Salem, the county seat of Essex, Massachusetts, was settled in 1626 by Puritan pilgrims who named it for the Hebrew word for peace, shalom. Ideally located on the edge of Massachusetts Bay, by the end of the eighteenth century it had become the wealthiest trading port in America. Salem merchants dealt in luxuries, importing lacquered furniture, indigo, textiles and spices from the Far East, and molasses from the West Indies for the highly lucrative purpose of manufacturing rum. Export ships carried dried fish, lumber, cotton, tobacco and beef all around the world. Salem’s maritime fortunes were brought an abrupt halt by the Embargo Act of 1807, which vetoed any vessel traveling to a foreign port, and by the War of 1812 against the British. During the nineteenth century, it increasingly turned to industry as a means of generating wealth and, as the tanneries, shoe manufacturers and cotton companies gained in stature, the wharves slipped into the decline Hawthorne describes here.