Salem, Ohio was founded by Zadok Street, a clockmaker from New Jersey, and John Straughan (pronounced Strawn), a Pennsylvania potter, on April 30, 1806. The city was named after Salem, NJ, where Zadok Street originally immigrated. The word 'Salem' comes from the word 'Jerusalem' which means 'city of peace' and many of the early townspeople belonged to the Religious Society of Friends, known as the Quakers. Salem was incorporated in 1830.
Salem was a major hub in the American Underground Railroad and was the headquarters for the Ohio American Anti-Slavery Society, later known as the Western Anti-Slavery Society that published THE ANTI-SLAVERY BUGLE. These papers were printed in Salem and are available for research at the Salem Historical Society.
In April 1850, Salem hosted the first Women's Rights Convention in Ohio, the second such convention in the United States.
Over its history, Salem thrived on an industrial-based economy, advantageously located between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. For several decades, the largest corporations located in Salem included American Standard, Eljer, Mullins Manufacturing, Deming Pump, and Salem China.
The Salem Historical Society was formed in 1947, with Roy W. Harris as president.
In December, 1971, W. Ray Pearce donated the first museum, Pearce Building, at 208 South Broadway Avenue in memory of his wife, Elizabeth. The corner brick building, Schell Building, was purchased in 1974 and the two were then connected. In 1979 a meeting room was added in the back of the Schell Building with a grant from the Salem Community Foundation.
Freedom Hall was built in 1987 as a replica of Liberty Hall, a carpenter shop once used by abolitionists to have secret meetings in an upstairs room above the shop.
Our newest addition, The Dale Shaffer Research Library, was the dream of Dale Shaffer, noted Salem historian and author. He helped to plan the design and then left his entire estate to the Historical Society to ensure its construction. It was dedicated August 7, 2012.
Our new shed arrived on July 11, 2019 early in the morning. It was designed to match Freedom Hall and will be used for much needed space.
Half of the shed will be used for Gordon Dunn and his team of grounds keepers. The other half will store large items that we are preserving.
Stop by and see our newest addition and let us know what you think!
Electric trolley waiting for passengers in front of the Pioneer block on Lincoln Avenue at State Street.