Robert Booth and Amy E. Kellett

The Reinvention of Salem and the largest steam-powered cotton-sheeting factory in the United States

A preliminary study of the industrial project by which Salem re-invented itself as a manufacturing center after the collapse of its maritime commerce. In 1846 the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company built the largest steam-powered cotton-sheeting factory in the United States, with huge implications for Salem.

In a matter of two years, its population increased by 600 factory workers and their families, almost all of them in-migrants and immigrants residing in a built-new industrial village. Overnight, the city’s largest and most profitable business changed the course of Salem for the rest of the century. We are studying the business itself (projectors, investors, engineers, overseers) as well as the civic impact of a massive population influx and the origins and experience of the people who built the factory and operated its machinery to produce cotton sheeting, much of it for export to African markets.

Robert Booth

Robert Booth ( | is the Director & Curator of the Manchester, Massachusetts, Historical Museum, a resident of Salem, Massachusetts, and author of several books of history, including the prize-winning Boston Globe best-seller Death of an Empire, about Salem, Massachusetts, 1815–1830, and its demise as an international commercial seaport. He was educated at Harvard and Boston University, and has a sixth book on the way, looking at the people and processes involved in Marblehead’s transition from a disorganized overgrown fishing village into a successful commercial seaport.

Amy E. Kellett

Amy E. Kellett ( is a former historic house guide and university history-department administrator, currently co-founding a public-history services company while also researching and correlating data and imagery related to industrial workers in Salem in the 19th century.

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