Salem, Massachusetts, the seat of Essex County. It is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the United States. Salem is located on an arm of Massachusetts Bay, 16 miles (26 km) northeast of Boston. Electronic components, leather goods, and machinery are manufactured in Salem.
Many of Salem's historic structures have been preserved. One of the oldest is the Witch House (1642), so called because several persons accused of witchcraft in the 17th century were questioned there. Also of note is the House of Seven Gables (1668), the setting for Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel of the same name. (Hawthorne was born and grew up in Salem.) In the days of Salem's maritime glory, wealthy merchants and shipmasters built palatial homes. A number of these homes remain; many are outstanding examples of Federal architecture.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site includes Derby House and Derby Wharf (built in the 1760's) and the Custom House (1819) where Hawthorne once worked as port surveyor. The Peabody and Essex Museum has notable historical exhibits and reference libraries.
Salem has the mayor-council form of government.
Roger Conant led a group of Puritans from Cape Ann to the site in 1626. The settlement was called by its Indian name, Naumkeag, until 1630, when it was chartered as Salem. That year it became the first settlement of the newly established Massachusetts Bay Colony. From the beginning, fishing and shipping were the chief industries. In the late 17th century, Salem and nearby Salem Village (now Danvers) became the center of a witchcraft hysteria that swept New England. .)
In the 18th century, overseas trade developed, first with the West Indies, later with China and India. By the end of the Revolutionary War, Salem was an important world port, headquarters for many prosperous merchants and shipmasters. It was incorporated as a city in 1836. When its shipping trade began to decline in the mid-19th century, Salem turned to manufacturing.