Halloween in Spring: A Series. "The Witch City" and Souvenirs

"The Witch of Salem, MA." Lithographic postcard, c. 1892-1900.

NOTE: This series, "Halloween in the Spring," is based on the posts I wrote for my Halloween 2020 Take-Over of AHNCA's (Art Historians of Nineteenth Century Art) social media accounts. It's a jolly bit of writing and the inspiration for this blog. I've left the posts almost identical to the originals to preserve the rollicking tone; however, I've added links to the original sources, museum websites, or other information you, dear reader, might find interesting. Without further ado, it's time to celebrate Halloween in the springtime!

If you’ve ever been to Salem, MA, you know that the image of the pointed-hat, broom-riding witch is on everything from the official Police Department patches to kitschy souvenirs for tourists. Even the mascot of the local high school in Salem is a witch! These days Salem, MA is synonymous with modern day Witchcraft and Paganism, the 1692 Witch Trials, and witchy commercialism and tourism. However, this wasn’t always the case.

After the Witch hysteria, many of the judges who sat for the trials either showed remorse for their involvement or shifted the blame to others. One judge, John Hathorne (1641-1717) showed no remorse at all, causing his great-grandson, Nathanial Hawthorne to add the "w" to his name in an attempt to disassociate himself from his family’s involvement. The city, itself, tried to bury its past and move on from this dark period in its history.

People’s interest in the Witch Trials and Salem never really disappeared. It was Charles W. Upham’s 1867 history of the subject, "Salem Witchcraft," that made Salem a witchy tourist destination. The 1892 Bicentennial of the Witch Trials sealed Salem’s fate of being "The Witch City." 

Salem Witch Spoons

Of course, all good tourist destinations need good souvenirs. That’s where Daniel Low, a silversmith who had a shop on Essex Street, comes in. After a trip to Germany where he encountered collectable spoons, Low returned to Salem to create its first witch-themed souvenir in 1891: the Witch Spoon. 

The first pattern is a simple design consisting of a witch and three pins. The pins refer to the accounts given by the victims of the "witches" during the 1692 trials. In 1892, Low started to sell a second Witch Spoon. This design is much more intricate. The handle of the spoon is a witch’s broom with the three aforementioned pins. An arching cat is perched on the bowl of the spoon and "Salem 1692" marks the year. 

Salem Witch Plate

The success of the spoons prompted Low to design collectable, flow-blue souvenir plates featuring the Salem Witch in 1900. These plates were produced in England and imported by Low to sell in his shop.

Salem Witch Plate

Salem Witch Spoons. Retrieved from https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/daniel-low-salem-witch-spoons-lot-1871605499
Salem Witch Plate. Retrieved from https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/salem-witch-daniel-low-flowing-blue-1835509922
Salem Witch Plate. Retrieved from https://streetsofsalem.com/2011/01/27/a-succession-of-souvenir-plates/
Upham, Charles W. Salem Witchcraft, With an Account of Salem Village and a History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Subjects, Volumes I-II. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1978 (originally published in 1867).

Comments

  1. Interesting factoid about Nathaniel Hawthorne -- I did not know that! And I bet those vintage witch spoons and plates are worth a fortune to collectors now!

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    1. The spoons are really hard to get. I don't think I've ever seen them before in any of the antique shops in the area. I've seen the later plate a few times, but never checked the price. I'll have to keep an eye out. I would KILL for the later spoon!

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  2. Multiple gasps were exhaled over those magnificent spoons. One cannot help but secretly wish that someone would obtain the rights (if applicable still) to reproduce them today (clearly selling them as repro items, of course).

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

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