The Last Days of Summer

The Last Days of Summer
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As summer winds down, many of us along the east coast are thinking of making one final trip to the shore, a thought shared by our ancestors as well. The New Jersey shore, accessible in the late 19th century by ferries, steamships, and trains and in the 20th century by automobile, has long appealed to Philadelphia- area residents hoping to escape from the sweltering city. The wealthy built summer homes along the shore, while the less well-off found rental quarters, or even enjoyed a visit to the seaside as a one day getaway.
Although the rules of etiquette were undoubtedly somewhat loosened at the beach, modesty was not completely abandoned. Portable bathing machines provided privacy for those who wanted to change out of their street clothes into bathing suits to then be pulled into the water while still within the confines of the wagon.
Bathing Houses - Atlantic City, albumen print stereograph, ca. 1863. Library Company of Philadelphia.

Some beachgoers, however, never removed their street clothing. Women in long dresses with long sleeves and men in suits and ties are portrayed sitting rather stiffly on chairs alongside their more daring friends lounging in the sand. Dark umbrellas to soak up the sun's rays completed their beach-going outfits.

Chester & Handy, Group on Beach, Cape May, New Jersey, albumen print stereograph, ca. 1880. Library Company of Philadelphia.

For others, the lure of the water (or perhaps the pleading of their children) was too strong to resist and they took the plunge into the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Family at Atlantic City, New Jersey Beach, gelatin silver photograph, ca. 1900. Library Company of Philadelphia.

William Harvey Doering, Bathers Wading Through the Water Near a Pier in Atlantic City, lantern slide, ca. 1895. Library Company of Philadelphia, Gift of Albert L. Doering.

Not everyone was comfortable with spontaneous recreation and for those who required more structure to their leisure, group calisthenics were offered along the boardwalk in Ocean City in the 1930s.
Photo-Illustrators, Ocean City, New Jersey Beach, gelatin silver photograph, ca. 1930. Library Company of Philadelphia. Gift of Joseph Kelly.

Fun, however, you defined it, could always be found at the Jersey shore.

The Print and Photograph Department of the Library Company of Philadelphia, an independent research library, includes about 100,000 graphic items. Visit our digital collections catalog ImPAC to see a selection of our digitized images.

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