salem, Charlotte enrolled at the Higginson Grammar School located on Broad Street, [2] under the guidance of principal and mentor Mary Shepard. [3] The private school for girls, unlike those in Forten’s native Pennsylvania, was integrated; offering a higher form of education to freed blacks, a strong concern of Charlotte’s father.
National Women's History Museum
            In May of 1854, Forten began keeping a written diary of her day-to-day life that resulted in a series of journals, spanning a decade, these illustrates the experiences of a prominent, freed black woman in northern antebellum and Civil War era America. Charlotte’s journals cover pivotal moments in the abolitionist movement and capture her eloquent voice of activism.
            Charlotte Forten graduated from the Higginson Grammar School in March of 1855. A poem of Forten’s titled “A Parting Hymn” was awarded best of her class and chosen to be recited at the school commencement ceremony. [4] After her completion of grammar school, Forten enrolled in Salem Normal School, located at 1 Broad Street. [5] That same month, a poem of Charlotte’s, “To W.L.G. (William Lloyd Garrison) on Reading his ’Chosen Queen’” was published in Liberator Magazine, a periodical focused on black radicalism and progress for black Americans. In September of that year, Charlotte joined Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, which held regular lecture series at Salem’s Lyceum and Mechanic Hall.[6]
            A month prior to Charlotte’s graduation from Salem Normal School, she accepted a teaching position at Epes Grammar School, located at Aborn Street in Salem. [7] Salem Normal School’s commencement ceremony, similar to that of Higginson Grammar School, featured a poem read by Charlotte Forten, this one titled “Poem for Salem Normal School Graduation.” Charlotte continued her teaching position at Epes until June of 1857, when she left for a month to return to Pennsylvania to recuperate following a respiratory tract illness, a pattern that would occur frequently over the next several years.  In December of 1857, Charlotte relocated from the Remond family home on Dean Street to live with Caroline Remond Putnam and her husband at Higginson Square.  Only a few short months later, Charlotte returned to Pennsylvania, again due to poor health, where she remained for a year. [8] In that time she continued to submit her writing to local and national publications and was recognized in the Christian Recorder, National Anti-Slavery Standard and Anglo-African Magazine. [9]
            In 1859, Forten returned to Salem, where she had accepted a position at her alma-mater Higginson Grammar School. On January 14, 1860, Forten’s poem “The Slave Girl’s Prayer” was published in the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Over the next two years Charlotte rotated between living in Philadelphia and Salem, continuing to teach in both cities. [10]
            Having closely followed the onset and progression of the Civil War, Charlotte returned to Philadelphia in September of 1862 in order to apply for the Port Royal Relief Association, an experimental program sponsored by the U.S. Government in an attempt to educate and rehabilitate the thousands of freed slaves that were left displaced in South Carolina due to the war. On October 22, 1862 she embarked on her journey with the association. Ever the diarist, Forten continued to chronicle her life while stationed on the Sea Islands. These chronicles would be published in multiple installments in the Atlantic Monthly and Liberator. Charlotte remained on the Sea Islands teaching and volunteering as a nurse until May of 1864, a year prior to the end of the war. She returned to Philadelphia to continue writing, later accepting a position with the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington D.C., where she would meet her husband Reverend Francis Grimk√©.  Charlotte’s writing and activism continued until her death in 1914 [11]
            Charlotte Forten Grimk√©’s legacy lives on through her diaries, the results of her activism and, through the recognition of Salem Normal School (present day Salem State University) who’s focus on diversity and leadership in excellence dates back to Charlotte’s attendance.

Read more and view artifacts relating to the life of Charlotte Forten

 Forten, Charlotte L., and Brenda E. Stevenson. The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988


Old Witch Jail and Dungeon - Salem, Massachusetts

Goodall House at 4 Federal Street, c. 1900
Frank Cousins Collection (Peabody Essex Museum)

Built in 1684, the Old Witch Gaol (Jail) was an instrumental location during the Salem Witch Trials hysteria in 1692. The accused were kept in deplorable conditions that included small cells, some of which were standing room only. The indicted were denied access to water and were charged for food, straw bedding, and even a fee for their execution and cuffs. This jail was abandoned in 1813 when a new, larger jail was constructed on an adjacent lot on St. Peter Street. The location of the old jail at 4 Federal Street was purchased in 1863 by Abner Cheney Goodall, who built a home there.

In 1935, Goodall’s grandson, Alfred and his wife began offering tours of the home in which visitors could view artifacts such as unpaid bills of the accused and articles of clothing belonging to prisoners. The handbills below show advertising from c. 1940 of the Goodall’s Old Witch Jail and Dungeon exhibits.

In 1956, the New England Telephone Company razed the house at 4 Federal Street in order to construct their new headquarters. During demolition, remnants of the "Witch Dungeon" and jail, which was used to hold prisoners until 1813 was discovered below the building. A bronze plaque now adorns the Federal Street location and artifacts such as first period timbers can be viewed at the modern Witch Dungeon Museum on nearby Lynde Street.


Ephemera from Goodall's Old Witch Jail and Dungeon Museum
4 Federal Street
(Salem State University Archives and Special Collections)

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

Witch Pins - Salem, Massachusetts

Salem State University Archives & Special Collections

In the late 1800s, many of Salem's businesses and organizations began embracing the city’s dark history by including witches in their advertisements and celebrations. Tourists flocked to Salem to see artifacts and locations from the Witch Trials of 1692, including a display case at the Essex County Court House that housed, among other items, “witch pins.” These straight pins were said to be evidence presented during the trials, used to inflict harm by the accused witches during the city’s period of hysteria. The postcard above dates circa 1900-1901 and references the witch pins on display. The exhibit at the Court House was eventually discontinued due to the disappearance of many of the pins.
Although the pins once showcased in the Court House are not thought to be original to the trials of 1692, references are made in The Salem Witchcraft Papers (trial transcripts) to straight pins being used by the accused. Below is an excerpt and original manuscript from the trial of Rebecca Nurse.
University of Virginia
“The Deposition of Tho: Putman aged about 40. years & Edward Putman aged about. 38. years. witnesseth & saith that having been several times present with Ann Putman jun'r in & after her fits & saw her much afflicted, being bitten, pinched, her limbs distorted, & pins thrust into her flesh, which she charged on Rebekah Nurse that she was the Acter thereof & that she saw her do it...“

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

Charter Street Cemetery - Salem, Massachusetts

The Charter Street Cemetery, also referred to as Old Burying Point, in Salem is one of the oldest cemeteries in the country. It dates back to 1637 and contains headstones for many notable figures, including two judges from the Salem Witchcraft Trials, Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, and the only marked grave of a Mayflower passenger, Richard Moore.
Old Burying Point harbors many different types of grave markers. Archaeologist James Deetz famously categorized them as Willow and Urn, Winged Death Head and Cherub.
The Winged Death Head is the oldest and most commonly represented type in this cemetery. The style is distinguished by a skull head surrounded by a set of wings and was used circa 1720–1780.
Cherub has a very similar look to the Winged Death Head, however the skull is replaced with the face of a cherub, a symbol of the acceptance of heaven. This style was popular during the mid to late eighteenth century.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, America saw both social and religious enlightenment, creating a shift in how death was perceived. This is reflected in the Willow and Urn motif which gained popularity during this time; the style depicts a centered urn shrouded in a willow branch. Epitaphs no longer began with “here lies the body of” but a more peaceful “in memory of” alluding to the afterlife.
These three types of headers can be easily identified on your next tour through one of Salem’s oldest landmarks.
Left Image: Salem State University Archives & Collections
Image Above: James Deetz

Ever wonder what the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery was? Check out this fabulous article by Jakub Marian.

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

Salem as Witch City

Image Above: Google Images, Images Below: Salem State University Archives & Collections
Salem’s tourism as we know it today began in the 19th-century, before the bicentennial of the Salem Witch Trials. In 1887, after traveling to Europe and being inspired by the new trend of souvenir spoons, Daniel Low began marketing Witch Spoons at his jewelry shop in downtown Salem. These spoons featured a witch holding a broomstick, and spawned different patterns over the years. At the same time, the Essex County Courthouse offered public viewings of artifacts from the witch trials which included Witch Pins, thought to be weapons of the accused witches. Noticing the success of Daniel Low and Co.’s Witch Spoons, other merchants began adding witch imagery to their products and branding. With the inception of trick-or-treating in the 1920s and the rounding out of Halloween traditions, even more merchants followed this branding and began referring to Salem as “Witch City.”
The city continued to slowly embrace its dark past and by the 1940s, museums such as the Witch House were open to the public and attracting tourists to the area. After the tv series "Bewitched" filmed a series of episodes in Salem in 1970, Salem was officially on the map as a tourist destination. A decade later Salem’s Haunted Happenings started as a weekend observance, quickly growing into a month-long Halloween celebration. Salem now attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe each year.

George Jacobs - Accused Witch

Images: Salem State University Archives & Special Collections

The popular narrative of the Salem Witch Trials tends to focus on the women and girls who were accused during the hysteria of 1692, although many men were also charged with witchcraft and five were hanged. George Jacobs, Sr. was one of the men accused and executed.
Jacobs was a well-known, prosperous farmer, whose homestead was located between Salem Town and Salem Village (present day Danvers). In May of 1692, Jacobs was arrested and examined. Jacobs was accused by his own granddaughter, Margaret, who had also been arrested and who had confessed to witchcraft. Margaret, along with a servant of the Jacobs' family, claimed that George had solicited them to sign the devil's book. George strongly denied the allegation, stating “I am as innocent as a child born tonight." Jacobs was found guilty and hanged on August 19, 1692.
Prior to Jacobs' execution, Margaret visited him in jail and asked for his forgiveness, which he granted. At the time, those who confessed to witchcraft and offered up names of accomplices would be spared from the hangman’s noose. By confessing and accusing her grandfather, Margaret was spared.
Once a person was hanged, their bodies were placed in shallow graves near the execution site. It was said that Jacobs' grandson managed to remove his body during the night and give him a proper burial at the family homestead. The house fell to ruins around 1938 and in later decades was sold to developers, who discovered remains assumed to be George’s. The remains were exhumed and relocated to The Rebecca Nurse Homestead; Nurse was a fellow victim of the witch hysteria who was hanged on the same day as George.

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

Hamilton Hall - Salem, Massachusetts

Available for viewing by appointment at Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.
Images: Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.
For over two hundred years Hamilton Hall on Salem’s scenic Chestnut Street has served as a gathering place for the community. The building dates to 1805, when Samuel McIntire was commissioned to design a meeting place for Salem’s Federalist Party. It was named to honor Federalist Party leader Alexander Hamilton.
The Federalist Party faded out of existence in the 1820s, but the Hall was still used for a variety of functions. In 1826 a portion of the hall was rented to John Remond, a prominent free-black male and anti-slavery activist for the use of his catering business. As the 19th century progressed, the Hall became an ideal place for dance studios, due to Samuel McIntire’s signature spring floors. Lorenzo Papanti, a master dance instructor from Boston regularly held classes at Hamilton Hall, attended by the children of Salem’s elite. The dance classes later gave way to grand debutante presentations and balls. In the 20th century, local instructors Henry O. Upton and Harriet James continued the tradition of providing lessons at the Hall, which lasted into the 1970s.
One of the Hall’s oldest traditions and its largest fundraiser is the annual Christmas Week Dance, which can be traced back to the 1880s. Money is also raised for the Hall through a lecture series sponsored by the Ladies Committee. The series has been in place for seventy years and features a variety of speakers, discussing domestic and foreign affairs. In 1970, Hamilton Hall was designated as a National Historic Landmark and today is regularly rented for banquets, weddings and, as its original intention, a meeting place.


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

Postcards and the New Year

Salem State University Archives & Special Collections
Between 1908 and 1925, postcards were the most common form of communication and were used similarly to how texting is used today. In the days before telephones, friends and family would send short messages to each other through the postal service. These messages were not private but at the small cost of two cents including postage, they quickly caught on.
Many postcards were for general use with themes such as travel, local landmarks and visually appealing artwork. However, like greeting cards today, postcards were also made to honor holidays. The samples below were both sent to ring in the New Year of 1908. The postcard on the left featuring four witches is representative of a theme peculiar to Salem, showing that the city was beginning to embrace its dark heritage year-round. The postcard on the right was created specifically for the 1908 New Year. The floral landscape artwork calls upon spring, following a record setting winter in 1907.

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