I love everything about this little pamphlet I picked up the other day commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Merchant’s National Bank of Salem in 1911: In the Year 1811. The graphics, the format, the paper, the fonts. The whole point of the pamphlet is to show how much changed from 1811 to 1911, and how integral the Merchants National Bank was to that change. Everything is so much better in the latter year, everything is so modern, and to illustrate this modernization, in both words and pictures, the pamphlet privileges the practical side of life over the big political events that shaped the century: transportation, heating, cooking, lighting, clothing, and commerce, of course. There is one sentence referencing the wars of the century, and presidents are referenced only by their age at the time of the incorporation of the bank.
There are several references to Salem’s notable architecture, but again, it’s really all about the bank, which showcases its new headquarters on Essex Street, “colonial in architecture and absolutely fire-proof in construction. The walls are of brick; roof and floors of concrete. There is nothing to burn; the city might be swept by a conflagration, and the building of the Merchants Bank would still stand”. Of course this strikes one as a very prescient statement, as Salem would be “swept by a conflagration” in only three short years: the Great Salem Fire of 1914. The new bank building stood tall, but primarily because the fire did not reach downtown. Samuel McIntire is not mentioned in the pamphlet, despite the fact that 1811 was the year of his death.
The new bank building on Essex Street, the Old Witch House, and a representative Salem porch.
I think the illustrator of most (certainly not all) of the charming sketches in the pamphlet are the work of Salem-born artist George Elmer Browne, based on the illustration of Salem’s first Eastern Railroad depot, which is attributed to Browne elsewhere. Everyone is familiar with the great Gothic Revival structure that was built in the 1840s and unceremoniously demolished in the 1950s, but this was its less imposing predecessor. Now that was a big change!
Browne’s illustrations of the First E.R. Depot in Salem, in Francis B.C. Bradlee’s The Eastern Railroad: A Historical Account of Early Railroading in Eastern New England (1917) and the second depot in 1911-12 Report of the Salem Plans Commission.
January 11th, 2017 at 8:27 am
I would love to use this as a primary source for my 1870s-1920 grad class. Thanks for sharing.
January 11th, 2017 at 8:31 am
I’ll bring it in for you; it’s a perfect statement of that pre-WWI I confidence.
January 11th, 2017 at 12:01 pm
Fascinating. Marvelous graphics and sensibility. Hard to hate the Colonial Revival pride of Salem in that era. Always loved the building, designed by Little and Browne, a wonderful mashup of McIntire and English Baroque and Soane. Little and Browne were fearless
January 11th, 2017 at 12:46 pm
Happy New Year, DD! I too am continually fascinated by Salem’s colonial revival culture c. 1890-1930 or so. Great book topic, I think.
January 12th, 2017 at 9:56 pm
I wonder how common it was for banks to put out historical pamphlets such as that one. I have one in my collection, from State Street Trust Company of Boston, from 1928, entitled “Some Famous Privateers of New England.” Naturally, Salem gets a few chapters!