Northshore Magazine

November 2014

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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Page 211 of 259

210 Carnes, however, survived and brought his secret home to Salem. He confided in his uncle, a prominent local merchant, who set about building a ship to take advantage of his nephew's potentially lucrative findings, according to The Scents of Eden: A Narrative of the Spice Trade, by Charles Corn. Five years after he returned from his first trip to Sumatra, Carnes again set sail. The journey took 20 months; after 18 months passed with no word from the Ra- jah, the folks in Salem feared the ship lost. Carnes, however, was simply biding his time in Sumatra, waiting for another pep- per harvest to roll around so he could sail home with a full hold. In July 1797, Carnes returned to Salem with 150,000 pounds of pepper, which was quickly sold for a profit of 700 percent. "It didn't go unnoticed, and so a lot of other captains jumped on board," says David Bowie, owner of Salem Spice at The Picklepot. The city's merchants and mariners quickly began laying their own plans to seek out pepper in the Far East. Carnes made just two more journeys to Sumatra photographs by elise donoghue before competing captains discovered his sources. The Salem pepper trade was officially under way. In the decades that followed, pepper became the heart of Salem's culture and commerce. In 1805 alone, Salem ships exported some seven million pounds of pepper. The city's growing wealth was apparent in the stately Georgian- and Federal-style mansions that were built in the period, many of which survive today, especially along Chestnut Street, Scalia says. The benefits of the pepper trade, how- ever, went beyond the commercial. The Salem of the early 19th century was full of young men who had seen the world and returned with wonderful tales of foreign lands. The Salem Athenaeum and the Sa- lem Lyceum Society were founded during this period, as well. "You can imagine that kind of cultural exchange, how broad that atmosphere was," Scalia says. When Carnes returned from his third journey to Sumatra, in 1799, he brought with him a collection of exotic artifacts including large oyster shells, an el- ephant's tooth, gold-plated boxes, and a two-stemmed pipe. These items inspired the newly established East India Marine Society to create a curio cabinet to exhibit items from the Far East. Over the next 200 years, the society grew, merged with other organizations, and added to its col- lection of artifacts and documents, even- tually becoming the renowned Peabody Essex Museum. Salem's spectacular success was not without risks, however. As the trade grew, so did the dangers. "These people were absolutely willing to do anything they needed to do to get the upper hand," McAllister says. With American ships pouring into Suma- Oral History Left, Karen Scalia tells of Salem's spice trade on her Salem Food Tours. Above, The Friendship in Salem Harbor. Right, David Bowie is a local spice guru.

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