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Salem Stories @ the Peabody Essex Museum

Salem Stories was an A to Z story telling of the history of Salem. It was breathtakingly laid out and covered a wide range of topics.

Personal favorites included letters G for Games, L for the Daniel Low Company, N for Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company, O for October, R for the Redmond Family, S for Scandal and XO for Love from the Willows.

G: Games

The Salem born Parker Brothers owned and operated their large factory in Salem for many years where games like Monopoly, Wizard of Oz, Ouija, and Risk were created (some in the photo to the left). As time went on and the company was purchased by Hasboro in the 1990s, game production ended in Salem and moved to western Massachusetts.

L: Daniel Low Company

A silver company that found success with catalog sales (photo to the left). By 1891, the company produced its first silver spoon with a witch on it. It was wildly popular, so they issued a second design and contributed to the spoon collecting craze that happened nation wide. The restaurant Rockafella's now operates in the Daniel Low building.

N: Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company

The Naumkeag Cotton Company was a large cotton mill, known as Pequot Mills, in Salem in about 1848 that produced fine cotton textiles on steam powered machines. The company wove sheeting sets and pillow cases. An example is in the picture in the top left corner with the label Salem Pequot Mills. The company caught on fire on June 26, 1914 during the Great Salem Fire that destroyed the complex. The owners rebuilt and the building is now Shetland Park on Congress Street. The company moved south in 1953.

O: October

Halloween in Salem is a special event. It is important to remember, as the exhibit points out, the history of 1692, of the 200 accused people, 20 executed and several who died in prison. This was a "source of shame for the City." However, the exhibit points out "in the 19th century, commercialization led to repackaging of the history into creative and amusing products." This has led to Salem being what it is today. Haunted Happenings allows for a celebration of life and the fall season during the month of October, and Salem does it up right. The mechanical fortune teller from 1868 pictured above in the top left corner of the photo and the weathervane from 1900 are two examples of the creative repackaged witch products.

Although this year is going to be different, we can still celebrate it in our own special ways. One way is to celebrate the pop culture of Salem through movies like Hocus Pocus, Hubie Halloween, The Crucible and even shows like Bewitched and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

The Redmond Family

The Redmonds used their standing in the community to fight for abolition. Everyone in the family belonged to an anti-slavery society and some members of the family became great anti-slavery speakers. Salem also had its own Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1844 and had a Constitution (below) which begins "the principle upon which slavery is founded, that man may hold, in some cases, innocently hold property in man, is a false principle."


On April 7, 1830, the Gardner-Pingree house (now part of the Peabody Essex museum) became part of history. Joseph Knapp Jr. and his brother plotted to kill their distant 82 year old relative, Captain Joseph White, who lived in the house. They decided to steal his will in order to secure a family inheritance. The brothers hired Richard and George Crowninshield to carry out the plan. Joseph stole the wrong will and left the window open for Richard to break in and murder White. In the end, Joseph was captured, still poor, and made a full confession. The murder weapon, his confession and a clipping from the paper is pictured in the top left corner. Daniel Webster was the prosecutor during the trial. Both Knapps' were sentenced to be hanged, but Richard committed suicide in jail. George was acquitted after two trials.

XO, Love from the Willows

Since 1858, the Willows has been a recreational spot with waterfront, amusements and Boardwalk-style arcades. The Kiss-o-meter pictured in the top left corner is an example of an older style arcade game, some of which you can still find there! There are tree lined groves there and the Willows serves as a spot for many social events. EW Hobbs has been there since 1897. They serve popcorn, taffy and ice cream at the Willows. They actually are doing some online sales right now

The Peabody Essex Museum did a great job with this exhibit. There was more that I did not highlight here, but these were my favorite. My family's favorite was a very large leatherback turtle (at least 5 feet tall) that did not have a shell. The specimen was collected in 1885 off of Rockport and dripped oil off of it for over 100 years. The Museum had a small collecting vial of the oil they collected from it. It was awesome!

It was pretty impressive to see all of the history and really highlights that Salem extends beyond the Witch Trial and Maritime history. I loved it. I was also impressed with all the safety precautions the museum had in place. Only 10 people were allowed in to Salem Stories at a time. They installed hands-free door openers everywhere. They questioned if you were from out of state as you entered, if you were quarantined and asked for proof if you had. Everyone was required to wear a mask. I saw people cleaning tables while we were there. Excellent work.

My next blog next week will be about the Witch Trials Exhibit which was fantastic. That is running until April. Below is a fun picture I took of the Witch Museum social distancing markers....while we walked by they were not in use but I thought they were fun. Start getting your brooms ready folks!


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