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Robert Booth

Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.: Salt Cod, A Female Entrepreneur, the Gilded Age, and more

Manchester, the smallest town in Essex County, supported a population of 900 in 1772 (250 years ago), and was engaged in the province’s largest export industry: Salt Cod. Now nearly forgotten, Salt Cod—a high-protein food that, uniquely, could be widely transported in pre-refrigeration era–was shipped to Spain and the Caribbean. We’ll visit the Manchester Historical Museum, now the only place in Massachusetts exhibiting the equipment of an actual Salt Cod fish-yard, to learn about the industry, its product, and its overseas shipment from our host, Robert Booth, Director & Curator of the Museum.

He’ll also tell the fascinating history of the Museum’s 1823 home, the Abigail Hooper Trask House, and the self-made businesswoman who had it built for herself at a time when few, if any, single women had the wherewithal to build their own houses.

And we’ll learn how later, during the Gilded Age, the town became a summer playground for the super-rich and well-connected—so much so that Manchester-by-the-Sea was also home to several foreign embassies!

Robert Booth

Robert Booth (bodjo71@gmail.com | director@manchesterhistoricalmuseum.org) 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.