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A July Afternoon, Old Lyme
2022-07-31 16:47
One hot morning last week I was looking at some paintings by the American Impressionist artist Matilda Browne (1869-1947) when I realized I wanted to see more. It was apparent that the best… Read More
An Enigmatic Etcher
2022-07-27 01:18
I wanted to share some examples of the work of the Salem artist George F. White, Jr., better known as George Merwanjee White (1849-1915), but I wish I could also share more details about his… Read More
The Golden Goose
2022-07-20 11:18
Last week Salem’s new Heritage Trail, or at least the foundation thereof, was revealed with a report to the Salem Redevelopment Authority (SRA) and the launch of a new website. The out… Read More
The Justin Morrill Homestead
2022-07-12 18:26
Another week: another pink Gothic Revival house! If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a Gothic Revival kick for a while. It’s a style you can’t help but notice, and S… Read More
Roseland Cottage
2022-07-05 12:57
In the last week of June I drove down to the “quiet” northeastern corner of Connecticut to see a house that was a major presidential July 4th destination in the later ninete… Read More
I Went For The Wallpaper
2022-06-28 11:52
I love Waterhouse Wallhangings, a company which has been manufacturing wallpapers based on historical patterns for decades, and will do anything or go anywhere to see their papers… Read More
After The Fire: A New Salem Saltbox
2022-06-24 11:14
I like to recognize the anniversary of the Great Salem Fire (June 25, 1914) every year, or most years, as it was such a momentous event in so many ways, starting, of course, with sheer destr… Read More
A Juneteenth Tour Of Salem
2022-06-20 12:36
I like to craft my own walking tours for every major holiday just for myself, so that I can get in the proper celebratory or thoughtful frame of mind. This weekend, I put together my first J… Read More
Landmark Lineage
2022-06-16 11:08
I’ve been obsessed with the work “landmark” ever since the Samantha statue incident of last week: a succession of news stories in the days following reported the… Read More
Local Color: Salem June 2022
2022-06-11 21:25
This is going to be an odd post which will start out sweet and end up a bit sour, but I can promise you that it will be colorful throughout. There’s one aspect of Salem’s history… Read More
A Salem Slaver
2022-06-06 13:22
It’s beautiful here in Salem and I had a very colorful post all lined up for you: gardens, the arts festival, blue trees, doors of many colors, cats, my lady’s slippers, simple p… Read More
The Jeremiah Lee Mansion
2022-06-02 15:13
There are two structures which made an impression on me early in my childhood and sort of set the standard for historic grandeur in my mind: Dartmouth Hall at Dartmouth College, where my fat… Read More
Tattered Flags
2022-05-28 20:25
The Civil War began with the lowering of a tattered 33-star flag from Fort Sumter in 1861 after which tattered flags defined, symbolized and memorialized the bravery, sacrifices and experien… Read More
Can’t We Copy Concord?
2022-05-23 20:09
The Concord Museum has been one of my favorite local history museums for some time, but I haven’t been there since the completion of a major expansion and reinterpretation initiative d… Read More
Lilac Days
2022-05-18 17:54
Lilacs are so ubiquitous in New England in May that you tend to overlook them, but over the past pleasant days I have been seeking them out in some of my favorite spots. I’m always so… Read More
Selling Seeds
2022-05-13 11:40
A rather fluffy post on seed packets for this week: it’s grading time! This combination of gardening + paper, two of my favorite things, is irresistable to me at all times, but I have… Read More
Skirting Witches And Pirates In Salem
2022-05-03 14:01
Walking is my preferred form of transportation in Salem, but I tread carefully: I want my path to be lined with beautiful old houses, colorful shops and lovely green (or white) spaces. Attra… Read More
The Eminent Antiquarian
2022-04-28 11:58
I have been meaning to post on the most eminent of Salem’s antiquarians, Henry FitzGilbert Waters (1833-1913) for a while, but I kept finding more information about him and thought I&r&hell…Read More
Salem As Historyland
2022-04-22 13:09
For the most part, this blog has been an academic release for me rather than academic engagement: I consider most of the history I’ve offered up here more pop-up than professional. But… Read More
Pirates Were Pirates
2022-04-16 03:38
So I’ve been preoccupied with pirates for about a week, ever since the new Real Pirates Museum opened up in Salem adjacent to Charlotte Forten Park on Derby Street. My p… Read More
Pirates Plunder Charlotte Forten Park
2022-04-10 16:48
What do place names mean? Whenever I’m walking around a town or city I look at the names of streets and spaces and assume that they are clues to the history of said town or city but wh… Read More
The Power Of Juxtaposition
2022-04-06 12:35
The Peabody Essex Museum has opened a new integrated exhibit of items from its American and Native American collections entitled On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America and… Read More
Domed Doors
2022-04-01 11:32
Salem is a great city for doors. There are so many exemplary doors in a succession of architectural styles: First Period, Georgian, Federal, Greek and Gothic Revival, all the Victo… Read More
Runaway Wives Of Salem
2022-03-24 11:53
I don’t think I’ve posted enough about women’s history for this women’s history month so I have put some extra effort into this last March post! Two caveats to the pr… Read More
The South Coast Of Massachusetts
2022-03-19 17:52
One thing that I’ve always loved about Massachusetts is its regional topographical diversity. I’m not sure that this is the correct phrase: topographical generally refe… Read More
Shore Dinners
2022-03-14 13:15
I have a guilty secret to admit, one which will reveal me to be out of step with most of my fellow Salem residents (no, it’s not about “witches”): I’m not particularl… Read More
Books For Women’s History Month 2022
2022-03-08 12:32
Next week is Spring Break and I haven’t decided if I’m going to get away or get reading a large stack of bedside books. A lot of said books are about later medieval/early modern… Read More
Samuel Chamberlain’s Salem
2022-03-01 15:39
The Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum, steward of so much of Salem’s printed, written and visual history amongst its many collections, has recently digitized over 5000 image… Read More
In The Thick Of It
2022-02-24 14:45
This weekend is the annual commemoration/celebration of Leslie’s Retreat, a pre-Revolutionary event which could have marked the beginning of the American Revolution, if not for the pat… Read More
Winter Salem, Day And Night
2022-02-20 14:52
This is a rather lazy picture post: I’m basking in the glow of the publication of my book and rather drained from teaching AND I have some nice pictures of Salem on my camera roll so I… Read More
Candy Land
2022-02-14 12:03
In my sweetest dreams Salem is Candy Land rather than Witch City, and it certainly has the heritage to claim that title (although Candy Land was a Milton Bradley game rather than a Parker Br… Read More
John Remond’s Struggle For Citizenship
2022-02-10 21:13
I’ve written about the Remonds, the African-American family who lived, worked, and strove for a succession of causes in nineteenth-century Salem quite a bit, but I think there is… Read More
Gilded Age Salem
2022-01-29 15:07
Let me be very clear: Salem is NOT a Gilded Age town. In reference to the new series from Julian Fellowes, Salem is the two Old Money sisters in the stuffy house, not the nouveau riche … Read More
Sidney Perley’s Houses
2022-01-21 12:46
Sidney Perley (1858-1928) exemplified that exhausting mix of endeavors—historical, genealogical, archaeological, architectural, legal, literary—which in his time was represented… Read More
Salem’s Spider Man
2022-01-15 16:16
Obviously I am shamelessly exploiting both popular culture and alliteration with my title, but nevertheless James Henry Emerton (1847-1931), one of Salem’s most successful commercial a… Read More
The Era Of Excessive Mourning
2022-01-07 19:28
I’m giving a talk at the end of the month on the impact of the Reformation on the theology of death and practice of mourning, on both sides of the Atlantic in the seventeenth and eight… Read More
What About Fort Pickering?
2022-01-02 13:44
I love commemorations: I have posted about them often here, particularly at the beginning of a new year like 2020, during which the long-planned commemorations (of the achievement… Read More
Christmas At Home And Away
2021-12-27 22:10
Our Christmas was Covid-impacted like everyone else’s, but it ended up being just lovely, with most of our time spent with my brother and brother-in-law in Salem eating, drinking, play… Read More
Books For Christmas/Break
2021-12-14 17:52
Classes have just ended and after grading I will attack the big pile of books by my bedside: I’ve already dipped into one or two but I have a full month with very few obligations ahead… Read More
Thanksgiving Tradition And Transition
2021-11-29 20:25
For many years my family spent the long Thanksgiving weekend at the grand old Equinox Hotel in Manchester Village, Vermont, the generous gift of my grandmother. We established several tradit… Read More
A Peaceful Thanksgiving From Plymouth
2021-11-21 16:56
In full disclosure, as I write this, I am not in Plymouth: I’m actually in New Jersey, soon to go back to Massachusetts for a spell and then to Vermont for Thanksgiving. But last weeke… Read More
A Samuel McIntire Sofa
2021-11-06 20:41
There is an extraordinary auction coming up in a few weeks at Skinner featuring the art and antiques of a Beacon Hill couple. Among the maritime and China Trade paintings and colonial furnit… Read More
The Spectre Ship Of Salem
2021-10-29 16:03
Despite the Salem marketing memo, Halloween is time for ghosts, not witches, who already have their Walpurgis eve. I don’t think any ghost story could be more appropriate for a Salem H… Read More
Teaching With Holbein
2021-10-24 16:11
A new exhibition featuring the works of Hans Holbein the Younger opened at the J. Paul Getty Museum this week, and it will be traveling to the Morgan Library and Museum after the new year. I… Read More
The Rebecca Nurse Homestead
2021-10-16 21:38
As I write this on a sunny warm Saturday afternoon, there’s a line of cars extending down my entire street which has been continuous since about 10:00 this morning; I’m sure ever… Read More
A Picky Guide To October In Salem
2021-10-09 15:35
I think this might be the first time I’ve written up a “things to do” in Salem for Halloween, a holiday that lasts for at least two months here and seems to be on the way t… Read More
2021-10-04 12:07
I adore the venerable and very traditional British magazine Country Life, which has been showcasing stately homes, lush gardens, and rural pursuits since 1897. I’ve had indul… Read More
Venus Rising
2021-09-28 20:31
As we enter/endure that season where hordes of tourists come to the Witch City for ghost tours, I’d like to celebrate some dynamic local history initiatives: over the past five years o… Read More
Salem In (water)color, 1939
2021-09-22 12:18
Salem set the style standard in the first half of the century when Colonial Revival ruled, ruled, and continued to rule: right up to World War II and then beyond, according to the dictates o… Read More
A Cape Full Of Color
2021-09-15 11:55
So every year in early September we journey to Cape Cod on the weekend after Labor Day for my husband’s birthday. It is an odd time, just after “summer” is over and we have… Read More
Cogswell’s Grant
2021-09-06 15:13
Like several summers in the past, this was supposed to be my “Historic New England Summer” in which I made a determined attempt to visit and write about as many HNE houses as pos… Read More
Mushroom Summer
2021-08-30 19:32
The combination of my absence and the tropical weather has turned my garden into a wild jungle: I tried to tame it the other day but succeeded merely in clearing out all the mushrooms. I&rsq&hell…Read More
Hudson River Valley Highlights
2021-08-24 02:29
I’m just back from almost two weeks staying at my brother’s house in Rhinebeck, New York, right in the middle of the Hudson River Valley. I’ve seen a lot, and have many bea… Read More
2021-08-10 12:07
Sometimes I try to look at Salem as a tourist, a casual tourist taking a stroll, rather than with my historian/resident intensity. It doesn’t work for long, but I can pull it off… Read More
Revolutionary Jersey
2021-08-05 12:45
I turned my return trip from a mid-Atlantic family/research weekend into a day trip focused on New Jersey’s Revolutionary history which is, of course, plentiful. I had been to the batt… Read More
The Making Of Witch City, Part Whatever
2021-07-30 11:12
So many people, events, ideas, circumstances, and general forces went into the transformation of Salem, a dynamic manufacturing city that while never altogether embarrassed by its infamous w… Read More
“Certified Historians” Of Salem
2021-07-26 15:15
Salem has been packed with tourists from late spring and all summer, despite the odd hot/wet weather: I’m very happy for all of our shops and restaurants after the challenges of the pa… Read More
What I’m Reading This Summer
2021-07-21 01:28
I haven’t done a reading list in a while and I have really been reading, so it’s time. It’s been a voracious reading summer for me: it’s as if I was emptied out by wr… Read More
Renaissance Refresh In Worcester
2021-07-09 16:25
This past Wednesday was my stepson’s 20th birthday and lo and behold, instead of all the outdoorsy things we have done on birthdays past he wanted to go see the collection of armor and… Read More
A Vexillogical History Of Salem
2021-07-02 13:28
What am I writing about? Flags for the July 4th weekend of course: I had to look up that word and thus am using it, despite the fact that it is somewhat intimidating and I could easily… Read More
Riding With Edwin Whitefield
2021-06-28 11:49
This was supposed to be the summer of LONG road trips but various things keep tethering me to Salem, so I’m taking lots of short ones. My companion over the last few trips has been Edw… Read More
A Bush Garden
2021-06-23 14:10
Last week I spent a day in Kennebunkport, a town long associated with the Bush family because of Walker’s Point, which was purchased by President H.W. Bush’s maternal great- and… Read More
A Juneteenth Tour
2021-06-19 15:23
I learned about Juneteenth ridiculously late, from a student! It was about five or six years ago (only!) and I was talking about Salem’s Black Picnic, an old tradition recent… Read More
Villages Out Of Time And Place
2021-06-14 13:43
So this is going to be one of those posts in which I ask a lot of questions and have no answers (I think; maybe I will get to some). I’m trying to work out my own thoughts about a part… Read More
The Phillips House
2021-06-08 11:30
I can’t believe that I’ve been blogging here for eleven+ years and have not featured 1) the only house museum; 2) the only house belonging to Historic New England; and 3) the onl… Read More
Decorating The “Little Room”
2021-06-03 00:49
Happy June! I’m going to transition into a summer of lighter fare here: houses, gardens, non-academic books, events with people! In my contrary fashion, I’m going to st… Read More
2021-05-27 15:14
It is during the weeks around Memorial and Veterans Day that I feel the absence of an active Salem historical society or museum most keenly. Don’t get me wrong: there are dedicated int… Read More
Slavery Siege In Salem
2021-05-21 18:46
The occupants of a house on Bryant Street in North Salem, British emigre Thomas Spencer, his wife and mother, both named Mary, and their houseguests, experienced a very scary night in late O… Read More
MIT And Salem: Little Details And Big Plans
2021-05-14 11:40
I knew that students in the pioneering professional architectural program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology came to Salem to measure and draw interior and exterior details of nota… Read More
A Salem Shipwright
2021-05-08 13:23
Salem’s Federal-era shipwrights Retire Becket and Enos Briggs are justly famous, but the men who crafted ships both before and after the so-called Golden Age are a bit more obscure. A… Read More
2021-05-05 15:15
We’re just back from a quick trip to the Florida Keys and Miami, not really my ideal vacation location but my husband craved sun and sand and fishing and I had never been to Key West s… Read More
Envisioning Salem, 1962
2021-04-27 11:42
Salem is currently in the midst of implementing another urban renewal plan under the supervision of the Salem Redevelopment Authority (SRA), the board that was created by the city’s fi… Read More
A Tory-Loving Town?
2021-04-23 11:57
Salem has a bit of a reputation as a “Tory-loving town” due to the sentiments of some of its more conspicuous residents on the eve of the Revolution: prominent judges, merchants… Read More
Circa 1775
2021-04-18 13:54
For Patriots Day, I endeavored to find Salem houses built in 1775, but it turned out to be a bit more involved task than I envisioned. I was just going to walk around and look at the Histori… Read More
Mansard Mania!
2021-04-12 14:20
So the developers of a large lot on Norman Street, a major artery in Salem which connects the downtown to one of the city’s major residential/historic districts and also serves as a pr… Read More
A Derby House In Medfield
2021-04-08 21:02
I busted out of Salem yesterday and took a road trip to Norfolk county in Massachusetts, southwest of Boston, and drove through a string of towns beginning with M: Medfield, Millis, Medway… Read More
The Privateer’s House
2021-04-03 18:00
On this very day in 1776, the Continental Congress authorized private vessels commissioned with “Letters of Marque and Reprisal” to “make captures of British Vessels and Ca… Read More
2021-03-27 17:09
With warmer weather and the completion of my manuscript, I’ve been out on the Salem streets more, but every time I’m on a lovely walk I see some horrible structure that makes me… Read More
The Howard Street Church
2021-03-15 13:27
The Howard Street Church was a short-lived institution, but it had an enormous impact on Salem’s nineteenth-century social and political life, far beyond the brevity of its existence o… Read More
Renaissance And Reign Of Terror
2021-03-12 16:13
1904 was a big year in Salem’s commemorative history: it was the centennial of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birth, and his birthplace received both regional and national attention. This… Read More
Postal Perspectives, Salem Edition
2021-03-06 18:11
I was enthralled this week with news of the new technology which has unlocked “letterlocked” letters from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: before the onset of the envelop… Read More
Paper Houses
2021-02-27 18:16
My manuscript is completed and has been dispatched to London, so last night I actually started reading a non-academic book, the first in a year or more. I didn’t last long, between the… Read More
Who’s Counting?
2021-02-22 17:38
I am right on the verge of completing my manuscript for submission to the publisher, but I had to stop because something is bothering me and I need to “write it out”. That proces… Read More
Digging Up Derby Square
2021-02-12 15:18
I was researching Salem’s struggle with/against urban renewal in the 1960s when I came across a massive collection of photographs from the career collection of Edmund Bacon, the famous… Read More
Petit Treason
2021-02-01 14:07
I have fewer courses this semester as I took some of my archived overload so I could finish my book, but this release has been somewhat overset by the fact that I’m teaching a brand ne… Read More
Under Cover In The Renaissance
2021-01-23 17:30
It’s a beautiful day here in Salem, but I’m in lockdown in my study, more than halfway through the very last chapter of my book! I am taking a break to show you some early modern… Read More
Stripped And Razed
2021-01-16 20:21
I’m in the intense period of writing my book with a March 1 deadline looming, so posts are going to be very spotty over the next few weeks, but today, I needed a break from my ploughme… Read More
Trial By Combat
2021-01-09 05:08
Like most Americans, I am outraged by the pillaging of the Capitol on Wednesday by a mob incited by the President of the United States and his personal lawyer, once a serious figure, now a j… Read More
My Favorite Penguins
2021-01-02 18:52
Happy New Year! And my very best wishes to all for a better year than last! I’m a little bleary-eyed, having worked very hard over the holidays on grading and my forthcoming book, whic… Read More
Caroline Remond Putnam
2020-12-26 13:25
Faithful readers of this blog will know that I am captivated by the Remonds, an African-American family of ten who lead exemplary lives of advocacy, activism and entrepreneurialism in Salem… Read More
The Disposition Of A Directress
2020-12-19 13:15
Well I have to admit that I’m feeling pleased with myself this week as I have finished a challenging on-line semester of four courses while writing a book, my blog has reached its 10th… Read More

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