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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.



UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.



OLD SALEM



By ELEANOR PUTNAM



EDITED BY

ARLO BATES




..^.yorco-



MAi 28 188i>7'^



>






Of



WASHl^^'•^



BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY

1886



Copyright, 1886,

Byarlo bates.
All rights reserved.



The Riverside Press, Cambridge i
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.



For the son too young to remember her,
have been gathered these fragments of his
mother's work, broken by death.



CONTENTS.






Page


Introdtidion


. . 7


Old Salem Shops


. . 27


A Salem Dame-School ....


. . 43


Two Salem Institutions . . ,


. . 63


Salem Cupboards


. . 68


My Cousin the Captain . . .


. . 103




INTRODUCTION.



I.




T is with unspeakable tenderness
and pain that I attempt to gather
up the broken threads of this un-
finished web, but I appreciate that per-
sonal feeling would be out of place here,
and that what I say must be confined to
the subject of this volume.

The first paper in the brief collection,
" Old Salem Shops," was written for the
Contributors' Club of the '' Atlantic Month-
ly," a fact which accounts for its brevity.
The editor gave it a place in the body of
the magazine, and its reception was suffi-
ciently kind to encourage the writing of
other papers in the same vein. It was the
writer's intention to publish a series of



8 Introduction.

sketches which should afterward be put
together under the title which this volume
bears, and she had noted down the sub-
jects of several which were destined never
to be written.

" A Salem Dame-School " and ^' Salem
Cupboards " followed in the *' Atlantic ; "
"Two Salem Institutions" was written for
" The Spinnet," a paper published at a
Salem fair; while "My Cousin the Cap-
tain " was left a fragment at her death.

There were in her portfolio few notes,
it being her custom to depend upon her
remarkable memory almost entirely, but
she had in conversation spoken of many of
the things which it was her wish to include
in these sketches of the quaint old town
which she loved and where now her grave
is made.

The subjects she had set down were:
" The Marine Museum," where " it was as
if each sea-captain had lounged in and
hustled down his contributions in any con-
venient vacant space," "Derby and Char-



Introduction. g

ter Streets," "Old Burying Grounds,"
" ' New Guinea ' and Witch Hill," and "The
Witch Records (?) ; " while besides these
she spoke with the most genuine tenderness
of a paper she wished to write on " Salem
Gentlewomen." There was also some talk
of a sketch of " Salem Oddities," to include
some notice of " Billy Cook " and other
erratic individuals ; and she wrote thus
much upon " The Bundle Handkerchief : "

" The bundle handkerchief is as essential
a figure in Salem history as the witches
themselves."

" My Cousin the Captain," upon which
she was engaged when she laid down for-
ever her pen, was in a vein in which, from
her extreme fondness for all things nau-
tical, she delighted especially. The fascina-
tion of the sea was strong upon her, and
in some of her magazine stories she has
shown how lively was her interest in all
that pertains to the life of a mariner.
There is in the history of Salem enough
of nautical romance to excite the most



lo Introduction.

sluggish imagination, and far more one so
responsive as was hers. There is an irre-
sistible suggestiveness in the record of the
voyages of Salem vessels to cannibal Fe-
jee, to Zanzibar, to Mauritius, to Surinam,
to Madagascar, to Russia, and to Calcutta.
The fancy is aroused by the simple enu-
meration of the cargoes the ships brought
from far over-seas : " Wine and prunes ; "
"nutmegs, mace and cinnamon ;" "raisins,
almonds and sweet wines ; " " palm - oil,
gum copal and ivory ; " "sugar, indigo and
spices ; " or the drolly incongruous mix-
ture, " gin, cheese and steel," brought by
the brig Minerva from Amsterdam. There
is, too, an opulence in the amounts paid
for tariff — the Sumatra, a ship of but 287
tons burden, on three cargoes from Canton
handed over duties of ;^i28,363.i3, $138,-
480.34 and ^140,761.96 — which throws
a sort of halo of magnificent and fabulous
wealth over even this prosaic side of the
marine history of the old town. The se-
cret voyages of Captain Jonathan Carnes



Introduction. / /

to Sumatra, moreover, with an allusion to
which " My Cousin the Captain " so abrupt-
ly closes ; the messages from Captain Ea-
gleston, who in Southern seas caught sev-
eral albatrosses, fastened to the neck of
each a quill in which was a slip of paper,
bearing the words, " Ship Leonidas, of Sa-
lem, bound for New Zealand," and by
means of a French vessel which recaptured
one of the birds off the Cape of Good
Hope, hundreds of miles away, sent tidings
to his friends at home, who during the six
months that had elapsed since his sailing
had received no news of him ; the robbery
of the Mexican by the Spanish pirate
Pinda, with the unsuccessful attempt to
burn alive the imprisoned crew ; the adven-
tures of the Charles Daggett among the
treacherous cannibals in Fejee, and in trans-
porting the Pitcairn islanders from "sen-
sual Tahiti " to their former home, — all
these and many another wild tale of adven-
ture, peril, and shipwreck might be com-
bined to form a most thrilling chapter. It



/2 Introduction.

is no wonder that one who loved both Sa-
lem and the sea should be moved by such
a history.

The sketch of Derby Street was one of
the first projected, but there are scarcely
any notes for it. In it was to figure the
house of Mr. Forrester, where upon the
parlor walls were painted scenes from the
life of the owner, showing his rise from
poverty to grandeur ; the place of his birth,
a humble cottage in Ireland ; with his vari-
ous places of business, the Salem wharves
and the vessels which had brought his
merchandise to them. The Old Ladies'
Home, too, was to be spoken of, with rem-
iniscences of certain of its inmates whose
memories took hold upon the romantic and
palmy days of the town. And there was to
be a sketch of the strange old shop of a
Sol Gibbs like instrument maker, which
stood upon a corner of Derby Street,
wherein were the relics of many a good
ship and many a voyage; where among
quaint rubbish from all over the world an-



Introduction. t)

cient mariners sat and gossiped garru-
lously, in endless review of their past and
tireless bewailings of the degeneracy of
the present ; where antique chronometers
ticked patiently, awaiting the return of
owners whose bones were bleaching on the
sands of islands in seas of the under world
or " suffering a sea change " in caves be-
neath some ocean near the poles ; where
the wizened proprietor and the storm-beaten
antiques who consorted with him were ir-
resistibly suggestive of the mummies some
adventurous Salem captain, perhaps one of
these, had brought from Peru ; where time
had no value save as its measure served
to test the accuracy of venerable time-
pieces ; and where the quadrants, the sex-
tants, and the compasses reposing in shabby
cases upon the dusty shelves would not
have been out of place on the deck of the
Flying Dutchman or the Dead Ship of
Harpswell. " If fine old Leisure is dead,"
runs one of the scanty notes, " surely he
spent his last days in Salem ; " and in this



/^ Introdtiction,

quaint nook good old Leisure may well
have dreamed through his placid dotage.
In the sketch of Derby Street, too, it is
to be supposed there would have been
mention of the famous Custom House in
which Hawthorne wrote, and where he
feigned to have found the manuscript of
that greatest of all American books, " The
Scarlet Letter ; " while it was no less in-
tended to picture the dusky sail-lofts, fra-
grant with the smell of new canvas and
of tar, where were stitched on the smooth
floor the great white sheets that were to
be the wings of many a craft more stout
than even the strong-penned albatross, and
were to be mirrored in the waves of har-
bors as far asunder as the world is wide.
The writer of these sketches spoke more
than once of the suggestive charm of these
sail-lofts, where men sat upon the floor like
Turks, sewing, with their thimbles curi-
ously fastened in the middle of their palms,
and where the children went for bunches of
" thrums," to be used at home for tying up



Introdiiction. /^

bundles. Lifted above the stir of Derby
Street, the silence of the loft must have
been doubly impressive, and have accorded
well with the softened light which fell
through small dusty panes, to be reflected
from the pohshed floor and great snowy
sails.

But most of all would this paper have
been likely to deal with the indefinable
charm of the days when Derby Street was
alive with bustle and excitement ; when
swarthy sailors were grouped at the cor-
ners, or sat smoking before the doors of
their boarding-houses, their ears adorned
with gold rings, and their hands and wrists
profusely illustrated with uncouth designs
in India ink ; when every shop window
was a museum of odd trifles from the Ori-
ent, and the very air was thick with a
sense of excitement and of mystery.

Of what would have been included in
the other papers one may conjecture, but
beyond the fact that "The Bundle Hand-
kerchief " was to show the staid people of



1 6 Introduction,

Salem carrying home in that useful article
their weekly baked beans and brown bread,
and equally their mental food in the shape
of books from the Athenaeum, or, indeed,
for that matter, anything that they ever
had to carry home at all ; and that it was
to give a half-humorous and half-pathetic
history of an old gentleman not unlike him
who figures in " The Last Leaf," there is
nothing that can be said authoritatively.

IL

She who wrote under the name of Elea-
nor Putnam — a name which was in truth
borne by her great-grandmother in maid-
enhood — went to live in Salem in 1865,
being then nine years old. Her ances-
tors had dwelt there almost from the
foundation of the town, and like all genu-
ine Salem families cherished that feeling
of local pride and attachment which left so
strong a mark upon her character. Half
a dozen years she lived here before the
family moved temporarily to the West, in



Introduction, , ly

search of health for the mother. In that
time she attended the dame-school she has
described, spent her pennies at the quaint
shops she has pictured, and stored in a
memory which was wonderful for its fidel-
ity and its exactness a thousand details of
which we now shall have no record.

She was naturally not a little amused
when a Boston journal commented upon
her second '^ Atlantic " paper : " Eleanor
Putnam describes a Salem dame-school of
fifty or sixty years ago in a charming es-
say." The truth is, however, that Salem
forms a sort of eddy, deliciously shady and
quiet, beside the rushing stream of modern
progress, and the state of things existing
there a score of years ago was similar to
that which passed away half a century
since in more progressive communities.

III.

I cannot deny myself the pleasure of
quoting here from two letters, both writ-
ten by persons unaware of the identity of



1 8 Introduction.

Eleanor Putnam, and both total strangers
to her. The first is of interest as showing
the kindly and generous appreciation of a
man of letters, who has himself, unhappily
for literature, passed beyond all earthly
work ; the second as proving how truthful
are the pictures these essays present.

335 East 17TH Street,
Stuyvesant Square.

Dear Miss Putnam :

Pray allow me the pleasure of expressing to
you my great admiration and enjoyment of
your " Old Salem Shops " in the " Atlantic " for
September, which I spoke of often to friends
at the time of its appearance. I am led to re-
vert to it now by having recently read Miss
Mitford's " Our Village " and " Belford Regis."
These I heard spoken of in my boyhood, when
they were in great favor ; but I never saw them
until lately among a heap of books with which
I beguiled hours of illness. I was reminded
at once of your sketch, — say, rather, highly fin-
ished genre-picture, — and could not but think
of its superiority, — superiority in everything,
in style, in vivid portraiture, in gentle humor.



Introduction, , 79

And then I thought that I would venture to
suggest to you that you should write and pub-
lish a group of such pictures of the now —
alas ! — fading New England life. They could
not but be welcome ; and they would have at
least one admiring and grateful reader.
Sincerely yours,

Rich. Grant White.
Sunday, 2d Oct. '84.

Of the second letter I have let the per-
sonalities remain, because they concern
only the dead and can do no harm.

Boston, Feb, 20, 1886.
To THE Lady who signs herself Eleanor
Putnam.

I have often thought of asking your proper
address that I might thank you for the charm-
ing tales about dear old Salem ; but the Feb-
ruary number of the " Atlantic " " Salem Cup-
boards" is too much for me, and I cannot
delay thanking you, and saying what delight
I have taken in it. I trust you will pardon
the liberty I take in addressing you, though I
am a stranger, for it renews my youth, makes



20 Introduction.

my blood thrill, and my heart beat when I
recall my early home and see it so faithfully
described.

The Hersey Derbys were my first cousins.
The old house contained stores of cut glass,
such as you describe, which was preferred to
silver in those days. Aunt Hersey had much
humor and was a mimic. I remember her
coming into our house on Court Street one
day and describing a call at old Mrs. B.'s shop.
Mary and Nancy were in the store. How per-
fectly I remember them ! Severe, staid and
formal ; talking slowly and whining over their
private affairs, even before customers. Mary
would say : " Mother, Miss So-and-so is com-
ing to dinner ; what shall we have for her ? "
After due deliberation, the old lady would
squeak out : " Coffee and nimble-cake is a very
pretty dinner, Mary." And so it was settled.

The old cupboard is all so natural. At my
father's we had stores of the ginger in blue and
wicker work, and on the upper shelf a sticky
fork might often be seen. I remember mamma,
to shame me, once put the jar and fork on my
pillow, but I, in triumph, transferred it to my
closet and feasted on it at will.



Introduction. -2/

I remember well the rock candy in such
great quantities ; and mamma had a huge box
of maccaroni and vermicelli from Leghorn in
every variety of form, and as they said : —
*' A box of such enormous size
Great Holyoke's years would not suffice
To eat it all before she dies."
I have now some dainty relics, a needle-book
with drawings in India ink, —bee-hive, etc.,
most delicately done,— and tender mottoes.

In Mr. Hoppin's " Auton House" I see
again our nursery : the back of the fire-place
in iron with a pot of tulips cast on it and the
sides always kept so nice with redding; and the
smell of the herbs in the closet and the row of
bottles that we would uncork and sniff till we
came to paregoric, that would ease our pain.

I have rambled on, but I have enjoyed it all
so much; the " Gibraltars and Black-Jacks,"
all that you have given us, and long for more.
Excuse my venturing to address you. I
have been unable to walk for sixteen years,
am seventy-nine years old, and old age may be
pardoned for being garrulous. ... I am the
last of my line, not even a cousin left.
I am your friend,



22 Introduction,



IV.



There is perhaps no excuse for adding
here the following fragments, since they
have no connection with the subject of this
little volume. They seem to me worth
preserving, however, and while I have de-
nied myself the pleasure of writing a sketch
of my wife's life, lest it might seem an
effort forcibly to claim attention which she
unhappily had not lived long enough to
win, it does not appear so wholly out of
place to insert these few extracts, which
may help such readers as care to do so the
better to form a correct estimate of her
powers. The habit, already alluded to, of
depending upon memory, has reduced her
note-books to the most melancholy brevity.
From what there is I have made a few se-
lections which seem to me to show her
delicate humor, close observation, and fe-
licitous diction.



Introduction. 2^

" Most of us would read our own caricatures
with bland unconsciousness and be immensely
amused thereat."

*' Apples all gnarled and twisted, as if their
faces were drawn awry and puckered and
pursed up by their own sourness."

" One may say hard words of her, but not to
her."

" I have often noticed in deserted ship-yards
the flights of stairs which once led up to the
vessel's deck, but which now, the vessel having
slipped the ways and sailed to foreign shores,
lead to nowhere and stop abruptly in mid-air,
as if — like the ladder in the vision of Jacob of
old — some one had started to build steps to
heaven, but had failed and stopped, discouraged
long ere he attained his end."

" He had the face of a young Greek god ;
as for his soul, — well, perhaps we can say no
worse of him than that he had also the soul of
a young Greek god."

" She said she did it for the best, but things
which are 'done for the best' are seldom pleas-
ant."

" On Kneeland Street about noon of a burn-



24 Introduction.

ing July day, an Italian wine-seller sat at the
door of his little shop. The old swing door
behind him was of a cotton which had been
originally of a vivid orange, but which from
standing half-open, and thus meeting irregularly
the rays of the sun, was now exquisitely shaded
from a dull cream tint on the hinge side to the
original brilliant hue on the edge where was
placed the latch. This door, made more gor-
geous than common by the blaze of the sun's
rays which fell upon it, served as a screen
which set off to perfection the dark face of the
Italian, his shock of black hair, his sleepy dark
eyes, his crisp bushy beard, the gold rings in
his ears, and his handsome, full throat, from
which the shirt was carelessly rolled away.
He was doing nothing, and doing it with a
thoroughness only possible to an Italian or an
African."

" That man is not wise who tries to induce
one woman to be kind to another on the ground
that she is young."

" It was, I believe, what physicians call ' sus-
spended animation,' only that in his case the
suspension was chronic."



Introduction. ^5

" It stopped raining very suddenly, diminish-
ing from a shower of heavy drops to a thin
mist of silver ; then the pearl gray tint of the
sky all at once broke, and began to sweep
away toward the northeast in long trailing lines
of opal and amber vapor, leaving behind a
heaven blue and cool with a pale radiance as
of early spring-time."

" He kept a secret as closely as a new cone
holds its seeds, which are never delivered an
instant before the appointed time."

'' She had bent to kiss the baby, who was
babbling upon the floor, and as she recovered
her standing position a strange thing happened.
She extended her hand in recovering her bal-
ance, and somehow gave it a twist which at
once transformed it from its white plumpness
into the hand of an old woman, smooth like
parchment and crackled finely like old china.
It passed like a flash of lightning. Had it
not been that both hands wore the same ring,

a ruby set about with diamonds, — I should

have thought that the two hands belonged to
different persons. It was the hand of an old
woman, but a woman in the prime of life stood



26 Introduction,

before me, golden-haired, pink-cheeked, bright-
eyed, and vigorous, smoothing the folds of her
satin gown and laughing like a girl of twenty."

" When rats desert a sinking ship where do
they go ? "

" Story of the Old Ladies' Home in Derby
Street. A crazy old woman, once a beauty
living in the same house, finds love-letters hid-
den behind a panel in the wall."

V.

Nothing that any one else can write
will replace the Salem papers which now
we have lost forever, and, however reluc-
tantly, it is necessary to bring to a close
this brief review of what it was planned to
make this volume. It must remain a
promise of which death prevented the
fulfillment ; a proof, merely, of what might
have been.

A. B.




OLD SALEM SHOPS.

WONDER how many people have
memories as vivid as mine of the
quaint shops which a score of
years ago stood placidly along the quiet
streets of Salem. In the Salem of to-day
there are few innovations. Not many
modern buildings have replaced the time-
honored landmarks ; yet twenty years ago
Salem, in certain aspects, was far more
like an old colonial town than it is now.
When the proprietor of an old shop died
it was seldom that a new master entered.
Nobody new ever came to Salem, and
everybody then living there had already
his legitimate occupation. The old shops,
lacking tenants, went to sleep. Their
green shutters were closed, and they were
laid up in ordinary without comment from
any one.



28 Old Salem Shops.

I remember one shop of the variety
known in Salem as "button stores." It
was kept by two quaint old sisters, whose
family name I never knew. We always
called them Miss Martha and Miss Sibyl.
Miss Martha was the older, and sported
a magnificent turban, of wonderful con-
struction. Miss Sibyl wore caps and lit-
tle wintry curls. Both had short-waisted
gowns, much shirred toward the belts, and
odd little housewives of green leather,
which hung from their apron-bindings by
green ribbons.

Their wares were few and faded. They
had a sparse collection of crewels, old-
fashioned laces, little crimped cakes of
white wax, and emery balls in futile im-
itation of strawberries. They sold hand-
kerchiefs, antiquated gauze, and brocaded
ribbons, and did embroidery stamping for
ladies with much care and deliberation. I
remember being once sent to take to these
ladies an article which was to be stamped
with a single letter. Miss Martha con-



Old Salem Shops. 29

suited at some length with her sister, and
then, with an air of gentle importance, said
to me, "Tell your mother, dear, that sister
Sibyl will have it ready in one week, cer-
tainly."

On another occasion Miss Sibyl had
chanced to give me a penny too much in
change ; discovering which before I was
well away, I returned to the shop and told
her of the mistake. Miss Sibyl dropped
the penny into the little till, — so slender
were the means of these old gentlewomen
that I believe even a penny was of im-
portance to them, — and in her gentle
voice, she asked, " What is your name,
dear } " and when I told her she replied,
approvingly, "Well, you are an honest
child, and you may go home and tell your
mother that Miss Sibyl said so." To this
commendation she added the gift of a bit
of pink gauze ribbon, brocaded with little
yellow and lavender leaves, and I returned
to my family in a condition of such con-
scious virtue that I am convinced that I



JO Old Salem Shops.

must have been quite insufferable for some
days following.

The only article in which these ladies
dealt which specially concerned us chil-
dren was a sort of gay-colored beads, such
as were used in making bags and reticules
— that fine old bead embroidery which
some people show nowadays as the work
of their great-grandmothers. These beads
were highly valued by Salem children, and
were sold for a penny a thimbleful. They
were measured out in a small mustard-
spoon of yellow wood, and it took three
ladlefuls to fill the thimble. I cannot for-
get the air of placid and judicial gravity
with which dear Miss Martha measured
out a cent's worth of beads.

One winter day Miss Sibyl died. The
green shutters of the shop were bowed
with black ribbons, and a bit of rusty black
crape fluttered from the knob of the half-
glass door, inside of which the curtains
were drawn as for a Sunday. For a whole
week the shop was decorously closed.



Old Salem Shops. ^i

When it was reopened, only Miss Martha,
a little older and grayer and more gently
serious, stood behind the scantily filled
show-case. My mother went in with me
that day and bought some laces. Miss
Martha folded each piece about a card and
secured the ends with pins, after her usual
careful fashion, and made out the quaint
little receipted bill with which she always
insisted on furnishing customers. As she
handed the parcel across the counter she
answered a look in my mother's eyes.


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