Hawthorne in Salem Search Hawthorne in Salem





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Elias H. Derby (1739-1799), a prosperous merchant of the eighteenth century, grew up in the house at 27 Herbert St., at the corner of Derby and Herbert Streets, built for his father, Richard (1739-1799), a successful sea captain and ship owner, in 1738. In the Custom House chapter of The Scarlet Letter Hawthorne refers to E.H. Derby as "King Derby." (courtesy of Ohio State University Press)

In my native town of Salem, at the head of what, half a century ago, in the days of old King Derby, was a bustling wharf,-but which is now burdened with decayed wooden warehouses, and exhibits few or no symptoms of commercial life; except, perhaps, a bark or brig, half-way down its melan- choly length, discharging hides; or, nearer at hand, a Nova Scotia schooner, pitching out her cargo of firewood,-at the head, I say, of this dilapidated wharf, which the tide often overflows, and along which, at the base and in the rear of the row of buildings, the track of many languid years is seen in a border of unthrifty grass,-here, with a view from its front windows adown this not very enlivening prospect, and thence across the harbour, stands a spacious edifice of brick (4-5).

Here, no doubt, statistics of the former commerce of Salem might be discovered, and memorials of her princely merchants,-old King Derby, -old Billy Gray,- old Simon Forrester,-and many another mag- nate in his day; whose powdered head, however, was scarcely in the tomb, before his mountain-pile of wealth began to dwindle. The founders of the greater part of the families which now compose the aristocracy of Salem might here be traced, from the petty and obscure beginnings of their traffic, at periods generally much posterior to the Revolution, up- ward to what their children look upon as long-established rank (28-29).