Salem, MA, 1833

‘But the tide was running against the port. Salem’s harbor, inferior to a dozen others on the Atlantic coast, was too shallow for the larger ships of the 1820’s and 30’s. Salem had no great river or hinterland to feed it commerce. Slowly the business shifted to Boston and with it, many of the merchant houses.

It was not until 1893 that the last Salem ship, owned by the great old house of Silsbee, Stone and Allen, left Derby Wharf to become a coal barge. But by 1846, when Nathaniel Hawthorne wanted a sinecure post in which to write his novels of Salem decadence, he wangled an appointment as Surveyor of the Port of Salem. In the big drafty Customs House, built at the close of Salem’s great mercantile era, only a few old shipmasters remained to doze in the sun, record the arrival of a coastwise lumber schooner and swap tales of great days in distant seas.’