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.

7 responses to “Frank W. Cousins and Salem

Leave a Reply