Salem, cities, United States

Salem. 1 City (1990 pop. 38,091), seat of Essex co., NE Mass., on an inlet of Massachusetts Bay; inc. 1629. Its once famous harbor has silted up. Salem has electronic, leather, and machinery industries, and tourists are drawn to its many historical landmarks. Many colonial buildings remain. Nathaniel Hawthorne's birthplace dates from the 17th cent., and the House of Seven Gables (1668) is preserved. Also of interest are Pioneer Village, a reproduction of early Salem; the Witch House (1642), where witch trial hearings were held; the Peabody Essex Museum, whose origins date to 1799, with outstanding art, historic buildings, and the Phillips Library's historical collections; and Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Salem State Univ. is there.

In 1626, Roger Conant led a group from Cape Ann to this site, called Naumkeag by the Native Americans. Salem's early history was darkened by the witchcraft trials of 1692, in which Samuel Sewall was a judge; many of the victims came from the part of Salem that now is Danvers. Massachusetts exonerated all those accused in the trials in 1711. From colonial days through the clipper ship era, Salem was world famous as a port and a wealthy center for the China trade. It was a privateering base in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812. Shipping declined after the War of 1812, and the city turned to manufacturing. Hawthorne was overseer of the port from 1846 to 1849.

See history by J. D. Phillips (1937, repr. 1969); E. E. Elliot, The Devil & the Mathers (1989); L. W. Carlson, A Fever in Salem (1999); M. B. Norton, In the Devil's Snare (2002).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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