The Salem Marine Society was founded by local sea captains in 1766 to raise funds and provide aid to disabled and elderly members and their families, promote knowledge of the Salem coast, and to share ways to make navigation safer.
One of the most notable members of the Society was Nathaniel Bowditch, who published The New American Practical Navigator in 1802 after discovering upwards of 8,000 errors in British navigational tables. His work has been translated into dozens of languages since then and is still used aboard naval vessels today.
In addition to recognizing the importance of “The Bowditch,” the Society has published two works themselves: A History of the Marine Society at Salem, and Portraits of the Marine Society at Salem in New England. Copies of both publications are available in the Salem Room of the Salem Public Library and as part of the Phillips Library collection of the Peabody Essex Museum.
Meetings of the Society continue to be held to this day in the Cabin, located on the top floor of the Hawthorne Hotel. Today’s members are a mix of descendants of the original group of captains as well as working mariners. In addition to the Society’s original mission, the group today also works to create scholarships for future mariners as well as support for nearby maritime and historical programs.
The Cabin is not open to the public, however you can learn more about the Cabin and the Society at marinesocietysalem.org.
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