New Digital Collection Honors Centennial of Great Salem Fire, June 25, 1914

Neg # 32787

Start of the conflagration - the Korn Leather Factory, Boston Street

On June 25, 1914, a fire alarm sounded at 1:37 p.m.  An explosion had occurred at the Korn Leather Factory on Boston Street in Blubber Hollow, the leather district in Salem, Massachusetts.  Chemicals used to create the tip finish, a varnish used to shine patent leather, exploded causing a catastrophic fire to spread through the city.  Although some of the tanneries were sprinklered, the wooden structures could not withstand the heat created by the fire and much of the leather district was destroyed.  When the alarm sounded, only nine firemen were on duty; they responded as quickly as they could with a variety of firefighting equipment – steamer engines, hose wagons, and a ladder truck.  A series of additional alarms sounded, bringing the entire department of Salem firefighters to the site of the blaze along with all the remaining firefighting equipment, leaving the rest of the city unprotected.

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Greetings from Pitcairn Island!

Leaf paintings from the Pitcairn Islands

Here at the Phillips Library we can boast a patron audience of a truly global nature.  Given the unique history of our founding institutions, the Essex Institute and the Peabody Museum of Salem, we have materials and collections from all corners of the world.  This can engender some fascinating requests made through our various reference outlets.  Recently, we received a request from a patron from the remote island of Pitcairn in the South Pacific.  Read more

Processing the Pingree Family Papers

Gardner-Pringree House (Photo by Walter Silver)

This past fall, I started a new project at the Phillips Library, processing the Pingree Family Papers.  I had vaguely heard of the Pingree family before, and I needed to begin working with the collection, which included over 420 linear feet of volumes, document boxes, and cartons, dating from 1794 to the second half of the 20th century (I’ve yet to get to the more modern papers).  To start I had to familiarize myself with the family.

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