Derby, Elias Hasket

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Elias Hasket Derby (1739-99) was known as "King" Derby. He was the fourth of seven children of Richard and Mary (Hodges) Derby. Though he never went to sea himself, he was a successful merchant, his sea vessels going to new trading ports such as the Philipines, Russia, India, Africa and the East Indies.

Derby's ship the "Grant Turk" reached Canton China in 1786, making it the third American ship to go to China. Known as America's first millionaire, he wasn't afraid to take chances. He used innovative ideas such as using a "supercargo" or seagoing agent, to relieve the sea captain of the commercial concerns of the voyage.

From the Revolutionary War until his death in 1799, Derby's vessels made more that 330 voyages, employing 100 sea captains for his vessels. He was known to treat his sailors better than was average, providing fresh vegetables on voyages, and he never trafficked in the slave trade. During the course of the war, Derby sent out more than half of the 158 privateers that sailed from Salem. He made a vast fortune, because under the privateering system, the spoils belong to the capturing vessel.

After marrying Elizabeth Crowninshield, they lived in the brick Derby House built by his father in 1762. They began building the adjacent Hawkes house about 1780, but abandoned it before it was completed. Instead, they renovated a mansion on School, now Washington Street. Their final residence was the magnificent house called the Derby Mansion in the heart of Salem (near the present Old Town Hall) built in 1795 from Samuel McIntire plans. Sadly, it was razed by his son after his death.

On Aug. 16th, 1989, the National Park Service put on a celebration to celebrate Derby's birth 250 years before. There were various events, such as a costumed reenactment of the return of Derby's ship, Astrea. There were also tours of Derby's house, 18th century children's games, horse-and buggy rides and an evening concert at 18th century at the House of Seven Gables.

See Also

  • Vertical File in Salem Collection - Elias H. Derby
  • "A priceless contribution: man considered first millionaire was key to Salem's rise" Salem Evening News, July 28, 1999, p. 3
  • "The days of Old King Derby" Salem Evening News, Aug. 16, 1989, p. 11
  • "Special events mark Derby's 250th birthday" Salem Evening News, Aug. 16, 1989, p. 13
  • "Boarding Party: Well-wishers in 18th century costume greet the brig Glad Tidings" Salem Evening News, Aug. 17, 1989, p.1
  • "Salem merchant became America's first millionaire" Salem Evening News, Aug. 16, 1989. p.11
  • "McIntire mansion overshadowed Old Town Hall" Salem Evening News, Aug. 15, 2001, p. A3