Salem Firsts

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  • The first ice cream cones in New England were made at the E.W. Hobbs stand at the Salem Willows.
  • The first elephant to step foot in America, nicknamed the Stoned Elephant
  • Capt. William Driver of Salem was the first to call the American flag "Old Glory."
  • The first recorded autopsy was done in Salem on September 1639.
  • The country's first insurance actuary was Salem mathematician, astronomer and navigator Nathaniel Bowditch.
  • First brick kiln was established in 1629.
  • The first potter was John Pride who in 1641 had permission from the General Court to dig 'tyle earth' or clay to make sale ware.
  • Salem sent the first American missionaries to a foreign country when Ann and Adoniram Judson set sail to India in February 1812. For more see First Baptist Church and the Tabernacle Church entries.
  • The first playground in America was built in 1904, either at the end of Turner or Broad Street, by Christian Lantz.
  • The Salem Fraternity Boys Club was the first boys club in the country. Started in 1869, it is now known as the Boys and Girls Club of greater Salem.
  • Joseph Dixon started the first lead pencil factory in Salem in 1824.
  • First Fire Alarm System (electric) patented by M. G. Farmer on May 19, 1857.
  • The country's first candy company opened in Salem in 1806, selling "Gibralters"
  • Salem merchant Elias "King" Derby became the country's first millionaire.
  • The first yacht was built in Salem, called "Jefferson" in 1801 and owned by Capt. George Crowninshield, Jr.
  • The first American sea-going yacht was launched from the docks of Salem in 1816 when Capt. George Crowninshield sailed Cleopatra's Barge to sea.
  • Salem sisters Elizabeth and Mary Peabody opened the first kindergarten in America in 1861.
  • On Feb. 12, 1877, Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated an invention called the telephone at Lyceum Hall.The Boston Globe's Salem reporter became the first to use the phone to call in a story.
  • Alexander Graham Bell received the first telephone patent on Mar. 7, 1876.
  • The first blood was shed in America's War of Independence was at Leslie's retreat on Feb. 26, 1776.
  • The first X-ray machine was developed in 1898 by Frank Balch who lived on Essex Street in Salem.
  • Charlotte Forten was the first black graduate of Salem Normal School (now Salem State College).
  • Pioneer Village, a re-creation of Salem in the 1630's was the first outdoor museum in the United States.
  • Anne Bradstreet, who lived in Salem in the 1600's, became the first woman poet in America and published the first book of poetry in the New World.

See Also

Vertical File in Salem Collection - Firsts, Salem

"At last a look at Salem's many first" Salem Evening News, Oct. 7, 1988, p.9

"Ideas for when guests drop in: Salem has its share of "firsts" Salem Evening News, June 18,1993 p. 10A