Juniors Take a Field Trip to Salem

The Custom House at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site

National Parks Service

The Custom House at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site

After reading Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the juniors took a field trip down to Salem to see the history in person. Set in Puritan times, Hawthorne references Salem as “the inevitable centre of the universe” for him. We visited the Custom House itself, the very place where Hawthorne got the idea for the book. He describes the eagle carved out of wood resting on top of that building: “Over the entrance hovers an enormous specimen of the 

Park ranger gives a talk about slavery in Salem (Mrs. Whitlock)

American eagle, with outspread wings, a shield before her breast, and, if I recollect aright, a bunch of intermingled thunderbolts and barbed arrows in each claw.” This field trip let the juniors experience Hawthorne’s sentiment first hand, and walk where he walked for a day.

First, we stopped at the Custom House and learned about the history of slavery in Salem. Contrary to the simplified notion that slavery was more of a southern practice than northern, a National Park Service ranger provided many primary documents revealing the reality that it was just as prevalent in the North. Caroline Shannahan ’23 said: “I learned a lot about the complex history of Salem and slavery in Salem, which I never knew was as big as it was.”

After that, we visited the Peabody Essex Museum which houses historical documents on the Salem Witch Trials, artifacts from trade with foreign countries, and American art. We filled out a fun

Carved tusk and stand, given by Houqua II to Abiel Abbot Low (commons.wikimidea.org)

questionnaire while walking from room to room written by 11th grade history teacher Dr. Michel. With questions like — ‘Which document had the messiest/neatest handwriting?’ and ‘What was the quirkiest artifact?’ — each group had fun wandering the museum. My favorite artifact, and many others too, was an elephant tusk carved with an intricate web of miniature buildings and people from China.

Then, we walked to the House of Seven Gables, where Nathaniel Hawthorne grew up. A digital tour guided us through each house, and we marveled at both the beautiful scenery and the preserved history within the hour of our visit. Theresa Marcucci ’23 said: “It was really interesting to see in person what we had read about and experience it by walking through it and learning about it.”

With a few minutes to spare, we explored some nearby stores which had candy, coffee, and ice cream— the three things Montrosians love most. Tori Morris ’23 said: “I liked the ice cream and seeing Salem alive with all the people!”

Anna Hvidsten ’23 loved another aspect of the field trip: the bus ride. She said: “My favorite part was when Mrs Whitlock made us sit with someone we didn’t know… With such a small class, it can sometimes feel like there’s a pressure to be close with everyone. It was nice that we acknowledged that we don’t know everyone… I had fun getting to know all about Min Park ’23 on the way there.”

Juniors walk around the House of Seven Gables. (Mrs. Whitlock)

On the ride back, of course, many dozed off. I don’t know what it is about buses but they make people fall asleep. Calista Rijo ’23 said: “I liked taking a nap on the bus ride home.” Smart move. Missed opportunity to catch up on your sleep schedule, in my opinion.

Overall, I think the whole class enjoyed the day both as a bonding trip and a learning experience. 


Elyza Tuan ‘23, Co-Assistant Editor-in-Chief