The Lyceum: New location for Turner's Seafood

Salem Lyceum
Salem Lyceum
Delighted to meet Jim Turner of Turner's Seafood yesterday whose enthusiasm about the location of their new restaurant (The Lyceum, 43 Church Street, Salem) is palpable. He is a shining example of the blending of business and history. He "gets it" in spades. Stay tuned to see what he will do with Lyceum Hall on the second floor!

Here's the women's history angle to the building story, from the Salem Women's Heritage Trail:

Organized in January of 1830 as part of an American movement of the mid- nineteenth century, the Salem Lyceum Society was modeled after the concept of the “Mechanics Institutes” in England. The expressed purpose of the society was to provide “mutual education and rational entertainment” for both its membership and the general public through a biannual course of lectures and readings. Over the next sixty years, hundreds of lectures on such topics as history, biography, the sciences, new inventions, philosophy, witchcraft, agriculture, religion, literature, geography, travel, and current political subjects took place. The early lectures were held in other locations until the Salem Lyceum Society bought land and erected its own building from 1830 to 1831. Admission was one dollar for men, and seventy-five cents for women, who had to be “introduced” by a man to gain entrance.1

Members of the Lyceum Society were all men. Among them were Salem's leading citizens including Daniel A. White (the first president), Charles Upham, Rufus Choate, Stephen C. Phillips, and Samuel Worcester. Many of these learned men presented lectures themselves, but they also invited some of the leading thinkers of the time to Salem to introduce new ideas to the Salem audience. These guest lecturers included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Leverett Saltonstall, Horace Mann (who married Salem's Mary Peabody), Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jared Sparks, John Quincy Adams, Henry Ware, and Charles Sumner, among many others.2

The Women
According to an 1879 history of the Salem Lyceum Society, the first women to appear were musical or dramatic performers, not lecturers. Mrs. Henry Lemon gave a concert in 1845. British actress Frances Anne “Fanny” Kemble (1809–93) offered a dramatic reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream during the 1849-50 course of lectures.3

Sara J. Lippincott appears to have been the first woman lecturer when she spoke on "The Heroic in Common Life" during the 1859-60 season. Her appearance came ten years after the first national women's rights convention was held in Worcester, in 1850. In the 1859-60 series, Mr. and Mrs. E.L. Davenport presented "Select Readings." Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, spoke on "Work and the Incidents of Army Life" in 1866-7. Also in the 1866-7 season, Mrs. F.E.W. Harper addressed "our National Salvation." Mary A. Livermore, suffragist, abolitionist, and temperance advocate, examined "Various Reforms" in 1870. She returned the following year to discuss "Queen Elizabeth."4

Lucette Webster and Wyzeman Marshall offered "Select Readings" in the 1869-70 lecture series, as well as for those in 1870-1, 1871-2, 1872-3, and 1874-5. Interestingly, the advertisement in the Salem Observer for October 8, 1870 only lists Mr. Marshall! Abby Sage Richardson gave "Readings" during the 1873-4 and 1876-7 seasons. Abba Goold Woolson spoke on "The Yosemite Valley" in 1876-7 and on "Respectable People" in 1877-8. Helen Potter presented "Readings and Personations" during the 1877-8 series. Laura F. Dainty offered "Readings" in the 1878-9 season.5

Aside from regular Lyceum Society program offerings, the hall itself has been used over the years by a number of prominent women’s groups, including the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, Woman Suffrage Club of Salem, Salem Women’s Indian Association, and the Salem Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

The building that stands on this site today, housing one of Salem's finest restaurants, is not the original building. It is, however, a fine replica, including the upstairs meeting hall.

1     By-laws of the Salem Lyceum, 1830.
2-5  Historical Sketch of the Salem Lyceum (Press of the Salem Gazette, 1879).

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