The peppercorn has a unique place in Salem History. After the Revolutionary war and independence of the colonies in 1776, the British did not trade well with Americans. Ships and crews were sometimes taken as prizes, and it was best if an American ship did not see a British flag.
Captain Jonathan Carnes set sail from Salem under those circumstances. He returned in 1779 with a load of Peppercorn. Something not seen in Salem on a regular basis for some time. Peppercorn is invaluable as a spice, preservative, and medicinal. It's weight was counted in the smallest of grams and it was ground into fine powder and used sparingly. A ship containing a load of peppercorn was well received and monstrously important.
It was Captain Carnes subsequent voyages when people began to take notice of the course and it was not long before the ships of Salem dotted the harbor of Sumatra. To this day, Salem city seal shows a Sumatran in ceremonial attire as the central figure with the Latin phrase (roughly translated) To the far reaches of the rich East.
Pepper was imported from Sumatra for many years by ships from Salem. It is said that the King of Sumatra once looked out over the harbor and proclaimed "Salem must be a big important country to have so many ships based there."