The Regional Review

Volume V - No. 6

December, 1940

They Also Serve Who Inspire

"Our primary contribution to national defense," said Director Newton B. Drury recently, "lies in the fact that the great areas of the National Park System inspire in the people a pride of country and serve in a direct way to crystallize a love of its institutions. In short, our national shrines rank among the first of the irreplaceable values that we must defend, for they are America just as are the people who live around them. Someone has said, in speaking of national parks and historic sites, that men will die gladly for their country; and there devolves upon us a singular obligation to preserve a country worth dying for." (Further development of this theme will be found on page 18 in Dr. Carl P. Russell's article, "Essentially American".)

How deeply are our sentiments of patriotism rooted in the venerated soil of our traditional shrines is demonstrated often and strikingly by the attitudes of the country's youth and of that admirable corps of patient men and women who instruct them in the classrooms of America's schools. A recent simple example of the contributions which historic sites make continuously to the national morale is presented here because it is typical of many thousands. M. Zeanette Wheeler, 14-year-old eighth grade student of Salem, Massachusetts, won a gold medal for her essay, Maritime Salem. Because printed information resulting from new Service research was not available when the essay was written, the young author made a few minor errors which are corrected by notes; but they make no less interesting her appeal to her classmates to stand forever guard over the cherished shrines which tell the inspiring story of the greatest democracy. The essay:

Member of Eighth Grade, Bowditch School,
Salem, Massachusetts.

During the eighteenth century in Salem all work and interest revolved around one particular trade - shipping. Derby Wharf, the Custom House,1 and the homes of famed seamen played the leading roles in this drama. It was the center of all activity, alive with business transactions dealing in strange and costly cargoes from another world.

Until just recently Derby Wharf held but memories of its glorious past life. Now with the aid of records and old pictures the Salem Maritime National Historic Site is being reconstructed so that although it belongs to an age past, it will again take an active part in this, our world of today.

Derby House
At the top is seen the Derby House at Salem, built by Richard Derby in 1762. Below, the aerial view of reconstructed Derby Wharf shows Central Wharf at the left, beginning at the head of Derby Wharf and moving to the right, the Custom House, Hawkes House, Derby House, and old rum shop. wharf

From 1775 to 1807 Salem was at the height of her career. Great fortunes were made on such imports as silks, cotton, chinaware, tea, pepper, molasses, sugar and curios. During the years of the Revolution, Salem was the only town that did not close its port; moreover she supplied the largest number of ships and men for privateering. Jefferson's embargo and the coming of clipper ships were soon to destroy Salem's prosperity bringing disaster to men who were dependent on this business for their maintenance. As early as 1775, several ships owned by Richard Derby were engaged in trade with Spain and the West Indies2.

The "Merchant Prince" of the shipping period, Elias Hasket Derby, took an active part in the support of the colonies. He helped in fitting out one hundred and fifty-eight privateers which captured four hundred and forty-five British vessels. When his father, Richard Derby, retired, Elias took over his ships. He well deserved his title for it was mainly through his efforts that Salem has long been remembered as a great port of entry.

John Derby, brother of Elias, carried the news of the Battle of Lexington to England, and brought home to Salem the first tidings of peace in 1783. Nathaniel Bowditch, an eminent mathematician for whom our school is named, went to Manila on the ship Astrea3. He kept an interesting journal which has been preserved in the East India Marine Society.

The noted Salem author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, was for many years collector of the port of Salem4. When trade began to decline Hawthorne was discharged from his duty. It was a sad day when he viewed the empty warehouses and the docks waiting for ships and cargoes that would never again come. In his free time after losing his position he wrote his well-known books.

The contributions of such famous men as these would have been forgotten long ago had there been no ships to carry on the trading. One of these vessels, the Astrea,5 owned by Elias Hasket Derby and with John Derby for her captain, brought home to the United States the message of the signing of the Treaty of Paris which brought to an end the Revolutionary War. The Astrea6 was also the first ship to fly the glorious stars and stripes in Manila.

A second ship in our honor list is the Grand Turk. Owned by Elias Hasket Derby, this was the largest vessel in Salem until after the Revolution, carrying sixty-eight guns and one hundred and twenty men.7 It was the first American boat to go around the Cape of Good Hope. Another of the Derby ships, built to trade with Mediterranean ports, was the Mt. Vernon which paid its owners a profit of about forty-three thousand dollars on her first voyage.8 These were the men and ships that helped to make the history of Salem.

The Salem Maritime National Historic Site, established in 1938, includes Derby Wharf which is two thousand feet long, Central Wharf one third this length, the Derby House, built by Richard Derby in 1762, the Benjamin Hawkes House where, in honor of the launching of the Grand Turk in 1791, a feast was given, and finally the Custom House. Already a center of local enthusiasm, when finished this Site will be of national interest.

Classmates, we are the future citizens of Salem and the United States. It is therefore, our duty to remember and treasure gifts such as these, made by the men of old. They toiled to build a great trade, they realized success, then failure with the coming of new and larger ships. But this was not the end. They knew little that in after years we would take an interest in their dream though it had passed. Let us work toward a gift equal to theirs so that our descendants may long remember us, so that through us our glorious city may again reclaim its former glory.

1Several different structures were used in eighteenth century Salem as a custom house. The present building was not erected until 1819.

2Richard Derby owned vessels and traded with the west Indies at least twenty-five years before 1775. The date given in the essay more accurately represents the end than the beginning of his career as a merchant.

3Astrea II, ship, 321 tons, built at Bradford, Mass., 1795, and registered at Salem, March 21, 1796, with Elias Basket Derby as owner, and Henry Prince, master. Bowditch sailed with Prince on the pioneering voyage to Manila, March 27, 1796, and returned May 22, 1797.

4Hawthorne was Surveyor of the Port of Salem, 1846-1849.

5Astrea I, ship 360 tons, built at Pembroke, Mass., 1782, was returning on her maiden voyage when she brought home the news of the Treaty of Paris. The first Astrea is not to be confused with the second, which was not built until 1795.

6Astrea II.

7The Grand Turk was no larger than several Salem Revolutionary privateers. The aspect of size emanates from the heavy armament and the large crew carried aboard for privateering. Actually. the vessel was only about 300 tons burden.

8The profit from the first voyage of the Mount Vernon was nearer $100,000.

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Date: 04-Jul-2002