"in the days of old King Derby"
Elias Hasket Derby (c.1800-25)
Public DomainElias Hasket Derby (c.1800-25) - Credit: James Frothingham

Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799) was a powerful shipping magnate who dominated Salem’s commercial life during the post-Revolutionary period. Having inherited his father’s fortune and maritime business, Derby rose to become the biggest privateer owner in Salem during the Revolutionary War. In the years that followed, he expanded Richard Derby's trading empire to the cover the entire globe, becoming the first American to establish trade links with the Baltic and Asia. With his tremendous foresight and unerring instinct for picking the right men for the job, he soon developed an enterprise mighty enough to pose a serious threat to the hegemonies of maritime suzerains the British, Dutch, French and Swedish East India Companies. The nickname ‘King Derby’ comes from the fact that he is known as America’s first millionaire, although there are several other contenders for this title. Though several recent books have casually assumed this to be the name by which he was either revered or sarcastically denigrated during his lifetime, Hawthorne in fact seems to be its originator.