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.


5 responses to “Frank W. Cousins and Salem

  • downeastdilettante

    Absolutely wonderful post. The photograph of the Nichols house makes me weak at the knees.

    Been an admirer of the Cousins photographs for years, had no idea about the rest–thanks for the enlightenment1

  • Penelope P. Neal

    Donna,
    I’m with Priscilla from her comment on plates—you write about the coolest stuff! And do you know if “The Beehive” on Front Street is named after Frank Cousin’s store. It must be. But love your blog!
    Penny

  • jean rice

    Does anyone know where I can get a photograph of Frank Cousins?

    • daseger

      Not me, unfortunately, Jean. I would think that the Philips Libray of the PEM would have one, but apparently not. I would love to see one myself.

  • nelsondionne

    Cousins exhibited photos at the 1893 Worlds Fair. The lists includes Salem industries. Anyone know anything about these photos ?

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