In the late 1700s and early 1800s Salem's ships reached out to the world. From this wharf alone between 1785 and 1799, shipowner Elias Hasket Derby dispatched 170 trading vessels on pioneering voyages to China, India, the East Indies, and the Baltic. The first New England vessel to visit the Orient was Derby's Grand Turk which set sail in 1785.
A merchant ship bound for the East Indies might have slipped from her berth here with a cargo of salted fish, ham, flour, whale oil, soap, tobacco, leather, and iron. A year later she might return with a cargo worth twice as much. Foreign goods that brought a good price in 1790 included tea, coffee, silks, chinaware, sugar, salt, and lemons.
Salem's trade empire extended - in the words of the city motto - "To the Farthest Port of the Rich East." Salem's prosperity boosted the economy of a young America, and "Salem" became a familiar name around the world.