SALEM — Work was the stuff of life in 17th century Salem. From shipwrights to fishermen to farmers to those maintaining family and homestead, survival demanded work. Everyone in the family contributed their share of hard labor.
On Wednesday, April 12, Emerson Baker, professor of history at Salem State University, discusses work and life in 17th century Salem to celebrate The House of the Seven Gables’ new exhibition, “Life and Labor Over Four Centuries at The House of the Seven Gables.”
The lecture begins at 6 p.m. at The Gables’ Visitor Center, 115 Derby Street, in Salem, Massachusetts. This event is free to members and $7 for nonmembers. Those interested may visit www.7Gables.org/events to RSVP online or call 978-744-0991, ext. 152. Support for this event comes from the Salem Cultural Council and Mass Humanities.
Baker has found a fascinating window into the labor-intensive lives of Salem’s early colonists. “Probate inventories can be an amazing glimpse into daily life and material culture in early America,” he writes. He and Erin Rydren compiled and published three volumes of Essex Country probate records dating from 1635 to 1681. The volumes contain hundreds of wills and inventories. Listed in the 1648 inventory of John Balch’s estate are items like 210 acres of farmland, 9 acres of wheat, 2 acres of barley, 5 yokes of oxen, steer, cows and heffers, fruit tree orchards, over 50 yards of cloth, bushels of corn and malt, hides, tools, pots and pans, a hog, a canoe and two muskets, among other items. Everything listed in this inventory requires an unceasing investment of both hard and skilled labor. A mention of “several books” is the closest thing hinting at leisure activity.
Emerson “Tad” Baker is the award-winning author of many works on the history of and archaeology of early Maine and New England, including “A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience.” He has served as an advisor for PBS-TV’s American Experience and Colonial House. Baker is a member of the Gallows Hill Project team who recently confirmed the witch trials execution site. He regularly tweets on the Salem witch trials and early New England history at @EmersonWBaker.
After Wednesday’s event, Professor Baker will sign copies of his books.
About The House of the Seven Gable Settlement Association
The mission of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association is to preserve its National Historic Landmark and leverage its power as an icon of American culture to engage diverse audiences and provide education opportunities for the local immigrant community. For more information visit www.7gables.org.
In 2017 The House of the Seven Gables focuses on life and labor over four centuries on the historic museum campus. Special programming includes an interactive exhibition, lectures, conversations and family programming. All programs are designed to share the history of work using The House of the Seven Gables as a model for both ordinary and extraordinary jobs.