In 1735 Richard Derby, a ship’s master in colonial Salem, Massachusetts, married Mary Hodges, a merchant’s daughter. The alliance was good business, and Mary Hodges was a willing bride. Richard prospered, retired from the sea, and founded his own merchant house. With one exception, Richard’s sons went to sea. Hasket Derby stayed ashore, learning to manage the trading network his father built.
George Crowninshield was the youngest of four brothers. Three sailed for Salem merchants. Richard Derby enticed George to sail for him by matching George with his daughter Mary. George knew a good opportunity when he saw it. Mary wanted more than a house and children, but marriage was her only option. “Marry me,” George said. “Be my partner.”
Eliza Crowninshield set her cap for a husband who would bring her wealth and status. She craved a brick house superior to any other dwelling in Salem. She wanted to dress at the height of fashion and entertain lavishly. Hasket Derby needed a wife as ambitious as he was. He expected to lead the Salem business community and required a wife to complement his achievements. Together, they became the “First Family” of Salem.
Against the backdrop of tensions between Great Britain and her American colonies, George and Hasket built their trading empires. After Americans gained independence in 1783, their sons sailed everywhere trade took place from the West Indies to the Baltic Sea, from Isle de France to Batavia, India, and China.
Inspired by true events, this is the story of two rival families who made their fortunes in the new United States of America.
Sandra writes historical fiction. Her latest book, "Ambition, Arrogance & Pride" focuses on 18th century Salem MA. Sandra also blogs about history, travel, and other topics that catch her attention. For more information about Sandra, visit her website https://www.sandrawagnerwright.com
Timothy Orne, a prominent Salem merchant, has a business proposition. Richard Derby, his one-time ship's captain, launched his own smaller merchant house, and Orne does not want his shipping dependent on Crowninshield sailors. He needs to keep Salem's business under his control and proposes marital politics to bind the old families together, while leaving upstart Crowninshields out of competition. To begin, Orne suggests Richard Derby marry his older daughter Mary to young George Crowninshield. This would pull the lad out of his family's interest into the Derby-Orne orbit. Salem society was one of familial connections. Individual desires were irrelevant.
Ambition, Arrogance & Pride
“First, we’ll align your daughter Mary with George Crowninshield. You may think him a bit young, but that’s to our benefit. He doesn’t have as much experience piloting ships as his brothers, and he’ll be malleable to your suggestions.”