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Matthias O'Keefe Scrapbook

Identifier: M.1

Scope and Contents

The Matthias O’Keefe scrapbook contains newspaper clippings from O’Keefe’s election and time as mayor of Salem. The clippings begin with the recall election of previous mayor, John Hurley, in which Matthias O’Keefe came to power. Many of the scrapbook articles discuss rebuilding following the Great Salem Fire of 1914 and include information on the reconfiguration of the Salem Fire Department, and work of the Fire Relief Committee. Within a year of the fire, Salem was largely rebuilt. Announcements of the completion of factories, stores, and dwellings were reported almost daily in the Salem Evening News and are recorded in the scrapbook’s clippings. The scrapbook also includes multiple newspaper articles discussing police activity related to temperance. The reported police activity focuses primarily around Polish immigrants in the Historic Derby Street Neighborhood, that were raided for the manufacturing and selling of alcohol.

This scrapbook would be useful to those interested in Matthias O’Keefe, especially his time as mayor and the recall election of John Hurley. The scrapbook would also be of interest to those researching the Great Salem Fire of 1914 as it includes multiple clippings on the rebuilding of Salem, post-fire. An additional topic of interest would be the temperance movement and the effect on immigrant communities in Salem, both Greek and Polish immigrants are mentioned in clippings as experiencing raids by police under the request of Mayor O’Keefe, a strong temperance supporter.


  • Majority of material found within 1914 - 1915

Biographical / Historical

Matthias J. O’Keefe (1866-1944)

Born in Salem, Massachusetts on July 23, 1866 to Jerimiah and Julia (Neville) O’Keefe. He attended the Bowditch School and Salem High School but left prior to graduation to begin working in the leather business under his father. He then worked as a letter carrier starting in 1892, where he remained for eleven years before taking over his brother William’s leather company.

Matthias J. O’Keefe became mayor of Salem following the recall of Mayor John F. Hurley (of silk hat fame) in the fall of 1914. As mayor, O’Keefe was tasked with the recovery of Salem following the Great Fire of 1914. He supported many initiatives that created local construction jobs for unemployed Salemites and is credited with the reorganization of Salem’s fire department. Only eleven months after the Fire, the Fire Relief Committee held its final meeting on May 12, 1915. Salem had quickly risen from the ashes with new homes, factories, and municipal buildings in constant construction around the city.

Mayor O’Keefe was a strong advocate for temperance and belonged to the Father Matthew Society. During his time as mayor, Salem’s police raided many homes and businesses in search of illegal alcohol. This mainly targeted Salem’s immigrant community, especially Poles and Greeks whose run-ins with police often appeared in the Salem Evening New and resulted in the closing of some of their businesses.

At the end of O’Keefe’s term, he chose not to seek re-election. He was succeeded by Harry P. Benson in 1916.

Following the end of his political career O’Keefe returned to the leather industry. He and his wife Katherine (née Donovan) had five children, all sons. The family longest residences were on Prospect Street and Balcomb Street in Salem.

Matthias J. O’Keefe died on October 18, 1944 in his home at 57 Federal Street in Salem. His funeral was held on October 20th at McDonald and Son Funeral Home on Hawthorne Boulevard.


.87 Cubic Feet

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Repository Details

Part of the Salem State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

University Archivist
352 Lafayette St.
Salem MA 01970 United States