Monthly Archives: January 2011


On this day in 1649 King Charles I of England was executed in London, marking the first procedural regicide in European history.  After two civil wars, intrigues with both the Scots and the Irish, and numerous protestations that he was above the law,  Parliament put the King on trial, found him guilty, and executed him.  This was obviously a momentous moment in British and world history, but it had a local angle as well:  eleven years after the execution of Charles, with his son newly enthroned, Hugh Peter, the fourth pastor of the First Church of Salem from 1636-41, was himself executed after his identification as one of the royal regicides.

Hugh Peter (s)

How did a colonial pastor find himself on a London scaffold?   The answer lies in his passionate Puritanism and his close personal connection to Oliver Cromwell, victorious leader of the Parliamentary army in the Civil Wars and then ruler of all England in the “interregnum” between the death of Charles and the restoration of his son Charles II.  Peter traveled to England in 1641 as an agent of the colonial government and remained, serving successively as a very vocal chaplain to the army and to Cromwell himself.  After the defeat and death of Charles, a collective cult of remorse developed in England, and Cromwell’s public perception changed from that of liberator to tyrant. With the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, anyone who had any direct association with Cromwell was in danger, and so Peter fell into the net.

THE CULT  OF CHARLES I:        The King’s speech before dying, Royalist memorial jewelry (pendant with Charles I and Charles II and ring), and anonymous late seventeenth-century portrait of Charles as divine-right ruler ( National Portrait Gallery, London).




THE DEMONIZATION OF OLIVER CROMWELL:  two 1660 pamphlets from the British Library, demonizing Cromwell and his Cabinet by association.  At right, Hugh Peter (L) has his back to us.


I’m not sure why Hugh Peter remained in England after the Restoration.  He had certainly made his mark in New England, preaching, acquiring lots of land,  forging strong political connections, and participating in the trial of Anne Hutchinson—why not return?  Perhaps he thought he was safe, as he was not one of the 59 signers of Charles’ death warrant.  Perhaps he simply didn’t have time to leave, as his arrest, imprisonment and trial followed very shortly after the accession of Charles II.  He was vigorously attacked in the pamphlet press at the time (one pamphleteer even accused him of being Charles I’s masked executioner, as he was not present at the proceedings) and his prosecution was popular.  While in prison, he was visited every day by his Salem-born daughter Elizabeth, to whom he dedicated his final work, A Dying Fathers Last Legacy to an Onely Child,  which was published shortly after his death(by hanging, drawing and quartering) on 16 October 1660.



Storybook Style in Salem

Salem has much more than Federal houses to offer architecture aficionados.  The house below is located on a side street off Lafayette Street, which I walk down every other day to get to class.  I always “check in”  because it makes me happy just to look at it, so I’m not surprised to hear from my architect friends (including my husband) that this is an example of Storybook style, one of several variants of the Tudor Revival style that was so popular across the United States in the 1920s and early 1930s.

I probably should have waited until after the snow melts to showcase this house, but who knows when that will happen?  Unfortunately, its most striking feature, a sloping faux thatched roof with rolled edges, is almost completely obscured by the snow.  Its singular windows (actually an eyebrow dormer and an octagonal window), however, are almost highlighted by the winter setting.

This area of Salem was devastated by the great Salem Fire of 1914 (much more on that later), so there are lots of houses that were built in the interwar architectural styles, including Craftsman, English Cottage, and Colonial Revival examples, but none quite as fanciful as this storybook house.  This is a rare style for Salem and New England; according to the sources I consulted (the great book below, published in 2001, and the storybookers website) storybook houses are much more common on the west coast (particularly California, of course).

Below is the house that everyone cites as the ultimate (or most whimsical) Storybook house, which is ironically called the “Witch’s House”!  More formally known as the Spadena house, it was built in 1921 and moved to its present location in Beverly Hills a decade later.

Photograph courtesy Christopher Wolff Photography

The “storybook architect” was a Californian named William Raymond Yelland, and I can’t ascertain whether he might have had anything to do with the creation of our Salem house.  Perhaps indirectly; the 1920s and 1930s seem to have been a golden age of sorts for homebuilding magazines and mail-order house plans, and the examples below look vaguely similar to the house off Lafayette Street, though clearly not as special.

A Succession of Souvenir Plates

Apparently our British cousins across the Atlantic are not entirely pleased with the official royal wedding china issued in advance of the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton, provoking the production of unofficial alternatives like the plate below, one of several offered by London-based KK Outlet:

This got me thinking about souvenir or commemorative china in general, and plates in particular.  Actually I was inspired by an earlier post on Frank Cousins and his wares to look closer at Salem souvenir plates, but it seems sensible to take a longer (and broader) view.  As they are with so many advertising innovations, I assumed that the Victorians were the pioneering producers of commemorative china, but if we examine the genre in terms of  its most basic purpose—remembrance—we can go back further, to at least the Renaissance.  Italian Renaissance maiolica potters regularly produced domestic pottery to commemorate family events, generally betrothals and births, as these two examples (Urbino, 1530 & 1540)  from the huge majolica collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum illustrate:

Moving forward several centuries we have two amazing examples (also from the V & A)  of European commemorative china commissioned from China, reminders that Europeans had their “China Trade” well before Salem merchants established their Asian trading connections.  Both plates are from the mid-eighteenth century; the first commemorates the arrival of a Dutch East India Company ship in Chinese waters, the second marks the Jacobite Uprising in Scotland in 1745 (Strange Kilts!  Actually the wearing of all tartan kilts was banned by the British government—until 1782—in retaliation for this rebellion).

As we move into the nineteenth century, souvenir china is transformed from bespoke to retail trade because of changing conditions in both supply and demand, converging in the foundation of a “mass market”.  Still mining the vast collection of the Victoria & Albert, I’ve come up with several Victorian and  Edwardian souvenir plates, capturing such iconic British images as the great Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851, Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Year, and the Bard.

This last Shakespeare plate dates from 1904, and is similar in color, style, period and origin to the Salem souvenir plates below, which represent a very small sample of English plates produced for the American market prior to World War One.  The Boston firm Jones, McDuffee & Stratton had a virtual monopoly on importing the popular Wedgwood blue-and-white transferware decorated with “historic” American scenes (listing 78 designs in their 1910 catalogue and as many as 300 patterns overall), and so their Salem competitor Daniel Low & Company turned to smaller Staffordshire potteries for the production of their designs.  With the earlier success of their witch spoon, it was only natural that they would now offer “Salem Witch” plates.

Fortunately there is another Salem image that has appeared in ceramic form over the past two centuries:  that of the famous Salem East Indiaman Friendship, which made 17 global voyages before its capture by the British in the War of 1812.  Just a few years later (1820), the beautiful Chinese Export Friendship platter below might have been commissioned by some sentimental Salem merchant, and just last year, it was auctioned off by Sotheby’s with an estimate of $6000-$8000 (and a realized price of over $53,000!)    It contrasts quite sharply with the last plate, from a line produced by Wedgwood around 1977, which is widely available on the second-hand collectibles market for around $40.

Vintage Salem Items on Etsy

In addition to its newly-made creative offerings, Etsy offers vintage items, including clothing, books, and a variety of collectibles.  The following listings appealed to me for both their Salem connections and their patina, for lack of a better word:

Salty Sailors Salt and Pepper Shakers (stamped Historic Salem, Mass on the bottom—an unusual non-witch collectible!) from Etsy seller dimestorejunkie.

Early (191020) Parker Brothers Tiddledy Winks Game  from Etsy seller FlosFullWagon.

A Little Girl in Old Salem (1908) by Amanda M. Douglas, from Etsy seller GryphonVintage.

1911 Massachusetts Atlas  from Etsy seller bananastrudel.

Frank W. Cousins and Salem

Quite possibly Frank Cousins (1851-1925),  photographer, author and entrepreneur, has contributed more to the evolving image of Salem than anyone else.  His primary contribution is photographic:  Cousins took thousands of pictures of Salem’s colonial and federal buildings prior to World War One, and the Cousins Collection remains an essential visual record of the pre-war, pre-fire, pre-modern city.  Cousins was a pioneer in the specialized genre of architectural photography, and his photographs of Salem exteriors and interiors can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the archives of university libraries and architectural firms, as well as in the Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum.  The series of photographs published between 1891 and 1901, entitled “Historic Views of Salem” , established his reputation and led to photographic endeavors in other historic eastern cities as well as to his authorship (with Phi Madison Riley) of The Wood-carver of Salem:  Samuel McIntire, His Life and Work and The Colonial Architecture of Salem.    

 Peirce-Nichols House, Federal Street


 Timothy Orne House, Essex Street


 Narbonne House, Essex Street


Miles Ward House, Derby and Herbert Streets


Caroline Emmerton House, Essex Street


Lindall-Andrews House Interior, Essex Street


 Exterior Door Detail, Gardner-Pingree House, Essex Street

Cousins was a great advocate for Salem and Samuel McIntire, but he was also an entrepreneur, operating a successful store called the “Bee-Hive”, or more accurately “Frank Cousins’ Bee-Hive”, at 172 Essex Street for many years.  His success was clearly based on his ability to offer products representing ALL of Salem’s attractions, not just its architecture.  This was, after all,  the era of Daniel Low’s “Witch Spoon”.  An 1891 Scribner’s Magazine advertisement placed by Cousins reads:  HISTORIC SALEM.  The Scene of Witchcraft and the Home of Hawthorne.  Views of its nooks and corners, highways and by-ways, from “Witch Hill” to the “House of the Seven Gables”.  If surviving copies are any indication, Cousins also issued many trade cards to advertise his business, including the unusual patriotic cards featuring the opposing candidates of the 1880 presidential election, as well as more conventional examples.

 Matched trade cards courtesy Rare Flags


 In his shop, Cousins was not averse to selling witch wares.  His postcards bore the title Ye Olde Witch City Salem, and he also sold souvenirs such as the ceramic boot and  dish below,  marked “Salem 1692, Carlsbad China, Made in Austria for Frank Cousins, Salem, Mass.”  Cousins’ offerings of  “historic souvenir china” also included an early example of Hawthorneana (if there is such a word):  the Hawthorne Tile, made at the famous Staffordshire pottery in England, showing Hawthorne, his birthplace, the House of the Seven Gables and the Old Town Pump, available for 50 cents according to an 1893 advertisement in Putnam’s Monthly Historical Magazine.  I’m still on the hunt for this tile, but I’m sure that Cousins produced enough inventory for me to find at least one.

Pottery by the Numbers (and Letters)

In anticipation of the presentation next week at the Salem Athenaeum on the “Potteries of Salem” by Rick Hamelin, a Massachusetts Scholar in Residence at the Peabody Historical Society as well as a recognized redware potter, I brushed up on my early redware and slipware:  domestic glazed earthenware often glazed and embellished with liquid clay “slip” decoration.  I’m somewhat familiar with English slipware but much less so with American, so I was surprised to learn that there were some 75 potteries in the Salem area—located mostly in present-day Peabody and Danvers—in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Looking at examples of this period pottery, both from America and England, I find myself drawn to numbers and letters decoration, which is very predictable given my typographical inclinations.  The first three examples of slip-decorated redware  (two “tygs”, or large handled mugs, and a flask) below are from the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London; the latter two American plates are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Cogswell’s Grant, one of Historic New England‘s House Museums, in Essex, Massachusetts.










Apparently Bertram and Nina Fletcher Little, major collectors of American folk art and the owners of Cogswell’s Grant for much of the middle of the twentieth century before its donation to Historic New England, hung this “temperance” plate in the pantry/bar of the house.


Transatlantic Trade Cards

I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the printing industry in England during the Tudor era and continue to be interested in the history of printing and print culture, not just book and informational publishing but also practical or “job” printing, preserved as what we call “ephemera” today:  newsbooks, handbills, broadsides, catalogues, tickets, labels, and a host of other forms of printed matter.  John Johnson, Printer to Oxford University in the mid-twentieth century and a major collector of ephemera, defined it as  “everything which would ordinarily go into the waste paper basket after use, everything printed which is not actually a book.” 

 Despite real and digital survivals in collections around the world, these pieces of paper were and are ephemeral—-who knows how many were produced?  Survivals are like captured fleeting images from the past, and great examples of both print and popular culture.  What did you throw in the trash today that might be valued by historians tomorrow?   My focus today is on trade cards, an early form of advertising, whose production definitely peaked in the  later nineteenth century, after the diffusion of color lithography and before the onset of electronic media.  Trade cards seem to be inextricably linked to the Victorian era when they were colorfully pictorial and prolific, but they actually go way back to the first centuries of print.  Below are some examples from the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries and both sides of the Atlantic. 


 The two early English cards (c. 1680-1700) are from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera in the Bodleian Library of Oxford University;  the Salem and Lowell examples are from the Baker Library at Harvard and the Library of Congress.  I particularly like both the image and  the tag line of  T.W. McKean, Tailor:   Ladies’ Tight Fitting Garments a Specialty (but the lady dreaming of her well-dressed husband and son on the last card is hard to beat).

Salem Sellers on Etsy

You can shop local online easily on Etsy by searching for Salem shops.  My weekend browsing yielded the following items, among many handcrafted and -produced items offered by Salem sellers:  truly beautiful drawings, photographs, jewelry, a wooden sign….and some very clever fleece scarves for dogs! 

Green Pepper Pencil on Paper Drawing by Etsy seller chloesgoodstuff.

Union Square Radiators  by Etsy seller gabrieldaniels.

Cradled Pearl Necklace  by Etsy seller danielmjewelry.

Handcrafted Wooden Sign  by Etsy seller palletdesign.

Fleece Dog Scarf by Etsy seller waggerwear.

A Lost and Missing Church

The master architect, builder, and woodcarver Samuel McIntire (1757-1811) created the city (as opposed to the town) of Salem.  His career both coincides with and reflects Salem’s golden age; from 1780 until his death he designed more than 50 public buildings, churches, and houses, many of them still standing but unfortunately not all.  This weekend marks the anniversary of his birth; this year marks the bicentennial of his death.  In 2007, the Peabody Essex Museum marked the 250th anniversary of McIntire’s birth with an impressive and comprehensive exhibition,  Samuel McIntireCarving an American Style, and a companion volume of the same name by PEM Curator Dean Lahikainen which must be the definitive study of McIntire’s architecture and craftsmanship.  Obviously there is little that I could possibly add to these scholarly testaments to McIntire other than my own personal view.  I live in the McIntire Historic District (the largest of Salem’s four districts), and I’m surrounded by surviving McIntire buildings, but the McIntire structure in which I’m the most interested is no longer here:  the South Church, missing from Chestnut Street.

All of McIntire’s Salem churches have been lost, but I’m particularly fascinated by the South Church, which the PEM exhibition calls a  “masterpiece in religious architecture”:  perhaps because of its (former) proximity to my own house, perhaps because of its (former) Cathedralesque stature and its (lost) 150-foot steeple, certainly because of the almost-haunting images below.

Photograph credits:  NYPL Digital Gallery (2); Edwin Monroe Bacon, Boston; A Guide Book (1903); Peabody Essex Museum Phillips Library; Harvard Schlesinger Library.  (Ironically, just across from the house depicted in this last 1882 photograph, the Eden-Browne House  on the corner of Broad and Summer Streets, was Samuel McIntire’s own house and workshop at 31 Summer Street, taken down to make room for the headquarters of the Holyoke Mutual Insurance Company after 1936.)

Snowy Chestnut Street, 1899 and 2011

Another digging-out day on Chestnut Street, but clear and bright, with the trees bearing the brunt of yesterday’s storm.  Here are a few images of the street on days after the storm:  today and in 1899.  The historical images, from Loring family archives in the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, are looking up and down the salt-free  (and obviously car-free) street.  The eastward perspective has a nice view of the facade of Samuel McIntire’s majestic South Congregational Church, which stood from 1804 until its destruction by fire in 1903.  When I look at this photograph, I can appreciate the gaping hole that was opened up on the street  by that fire only several years later, a hole that was not really filled by the construction of a new and less-impressive  Gothic Revival church which itself burned down in 1950, not to be replaced.  A sidewalk view of the street best approximates the feeling of 1899, though of course, and sadly, there are no Elm trees.   There are also several images of stately houses on the sunny side of the street today, where the mix of sunshine and snow-covered trees created some interesting shadows.

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