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Salem Mass. and Chinese Sailors

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Food in History

Fall Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(3) pages: 30 to 32

Many early Chinese did land on the West Coast in or near San Francisco, some even landed on the East Coast in Salem Massachusetts. Salem is a town some fifteen miles north of Boston. It was known for the Salem Witch Trials and other things in those early days. We know it well because when first married we lived nearby in Cambridge, then in Woburn; both were before we moved to New York State.

We and many neighbors knew Salem, a New England town famous for witch trials held here in 1692. The Salem Museum touts them and the twenty people who died then in this historic seaport town. Few knew about the clipper ships and their sailors who arrived there from China in the late 1600s.

The Peabody Museum, now called the Peabody Essex Museum shares information about the Chinese sailors manning those ships who landed there, a few even staying. They may know other historic places there such as the House of Seven Gables, the Custom House, the National Maritime Museum, the Darby House, and others. Many may have read a 1819 novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, about here as it was required reading in many a High School.

If you have never been here, we recommend visiting. You might see where Alexander Graham Bell did his first demonstration of the telephone in this town. There, his first words were: “Can you hear me now” spoken at the Lyceum Hall in 1877. This one and more than twenty other buildings are worth visiting here, some in the Yu Tang complex where a complete building moved from China. Built during the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 CE) and the only complete house built in China now in the US from that time period. There are these and other things to see and do in Salem including this classic attraction built during the time of Roger Conant in the late 1600s when this town was called Naumkeag.

Walk down its cobblestone streets sense and see this classic New England village with many quaint shops and galleries. Some are on Pickering Wharf, itself a place not to miss.

From Salem, one can go whale watching and visit the Salem Beer Works, the oldest and largest restaurant and brewery in New England. While there, take a look at The Salem News, a local newspaper known for its logo. It is a witch on a broomstick. There is that and for those who like modern places, one can visit an Italian revival building, and there is much more to see in Salem.

As to the Peabody Museum recently renamed The Peabody Essex Museum. It shows and tells about the town’s early history. It recently had an infusion of one hundred fifty million dollars so visitors see a bigger and better museum that is a great place to learn about the earliest Chinese sailors on the US East Coast. History buffs and most spend lots of time here.

If planning to go, you may want to consider purchasing a ‘Destination Passport’ there or the the many other places in town selling it available April through September. It includes admission here and other places in town that charge a separate admission fee. However, it is not available on holidays or in during one month in the Fall. Therefore, inquire before buying yours. Everyone can get other visitor information there at www.pem.org to learn about this town and the many eateries giving reductions for those that have one. Do your homework and learn this and more; you will be glad you did.

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