Farmers, Fishermen, and Distillers: Essex County’s Place in the History of Rum

Jordan Smith

© 2006 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo Mark Sexton

More than 200 years before the Samuel Adams brewery put Massachusetts at the forefront of America’s beer revolution, the colony was one of the leading producers of another alcohol: rum. Historian John McCusker estimates that in 1770 there were 51 rum distilleries operating in Massachusetts, collectively distilling over two million gallons of the spirit per year. Indeed, when Samuel Adams and his cronies began to plan their resistance to the Tea Act in 1773, they purportedly shared a bowl of rum punch—not beer. Read more

Logbooks as Art

The Peabody Essex Museum has its origins in the East India Marine Society. In 1799, twenty Salem, Massachusetts ship captains and supercargoes that had sailed around the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn formed a society and one of the stipulations for membership was that they keep a log of their journey, recording wind, weather, ship sightings, and other points of interest. The Phillips Library now owns almost 3,000 of these ship logs, dating from 1748 to the mid-1900s.

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