The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
East-India Marine Society of Salem (1799-1972)
East India Marine Society
18.5 linear feet (29 boxes, 13 volumes, 1 flat
The records of the East India
Marine Society consist of correspondence, financial documents, guest books,
scrapbooks, catalogs, and ships' journals from the founding of the Society in 1799
SERIES I. Administrative
A. Founding Documents and Meeting Minutes
B. Correspondence, Reports, Information Relating to EIMS
D. Guest Books
SERIES II. Financial Records
A. Members' Assessments
B. Treasurer's Accounts
SERIES III. Papers of the Trustees SERIES IV. Catalogs of Collections
SERIES V. Ship Journals
Scope and Content Note
The records of the East India Marine Society consist of correspondence, financial
documents, guest books, scrapbooks, catalogs, and ships' journals from the founding
of the Society in 1799 to 1972. The collection has been organized into five
Series I. Administrative consists of the founding
documents, bylaws, correspondence, reports, and other administrative documents of
the society. Subseries A. Founding Documents and Meeting
Minutes contains the association articles, bylaws, and meeting minutes
from 1799 to 1972. Of interest is a list of subscribers agreeing to the formation of
the EIMS dated August 31, 1799. Folder 1 contains the Bye-laws
and regulations of the Salem East India Marine Society dated 1808 and
signed by Jonathan Carnes. The record book in box 2 volume 1 includes a letter from
John Hay, Assistant Secretary of State, dated 1880. Volume 2 in box 2 includes bank
examiner audits of the Society and a printed tribute to Augustus Peabody Loring, Jr.
by Walter Muir Whitehill. Subseries B. Correspondence, Reports,
Information Relating to EIMS Objects contains correspondence regarding
donations of objects, lists of periodical holdings, admissions tickets, donation
lists, Nathaniel Bowditch's will (1838), newspaper clippings and images, membership
documents, toasts, and acknowledgements. Of interest are: letters from Presidents
Jefferson and Madison (1822) and lists of perspective members. This subseries is
arranged chronologically. Subseries C. Scrapbooks
consists of two volumes. The original "Scrapbook #1" was removed to MSS 464 Henry
Wheatland Papers. These are not true scrapbooks in that they contain ephemera pasted
in. Volume F contains the original catalog of specimens and both volumes contain
correspondence and various administrative documents. See Appendix I for a detailed
description of the contents of the scrapbooks. Subseries D.
Guest Books consists of eleven volumes of guest books from July 1827 to
Series II. Financial Records consists of members'
assessments, treasurer's accounts, treasurer's reports, check registers, canceled
checks, receipts and bills, insurance bonding certificates, and other financial
records. Of interest are these bills: Jonathan Bright's account including Samuel
McIntire's bill for Chinese Mandarin figure (1801) (box 4, folder 1); the bill from
Michele Corne for painting of Captain Cook, 1803 (box 4, folder 1); the bill to
English prisoners of war for repairing the Constitution, 1814 (box 4, folder 3); the bill from Richard L. Rogers for
carving the head and hands of a Chinese figurine, 1838 (box 5, folder 2) and the
Corne and Bartol bills for painting fire boards, etc. in East India Marine Hall and
Pickman building (1804, 1825). This series includes a summary each year by the
Recording Secretary about membership.
Series III. Papers of the Trustees contains a member
list, bylaw revisions, report on the 100th anniversary (1899), papers about the
Peabody Academy of Science, records of building renovations, newspaper clippings,
papers relating to the incorporation of the trustees (1910), minutes of trustees
meetings (1935-1957), general correspondence, and financial documents.
Correspondence in box 16 is arranged alphabetically by last name.
Series IV. Catalogs of Collections contains various
versions of the catalogs of the collections as well as photocopies. It also includes
a copy of History of the Salem East India Marine
Society printed by Newcomb & Gauss in 1916. The "Catalogue of the
Ethnological Collection of the Essex Institute by H. F. Shepard, Re-written by J.
Robinson 1864-1865" contains lists of items with Essex Institute ("E")
cross-reference numbers. It ends with 1914.
Series V. Ship Journals contains ship journals from
Society members bound together into 11 volumes. Each journal records the latitude,
longitude, weather, currents, bearings of the land, and remarkable occurrences along
with navigation advice from 1797 to 1840. Many of the journals are illustrated. Box
26 contains an additional five journals.
The East India Marine Society was organized in 1799 in
Salem, Massachusetts, and incorporated in March 1801. Membership was limited to
ships' masters or supercargoes who had sailed around either Cape Horn or the Cape of
Good Hope. The purposes of the society were to share navigation information relating
to the East Indies; to provide benefits to members who had been disabled or to the
families of members who had died; and "to form a Museum of natural and artificial
curiosities, particularly such as are to be found beyond the Cape of Good Hope or
Members of the association were required to keep journals of their voyages. Upon
return, the journals were given to the Inspector of Journals whose responsibility
was to inspect and identify those journals that would be helpful to navigation.
Nathaniel Bowditch was the first Inspector of Journals and held the office for many
years. Ship masters were also given record books to collect and describe specimens
of natural history found on their journeys. Many of these items were donated to the
museum as artifacts.
The collecting of curiosities would create an ongoing space problem for the East
India Marine Society. The organization initially rented rooms in the Stearns block
in Town House Square, but their stay there was short-lived. As the number of donated
items grew, the group began looking for larger quarters. In 1804 the society moved
into the Salem Bank Building on Essex Street, just west of the future East India
By 1824 the collections of the East India Marine Society had grown to nearly
3,000 items, and Dr. Seth Bass had been hired to organize and oversee the diverse
inventory. Visitors flocked to the Essex Street museum to see war clubs, masks and
costumes from far-away island kingdoms; models and paintings of local ships; and
even a coffee cup and saucer once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Desperately in need of more space, members of the East India Marine Society
formed a separate corporation, known as the Salem East India Marine Hall
Corporation, for the purpose of erecting a facility to house the society's
collections. The society itself had first option on the 150 shares in the new
corporation; the rest were offered to members and interested citizens.
Construction of the 100-by-45-foot granite building was completed by October of
1825, in time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the society. The East India
Marine Hall was dedicated on October 14, 1825. Many dignitaries of the time attended
the festivities: President John Quincy Adams, Boston Mayor Josiah Quincy, Colonel
Timothy Pickering, United States Senator and Secretary of State, and Daniel Webster,
United States Senator, Secretary of State. In 1910 the society reincorporated as
"Trustees of the Salem East India Marine Society."
While the society continued into the 1960s, its days of activity were over.
Salem ships did not sail the Far Eastern seas. The ships were bigger, Salem Harbor
was shallow, and commerce had moved to Boston, New York, and elsewhere. The men grew
old, there were no new navigators around the two great Capes to elect, and the
serious work of the society ceased, although its museum survives as the Peabody
Essex Museum through the generosity of George Peabody and others.
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.
Bowditch, Nathaniel, 1773-1838
Crowninshield, Benjamin, 1758-1836
Crowninshield, Clifford, 1762-1809
Crowninshield, Jacob, 1770-1808
Derby, Elias Hasket, 1766-1826
Derby, Samuel Gardner, 1767-1843
Devereux, James, 1766-1846
Felt, John, 1782-1811
Nichols, Ichabod, 1749-1839
Orne, Josiah, 1768-1825
Phillips, Stephen, 1764-1838
Pickman, Dudley Leavitt, 1779-1846
Prince, John, 1782-1848
Putnam, Thomas, 1763-1822
Silsbee, Nathaniel, 1748-1791
Smith, George Girdler
Webb, Jr., Benjamin
Wheatland, Henry, 1812-1893
Williams, Israel, b. 1772
B. Telemachus (Ship)
East-India Marine Society of Salem
Friendship (Ship : 1797-1827)
Nancy Ann (Brig)
Peabody Academy of Science
Two Brothers (Ship)
American Naturalist (Magazine)
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
East India Marine Society Records, MH 88, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum,
The East India Marine Society is the founding organization of the Peabody Essex
Museum. The papers have been owned by the organization since its inception. One copy
of the 1808 by-laws was donated by Lawrence W. Jenkins in 1916. The letter from
Lieutenant Story to Thomas Jefferson transmitting a pamphlet from the EIMS and Mr.
Jefferson's copy of his reply to the same (box 3, folder 11) was donated by W. K.
Bixby on April 12, 1915. Several news clippings were donated by Henry M. Brooks (box
3 folder 3). Images of the Stearns building were a gift of Arthur S. Perkins in 1924
and George W. Pease (box 3, folder 3). An etching of the East India Marine Hall by
George M. White was donated by Jenny Brooks on May 24, 1930 (box 3, folder 3). The
admittance and receipt of Captain A. Govea (box 3 folder 18) was donated by Captain
E. B. Trumbull in 1930. One of the museum tickets was a gift of William E. Northey
on November 12, 1926.
Collection processed by Kathy Flynn December 1992, Chris Ellison, October 1993,
Barbara Kampas, March 2007, Tamara Gaydos, October 2007, 2016.
Dodge, Ernest S. The Contributions to Exploration of the Salem East India Marine
Society. The American Neptune 25 (1965): 176-188.
The East India Marine Society is the founding organization of the Peabody Essex Museum. The papers have been owned by the organization since its inception. One copy of the 1808 by-laws was donated by Lawrence W. Jenkins in 1916. The letter from Lieutenant Story to Thomas Jefferson transmitting a pamphlet from the EIMS and Mr. Jefferson’s copy of his reply to the same (box 3, folder 11) was donated by W. K. Bixby on April 12, 1915. Several news clippings were donated by Henry M. Brooks (box 3 folder 3). Images of the Stearns building were a gift of Arthur S. Perkins in 1924 and George W. Pease (box 3, folder 3). An etching of the East India Marine Hall by George M. White was donated by Jenny Brooks on May 24, 1930 (box 3, folder 3). The admittance and receipt of Captain A. Govea (box 3 folder 18) was donated by Captain E. B. Trumbull in 1930. One of the museum tickets was a gift of William E. Northey on November 12, 1926.