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Farmers and Fishermen: Work in Essex County, 1650-1850
Resources & Links

Theme: An Industrious People: American Economic History
Topic: Farmers and Fishermen: Work in Essex County, 1650-1850
Date: March 16, 2006

Annotated Bibliography | Websites and Local Museums/Archives

Resources & Links compiled and annotated by SALEM in History staff, with additions by Emerson Baker, PhD, History Department, Salem State College

Annotated Bibliography

Books & Articles

Allen, David Grayson. In English Ways: The Movement of Societies and the Transferal of English Local Law and Custom to Massachusetts Bay in the Seventeenth Century. Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1981.

Influential book in which Allen focuses closely on five Massachusetts towns and argues that in the seventeenth century colonists did not transform English ways of life as much as they transplanted them intact. The diversity of experiences in each of his study-towns reflects the diversity of the regions in England that each group of colonists had called home. Agricultural practices receive a great deal of attention in this book.

Bailyn, Bernard. The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955.

Written by one of the foremost colonial historians, this remains the classic account of Puritan business and economics.

Battick, John F. "A Survey of Primary Sources for the Social and Economic History of Seafaring Communities in Maine." Maine Historical Society Quarterly 1985 24(4): 394400.

Although this article is on conducting research in Maine, many of the same primary sources are available and useful for similar research in Essex County: census schedules, annual assessors' books, probate and vital records, business directories for larger communities, and private papers and business records.

Brown, Richard D. "Farm Labor in Southern New England During the Agricultural-Industrial Transition." Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 1989 99(1): 113-119.

"Farm laborers have generally been forgotten in social and economic studies of early-19th-century New England. The long period of agricultural decline during these years perhaps explains this neglect, but new studies of farming enterprises reveal fresh insights into changes occurring throughout New England." American History & Life.

Donahue, Brian. "The Environmental Stewardship and Decline in Old New England." Journal of the Early Republic 200424(2): 234-241.

"The author calls for a more nuanced approach to the grand narrative of environmental history that tells the story of the rise of the market economy and resulting environmental decline as a catalyst for the conservation movement. In Concord, Massachusetts, colonial farmers followed traditional husbandry practices, maintaining productive family farms and woodlands through the 1820's. The market revolution and the shift to commercial farming, with its emphasis on agricultural productivity, rather than sustainability led to a more exploitative approach to farming in long-settled areas of New England as well as the frontier and eventually resulted in the environmental crisis described by Henry David Thoreau." - American History & Life

Essex Institute Historical Collections.

An unparalleled resource of primary. source materials and interpretation, covering life in Essex County. Available at the Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

Kulikoff, Allan. The Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992.

---. From British Peasants to Colonial American Farmers. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

These two books by Allan Kulkoff examine the roots of American capitalism by looking at the nation's agricultural economy from colonial times. His first book, a collection of essays, examines the two perspectives: economic historians have argued that colonists brought tenants of capitalism from England, and social historians have argued that colonial farmers remained fundamentally communal. In his second book, Kulkoff attempts a synthesis of these two ideas with a close examination of the lives of colonial farmers.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1921.

A classic on the topic. A great range of data included.

Perley, Sidney. The History of Salem, Massachusetts. Salem, 1924-28.

This three-volume set has very detailed information on early Salem and its residents.

Rothenberg, Winifred Barr. "The Invention of American Capitalism: The Economy of New England in the Federal Period" Temin, Peter ed. Engines of Enterprise: An Economic History of New England. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Places specific changes in New England into a broader discussion of the economic revolution that took place in New England in the same years as the American Revolution. Discusses the growth of markets in the early national period and explores the ways in which they established the basis for even greater growth in the years to come. Highlights the transition of people from jacks-of-all-trades to specialists and participants in a market economy.

Rosivach, Vincent J. "Agricultural Slavery in the Northern Colonies and in Classical Athens: Some Comparisons." Comparative Studies in Society and History 1993 35(3): 551-567.

"Compares the agricultural slavery of Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries BC to the slavery of the New England colonies in the latter half of the 18th century to show that slavery is not incompatible with small-scale subsistence farming Or independent peasantry in a democratic environment. The two cases of slavery are similar in that both involved agricultural activities that were not economies-of-scale and that could have been performed without slavery, as opposed to the plantations of the South." - American History & Life.

Russell, Howard S. A Long, Deep Furrow: Three Centuries of Farming in New England. Hanover: University Press of New England: 1976.

The author examines the diversity of farming in New England over more than 300 years and how farmers have adapted to agricultural changes and rural development. Written for a general reader, it includes photographs and illustrations and a detailed bibliography.

Schwartz, Amy D. "Colonial New England Agriculture: Old Visions, New Directions." Agricultural History 1995 69(3): 454-481.

"Though colonial New England history has seen a flowering since the 1960's, the agriculture of the period and region continues to be virtually ignored. The few historians who have addressed it are divided between those who emphasize its acquisitive nature and those who emphasize the subsistence agriculture of utopian, pre-capitalist communities. New approaches to history can enhance an understanding of the period by investigating such aspects as land settlement patterns and speculation, agricultural crops and methods, farm labor and gender roles, agricultural trade, farming communities, climate change, colonial diets, and relations between natives and settlers." - American History & Life

Thompson, Thomas C. "The Life Course and Labor of a Colonial Farmer." Historical New Hampshire 1985 40(3-4): 135-155.

"In the debate over whether or not farmers in colonial New England were self-sufficient, few historians have looked at how farmers actually spent their time. Matthew Patten of Bedford, New Hampshire, kept a diary during 1754-88 that reveals farming accounted for less than one-third of his time. Community affairs absorbed more than one-third, while hunting, fishing, and carpentry accounted for 15%. Patten spent about two-thirds of his time off the farm. By the 1770's Patten's sons took over much of the farm work, allowing him more time for community affairs." - American History & Life.

Vickers, Daniel. "'A Knowen [sic] and Staple Commoditie[sic]’: Codfish Prices in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1640-1775." Essex Institute Historical Collections 1988 124(3): 186-203.

"Dried codfish was a major product of Essex County, Massachusetts, and an important Spanish import in the 17th and 18th centuries. The author compiles and presents data on cod prices in New England and Spain and sugar prices in London between 1640 and 1775. Price fluctuations reflect broad economic and political conditions as well as changes in the fishing industry." - American History & Life.

Whitehill, Walter Muir; Garrett, Mrs. Wendell. "A Bibliography of New England." New England Quarterly 1966 39(1): 125-142.

"A bibliography of articles published during 1965 which relate to the various aspects of New England life, though articles printed in the New England Quarterly are excluded. The bibliography is divided into nine categories: General, Colonial, Revolution, National, Maritime History, Religious History, Fine Arts and Architecture, Household and Minor Arts, and Literature." - American History & Life.

Wood, Joseph S. "New England's Exceptionalist Tradition: Rethinking the Colonial Encounter with the Land." Connecticut History 1994 35(1): 147-191.

"Contrary to the exceptionalist tradition, according to which early English immigrants battled to convert a desert wilderness into a garden, the English farming, land division, and settlement-methods employed by early settlers were well-suited to the American environment, which was already a rich agricultural region." - American History & Life.

Zboray, Ronald J. and Mary Saracino Zboray. "The Romance of Fisherwomen in Antebellum New England." American Studies (Lawrence, KS) 199839(1): 5-30.

"Fishing was a common theme in published fiction and private writings in the 1840's, especially in stories of love and courtship... The author analyzes antebellum diaries and fiction that used the fisherwoman character to confront Victorian notions of love and courtship. These "fisher women stories" often tried to recreate a sense of traditionalism and community in the face of New England's economic transformation and the accompanying cultural disarray." -American History & Life

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Websites & Local Museums/Archives

Beverly Historical Society & Museum

Runs three historic house museums in Beverly: Balch House, Cabot House and the Hale. Offers educational programs. Research library has farm books, records, photographs, and-newspapers relating to Beverly and Essex County.

Cape Ann Historical Museum

Located in America's oldest fishing port in Gloucester, MA, the museum collects and exhibits artifacts relating to the fishing and maritime industries of Cape Ann, as well as fine and decorative arts. The museum offers educational programs for students and the library and archives are open to researchers by appointment.

Colonial House

This is the site for the PBS reality series set in New England in 1628. The site includes a section for teachers with lesson plans and classroom activities keyed to the series.

Common-place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life

Covering topics related to the history and culture of early America (through 1900), this online journal and meeting place for ideas and scholarship was created to bridge the gap between what academic historians write and what the public wants to read, Common-place brings together historians and history buffs, high school teachers and archivists, collectors and college students, to explore and exchange ideas about American history." Its tone is a bit less scholarly than a traditional journal, but the content no less stimulating or professional (Note that the Editorial Board is made up of some of the most renowned historians of Early America). Includes feature articles, reviews, curriculum ideas, explorations of objects and artifacts, and a discussion board serving a wide range of interests and needs among Early Americanists in K-12 schools, museums, archives and universities. Focus is on the "common-place" or "ordinary" in early America, so not much about great men and Presidents, but rather about ordinary men and women and their world. No digital archives here, but simply one of the best places to go for up-to-date and engaging writing and conversation about pre-1900 America. Great for teachers: In each edition, the "Common School" section of site offers an example and detailed. discussion of a classroom teaching experience using primary source material.

Early Essex County Probate Inventories
Emerson Baker, Salem State College

Salem State College Professor Emerson Baker's website includes transcriptions of early Essex County probate inventories.

Essex National Heritage Commission

The ENHC's mission is to foster partnerships and educational opportunities that enhance, preserve and promote the heritage of Essex County. The website offers educators a host of information about activities and educational resources (including educational programs) at the numerous historic and cultural sites throughout the county which preserve and interpret Essex County's heritage from pre-contact to the 20th century. The "Educator's Resource Guide" section of the site allows teachers to search for programs and sites directly applicable to the curriculum frameworks at his or her grade level. This section also includes a rich selected bibliography of secondary sources related to the history and culture of Essex County, keyed to five themes: Early Settlement, Maritime, Arts and Literature, Environment, and Industrial.

Essex Shipbuilding Museum

The museum preserves and interprets the history of the shipbuilding industry in MA from the 18th to 20th centuries. The collections include voyage logs, journals, historic tools and more than 3,000 photographs of people and vessels. The museum offers boatbuilding demonstrations, educational programs for students and workshops for teachers.

Historic Cost-of-Living Calculator

Calculate the purchasing power of money in any year from 1665 to 2003.

Historic New England

The "Resource Center" portion of the Historic New England website includes links to educational resources and Historic New England properties with collections relating to colonial New England.

Little Farm

Historic site (National Historic Landmark) teaches about life on a New England farm over three centuries. Many opportunities for experiential learning. Part of Historic New England (

National Archives and Records Administration, Northeast Region

Information on programs for educators and historians on doing research in the federal records held by NARA. Also includes changing online exhibits highlighting particular historic records in their collections.

Office of Coast Survey's Historical Map & Chart Collection
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This is an amazing collection of more than 20,000 nautical maps and charts dating from 1665 through 2001. The maps have been digitized and are interactive, i.e. users pan or zoom on the maps. Maps can be searched by date or location and downloaded from the website for free.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site
National Park Service

A first stop for information, history and programs related to Salem, New England and United States maritime history from the colonial era through the mid 19th century. Salem Maritime National Historic Site preserves and interprets that history with emphasis on the triangular trade, the era of privateering, and the growing international trade with the Far East in the years of the Early Republic. The activities of this last period helped secure American economic independence after the Revolutionary war. See for virtual tour of Salem Maritime NHS and research briefs on topics relating to Salem's maritime history.

Seventeenth Century Colonial New England

A compilation of a multitude of links relating to colonial New England, including images, teaching material and museums.

Southern Essex District Registry of Deeds Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The website of the Registry of Deeds has digital versions of historic property deeds from 1641 to 1709 (although, unfortunately, not the indices). The website also includes information on conducting research at the Registry of Deeds, located on Federal Street in Salem.

The Cartographic Creation of New England
University of Southern Maine

This is part of the University of Southern Maine Cartographic library, a great resource for early New England maps. Includes ideas for teaching with maps, as well as some lesson plans and activities.

U.S. Historical Census Data Browser

A wonderful resource for finding state and county data. Useful for tracking the population and economic history of the United States. Data is provided for the years 1790 - 1960 and is searchable by a wide range of variables. Some data sets can be displayed in map form, and information can be compared across years. Also valuable as a window into the changes in census data categories. A link to information on the history of the census is included on this website. Note: this site does not provide information about individuals.

Young Men and the Sea Database
Maritime History Archive

This section of the Maritime History Archive ( at the University of Newfoundland includes four of the databases used by Daniel Vickers in writing his book Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail. They include data on more than 5000 Salem mariners from 1641 to 1850. Users can search databases of voyages and Salem tax lists for information on individual mariners or query the databases for cumulative information. (This is the database that Daniel Vickers demonstrated during the Farmers & Fishermen content session.)

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Compiled and annotated by SALEM in History staff


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