Giovanni Alabiso

Salem’s Great Age of Sail

Salem begins in 1626 as a fishing village and grows into a dominant seaport after the American Revolution. By the early 1800s, Salem is arguably the richest seaport in the United States with wealth in today’s dollars that exceed $150 billion. Elias Hasket Derby Sr. becomes the country’s first millionaire in 1793 and his wealth today would be worth $30 Billion. Salem ships are sailing around the world and the logo of the city is “Divitis Indiae usque sinum,” which translates to “To the farthest port of the rich east.” However, the city truly fails to recover after the War of 1812 with England. Tariffs, a self embargo, a shallow harbor, and westward expansion of the US all contribute to a slow decline. By 1845, the Great Age of Sail is over. Oh, but what a ride it was.

[Recorded August 13, 2022.]

Giovanni Alabiso, is President/Owner of Salem Historical Tours, Inc., in Salem, Massachusetts (

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