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East India Marine Society Records

East India Marine Society Records

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Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 161 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-948-6012
Creator:East-India Marine Society of Salem (1799-1972)
Title:East India Marine Society Records
Quantity:18.5 linear feet (29 boxes, 13 volumes, 1 flat file)
Abstract: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.
Collection Number:MH 88

Series List

SERIES I. AdministrativeSERIES II. Financial RecordsSERIES III. Papers of the Trustees
SERIES IV. Catalogs of CollectionsSERIES 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.

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 April 1866.

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 9, folder 3); 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.

Historical Sketch

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 Cape Horn."

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 Marine Hall.

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.

Index Terms

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.

Barr, James
Bowditch, Nathaniel, 1773-1838
Bullock, Benjamin
Burchmore, John
Carnes, Jonathan
Carpenter, Benjamin
Chipman, Thomas
Clark, Henry
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
Elkins, Henry
Felt, John, 1782-1811
Gardner, Richard
Gibaut, John
Hathorne, Daniel
Hodges, Benjamin
Hodges, George
Hodges, Jonathan
Lambert, Jonathan
Lambert, Samuel
Lander, Benjamin
Mason, Jonathan
Nichols, Ichabod, 1749-1839
Orne, Josiah, 1768-1825
Osgood, John
Phillips, Stephen, 1764-1838
Pickman, Dudley Leavitt, 1779-1846
Prince, John, 1782-1848
Putnam, Thomas, 1763-1822
Richardson, William
Robinson, William
Ropes, John
Ropes, Joseph
Sage, Daniel
Silsbee, Nathaniel, 1748-1791
Smith, George Girdler
Swett, Enoch
Townsend, Moses
Webb, Jr., Benjamin
West, Edward
Wheatland, Henry, 1812-1893
Wheatland, Richard
Wheatland, Stephen
Williams, Israel, b. 1772
Active (Ship)
Adventure (Ship)
America (Ship)
Anna (Ship)
Arab (Ship)
Astrea (Ship)
B. Telemachus (Ship)
Belisarius (Ship)
Bengal (Ship)
Bonetta (Ship)
Caravan (Ship)
Caroline (Ship)
Catherine (Ship)
Ceres (Brig)
Cincinatus (Ship)
Clio (Brig)
Commerce (Ship)
Cordelia (Ship)
Derby (Ship)
East-India Marine Society of Salem
Edwin (Brig)
Elizabeth (Brig)
Emerald (Ship)
Essex (Ship)
Exeter (Ship)
Factor (Ship)
Fame (Ship)
Fanny (Ship)
Francis (Ship)
Franklin (Ship)
Friendship (Ship : 1797-1827)
George (Ship)
Georgetown (Bark)
Hazard (Ship)
Hope (Schooner)
Indus (Brig)
Java (Ship)
John (Ship)
Jones (Brig)
Laura (Brig)
Lucia (Ship)
Lydia (Bark)
Magnet (Ship)
Malay (Brig)
Margaret (Ship)
Mary (Bark)
Mentor (Ship)
Minerva (Ship)
Nancy Ann (Brig)
Osprey (Brig)
Pallas (Ship)
Peabody Academy of Science
Persia (Brig)
Phenix (Brig)
Pompey (Bark)
Putnam (Ship)
Reaper (Brig)
Reboreas (Bark)
Recovery (Ship)
Restitution (Ship)
Reward (Ship)
Roscoe (Brig)
Suffolk (Ship)
Sukey (Brig)
Two Brothers (Ship)
Ulysses (Ship)
Venus (Brig)
Virginia (Brig)
American Naturalist (Magazine)
Museum archives


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


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 Museum.

Preferred Citation

East India Marine Society Records, MH 88, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


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.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Kathy Flynn December 1992, Chris Ellison, October 1993, Barbara Kampas, March 2007, Tamara Gaydos, October 2007, 2016.

Related Material

Dodge, Ernest S. The Contributions to Exploration of the Salem East India Marine Society. The American Neptune 25 (1965): 176-188.

McAllister, Jim. "East India Marine Hall", Welcome to Salem, Massachusetts, The City Guide, Salem Tales". 25 October 2007. <>;

"Salem East India Marine Society". The North American Review. Vol 6, Issue 17: 283-285. Cedar Falls, IA, University of Northern Iowa (January 1818). Cornell University Library. 25 October 2007. <>;

Whitehall, Walter Muir. The East India Marine Society and the Peabody Museum of Salem: A Sesquicentennial History. Salem, MA: Peabody Museum, 1949.

Appendix I

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