1875 letter glorifying the new bathing beach fad – Baltimore Sun

During the late 1800s, a few families in Carroll County began exploring the possibilities of summer vacation travel. Travels to the beach, mountains, other states, and foreign countries were new, and local newspapers often printed letters from travelers.

In July 1875, letters from a local family visiting Cape May, New Jersey, were published in The American Ranger. The letters were signed by “R” and likely written by James Rippard, whose family owns the paper. His correspondence described the highlights of the trip as well as the daily routine of beachgoers at the time. Many locals were curious about the new fad of bathing beaches and probably read these descriptions with great interest. “R” explained the inconveniences of travel in the nineteenth century, in contrast to the problems we face today:

“We left Westminster yesterday morning on the seven o’clock train. Upon arriving at Union Depot we had to wait an hour for the train to Cape May. After purchasing tickets, we went to the baggage manager at the station to check our luggage, but he refused because he was unaware Any such arrangements had been made. When appealing to the ticket agent, he kindly told us that he sold tickets and that the baggage was not in his department. On the arrival of the train, the baggage master told us that our baggage would be placed at the warehouse in Philadelphia and we would have to make sure of the transfer. The completely useless problems for the passengers were for the purpose of tampering with them out of forty cents, which we would cheerfully have done if they had relieved us of the inconvenience of making the carriage. I would advise the passengers to demand that their baggage be checked, before buying their tickets, as the company announces by train.”

“R” remained in the conference room hotel and his letters dated July 13, 14, 20 and 23 were published during four successive editions of the newspaper. He described the physical features of Cape May including the congress hall, a wooden pier and bathhouses “where gentlemen and ladies of all times may enjoy the luxury of hot and cold salt water baths.” The chief activity was shopping in the “really wonderful shops of Washington Street, Main Street; and where, if you have money to spare, you can furnish yourself with whatever curiosity or luxury you may desire.”

One day I had an “orange bath” on the beach at 4 am and enjoyed it “r.” A typical beach scene is described as follows:

‘The master bath starts the day at 11 am. At this time, from the various hotels and cottages on the island, guests and guests can be seen rushing to the beach. Those from the beachfront hotels walk downhill and those in other boarding houses get off on public buses. affiliated with the respective hotels and maintained to accommodate guests.Imagine the beach stretching from Stockton House in the north to Congress Hall in the south, covered and crowded with a mass of people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and conditions; some alone, some in crowds and more in family groups. And, you see, they run in their bathing suits along the sand, and some shyly go into the water as if they were afraid of getting wet, others roll and roll in the shallows, and still others go so far as to meet the waves, and form family groups side by side in Waiting for the wave as it advances, and when it is about to take shape in a strong brake, they all jump, thus, perched on the crest of the wave, running away from the ruthless ducks, they will be sure to catch. The unfortunate wailing, with his back to the advancing storm, cast upon some fun or incident which was suddenly activated in front of him when suddenly struck from behind by irresistible force, deposited on the sand, and for a moment buried out of sight under a mass of foam. Then it’s someone else’s turn to laugh. Others are more daring than hits behind the brakes as much as the lifeboat, which is always stationed nearby, participating in sports and competitions in which only the strong limbs of a swimmer can indulge. And so he goes along the beach. Every Cape May huddled there seemed to be in disarray and reckless abandon, bent, within the bounds of decency, to enjoy themselves to the fullest and their inclinations.

Highlights described by “R” include eating saltwater oysters and other ocean fare, gazing at valuable sailing ships and steam yachts along the coast, and taking excursions to neighboring communities. He also assigned parts of each letter to describe the ocean, sunset horizons, and strolls along the beach:

“After dinner, the usual evening stroll is in order. We invest ourselves in warm clothes that we hit the beach and walk near the water and breathe in the salty air with enthusiasm as if we feel we are adding years and health to our lives in every inspiration. As we stroll along, admiring the crests of waves breaking on the shore, we drink in the steady music of the old ocean roar that is the same today as at the dawn of creativity. Occasionally we are diverted with juvenile whims or others as they roam the beach. About a mile after this, we go to the “conference room” suite, and sit back sniffing the ocean breeze, listening again to its roar, watching the various ships in the distance and marveling at the effect of the full moon on the landscape.”

In the week that “R” visited Cape May, President Ulysses S. Grant is also vacationing there at Buff Cottage, attached to the Capitol. The buildings were decorated with flags and pennants, a regatta, a reception and a ball were planned in honor of the president. The regatta was canceled due to a lack of wind and the “R” stamped a monogram by describing an unfortunate incident on the steamer Plymouth Rock off Cape May:

“she [the steamer] Sailing from Philadelphia to Cape May was announced in time to watch the Regatta on day two and back on the same day. Well, of course, since there was no regatta on the second day, the trekkers of about two or three thousand were too disappointed to add that the ship did not affect the landing but immediately turned around and headed back to Philadelphia. The water supply failed and there was an abundance of other fluids and less innocent and the result was a general battle in which excrement, batons, and knives were used freely, much to the horror of the women and children and to some severe damage. of the participants. The quarrel raged for half an hour when the officers of the boat succeeded in arresting the leaders of the ring, and peace was restored, and on their arrival in Philadelphia, the men who had been arrested for handing over to the police had not all but one escape.”

Mary Ann Ashcraft is a volunteer with the Carroll County Historical Society.

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