Processing of this collection was funded by a
grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Salem Iron Factory Company
Salem Iron Factory Records
2 linear feet (4 boxes)
The Salem Iron Factory Records
date from the formation of the company in 1796 to its sale to Matthew Hooper in
Scope and Content Note
The Salem Iron Factory Records date from the formation of the company in 1796 to its
sale to Matthew Hooper in 1844. The collection contains account books, record books
of shareholders' meetings, correspondence, financial statements, inventory accounts,
and stock certificates. The bulk of the records were generated during the period
when Archelaus Rea was agent, 1819-1843.
The earliest records of the company are located in MSS
148, the Nathan Read Papers. These papers include the 1795 proposal to
build the Waters Rivers Mill Dam, Read's proposal to form the company and an
estimate of profits, the articles of agreement with stockholders, and Read's tool
and stock inventories.
The Salem Iron Factory, which was located along the Waters River in Danvers,
Massachusetts, was founded by the inventor Nathan Read (1759-1849) in 1796. Read had
purchased the thirty-four acre Endecott farm bordering on the Waters River in 1792.
In 1794, he purchased additional land along the river and received permission in
1795 from the town of Danvers to build a mill and dam across the river. Read then
made a proposal to potential investors to form an iron factory which would
manufacture sheet iron, anchors, chains, cables, nails, and other iron materials
used in shipbuilding. The articles of agreement establishing the company were signed
in May 1796. The nineteen original shareholders included many prominent Salem
residents, among them, E.A. Holyoke, Joshua Ward, Joseph Peabody, Joseph Sprague,
and William Stearn. Read sold the Waters River Mill, and his rights to the bridge
and dam, to the Directors of the Salem Iron Factory in 1796. He was appointed
treasurer and agent of the company in 1797, with Jonathan Allen acting as foreman.
Although there were similar iron factories at Canaan, Connecticut, and Pawtucket,
Rhode Island, the machinery which Read designed for the Salem Iron Factory required
fewer workers. Read continually attempted to improve the factory's machinery. In
1798, he invented a nail machine which cut and headed nails in a single operation.
Read resigned as agent of the company in 1800, when he was appointed to Congress,
and sold his shares in 1810 after he had moved to Belfast, Maine.
John Osgood took over Read's position and was succeeded by Archelaus Rea in
1819. Between 1800 and 1820, the Salem Iron Factory primarily manufactured anchors
and nails employing Read's nail cutting machine. In 1810, they expanded their
operation with the purchase of the Danvers and Beverly Iron Works. According to
William Bentley's diary, the manufacture of nails was not particularly successful
because of competition in the local area. Between 1820 and 1840, the company
gradually shifted to the production of iron rods and sheet iron.
In 1843, Factory trustees Joseph Peabody, William Pickman, and Archelaus Rea,
sold the factory to Matthew Hooper, who changed the name to the Danvers Iron Works.
Hooper sold the company to William and James P. Fisk of Cambridge in 1854, but
foreclosed the mortgage in 1857. He then sold the company to John Sylvester of
Somerville, and the company was held by the Sylvester family until 1920.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons,
or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Read, Nathan, 1759-1849
Salem Iron Factory Company
Iron industry and trade
Waters River (Mass.)
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in
writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex
Salem Iron Factory Records, MSS 149, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem,
The Salem Iron Factory Records were purchased in 1934. The early Salem Iron Factory
records in the Nathan Read Collection (MSS 148) were donated by Mary J. Low in
Collection processed by Caroline Preston, October 1984. Updated by Catherine
Robertson, January 2015.
Bradlee, Francis B.C. The Salem Iron Factory. Salem:
Essex Institute, 1917.
Putnam, Eleazer. Plan of the Salem Iron Factory
Salem Iron Factory Company. An act for incorporating the
Salem Iron Factory Company. Salem: Joshua Cushing, 1804.