Salem State University Frederick E. Berry Library Acquires Salem Savings Bank Records | Salem State University Skip to main content

Salem State University Frederick E. Berry Library Acquires Salem Savings Bank Records

Collection includes bank ledgers, documents and correspondence dating from bank’s founding in 1818 including documentation of first savings account


Salem State University’s Berry Library has acquired the Salem Savings Bank archive, which includes hand-written bank ledgers, correspondence, and other records that span over 100 years from the bank’s founding in 1818 through the early 20th century. The archive also includes records of other Salem Banks that shared a building with Salem Savings Bank in the 19th century.

The collection has been donated to the Berry Library by local developer Bob Dunham, owner of the building that formerly housed the Salem Savings Bank. The acquisition of this collection aligns with Salem State University Library's commitment to preserving and providing access to the historical records of Salem and Essex County with special emphasis on 19th and 20th centuries.

The Salem Savings Bank was founded officially in 1818 as the Institution for Savings for the Town of Salem and was only the second incorporated savings bank in the country. Now known as Eastern Bank, it is the oldest mutual savings bank in continuous operation in the United States.

On the bank’s first day of operation, April 15, 1818, the ledger shows that the initial accounts were opened by men for the benefit of women. Nathan Robinson signed for the bank’s first client, Rebecca Sutton, a widow. Nearly every account that follows in the ledger is signed by a man for the benefit of a woman. Other prominent men of Salem that opened accounts for women 200 years ago included Joseph Story for his wife Sarah, and Joseph White for his domestic servant, Lydia Kimball.

“This historic collection presents exciting research opportunities for Salem State students and faculty, but also for scholars and family historians,” said Executive Director of the Berry Library Elizabeth McKeigue, “while so much of the history of 19th Salem focuses on the stories of men of wealth and privilege, this collection opens a window into the lives of Salem’s women, people of color, and immigrants.”

Over the next year, Salem State University Berry Library staff will comb through the collection to describe and preserve the over 50 boxes of records and over 150 bound ledgers so they are available for research. The library will also work on identifying materials that could be digitized and made available online.

The Salem State University Archives and Special Collections holds historical records of Salem State University from its founding in 1854 to the present. The collections include the Nelson Dionne Salem History collection, the Stephen J. Griffin Rare Book collection, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies collection, the papers of Congressman Michael J. Harrington, and a significant collection of materials related to the Beat Writers. Those interested in donating archival collections or contributing to the Salem Savings Bank collection fund please contact: Elizabeth McKeigue, Executive Director of the Library,; 978.542.6232.

Portions of the collection will be made available to researchers once the collection has been inventoried, cataloged, and assessed for preservation needs.

Kimberly Burnett
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