The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Salem Marine Railway (Salem, Mass.)
Salem Marine Railway Records
1.5 linear feet (3 boxes)
The Salem Marine Railway
records document the activities of this Salem, Massachusetts, railway.
SERIES I. Administration Records SERIES II. Business Records
Scope and Content Note
The Salem Marine Railway records document the activities of this Salem,
Massachusetts, railway. The collection includes correspondence, administrative, and
financial records for the daily operation of the railway and technical research and
estimates for building the ways. It is divided into two series.
Series I. Administration Records includes meeting
minutes for the committee involved in the organization of and preparation for
building the railway and for the corporation, records of stock and subscribers,
legal documents and claim papers, financial reports which include amounts of
earnings and expenses, fire insurance and boiler inspection papers, and papers
covering the technical research and estimates for building the railway.
Of special note in the legal documents are the claim papers of John L. Ellery
for the loss of the Ship Panther. Ellery contended that
the vessel was thrown over the ways due to the fault of the Marine Railway. Receipts
for damages to other vessels are also filed here. The file of technical research and
estimates contains letters between William Denny of Dunbar, Scotland, D.M. Nicol of
Liverpool, and Captain John Gardner of Salem regarding the technical aspects of
building the railway, information about the pine timber, oak, cast iron, and chains
and rods needed for construction, and estimates of its cost.
The papers in Series II. Business Records relate to
the day-to-day operations of the railway. The correspondence, account books, and
financial papers document the railway's income, expenses, and ordered supplies. Of
special note in the series are the returns. They record the amount to be billed to
each customer and cover such items as the type of vessel, the tonnage
(displacement), day on and day off the ways, owner, and amount due the railway.
Included in this series is the account book of Samuel Lewis. In addition to accounts
of vessels on the railway from 1851 to 1853 there are notes Lewis made as a deputy
surveyor from 1854 to 1856.
A group of subscribers interested in developing the marine railway company met on
August 31, 1822. A committee of five (William P. Richardson, Pickering Dodge, James
Cook, Joseph A. Peabody, and Stephen Phillips) was selected and charged with the
purchase of a piece of land and the erection of a set of ways for hauling up vessels
presumably for cleaning and repair. In 1823, Captain Stephen Phillips, acting for
the company, bought land from Benjamin West and Pickering Dodge on Harbor Street in
the South Fields, Salem, Massachusetts. A model railway was constructed by William
Denny of Scotland and shipped through D.M. Nicol in Liverpool to John Gardner in
Salem for design and construction of the railway.
In September 1823 the first vessel, the brig Washington, was hauled up on the railway. By September 1824, the Salem Marine Railway had been incorporated. Superintendents
for the business were Samuel Briggs, 1823-1851, Samuel Lewis, 1851-1854, and Daniel
Briggs, 1854-1875. Over the years there was considerable activity on the railway.
From 1827 to 1864, over 1200 vessels made their "voyages". The corporation probably
dissolved around 1875.
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.
Ships--Maintenance and repair
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