“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Salem in Essex County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)

Derby Wharf

Derby Wharf Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, July 1, 2015
1. Derby Wharf Marker
Inscription.  The wharf in front of you was Salem’s longest, and was once one of the busiest in the nation. The first 800 feet of the wharf was begun in 1762 and completed about 1770 by Capt. Richard Derby, Sr. (1712-1783), one of the wealthiest merchants in pre-revolutionary Salem, and his son Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799). During the War of Independence, American privateers sailed from here to prey on British ships on the high seas.

After the war, Hasket inherited much of his father’s property, and his fleet of trading vessels sailed to the Far East and other international ports, bringing wealth to Salem and its merchants. Cargoes were stored in spacious three-story warehouses built on the wharf.

In 1806 Elias Hasket Derby’s heirs completed a 1300 foot extension to the wharf, and throughout the 19th century exotic luxury items from Asia as well as raw materials for Salem’s growing industries continued to be unloaded onto the wharf. At the end of the 19th century, railroad tracks were laid on Derby Wharf so that vessels could unload cargo directly into railroad cars for transportation inland.

I remember now the queer spicy indescribable
Derby Wharf Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, July 1, 2015
2. Derby Wharf Marker
Eastern smell that floated out from those huge warehouses, wherein were stored spoils from every country…”
- Caroline Howard King, When I Lived in Salem, 1822-1866, 1937

This sheet listing wharf fees and regulations was posted here about 1823. Fees for docking were based on the size of the vessel. Wharfage was the fee for storing goods in the warehouses. The wharfinger managed the wharf for its owners, and was responsible for collecting fees and enforcing the rules.

At one time, as many as fifteen warehouses lined Derby Wharf. In addition to cargo storage, many warehouses had workshop space that would be leased to artisans such as riggers, blacksmiths, and coopers. In this 1887 photograph, taken at the end of the age of sail, you can see that one sailmaker still has a workshop on the second floor of the first warehouse on the wharf.
Erected by National Park Service.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Colonial EraIndustry & CommerceWaterways & Vessels.
Location. 42° 31.279′ N, 70° 53.213′ W. Marker is in Salem, Massachusetts, in Essex County. Marker is at the intersection of Derby Street and Orange Street, on the right when traveling east on
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Derby Street. This marker is at Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 177 Derby Street, Salem MA 01970, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Custom House (a few steps from this marker); Privateer Warehouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Derby House (within shouting distance of this marker); Wharves in the Late 1800s (within shouting distance of this marker); Home for Aged Women (within shouting distance of this marker); The Pedrick Store House (within shouting distance of this marker); Central Wharf (within shouting distance of this marker); Salem Maritime National Historic Site (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Salem.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on July 31, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. This page has been viewed 289 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on July 31, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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Feb. 28, 2021