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.
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