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Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) to Display Massachusetts Bay Charter

SALEM, MA – The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has joined with the Salem Athenaeum to display the original Massachusetts Bay Charter. The Charter that brought Massachusetts into being will be on view at PEM from October 13, 2010 through January 30, 2011, in conjunction with the bicentennial celebration of the Salem Athenaeum’s founding.

The four-panel parchment will be displayed in PEM’s American Art Gallery, along with a brass sundial that belonged to Governor Endecott and other objects representing American art and culture of the 17th century.

Massachusetts Bay Charter

To celebrate this installation, a special lecture by Margaret H. Marshall, Massachusetts Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court will be held on October 13th at 7pm. Admission is open to the public but space is limited; tickets can be obtained online at or by calling 978-745-9500, ext. 3011.

Known as the “Endecott Charter,” the parchment came to Naumkeag (now Salem) on June 23, 1629. With the Charter in hand, John Endecott became governor of the newly-established Massachusetts Bay Colony. King Charles I had signed two copies of the official charter – the first taken to Cambridge, England, to be discussed by the puritan founders, and the second sent to the colony itself as authorization. It was the first such charter to arrive in British North America. Significantly, the four sheets of parchment represented a documentary basis for American self-government.

The Massachusetts Bay Charter was considered the official governing document for almost 56 years, until it was made null and void by a court case in 1684 and Massachusetts fell under the Dominion of New England and Sir Edmund Andros’ reign. The Endecott Charter was held by the Saltonstall family for many years, until June of 1810. At one of the first meetings of the Salem Athenaeum, Leverett Saltonstall gifted the Charter as a founding manuscript of the Athenaeum’s collections.

Incorporated in 1810 and celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2010, The Salem Athenæum was founded to promote literature, the arts and the sciences. As the successor to The Social Library founded in 1760 and The Philosophical Library founded in 1781, it is one of the oldest membership libraries in the United States. It has nurtured generations of readers, including author Nathaniel Hawthorne and self-taught mathematician and astronomer Nathaniel Bowditch. Today, The Athenæum serves as a lifelong learning resource and community for Salem and the North Shore. Located at 337 Essex St. in Salem, it is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 to 5 p.m., Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Salem Athenæum is closed Sunday and Monday and most holidays. For more information, call 978.744.2540 or visit

The Peabody Essex Museum presents art and culture from New England and around the world. The museum’s collections are among the finest of their kind, showcasing an unrivaled spectrum of American art and architecture (including four National Historic Landmark buildings) and outstanding Asian, Asian Export, Native American, African, Oceanic, Maritime and Photography collections. In addition to its vast collections, the museum offers a vibrant schedule of changing exhibitions and a hands-on education center. The museum campus features numerous parks, period gardens and 22 historic properties, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States.HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday and holiday Mondays, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.ADMISSION: Adults $15; seniors $13; students $11. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $5. Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang.

INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit our Web site at

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