Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Audio Available:

OVERVIEW: About this audio-described brochure

Welcome to the audio-described version of Salem Maritime National Historic Site's official print brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of illustrations, photos, and maps, this version interprets the two-sided color brochure that Salem Maritime visitors receive. The brochure highlights important historical places, people, artifacts, and events that contribute to the significance of the site as a center for trade and commerce in our nation's early history. This audio version lasts about 48 minutes and is divided into sixteen sections, as a way to improve the listening experience and help you plan your visit.  Sections three through seven cover the front of the brochure and include information that provides a spatial orientation to the site, and introduces the preserved buildings, influential people, and typical activities that took place here. Section eight through fourteen cover the back of the brochure which focuses on trade routes and goods, the management of trade, and current challenges facing the site's natural environment. Section fifteen provides more information about accessibility at the site.

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OVERVIEW: Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Salem Maritime National Historic Site, located in Massachusetts, is part of the National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior. The nine acre park with twelve historic structures is in the heart of downtown Salem, at Salem Harbor's waterfront. This park, established in 1938, was the first national historic site created in the United States. Each year, many visitors come to enjoy the unique experiences that only can be had at Salem Maritime. We invite you to connect with the past by exploring Salem's  evolution into an international maritime power. Ponder the risks and rewards for the sailors, merchants, and townspeople that helped build the economy of a young United States. Be refreshed by the damp air, feel the rough weathered exterior of a building that's more than 200 years old, smell the decay and renewal of aquatic life on the mud flats, notice the gentle rocking of the ocean waves when you step aboard the Friendship of Salem, and listen to the sea bird calls and lapping waves all around you.

For those seeking to learn more about the park during their visit, informative audio guides are available through our website and guided tours are available throughout the day. To find out more about what resources might be available or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.

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OVERVIEW: Front side of brochure

The front side of the brochure includes illustrations, photographs, portraits, text, and one inset map. All images are color except for the portraits. A series of contemporary photographs with text below runs along the top of the page. An illustrated map of the Salem Harbor coastline and significant historical locations, as if seen from the perspective of a bird flying at sea, dominates the page. The coastline angles slightly up from left to right, in the center of the page. The longest wharf, Derby Wharf, juts out into the harbor like a finger with its tip bent, towards the bottom right corner. The waterfront area map is surrounded by images of historic buildings, artifacts, and portraits. Each image has corresponding text with a year in large font, between 1675 and 1909.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Salem Maritime

DESCRIPTION: This color photograph is a close-up of a brilliant gold eagle perched on top of the federal Custom House.  Its wings are outstretched to either side and the fine details of each feather suggests its grandeur and artistry. The eagle's head is turned to the right with a sharp, slightly open beak and a watchful, penetrating gaze.  On the left side, its talons hold a stars and stripes shield in red, white, and blue and a golden shaft of wheat. On the right, it clutches three golden arrows. The year, 1819, in brass numerals, is mounted on the woodwork beneath the eagle's pedestal. In the left foreground, there is a U.S. flag loosely wrapped around a flagpole as it blows in the wind. The top of a U.S. Customs Service flag waves below.

CAPTION: Joseph True carved the original eagle, which is preserved in the Custom House.


RELATED TEXT: A gilded eagle, symbol of vigilance and fierce, uncompromising pride, surveys Salem Harbor from atop the federal Custom House. It reminds ships’ masters that duties must be paid. No cargo of salt, sugar, or molasses, Baltic hemp, or Canton china escapes its sharp eye. The duties collected by the US Customs Service are the new nation’s greatest source of revenue, crucial to building and protecting the young United States. The Revolution brought freedom—and Salem’s flourishing international trade now brings much-needed economic independence to the growing nation.

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IMAGES and TEXT: Salem flourishes

IMAGE 1 of 3: Nautical Rope

DESCRIPTION: A color photograph provides a close-up of multiple loops of rigging rope in bright sunlight, hanging from the Friendship of Salem's side. The course natural fibers are arranged in a twisted pattern.

CAPTION: Friendship of Salem uses 17 miles of rope. 


IMAGE 2 of 3: Narbonne House

DESCRIPTION: A color photograph features the front side of the Narbonne House, featuring putty grey horizontal clapboard siding. Fresh white trim frames the front door, three windows, the roof, and the home's edges. A wooden walkway, with green grass on either side, leads up to a forest green wooden door. The house has irregular roof angles with a two-story structure to the left and a one story structure to the right, resulting in a steeply pitched roof to the right. A second structure is behind the house, with a gable roof and white chimney rising up. Lush foliage and blue sky fill in the background.

CAPTION: The Narbonne House is a good example of a middle-class home in the 1600s and 1700s. 


IMAGE 3 of 3: Hawkes House

DESCRIPTION: A color photograph captures the architectural and ornamental details of the Hawkes House by focusing on the home's third floor exterior corner. The house's flat roof line cuts across the image and four white window frames, with nine panes each, fall just below the roof line. Black shutters are secured on either side of the windows. The house's yellow clapboard siding lines up in a uniform and pleasing manner with the window ledges, shutter slats, and roof's edge. A further detail on the roof, a white wooden railing with decorative spindles, follows this same pattern and adds yet another horizontal detail. A square shaped brick chimney reaches towards the blue sky to touch puffy clouds.

CAPTION: The Hawkes House is typical of houses built by Salem's merchants in the early 1800s. 


RELATED TEXT: From rich fishing banks to the north, Salem-built fishing schooners bore cod back to the wharves beginning in the 1630s. Coasting schooners carried this valuable commodity, salted and dried, to the south. There they traded it for rice, corn, and wheat. By the 1640s Salem’s “codfish kings” were making a fortune exporting “refuse” cod to the West Indies, where planters fed it to their enslaved workers. Salem ships returned laden with sugar, then ventured to England and the Mediterranean, trading for luxuries like Madeira wine, olive oil, figs, lemons, and silk gloves.

By the mid-1700s Salem’s merchants, like others throughout the American colonies, felt that Britain was not protecting their vessels from threats by the French and Spanish. This, combined with unpopular British trade regulations, prompted many Salem merchants to become strong supporters of independence from Britain. During the Revolution Salem was the only major American port that never fell to the British, and as a result served as an active base for privateers (see other side).

After the Revolution, Salem’s merchant ships traveled to Asia, Africa, Russia, Polynesia, and South America. International exchanges—goods, people, ideas—brought tangible changes to Salem that reverberated through the new nation and reshaped American culture. Today, within a 9-acre national historic site, you can glimpse Salem’s beginnings as a fishing village and its heyday as a center of global commerce and trade.

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IMAGES and TEXT: Salem Maritime Collage

IMAGE 1 of 9:  Map

DESCRIPTION: The illustrated map is the largest image on the front page. It helps visitors navigate the park and shows the close physical relationships between the town and harbor activities. The map highlights three distinct man-made wharves that altered the coastline's topography and contributed to Salem's economic success before and after the Revolutionary War.

Derby Street, a pedestrian walkway, runs left to right with the town of Salem above, shown in detailed yet faded tones, and the calm waters of the harbor below. At Derby Street, moving from left to right, the Orientation Center is the site's first location and has accessible restrooms. To the right of the Orientation Center are three finger-like wharves: Central Wharf, Hatch's Wharf, and Derby Wharf. Each stone-walled wharf has a pedestrian walkway flanked by grassy areas. The shapes of the wharves and waterfront are irregular, with some straight edges and square angles in a somewhat haphazard arrangement. The longest wharf is Derby Wharf and it's about five times the length of the other wharves. The Friendship of Salem, a three mast ship, is docked at the base of Derby Wharf near the Pedrick Store House, a simple two-story building. Pedestrians stroll along the wharf stopping for pictures and taking in the harbor's sights, smells, and sounds. The tip of Derby Wharf turns back towards the coastline and the pedestrian walkway and grass are replaced by cobblestone. A working light station remains at the very tip.

Directly opposite Derby Wharf and on the other side of Derby Street are a collection of six historic buildings. From left to right, these are the Custom House with the Scale House and Public Stores located behind, Hawkes House, Derby House, West India Goods Store, and St. Joseph Hall. Narbonne House is the next block up behind Hawkes House.

CREDIT: Boston Public Library

IMAGE 2 of 9: Mary Narbonne

DESCRIPTION: Mary Narbonne, a white woman probably in her thirties, is pictured in this historic black and white photo which pops from the background of the grey brochure. She is posed for a portrait with her body turned slightly and her head and face looking away in the opposite direction. She is neither smiling nor frowning, has a pale complexion and wears her dark hair pulled back with a center part. She wears large, dark, drop earrings and her elbows are out to the side as if her hands are folded and resting on something. A white lace collar, adorned with a small oval brooch in the center at her neck contrasts from her dark mid to late 19th century dress. Her dress is cross-laced up the center with a dark ribbon and the same lacing appears on her upper left arm. 

CAPTION: Mary Narbonne


IMAGE 3 of 9: Diary

DESCRIPTION: A small color image with the caption “Mary Narbonne’s diary” below it pops from the grey brochure background. The diary with yellowed pages that are slight askew from its binding lies open at about its middle. The diary pages are within a leather cover with a large tab to act as its closure. Each page on the left and right is divided into seven horizontal sections which are dated in the left hand corner. Many of the sections are empty and four contain cursive writing. 

CAPTION: Mary Narbonne's diary.


IMAGE 4 of 9: Elizabeth Derby

DESCRIPTION: A black and white copy of a pastel head and shoulders portrait of Elizabeth Crowninshield Derby, drawn about 1780. Mrs. Derby’s hair is pulled away from her face and piled high into a wedge shape on top of her head, with a string of pearls and silk roses decorating the top. Her face is round, with a slight double chin, and the artist has drawn her with a very stiff mouth. Her body is slightly turned away, but she is gazing at the viewer. Mrs. Derby’s dress is made of silk, low cut on the chest, with lace around the scooped neckline and a small bunch of flowers pinned at the center front. 

CAPTION: Elizabeth Crowninshield Derby


IMAGE 5 of 9: Broken teacup

DESCRIPTION: A broken round bowl-shaped cup with no handle and a small round base. The cup is missing a large section at the back, has a crack across the front, and the base is chipped. The exterior of the bowl is decorated with painted flowering branches in a blue container, with one large pink flower and a number of bright pink buds clustered among the green leaves on the brown branches. The inside of the rim of the cup has a narrow crosshatched design in gold. 

CAPTION: Excavations within the park have revealed many artifacts lie this tea cup, showing the variety of imported goods used by Salem families like the Narbonnes and the Derbys.


IMAGE 6 of 9: Spices

DESCRIPTION: There is a row of four small piles of ground spices each the size of the tip of a pinky finger that are touching each other as they are displayed left to right in the shape and movement of a caterpillar. Starting from left to right there is a pile of which is a bright orangey-rust color much like cayenne pepper with a soft texture. The next pile is a light brown color similar to cinnamon with a soft texture. The next pile is dark brown and has coarser appearance to it much like coffee grounds or cloves. The last pile on the right is a soft textured material that is a mustard color like curry or turmeric.  



IMAGE 7 of 9: Weights

DESCRIPTION:Set of seven brass weights used by the Custom Officials for weighing goods brought into Salem by Merchant ships. These 7 brass cylinders are lined up side by side, but are not touching. The cylinders are standard weights and are various sizes placed in order from largest to smallest.

CAPTION: The US Customs Service monitored the accuracy of weights and measures


IMAGE 8 of 9: Cat Head

DESCRIPTION: A small color detail image with the caption “Carved wooden cat head from Friendship of Salem's bow.” pops from the grey brochure background. The cathead is an adornment protruding from the side of the bow on a sailing ship on the end of a large wooden beam. The face is rectangular and highly stylized and carved squarely. The dramatic deep relief with a gilt gold surface has a long nose, and open mouth, depicting a fierce expression. The carved head hints that it may be a male cat as it has a straight line of bangs between its ears to represent a mane and has eyebrows over its two round eyes. 

CAPTION: Carved wooden cat head from Friendship of Salem's Bow. 


IMAGE 9 of 9: Smaller Map

DESCRIPTION: In the right margin of the bottom right quadrant of the brochure is an inset map approximately 2 inches wide by 1 inch high.  One fourth of the inset map has plots of land sectioned out in rectangular shapes with a green patch in the middle labeled Salem Commons. These parcels of land then come towards the middle of the map running parallel to the shoreline of Derby Street and the Salem waterfront. The parcels of land are a dark grey color, the harbor is a light blue with faint black hatch mark type of overlay. 


1675: Narbonne House: Thomas Ives (ca. 1640-95), a butcher, built this house. A steep pitched roof shelters the clapboard structure. It is only one room deep, typical of New England's domestic buildings in the 1600s. Seamstress Sarah Narbonne (1795-1890) and her daughter Mary (1823-1905) lived and worked here. Mary's diary shines a light on small business practices in Salem. 


1762: Derby House: Capt. Richard Derby Sr. (1712–83) presented this home to his son Elias Hasket Derby (1739–99) as a wedding gift. Hasket became one of Salem’s wealthiest merchants. He lived here with his wife Elizabeth Crowninshield Derby (1727–99), their seven children, and two enslaved people. The Derbys’ slaves and their stately brick home reflected the Derbys’ wealth and Hasket’s reputation as a successful Salem merchant.


1770: Pedrick Store House: The timber frame of this building, moved here from Marblehead in 2004, dates from 1770. During the Revolution Thomas Pedrick stored prizes of war here.


1780: Hawkes House: Benjamin Hawkes (1766–1854), a ship builder, counted many of Salem’s successful merchants among his customers. He purchased and altered the unfinished house in 1800. Designed by Samuel McIntire (1757–1811), one of the earliest and most influential architects in the United States, the house had been commissioned but never lived in by Elias Hasket Derby.


1797: Friendship of Salem: Friendship of Salem is a replica of an East Indiaman ship built in Salem in 1797. The original ship made 15 voyages before its capture during the War of 1812.


1800: West India Goods Store: Capt. Henry Prince (1764–1846) bought the Derby House in 1796 and built this structure, listed in records as a “store.” He sold items from the West Indies—molasses, sugar, coffee—as well as local produce and products. Engaging in mercantilism could be profitable, but was also risky. Henry’s financial problems led to the auction of this store and his wife’s inherited property in 1827.


1762 and 1806: Capt. Richard Derby Sr. and his son Elias Hasket built the wharf for the family’s merchant and privateering operation. From here a ship carried news of the colonists’ rebellion to London. Hasket’s older brother Richard Derby Jr., a member of the Provincial Legislature, outfitted his schooner Quero for the historic trip; Hasket’s youngest brother, Capt. John Derby, commanded it. After Hasket’s death, his heirs expanded the wharf in 1806. In 1819 the wharf’s importance to international trade led the federal government to build the Custom House at its head.


1819: Custom House and Public Stores: From his second-floor office the collector oversaw all the US Customs Service operations for Salem, Beverly, and Marblehead, Massachusetts. The building provided offices for customs employees and storage for records. Writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who served briefly as surveyor at the Custom House, set the introduction of his gothic romance The Scarlet Letter here. He claimed to have found an embroidered “A” among a predecessor’s papers.

In the public stores at the back of the Custom House, officials impounded cargo until custom duties were paid.


1829: Scale House: Customs officials stored massive scales and devices for measuring cargoes here. Weighers and measurers carted scales, dipsticks, and gauges to the wharf. After the surveyor recorded these data, clerks calculated the duties owed to the United States by the ship owner.


1871: Light Station: One of four lighthouses used to navigate Salem Sound, this is the wharf’s only original surviving structure. Derby Light first had a fixed red light fueled by oil. A flashing red signal, powered by acetylene, replaced it in the early 1900s. Now the 300-candlepower light is solar-driven.

1909: St. Joseph Hall: Built by the St. Joseph Society, the Hall helped create an ethnic and community identity for Polish immigrants. The society offered housing and life insurance, sponsored sports, and hosted weddings and social events. Today, immigrants continue to contribute to Salem’s physical, social, and cultural landscape. 

DESCRIPTION: This three-story square-shaped brick building was built in 1909. In this drawing, the front and left side of the building are shown, as well as the roof. The front of the building is displayed as if the sun is shining on it making it several shades brighter than the left side of the building which is shaded resulting in a grey scale tone. The front of the building is showing all three floors: the first floor from left to right has a single entry door that is dark grey, to the right in the center of the first floor is a double set of doors with a store front window to the side of each door. Continuing to move to the right there is a row of three square windows in the top third of the wall. The second floor has four large windows across the second and third floor. Moving over to the left side of the building, each floor has a row of rectangular windows. The roof of St Joseph’s Hall is grey with five chimneys along the perimeter of the roof. There are two square-shaped structures as well. One is the hatch for roof access and the other is a skylight.

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IMAGES and TEXT: Arts and sciences

IMAGE 1 of 4: Nathaniel Hawthorne

DESCRIPTION: Nathaniel Hawthorne, a white man in his late forties is pictured in this historic black and white image. The edge of his image fades into the grey of the brochure background. Only his head, face, neck, and narrow portion of his chest is visible. He is shown from a side angle; his hair is fuzzy with more grey than dark hairs and has a puffy but trimmed salt and pepper mustache and is neither smiling nor frowning. His light colored eyes are set deep with thick eyebrows. He wears a stiff white shirt with a standing collar with a dark bow tie and jacket with lapels typical of the mid-19th century.

CAPTION: Nathaniel Hawthorne


IMAGE 2 of 4: Window

DESCRIPTION: A color image with the caption “A Palladian window in the Custom House frames the Friendship of Salem.” pops from the grey brochure background. The three-part window on the second floor of the building is composed of a large, arched central section flanked by two narrower, shorter rectangular sections. The wood framing around the window includes four carved columns on each side of the narrow windows and has a series of carved arches above the arch window and is all painted a cream color. In front of the window is a small railing with balusters and a rectangular interpretive sign in the middle of the railing. Four-roller shades obscure part of each of the windows. Outside the window is a balcony with a balustrade and flagpole with an American flag and Customs Service flag furling in the air. The ocean and opposite shoreline can be seen. The right narrow window frames a tall ship with a green bottom with some black and yellow masts with rigging attached.

CAPTION: A Palladian window in the Custom House frames the Friendship of Salem. 


IMAGE 3 of 4: Nathaniel Bowditch

DESCRIPTION:Nathaniel Bowditch, a white man in his late fifties or early sixties is pictured in this historic black and white image of an engraving from the early 19th century. The edge of the image fades into the grey of the brochure background. Only his head, face, and neck is visible with his face at just a slight angle. His light hair is thinning showing a large portion of his forehead with a tuft of wispy hair on top. He has a thin face and his slight smile reaches his round eyes under which there is some puffiness. A coat with a large standing collar is barely visible.

CAPTION: Nathaniel Bowditch

CREDIT: Boston Public Library 

IMAGE 4 of 4: Wooden gauge

DESCRIPTION: Along the bottom of the brochure a wooden gauge is shown and measures approximately 1/2 inch in height. It is a chestnut color going left to right until the last 1/4 of the page where the color begins to fade and turns grey. In the middle of the gauge made by James Gale Salem Mass 1918 is written on it.  In the section where it turns grey, there are vertical lines spaced approximately 1/8 of an inch apart until the end of the gauge in the bottom right corner. In between each vertical line, there are numbers marked on the gauge.

CAPTION: Salem Artisan Jame Gale proudly engraved his name on this wooden gauge. 


RELATED TEXT:Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–64) became surveyor in 1846. At that time, the president appointed most federal officeholders. After the 1848 election, a nasty political battle in Salem ended with Hawthorne’s dismissal from the Custom Service. He channeled his anger into The Scarlet Letter (1850), one of the first American novels.

Nathaniel Bowditch (1773–1838) worked as a merchant’s clerk, supercargo, and finally, captain. Despite little formal schooling, in 1802 he published The New American Practical Navigator, giving the new nation credibility in the world’s scientific community. All United States Navy ships still carry his book today.

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OVERVIEW: Back side of brochure

The back of the brochure includes text, illustrations, historic artifacts, and photographs of contemporary scenes and animal life. The top third of the page is entitled, 'Navigating a World in Conflict' and features a resource map of the continents with trade routes into and out of Salem criss-crossing the world. The middle third of the page depicts artifacts related to measuring cargo and record keeping duties performed by US Customs Service staff. The bottom third of the page shows a contemporary photograph of the Friendship of Salem anchored beside the Pedric Store House. Finally, the human impact on the natural environment is addressed in images and text at the bottom of the page.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Navigating a world in conflict

DESCRIPTION: This image of a flyer seeking privateers is dated September 17th, 1776. Set on yellowing paper showing signs of wear and fading, black type face text is surrounded by a decorative border with three unique sailing ships stamped on the top edge. The message reads in part, "Now fitting for a Privateer, in the harbour of Beverly...any seamen or landmen that have an inclination to make their fortunes in a few months, may have an opportunity, by applying to John Dyson."

CAPTION:  Handbill seeking privateersmen. 

CREDIT: Beverly Historical Society and Museum

RELATED TEXT: From 1600 until Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, Europe was almost continuously at war. Nations waged this battle for global domination using war, trade, and money as weapons. Because the European powers had colonies all over the world, any conflict affected international trade. Merchants accepted the risks of trade during wartime because profits could be enormous.

Until the 1860s, governments licensed privately owned vessels to target enemy nations’ supply lines and shipping during war. These “privateers” operated under strict rules. Only after a court hearing could captured vessels, or ”prizes,” be auctioned and the profits split among privateer owners, officers, and crew. One prize, sold in Salem, brought over two million dollars in today’s currency. Even the crew earned more than a year’s wages. But captured American privateersmen risked ending up in prison or, worse, on a disease-ridden British prison ship. For privateers, the odds were unpredictable.

During the Revolution, Salem was the most active American privateering port. Nearly 200 privateers captured about 500 British vessels. American privateers drove up insurance rates for British ships, disrupted British trade and supplies, and eroded Parliament’s support for the war. Later, about 40 Salem privateers captured nearly 300 British vessels during the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.

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COLLAGE and TEXT: Atlantic trade and the slave economy

IMAGE 1 of 17: Background of World Map

DESCRIPTION:  A global resource map shows six continents surrounded by oceans. Continents are light grey with the continent name written in capital letters in the center. From left to right, the Pacific Ocean, North America, South America, Atlantic Ocean, Africa, Europe, Asia, the Indian Ocean, Australia, the Pacific Ocean.

Traded goods and natural resources associated with a region are depicted by photographs placed around the map. These items will be subsequently described in more detail. No topographical details, country names, or landmarks are shown. Each continent's major ports are identified with historical place names, with nearly fifty port cities altogether. Trade routes connecting Salem to the rest of the world, from north to south, and east to west, are drawn in blue lines. 

Trade routes between North and South America included the following port cities:

Salem north to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Salem south to West Indies, French Guiana, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, around Cape Horn, Valparaiso, Lima, then back to San Francisco and Columbia River along the U.S. west coast.

Trade routes between Salem and Europe included the following port cities:

Salem to Archangel.

Salem to Dublin, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, St. Petersburg.

Salem to Bordeaux, Biscay, Lisbon, Gibraltar, Barcelona, Naples, Constantinople.

Salem to Azores, Canary Islands, Gibraltar, Naples, Constantinople.

Trade routes between Salem and Africa included the following port cities:

Salem to Cape Verde Islands, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, St. Helena, Cape Town, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Mombasa, Lamu.

Trade routes between Salem and the Middle East and Asia included the following port cities:

Salem to Cape Verde Islands, Sierra Leone, St. Helena, Cape Town, Ile de France.

Multiple routes were connected by Ile De France in the Indian Ocean:

Ile de France to Mocha.

Ile de France to Muscat, Bombay, Ceylon, Madras, Batavia.

Ile de France to Sumatra.

Ile de France to Calcutta, Rangoon, Batavia.

Batavia, to Siam, Canton, Nagasaki, Manila.

Ile de France to Sydney, to South Pacific Islands, to New Zealand.

IMAGE 2 of 17: Cod

DESCRIPTION: An Atlantic Cod fish appears in the cold waters off of Greenland. Green tipped fins contrast with silver scales on a sturdy, narrow body.

CAPTION: Atlantic Cod

CREDIT: Joachim S. Muller

IMAGE 3 of 17: Bowl

DESCRIPTION: A common household white bowl with red striped trim hovers over England. In spite of several noticeable cracks, the utilitarian bowl remains intact.

CAPTION: Mocha Ware

IMAGE 4 of 17: Sailcloth

DESCRIPTION: A tightly wound roll of white sailcloth fabric is shown in Northern Russia. Loose strings emerge from the cloth's unfinished edges.

CAPTION: Sailcloth

IMAGE 5 of 17: Wine

DESCRIPTION: A sealed black bottle of wine with gold writing on the label is shown over the Portuguese Madeira Islands, off the Northern coast of Africa.

CAPTION: Madeira wine

CREDIT: Frank Papenbroock

IMAGE 6 of 17: Silks

DESCRIPTION: Situated over the islands of Japan, a long wooden crate has its lid slight ajar. Inside the crate are reams of silk cloth in white, pink, purple, and blue.


CREDIT: Rhode Island Historical Society

IMAGE 7 of 17: Textiles

DESCRIPTION: A square swatch of floral cloth with a red rose pattern is positioned over Northern India.

CAPTION: Textiles

IMAGE 8 of 17: Black tea

DESCRIPTION: A square box of black tea is located in Eastern China. The discolored reddish-brown box, either wooden or rusty tin, is adorned with a decorative lid depicting a central circular image surrounded by several frames that enlarge towards the box's rim.

CAPTION: Black tea

IMAGE 9 of 17: Sugarcane

DESCRIPTION: Four cut stalks of fresh sugarcane lie between the West Indies and French Guiana. Their smooth green outer texture is interrupted by growth bands which contrasts with their creamy inner fibers.

CAPTION: Sugarcane

CREDIT: Ecoripe Tropicals

IMAGE 10 of 17: Salt

DESCRIPTION: A pile of coarsely ground white salt sits in a simple glazed pottery dish. The dish is greenish grey with a clay colored rim. The salt is located on the coastline of West Africa. 


IMAGE 11 of 17: Mocha coffee

DESCRIPTION: An opened sac reveals roasted coffee beans near the port city of Mocha, on the Red Sea coast of Yemen.

CAPTION: Mocha coffee

IMAGE 12 of 17: Cinnamon

DESCRIPTION: Near the port cities of Bombay, Madras, and Ceylon, a handful of golden brown cinnamon sticks exemplifies this region's contribution to the spice trade.

CAPTION: Cinnamon

IMAGE 13 of 17: Porcelain

DESCRIPTION: An example of pottery is located near the East Indies. The white vase has a full rounded shape with a narrow opening and wide base. A landscape scene in blue encircles the vase.

CAPTION: Porcelain

IMAGE 14 of 17: Mahogany

DESCRIPTION: Between Lima, Peru and Valparaiso, Chile, three planks of finished mahogany wood are stacked and ready for export. The honey colored wood has a pronounced grain.

CAPTION: Mahogany

IMAGE 15 of 17: Cotton

DESCRIPTION: Four white tufts on a head of cotton are encircled by stiff pointy leaves. The cotton is located in Northern Brazil.


CREDIT: Arlett Kovitv

IMAGE 16 of 17: Handcuffs

DESCRIPTION: Shackles used for securing people during slave trading is shown between Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast.

CAPTION: Enslaved people

CREDIT: John Brucksch

IMAGE 17 of 17: Peppercorns

DESCRIPTION: A pile of black peppercorns, dried and puckered from the sun's heat are exported from Sumatra, Indonesia.

CAPTION: Peppercorns

RELATED TEXT: As a British colony, Massachusetts was vital to the operation of the Atlantic slave economy. Most of Salem’s early trade was in supplying products like dried cod to slave plantations and transporting plantation products, such as sugar, indigo, rice, and cotton, to British ports around the Atlantic Ocean. Through trade with slave-based economies, some New England families grew wealthy. They acquired fine European goods imported by Salem ships and, by 1771, most wealthy families in Salem owned at least one enslaved person. This profiteering continued in New England despite the United States’ abolition of international slave trading in 1808.

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IMAGES and TEXT: US customs and taxes

IMAGE 1 of 3: Ledger Book

DESCRIPTION: Two bound record keeping books lie open, with the rear book positioned to the left and partially covered by the front book, which rests at a slight angle and to the right. The pages are yellowing and the paper edges appear dry, crumbling or stained with debris. The penmanship is a fine cursive script and the entries have an orderly appearance with no apparent stray marks. The rear book is a ledger book with seven columns on a page, indicated by red vertical lines. Each entry occupies one line. The front book is an impost book with lists of cargo under each entry. The record keeper appears to have used a ruler to draw a straight line to divide each entry.

CAPTION: A ledger book records seamen's protection certificates issued. An impost book lists cargo entering a local port. 


IMAGE 2 of 3: Surveyors

DESCRIPTION: An inked impression from Nathaniel Hawthorne's seal reads, "Salem N. Hawthorne (illegible) 1817." 

CAPTION: Nathaniel Hawthorne's seal.

CREDIT: NPS/Richard Schlecht

IMAGE 3 of 3: Surveyors

DESCRIPTION: A color illustration shows the equipment used by surveyors to weigh goods. The scale is like a tall saw horse with two A-frames on either side and a central beam. White sacs of coffee are loaded onto the weighing platform which hangs from the central beam. A surveyor in a cap, vest, and work clothes stands to the right of the scale and slides weight across another beam to determine the weight of the coffee. Two men wearing tailored suits stand to the left of the scale. One man in a top hat studies a book while the second man holds a long stick with outstretched arms to take measurements in a barrel of molasses. 

CAPTION: A surveyor assesses duties on sacks of coffee, calculated by weight.

CREDIT: NPS/Richard Schlecht

RELATED TEXT: For centuries, governments relied on revenue from taxes on imports, and the new United States was no exception. US Customs Service staff performed many functions, including collecting duties, inspecting cargo, documenting vessels, and maintaining crew records and seamen’s protection certificates. Until 1852 they administered lighthouses.

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IMAGES and TEXT: World trade

IMAGE 1 of 2: Shipping crates

DESCRIPTION: A color photograph shows an overflowing storage area of luxury items that are displayed in Salem's Custom House. In the center of the image, ten wooden boxes painted yellow, green, and black are stacked high. English writing on the boxes indicates the type of tea, either green, black, or Imperial. Several boxes have Chinese writing. An orange sign reading, "Tea" is perched on the boxes. A long wooden crate with printed and solid fabrics spilling out, labeled, "Indian Textiles" sits on the floor in front of the tea boxes. An assortment of wooden boxes, barrels and baskets surround the tea boxes on either side, somewhat recessed in shadows. Signage reads, "Tallow" and "Figs." A red brick wall peeks out from behind the bounty of goods.

CAPTION: Luxuries in Salem's Custom House stores. 


IMAGE 2 of 2: Friendship of Salem and wharf

DESCRIPTION: A color photograph taken from the shoreline provides a scenic view of Derby Wharf. The photo appears digitally altered to make the image more transparent as if the scene is covered in mist. To the right, the Friendship of Salem, a 171-foot replica of the Salem East Indianman originally built in 1797, floats in calm, blue waters. To the left, the Pedrick Store House seen from an angle, is a two story rectangular building with an attic and gable roof that stands on short stocky posts. Multiple white-framed windows and doors break up the beige clapboard siding. On the side facing the dock, the Store House has two doors at ground level and one opening on the second floor for cargo loading and unloading. In the middle of the image, visitors walk up a slightly graded white gangway to board the  Friendship of Salem, moored to a narrow wooden dock. Facing the bow of the sailing ship, sunlight reflects off the glossy black hull, which is trimmed in pale yellow. The complicated rigging and spars of the three masts rise up, with its 21 sails tucked away out of view. Low hanging wispy clouds hang  above fall foliage on a distant coastline. Along the left coastline, white sailboats are lined up and anchored. A group of visitors to the left of the Store House wear coats, with hands tucked in pockets.

CAPTION: Friendship of Salem rests at anchor beside Pedrick Store House on Derby Wharf

CREDIT: Bill Ballantyne 

RELATED TEXT: After the Revolution freed Americans to trade worldwide, they sailed for Russia and China. Merchants took advantage of the wars between Britain and France to boost their profits and the American economy.

Vessels sailing to and from a neutral port like Salem could not be targeted by privateers. Both countries looked to Americans to bring their Asian colonies’ products—sought-after luxury items like tea, spices, and porcelain—back to Europe. Merchants planned “broken voyages,” sailing between India and London, for example, by way of Salem, earning millions of dollars. When relations between America and Britain deteriorated in 1812, leading to war, the neutral trade ended.

The rise of industry in America increased demand for domestic raw goods like lead, leather, and cotton, though. Salem’s port remained busy through the 1800s. 

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IMAGES and TEXT: Harbor sights and sounds

IMAGE 1 of 2: Egret

DESCRIPTION: A color photograph of a great egret lit by sunlight from above portrays its strength and grace in flight. Smooth, brilliant white feathers cover its entire body. Viewed from the front and side, its head points to the right with a long, sharp yellow beak leading the way. A narrow head transitions into a long neck curved in an s-shape. Two wings stretch out from a thick, smooth torso that tapers down the egret's backside. Sunlight shines through the right wing revealing the delicate architecture of each feather. Its thin black legs and long, sharp talons trail behind. 

CAPTION: A great egret's wings add a gentle flutter to other harbor sounds

CREDIT: Mark Schwall

IMAGE 2 of 2: Derby Wharf

DESCRIPTION: A color photograph of storm surge on Derby Wharf shows rough seas that submerge the base of the wharf's lighthouse. Derby Wharf light station is in the foreground on the left. Its solid base is white and square-shaped.  Black railing sits atop the base and encloses a black octagonal structure with large windows that houses the light source. A black decorative roof and spherical finial is on the top. A black and white speedboat is to the right of the lighthouse and rocks on the choppy whitecaps. In the distant background shrouded in mist, trees with fall foliage define the water's edge. A row of multi-storied historic buildings rises up behind the trees, with a second row of taller trees behind the buildings. A patch of grey sky is above the trees at the top edge of the image.

CAPTION: Derby Wharf light during a storm surge

CREDIT: Tom Stirling Stirling Creative

At Salem Maritime National Historic Site you will find echoes of past centuries. Boats rest on mudflats at low tide; the Friendship of Salem gently bobs and strains at its ropes at high tide. An essence of salt water and damp air pervades narrow streets paved with stones. The park may appear frozen in time, yet ominous changes are taking place in Salem Harbor.

Salem’s success as a center of maritime trade led merchants to build more and longer wharves. As many as 50 once filled the harbor, impeding natural currents. The harbor silted up, becoming shallower. Now, storm surges often submerge the remaining wharves (right). Human-induced climate change and sea level rise are increasing the negative impact of waves and water on the park’s historic structures and wharves. New management strategies are needed for the park’s continued preservation.

Salem Maritime was the first national historic site created in the United States (1938) after Congress passed the Historic Sites Act of 1935. Today, park staff, volunteers, and partners work together here to document, preserve, and interpret New England’s maritime history and care for 14 historic structures, a replica tall ship, 66 archeological sites, and over 200,000 artifacts. Park rangers offer free programs and tours that include the historic buildings and the Friendship of Salem.

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IMAGE: Rock Barnacles

DESCRIPTION: At the bottom right hand corner of the page, a collection of 7 or 8 rock barnacles are clustered together. A source of light on the right illuminates the tops of the barnacles while the bottom part of the cluster is in shadow. Each barnacle is volcano-like in shape, formed by tough overlapping plates. The plates are striped in shades of reddish-brown with cream colored accents, in a symmetrical pattern. As the plates come together at the top, they form an opening with a sharp jagged edge.

CREDIT: Michael Garner

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OVERVIEW: Accessibility

We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. Some advice for all visitors: Please take care when walking along the edges of wharves due to uneven surfaces and the potential to fall in the water. Also be careful crossing Derby Street due to uneven surfaces. 

The following accessibility features may be helpful for visitors with mobility impairments. All walkways are fully accessible for wheelchair users. Accessible bathrooms are located inside the Salem Regional Visitor Center and behind Waite and Peirce at 193 Derby Street. The Salem Visitor Center is fully accessible. Wheelchair seating is available at the front and back of the theater for viewing of the 27-minute long orientation film “Where Past is Present” on the history of Salem and Essex County. The replica tall ship Friendship of Salem is fully accessible through a ramped gangway and a wheelchair lift from the main deck to the lower deck. The Scale House exhibit, behind the U. S. Custom House, is fully accessible. The first floors of the 1675 Narbonne House and 1762 Derby House can accommodate non-motorized wheelchairs up to 26 inches in width. If you are interested in visiting these historic structures, please contact the site at 978-740-1660 at least 3 days in advance.

Some accessibility features and resources may be helpful for visitors with sight impairments.  Available through our website, a self-paced audio tour of Salem Maritime National Historic Site takes about an hour to complete and consists of ten stops. Large print versions of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site brochure are available at the Salem Regional Visitor Center front desk.

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OVERVIEW: More information

Salem Maritime National Historic Site is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about parks and National Park Service programs in America’s communities visit

ADRESS: 160 Derby Street, Salem Massachusetts 01970


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