A Memorial Map of Olde Salem

The 1920s was a decade of intensive commemoration in Massachusetts, in recognition of the 300th anniversaries of the landing at Plymouth in 1620 and the arrival of John Winthrop here in Salem in 1630, bearing the royal charter that formally recognized the Massachusetts Bay Company. The commemoration culminated with the formation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony Tercentennial Commission in 1929, which oversaw thousands of events, including processions, pageants, historical exercises, old home weeks, exhibitions and expositions, the publication of various commemorative materials like Massachusetts on the Sea and Pathways of the Puritans, and the erection of roadside historical markers across the Commonwealth (the Salem markers are all “missing”—I’m coming to the unfortunate conclusion that there has been a long cumulative campaign to remove as much of Salem’s tangible history as possible, with the relocation of the Phillips Library as the end game! Maybe we are cursed–or maybe I’ve lost my perspective).

Pictorial Stamp.jpg

Smithsonian/National Postal Museum

There was also some sort of map initiative: as I’ve found several pictorial/historical maps–of the commonwealth, various regions, and individual towns–published in this period, often by the Tudor Press and under the auspices (and with the approval) of the Tercentenary Conference of City and Town Committees. Elizabeth Shurtleff’s Map of Massachusetts. The Old Bay State (which is in the Phillips Library but fortunately also in David Rumsey’s vast digital collection) is one such map, and there are others representing Cape Cod, Cape Ann, Boston, and several other Massachusetts towns and cities. As you can see from the cropped images of James Fagan’s map of Shawmut/Boston 1630-1930 and Coulton Waugh’s map of Cape Ann and the North Shore, these maps were “historical” in an extremely subjective way, emphasizing achievements above all. As explicitly stated by Fagan, they pictorialize progress above all. I’m sure that this message was particularly important given the coincidental timing of the Massachusetts Tercentenary and the onset of the Great Depression.

Pictorial Map Shurtleff

Pictorial Map Boston

Pictorial MAP Cape Ann

So far, I’ve seen 1930 pictorial/historical maps of Ipswich, Concord, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Cambridge, and the other day, while looking for something altogether different in the digital collections of the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, I came across of one of Salem! Very exciting–I thought I had chased down every Salem map in existence but no, there was (is) The Port of Salem, Massachusetts by Warren H. Butler, published by the Tudor Press in 1930. This is a perfect Colonial Revival map really, focused on recreating a rather whimsical/historical “olde” Salem rather than tracing the path of progress. I love it, even though my own house seems to have been swallowed up by an extended Hamilton Hall on lower Chestnut Street. It’s hard to date this map: in the accompanying text, Butler says “here are the ancient streets of Salem”, but while the streets depicted seem to be vaguely Colonial, the buildings that line these streets are of varying periods. His Salem is a port city first and foremost, but while he includes ships in both the harbor and North River and Front Street is really Front Street, the massive Gothic Revival train station is here too. Samuel McIntire’s courthouse is located in its historic location on Washington Street, just a few steps from the Greek Revival courthouse that still stands, vacant, in Salem. All of the Derby houses are on the map, including the majestic–and ephemeral—McIntire mansion which once sat in the midst of present-day Derby Square. In fact all of my favorite Salem houses, still-standing and long gone, are on Butler’s map: it’s a historio-fantasy map of non-Witch City, and I want to go there!

Pictorial Port of Salem

Pictorial Salem 2

Pictorial Salem 1

Pictorial Salem 3

Pictorial Salem 4You can zoom in on Salem’s “ancient” streets yourself at the BPL’s Leventhal Map Center.

16 responses to “A Memorial Map of Olde Salem

  • Donnalee

    I like to see the old maps and to think about their naivete of view as well. It really shows cultural perspectives and time periods.

  • Helen Breen

    Hi Donna,

    Interesting piece. The only Tercentenary Commission sign that I am familiar with is the one which was placed in Saugus celebrating Adam Hawkes – not sure if it is still standing.

    It would not pass a political correctness test today as it reads:

    “ADAM HAWKES the first white settler in Saugus, built on this site about 1630. President John Adams was his great-grandson.”

  • Alan B Lord

    Very interesting, as usual. Thank you, Donna.

  • Paul

    I loved this blog, in particular, Donna, since I am fond of old maps. The details shown in this blog are great. The patience it must have taken to draw all the buildings is amazing, I doubt that we’ll see the kind of celebrations for the various 400th anniversaries that are approaching. They will probably be muted like the 1992 “celebrations” of the discovery of America. I find that sad. History is what it is – we shouldn’t erase it. If anything, we can learn from it. FYI, I took a picture of Rowley’s Tercentenary Sign on Main St. for the Rowley Community Preservation Committee this past summer. I’ll e-mail the photo to you.

    • daseger

      Thanks Paul. Of course Rowley still has their sign (and all of our history too!)

      • Paul

        Sorry, Donna. I know that is a very touchy subject. You have my sympathy on that issue. I believe that Salem’s historical belong only in Salem. I would be upset if Rowley’s historical documents were to be transferred to Salem or elsewhere.

      • daseger

        I know you’re on our side, Paul! And I feel for Rowley with that large building going to a tax-exempt institution.

  • Brian Bixby

    I think I have a battered copy of Shurtleff’s state map somewhere, no doubt purchased by my father back in the day.

    I gather quite a few of the state historical markers have gone missing over the years; presumably no one felt responsible for them once the Tercentenary Commission went away. A somewhat distant cousin of mine Russell Bixby, catalogued the ones still standing a few years back as a first step for any restoration project.

    • daseger

      OMG I saw that name and thought of you! I wonder if they were melted down during the war?

      • Alan B Lord

        A good theory. Perhaps the Salem Evening News made mention of it, at the time items were being collected for that purpose.

      • Brian Bixby

        Most Bixbys I meet casually are no more closely related to me that 9 generations back, with the first Bixby to come to Massachusetts, who ended up in Boxford. Russ’s connection is two generations closer, from when our branch of the family was settled in Westford.

        Wartime’s a good possibility. I recall that a few decades ago thieves were stealing metal plaques to melt them down for their metal value. So that’s another possibility.

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