East India Marine Society

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Not to be confused with Salem Marine Society.

The East India Marine Society (est.1799) of Salem, Massachusetts was "composed of persons who have actually navigated the seas beyond the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn, as masters or supercargoes of vessels belonging to Salem." It functioned as a charitable and educational organization, and maintained a library and museum. It flourished especially in the 1800s-1830s, a heyday of foreign trade.[1]

East India Marine Hall in 2013, now part of the Peabody Essex Museum

In 1910 the society reincorporated as "Trustees of the Salem East India Marine Society."[2]

Museum[edit]

History[edit]

Pacific Collection, East India Marine Hall in 1876

The society founders were invested in the establishment of a museum from the beginning: their third objective was "to form a Museum of natural and artificial curiosities, particularly such as are found beyond the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn."[1]:6 Within three years, their collection had grown too large for their building, so they relocated to the Salem Bank building, constructed by Colonel Benjamin Pickman, on Essex Street.[1]:34-35

In 1825 the society dedicated the newly constructed East India Marine Hall, designed by architect Thomas Waldron Sumner. It shared the building with the Asiatic Bank and Oriental Insurance Company.[3] Museum staff included Seth Bass, Malthus A. Ward, and Henry Wheatland.[1][4]

The museum existed under the East India Marine Society name from 1799 until 1867, when it was purchased by George Peabody for $140,000.[5]:49 The East India Marine Hall and its collections were combined with those of the Essex Institute in the fields of natural history and ethnology, and reimagined as the Peabody Academy of Science.[3]:202 In 1915, the Peabody Academy of Science transitioned into the Peabody Museum of Salem; after merging with the Essex Institute completely in 1992, it became the Peabody Essex Museum.[6]

The East India Marine Society museum and its collections were significant in several ways. Firstly, the society's members were obligated to donate "curiosities" from their travels; not only did the museum help make Salem a vital location for learning about European and Asian visual and intellectual culture, it signaled America's success and prosperity in global trade.[7]:69 It also established that American cultural institutions were of comparable quality to their European counterparts.[8]:4 On a larger scale, the museum combined the economics of trade with enlightenment philosophy[9]:47 and was believed to have an important role in the study of science and society.[3]:199

Collections[edit]

The collection was started by donations from Captain Jonathan Carnes; items as diverse as an elephant's tooth and a pipe from Sumatra set the standard for the museum's acquisitions.[7]:69 Because of the society's requirement for its members to donate a diverse range of objects from their travels, the collections were specifically related to their business endeavors, which explains the predominance of Pacific artifacts on display.[9]:42 The museum received so many objects in the first two decades of its existence that it hired a curator to fill in gaps in the collection,[3]:188 reorganize the displays, and create a catalogue. This catalogue of the museum's collections was published in 1821, listing 2,269 objects.[1]:36

At the time of the first catalogue's publication, the society owned a variety of objects including shells;[10] coins;[11] other ethnological artifacts such as costume, musical instruments, statuary, weaponry;[12] and manuscript journals of sea voyages between Salem and places including Batavia, Bombay, Calcutta, Canton, Ceylon, Isle de France, Manila, Mocha, Sumatra, and Tranquebar.[13][14] Donors of objects included members, New England locals such as William Bentley, non-member seafarers such as John Derby, and others such as merchant Nusserwanjee Maneckjee of Bombay.[7][15]

Ten years after the first catalogue, a second was released, with a total of 4,299 objects.[1]:48 These catalogues contained objects including:

"Natural curiosities"[edit]

  • Ostrich eggs[7]:71
  • A "pregnant queen ant"[16]:7
  • Stuffed penguins[7]:71
  • Elephant tails[16]:7 and tusks[7]:71
  • "Lava from Java"[16]:7
  • "A hornet's nest from Surinam"[16]:7
  • A two-headed dogfish[16]:7
  • Balls of hair from the stomachs of cows from Madagascar and Salem, presumably for comparative purposes[16]:7

"Cultural curiosities"[edit]

  • "Fragments of granite broken from Pompey's pillar"[1]:40
  • Ivory pagodas[7]:71
  • A "model of an 80-gun ship, made from soup bones, by a prisoner at Dartmoor"[16]:7
  • Coins and other forms of foreign currencies[17]:361
  • "Specimens of white marble from the ruins of Carthage"[1]:40
  • A coffee cup and saucer, formerly owned by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte:39[1]
  • A "very elegant hubble-bubble"[16]:7
  • Paintings and clothing from China, Japan, and India[7]:75
  • A medal with images of the devil and the Pope[16]:7
  • "Three thousand yards of human hair, braided"[9]:47
  • Female undergarments from Lapland, made from reindeer hair:7
  • "The elaborate terminal bead of a late medieval Flemish rosary"[1]:40

Noteworthy objects[edit]

The collection also included several objects that were especially valuable due to factors including rarity, origin, and historical significance. One such artifact is an idol of Kolia Moku, the medicine god, from the Sandwich Islands, donated by John T. Prince in the late 1840s. There are only two other surviving idols of this type.[1]:50

One of the more notorious objects was the embalmed head of a New Zealand chief, donated by William Dana; it had to be displayed behind a veil.[3]:185

An earlier object of importance to the collection is the sculpture donated by Captain Benjamin Hodges in 1790, Figure of a Chinese Man. Scholars have reported that it was one of the first sculptures to enter the American market from China.[7]:72

Collection gaps[edit]

Even though the society's cultural collections largely focused on items gathered from international trade, it still displayed a small amount of objects from Native American tribes. Because there was no strong financial reason to expend concerted effort on collecting Native objects, scholars have reported that the museum's representation of Eastern tribes was small and used to compare them to ancient civilizations: items such as arrowheads that had come up during excavations in New England were displayed with classical artifacts.[18]:54

Methods of display[edit]

There are not many remaining records of the exhibition style of the museum, but a few observations have survived. For example, when the society moved into the newly-constructed East India Marine Hall, tall cases filled with artifacts lined the walls--often with nautical models displayed on top--and more cases were arranged in the center of the room.[9]:45

In addition, the museum was decorated with life-size sculptures of merchants from China and India. They were placed in strategic locations throughout the exhibition hall, which allowed them to serve not only as objects within the collection themselves, but also as contextual aids for other objects.[9]:46

Not much is known about the specific groupings of the collection prior to the 1830s; near the end of the decade, however, records state that items were displayed based on their general function, such as weaponry or musical instruments.[3]:195 The curator, Dr. Malthus Ward, did this in an effort to assemble objects that shared similar roles in their various countries of origin.[9]:47

Visitorship[edit]

The museum had no admission fee, but it required visitors to be introduced by a society member.[9]:45 Prominent visitors to the society's museum included William Bentley,[19] James Silk Buckingham,[1] Nathaniel Hawthorne,[20] Andrew Jackson, Anne Newport Royall,[17] and Martin Van Buren.[3]

It was one of Salem's most vital attractions, and visitors consistently reported feelings of awe and as though they were entering a separate world: Martha Nichols, the granddaughter of Salem mariner Captain George Nichols, wrote that its "magic door opened onto so many wonders,"[3]:196 and a guestbook from 1860 contains a visitor's opinion that "to walk around this room was to circumnavigate the globe."[21] These impressions taught the younger generations of Salem knowledge of the global marketplace that was valued highly in the early 19th century: the possibilities for trade relations were enhanced by their prolonged exposure to foreign nations.[3]:191

According to scholars, the exhibits in East India Marine Hall presented visitors with the idea that their sailors had brought them a personalized microcosm of the world.[9]:48 The objects and their displays were meant to do more than just illustrate the rich diversity of other cultures; they were also strongly associated with their donors. This was underscored by the presence of donor portraits hung above the objects, as well as the former sailors serving the society as tour guides.[9]:47 This emphasized the personal connections that surrounded the objects, and demonstrated the sailor's autonomy and success in an international arena.[9]:42

Visitor controversies[edit]

The 1830s presented several challenges to the museum's relationship with its visitors. In 1833, the society created and enforced a rule that banned African Americans from attending the museum, despite the fact that it had not previously restricted their attendance.[3]:197 In addition, an entrance fee was briefly charged as an attempt to "remedy [the] evil" of their popularity; the more than 2,000 annual visitors, coupled with the society's responsibility to care for its members' families experiencing financial hardship, had become too difficult to maintain.[3]:195

Members[edit]

Vessels[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Nathaniel Hawthorne described a fictionalized version of the society's museum in his 1842 short story A Virtuoso's Collection.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Walter Muir Whitehill (1949). East India Marine Society and the Peabody Museum of Salem; a Sesquicentennial History. Salem, Mass.: Peabody Museum. 
  2. ^ Private and Special Statutes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 21, 1912 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k James M. Lindgren (June 1995). "'That Every Mariner May Possess the History of the World': A Cabinet for the East India Marine Society of Salem". New England Quarterly. 68 (2): 179–205. JSTOR 366255. 
  4. ^ Phillips Library. "Henry Wheatland Papers". Manuscript Finding Aids. Peabody Essex Museum. Retrieved April 2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  5. ^ Visitors' Guide to Salem. Salem, MA: Essex Institute. 1902. p. 49. 
  6. ^ "Museum History". Peabody Essex Musuem. Retrieved 2017-03-17. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Patricia Johnston (2011), C. Mills, ed., "Global Knowledge in the Early Republic: The East India Marine Society's 'Curiosities.'", A Long and Tumultuous Relationship: East–West Interchanges in American Art, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Scholars Press, retrieved April 2014  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  8. ^ Frang, Joanna (2003). Image and Object in Nineteenth Century American Collections of East Indian Paintings on Mica. Master's thesis. Newark, DE: University of Delaware. p. 4. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Finamore, Daniel (2002). "Displaying the sea and defining America". Journal for Maritime Research. 4: 40–51 – via Taylor & Francis Online. 
  10. ^ "Catalogue of Shells in the Museum of the East-India Marine Society". East-India Marine Society of Salem. 1821. 
  11. ^ "Catalogue of Ancient and Modern Coins and Medals in the Museum of the East-India Marine Society". East-India Marine Society of Salem. 1821. 
  12. ^ "Catalogue of the Articles in the Museum of the East-India Marine Society". East-India Marine Society of Salem. 1821.  (edited by Seth Bass)
  13. ^ "Catalogue of the Journals of the Voyages, Presented to the Society". East-India Marine Society of Salem. 1821. 
  14. ^ Samuel Eliot Morison (1921). Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783–1860. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 117–118. 
  15. ^ a b c d Mary Malloy (2000). "Northwest Coast Indian Artifacts in New England Collections: Salem East India Marine Society". Souvenirs of the Fur Trade: Northwest Coast Indian Art and Artifacts Collected by American Mariners, 1788-1844. Harvard University Press. pp. 61–89. ISBN 978-0-87365-833-1. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Charles E. Goodspeed (1946), Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Museum of the Salem East India Marine Society, Salem, Mass.: Peabody Museum  (fulltext via HathiTrust)
  17. ^ a b Anne Newport Royall (1826). "Salem: Museum". Sketches of History, Life, and Manners, in the United States. New Haven. pp. 359–363. 
  18. ^ Boswell, Anna (2009). "Re-enactment and the Museum Case: Reading the Oceanic and Native American Displays in the Peabody Essex Museum". Journal of New Zealand Literature: JNZL. 27: 48–69 – via JSTOR. 
  19. ^ William Bentley (1907). Diary of William Bentley. 2: 1793-1802. Salem: Essex Institute. 
  20. ^ Jee Yoon Lee (2006). ""The Rude Contact of Some Actual Circumstance": Hawthorne and Salem's East India Marine Museum". ELH: English Literary History. Johns Hopkins University Press. 73. JSTOR 30030044. 
  21. ^ Schwartz, Douglas (1 October 2015). "19th Century Experiences". Conversant: The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. Retrieved 25 February 2017. 
  22. ^ Walter Muir Whitehill (1949). "List of Members of the Salem East India Marine Society". East India Marine Society and the Peabody Museum of Salem; a Sesquicentennial History. Salem, Mass.: Peabody Museum. pp. 160–169. 
  23. ^ a b c d Harrison Ellery; Charles Pickering Bowditch (1897). Pickering Genealogy. 2. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap "Catalog of American Portraits". Collections Search Center. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved April 2014. Peabody Essex Museum  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  25. ^ "Captain John Barton (portrait)". Peabody Essex Museum. Retrieved April 2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  26. ^ Salem Public Library. "History of the Building". North of Boston Library Exchange. Retrieved April 2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  27. ^ a b c Essex Institute (1921), Annual Report 
  28. ^ "Rajah". Ship Registers of the District of Salem and Beverly, Massachusetts, 1789-1900. Essex Institute. 1906. 
  29. ^ David Shavit (1990). United States in Asia: A Historical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-26788-8. 
  30. ^ Phillips Library. "Benjamin Crowninshield Family Papers". Manuscript Finding Aids. Peabody Essex Museum. Retrieved April 2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  31. ^ a b c d Edward B. Hungerford (1933). "Hawthorne Gossips about Salem". New England Quarterly. 6. JSTOR 359552. 
  32. ^ a b c George Granville Putnam (1922). Salem Vessels and their Voyages: a History of the Pepper Trade with the Island of Sumatra. Essex institute. 
  33. ^ a b ""To the Farthest Ports of the Rich East": Salem and the Sumatra Pepper Trade". Object of the Month. Massachusetts Historical Society. 2012. Retrieved April 2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  34. ^ Bulletin of the Essex Institute, 20, 1888 
  35. ^ Luther S. Luedtke (1989). Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Romance of the Orient. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-33613-9. 
  36. ^ Bulletin of the Salem Public Library, 1898 
  37. ^ George Nichols (1921). Martha Nichols, ed. A Salem Shipmaster and Merchant: The Autobiography of George Nichols. Boston: Four Seas Company. 
  38. ^ Harvard Graduates' Magazine, 21, 1912–1913 
  39. ^ "Chinese and Western Merchants of the Canton Trade". Visualizing Cultures. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved April 2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  40. ^ "White, Stephen 1787-1841". WorldCat. 
  41. ^ Robert Booth (2011). Death of an Empire: The Rise and Murderous Fall of Salem, America's Richest City. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-4299-9026-4. 
  42. ^ Peabody Essex Museum, Phillips Library. "East India Marine Society Records, 1799-1972". Retrieved April 2014 – via ArchiveGrid.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

Further reading[edit]

Published in the 19th century
  • By-Laws and Regulations of the East India Marine Society, Salem: Cushing, 1800 
  • "Salem East India Marine Society". North American Review. 6. January 1818. 
  • East-India Marine Society of Salem (1831). Catalogues of the library and museum.  (edited by Mathus A. Ward)
    • Supplement to the catalogue of the articles in the museum, journals, & c of the East India Marine Society of Salem. 1837. OCLC 7579150.  (edited by Henry Wheatland)
  • Duane Hamilton Hurd (1887). "East India Marine Society". History of Essex County, Massachusetts. 1. J. W. Lewis & Co. 
Published in the 20th century
  • History of the Salem East India Marine Society: its original act of incorporation, its final incorporation as the Trustees of the Salem East India Marine Society, by-laws and a list of members. 1916. OCLC 18179834. 
  • John Robinson (1921), "Relics of the Salem East India Marine Society", Marine Room of the Peabody Museum of Salem, Peabody Museum, OCLC 1147254 
  • "Portraits in the Museum". Guide to the Peabody Museum. Salem, MA. 1937.  (fulltext via Hathi Trust) - includes many members of the society
  • Ernest S. Dodge (1945). "Captain Collectors". Essex Institute Historical Collections. 81. 
  • Ernest S. Dodge, "The Contributions to Exploration of the Salem East India Marine Society," American Neptune 25 (1965)
  • Norman R. Bennett; George E. Brooks, Jr., eds. (1965), "Log and East India Marine Society Journal of the Brig Ann of Salem, 1827", New England Merchants in Africa, Boston University Press  (fulltext via OpenLibrary)
  • East India Marine Society, founded in 1799: the East India Marine Associates, founded 1981, Peabody Museum of Salem, 1983 
Published in the 21st century

External links[edit]