This is a 6-hour tour.
Salem, settled in 1626, endured a witchcraft hysteria in 1692, resulting in the executions by hanging and “pressing to death” of 18 people and 3 dogs – more than 45 others, mostly elderly women, froze to death in unheated dungeons in this area while awaiting their “trial” before the hysteria ended and cooler heads prevailed. Interestingly, the name “Salem” is an amalgam of the Hebrew word “Shalom”, and the Arabic word “Sa’alam”, both of which mean “peace”.
Arthur Miller’s famous bestseller, “The Crucible” (1996), was based on the Salem witch trials, as a lesson in tolerance, and was subsequently required reading for millions of American high school students, beginning in the era of the Senator Joseph McCarthy “Red-hunt trials” of the 1950’s.
On a lighter note, many installments of the TV show “Bewitched” were filmed here, and Salem has a life-sized statue of the show’s star, Elizabeth Montgomery, in the center of this small city. A couple of local brothers, named Parker, had toy factories here, where they churned out such board games as Monopoly. If you have a sweet tooth, visit the oldest candy store in the United States, which is in Salem and across the street from the House of the Seven Gables, which was built in 1668. A ticket to the old mansion, on an elegant ocean-front edifice, also gets you admission to the next-door birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne and enjoyment of their beautiful shared English Gardens.
Not everyone is interested in some of the sites mentioned on these pages, so we will ask you for your preferences, and if you are disinterested in one place, we will suggest others until we find sites which are of interest to you and your party. If there is no consensus, we try to come up with a place of interest for all (or at least almost all of you).
The oldest public museum in the United States is in Salem – the Peabody-Essex Museum, was founded in 1799, and the Salem Witch Museum, lacated in a nearby, creepy, old, gothic church, puts on a sound and light show every half an hour to give you an idea of what occurred here during the chaos of the witch hysteria. All over Salem, you’ll find tack gift shops, psychics, and tarot card readers. They even have an official town witch – Laurie Cabot. We can take you to see the burial ground (one of the oldest in the United States) of the Hanging Judges and see the memorial to the victims of their crimes, whose bodies were merely tossed over the side of a cliff. We can show you the mansion built by Elias Derby, the first millionaire in America, who earned a fortune in the China trade, back when a million dollars was really a lot of money.
There is a National Maritime Museum in Salem, where you can walk the decks of “The Friendship”, which was a China Trade ship, and take in their small museum, opposite the Customs House where Hawthorne clerked. You can see the home of Joseph Story, the youngest Supreme Court Justice at 32-years-old, or see the residence of Elbridge Gerry, whose name gives us the word Gerrymandering (having to do with setting electoral districts in such a manner as to favor one party or another). Gerry was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Vice President under Madison.
This tour also includes scenic, and beautiful Marblehead, Massachusetts, a yachting community, which sent over 800 residents off to join George Washington, or to become “privateers”. Privateers used mostly schooners, at their own expense, to attack English merchant ships, and they provided the brunt of our war supplies until France came to our assistance (the French also loaned us an Army and Navy).
Marblehead, Salem, and Beverly, Massachusetts, all share the same very large bay, and they all claim that the United States Navy began in their own town…some would beg to differ.
There are a number of very good ocean-front restaurants in both Marblehead and Salem. You can choose to enjoy a leisurely lunch here (which probably means that our time together will be spent in just these two towns), or you can choose to see the fishing port of Gloucester as well. In this case, we should just get sandwiches to-go and head on up to Gloucester after seeing Salem.