George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 29 October 1789]

Thursday 29th. Left Boston about 8 Oclock. Passed over the Bridge at Charles Town and went to see that at Malden, but proceeded to the college at Cambridge, attended by the Vice President, Mr. Bowdoin, and a great number of Gentlemen: at this place I was shewn by Mr. Willard the President 1 the Philosophical Aparatus and amongst others Popes Orary (a curious piece of Mechanism for shewing the revolutions of the Sun, Earth and many other of the Planets) 2—The library (containing 13,000 volumes) and a Museum. The Bridges of Charles town and Malden are useful & noble—doing great credit to the enterprizing spirit of the People of this State. From Boston, besides the number of Citizens which accompanied me to Cambridge, & many of them from thence to Lynn—the Boston Corps of Horse escorted me to the line between Middlesex and Essex County where a party of Horse with Genl. Titcomb 3 met me, and conducted me through Marblehead (which is 4 Miles out of the way, but I wanted to see it) to Salem. The Chief employmt. of the People of Marblehead (Males) is fishing—about 110 Vessels and 800 Men and boys are engaged in this business. Their chief export is fish. About 5000 Souls are said to be in this place which has the appearance of antiquity. The Houses are old—the streets dirty—and the common people not very clean. Before we entered the Town we were met, & attended by a Comee. till we were handed over to the Select Men who conducted us saluted by artily. in to the Town—to the House of a Mrs. Lee where there was a cold Collation prepared 4—after partaking of which we visited the Harbour—their fish brakes for curing fish—&ca. and then proceeded (first receiving an Address from the Inhabitants) to Salem. At the Bridge, 2 Miles from this Town, we were also met by a Committee—who conducted us by a Brigade of the Militia, & one or two handsome Corps in Uniform,5 through several of the Streets to the Town or Court House—where an Ode in honor of the President was sung—an address presented to him amidst the acclamations of the People—after which he was conducted to his Lodgings—recd. the compliments of many differt. Classes of People 6—and in the evening between 7 and 8 Oclock went to an assembly, where there was at least an hundred handsome and well dressed Ladies.7 Abt. Nine I returned to my Lodgings. The Road from Boston to this place is here and there Stoney tho’ level; it is very pleasant: from most parts you are in sight of the Sea. Meads—arable Land and Rocky hills are much intermixed—the latter chiefly on the left. The Country seems to be in a manner entirely stripped of wood. The grazing is good—the Houses stand thick. After leaving Cambridge at the distance of 4 Miles we passed through Mistick—then Malden—next Lynn (where it is said 175,000 pairs of Shoes (womens chiefly) have been made in a year by abt. 400 workmen). This is only a row of houses & not very thick on each side of the Road. After passing Lynn you enter Marblehead wch. is 4 Miles from Salem. This latter is a neat Town and said to contain 8 or 9000 Inhabitants. Its exports are chiefly Fish Lumber & Provisions. They have in the East India Trade at this time 13 Sale of Vessels.

1Joseph Willard (1738–1804), a member of a prominent New England family and an ardent Federalist, was president of Harvard from 1781 to 1804. Through his extensive writings and correspondence he became well known as a scientist and mathematician and led the college out of the financial and academic disorganization caused by the Revolution. GW was received at Harvard in the “Philosophy-room of the University” (Pa. Packet, 13 Nov. 1789).

2The orrery at Harvard was the work of Joseph Pope, Boston watchmaker, who had worked on it from 1776 to 1787. “It was an elaborate structure based on the design of the grand orreries produced by the great English makers of the period, measuring 6½ feet in diameter and 6½ feet in height. It was covered with a glass dome with the signs of the zodiac painted on the glass side panels, and was supported on a hexagonal frame of mahogany in the Chippendale style. Twelve figures adorned its corners; these were said to have been carved in wood by Simeon Skillin and cast in bronze by Paul Revere.” The instrument had been purchased for Harvard through a lottery sponsored by the Massachusetts legislature in Mar. 1789 (BEDINI description begins Silvio A. Bedini. Thinkers and Tinkers: Early American Men of Science. New York, 1975. description ends , 384–85).

3Jonathan Titcomb of Newburyport, Mass., had been in command of a Massachusetts regiment in 1775 and charged with securing supplies for the army during GW’s tour of duty at Cambridge. By the end of the war he was a major general in the state forces. In June 1789 he solicited the post of naval officer for Newburyport, and GW appointed him in August (Titcomb to GW, 19 June 1789, DLC:GW; EXECUTIVE JOURNAL description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends , 1:9, 12). Two members of the Titcomb family of Newburyport—Michael and Zebulon—had been members of the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard during the Revolution (GODFREY description begins Carlos E. Godfrey. The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard: Revolutionary War. Washington, D.C., 1904. description ends , 259–60).

4Mrs. Lee was Martha Swett Lee (d. 1791), daughter of Joseph and Hannah Swett of Marblehead and wife of Col. Jeremiah Lee, a prominent Marblehead shipowner. The Lee house, on Washington Street, was an elegant mansion constructed in 1768, and Mrs. Lee was a noted hostess. According to local tradition, silhouettes of eagles were placed in the windows of the house during GW’s visit so they would show against the lighted candles (LORD description begins Priscilla Sawyer Lord and Virginia Clegg Gamage. Marblehead: The Spirit of ’76 Lives Here. Philadelphia, 1972. description ends , 234–36).

5These military units included the Salem town regiment, “joined by a Regiment from Lynn, with the Horse from Ipswich, the Independant Company, & the Artillery. The Ipswich Horse were in blue with hats, the Independants in red, & the Artillery in black uniforms. The Militia were partly in Rifle frocks” (Bentley, Diary description begins The Diary of William Bentley, D.D. 4 vols. Salem, Mass., 1905–14. description ends , 1:130).

6To one observer GW’s progress to the courthouse seemed less than triumphant: “His appearance as he passed thro’ Court Street in Salem was far from gay, or making anyone else so. He looked oppressed by the attention that was paid him, and as he cast his eye around, I thought it seemed to sink at the notice he attracted. When he had got to the Court House, and had patiently listened to the ditty they sung at him, and heard the shouts of the multitude, he bowed very low, and as if he could bear no more turned hastily around and went into the house” (Hist. Collections of the Essex Institute, 67 [1931], 299–300).

While in Salem, GW lodged at the imposing Ward House on Court (now Washington) Street, constructed between 1781 and 1785 by Samuel McIntire, and presently owned by Joshua Ward. For GW’s stay in Salem, see Bentley, Diary description begins The Diary of William Bentley, D.D. 4 vols. Salem, Mass., 1905–14. description ends , 130–31; Gaz. of the U.S., 14 Nov. 1789; rantoul, 68:1–19).

7The inhabitants of Salem had sent GW an invitation to attend the entertainment, 23 Oct. 1789 (DLC:GW).

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