Getting “A Peek Under the Petticoat” from the Monmouth County Historical Association

I’m still excited about what happened this past Friday, September 30, 2016.

I was one of ten enthusiastic ladies who got “A Peek Under the Petticoat” at the museum of the Monmouth County Historical Associationin Freehold, New Jersey.

Sounds racy, doesn’t it? Well, my heart did race, because I had a rare opportunity to watch a mannequin being dressed layer-by-layer in beautifully surviving clothes from 1869. I got to do what I never get to do in places like the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, or downstairs in the Costume Institute galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or at the lovely Fashion Museum in Bath, England: I got to look at the garments close up. It interested me as both a history buff and a sewing enthusiast. I got to scrutinize the stitching, study the embroidery, and recognize the ultra-fine red-on-blue pinstripe in a dress silk that from a safe museum patron’s distance would appear to be flat navy.

MarianneSweet1

Photo by Marianne Sweet

The “experiment” was in opening up the dressing of the mannequin to a small audience of ten. The announcement from the museum landed in my inbox at about 6:00 AM. By 6:20, I was registered.What was the occasion, you may wonder? Joseph Hammond, Curator of Museum Collections, called the event “an experiment”. Preparations were underway for their forthcoming exhibition, Hartshorne: Eight Generations and ­Their Highlands Estate Called Portland. Among the objects to appear in the exhibition is a mannequin representing Julia Norton Hartshorne, a lively woman who died tragically at the age of 30, most likely from smallpox. Her complete wardrobe from the time of her death has been well-preserved by her descendants, giving the Monmouth County Historical Association the ability to dress “Julia” in her own clothing, from petticoats to bonnet (the latter still bearing its tag from a Paris boutique!).

We, the lucky audience, got to witness the dressing of Julia by guest curator Bernadette Rogoff who is an expert in the care and display of antique textiles and who “loves this stuff”. Some attendees even got to assist Rogoff. She was generous with her time and know-how and answered, oh, about a billion questions with grace and enthusiasm.

Hammond chuckled when I said “You should do this every month.” Hey, who’s kidding?

Interested in the Hartshorne exhibition? A preview reception to celebrate the opening will be held on Thursday, October 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The reception is open to the public at no charge and refreshments will be served. The exhibition runs from October 7, 2016 through April 29, 2017. The museum is located at 70 Court Street in Freehold, NJ. For more information, give them a buzz at 732-462-1466.

 

 

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Coming November 5, 2016: Victorian Tea Party Bus to Merchant’s House Museum, NYC

Join us November 5, 2016 on the

Victorian Tea Party Bus to the Merchant’s House Museum in NYC!

Co-organized by Kim Brittingham of Tiny Tours of Ocean Grove and the Historical Society of Ocean Grove

Do you ever wish you could go back in time to the 19th century? On this bus excursion, you can — at least for a little while.

Click here to book now!

Here are the details:

THE BUS. A LUXURY BUS WITH RESTROOM FACILITIES WILL PICK UP TRAVELERS FROM FIREMAN’S PARK IN BEAUTIFUL OCEAN GROVE, NEW JERSEY ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2016. (BY THE WAY, OCEAN GROVE HAS THE HIGHEST CONCENTRATION OF VICTORIAN ARCHITECTURE IN THE STATE! YOU MAY WANT TO COME EARLY AND ENJOY A STROLL. YOU CAN ALSO BOOK A WALKING TOUR WITH ME.)

DEPARTURE. BUS DEPARTS PROMPTLY AT 12:00 PM.

THE DESTINATION. THE STUNNING MERCHANT’S HOUSE MUSEUM IN NEW YORK CITY. CONSIDERED ONE OF THE FINEST SURVIVING EXAMPLES OF DOMESTIC ARCHITECTURE FROM THE PERIOD, THE 1832 LATE-FEDERAL AND GREEK REVIVAL MERCHANT’S HOUSE IS A DESIGNATED LANDMARK ON THE FEDERAL, STATE, AND CITY LEVEL. IT IS FURNISHED WITH OVER 3,000 ITEMS COMPRISING THE POSSESSIONS OF THE TREDWELLS, THE WEALTHY MERCHANT-CLASS FAMILY WHO LIVED IN THE HOUSE FROM 1835 TO 1933. OUR GROUP WILL ENJOY A GUIDED TOUR.

 

DINING. ON THE BUS YOU WILL ENJOY A 19TH CENTURY STYLE SAVORY PIE LUNCH CATERED BY BURBELMAIER’S OF OCEAN GROVE WITH YOUR CHOICE OF HOT OR COLD TEA, OR WATER. VEGETARIAN AND GLUTEN-FREE OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE.
ON-BOARD ENTERTAINMENT. ALSO ON THE RIDE WE WILL VIEW A FILM THAT SOME SAY WAS INSPIRED BY THE 19TH CENTURY LOVE STORY OF GERTRUDE TREDWELL WHO LIVED IN THE MERCHANT’S HOUSE. [ACTUALLY, THE FILM WAS INSPIRED BY THE HENRY JAMES NOVEL WASHINGTON SQUARE  WHICH IN TURN INSPIRED A STAGE PLAY AND THEN TWO FILM VERSIONS: THE HEIRESS (1949) AND WASHINGTON SQUARE(1997).] WHICH ONE WILL WE WATCH? YOU GET TO VOTE WHEN YOU MAKE YOUR RESERVATION. MAJORITY RULES!

 

RETURN TRIPWE WILL RETURN TO FIREMAN’S PARK IN OCEAN GROVE AT APPROXIMATELY 6:00 PM. WE WILL ENJOY DESSERT ON THE RIDE HOME.
ACCESSIBILITYPLEASE NOTE THAT THE MERCHANT’S HOUSE MUSEUM DOES NOT HAVE AN ELEVATOR. THE TOUR INVOLVES CLIMBING SEVERAL SETS OF STAIRS.

Ready to Go? Click here to reserve your spot. $119 ticket includes lunch, dessert, museum tour and round-trip bus transportation between Ocean Grove and New York.

Life’s too short not to have little adventures that make our hearts sing! I hope you’ll join me for history, beauty, fun and friendship on Saturday, November 5, 2016.

Click here to book now!

TINY TOURS Announces Fall 2016 Themed Walking Tour

Announcing Our Fall 2016

Themed Walking Tour:

Fun and Recreation in Early Ocean Grove

Founded in 1869 as a Methodist camp meeting site, Ocean Grove has the highest concentration of Victorian architecture in the state of New Jersey.

 

On this tour, learn about the ways early visitors and residents of Ocean Grove had FUN!

 

Now I realize some folks might be thinking, Was it actually possible to havefun in early Ocean Grove? And if you’re thinking that, it’s probably because you know about Ocean Grove’s long history of straight-laced rules and regulations. But I can assure you, there’s always been fun to be had in Ocean Grove — it’s just good, clean fun.

 

This is a guided walking tour that lasts approximately 60 minutes. Tickets are $12 per person plus tax & fees. Material appropriate for all ages. Your guide is Kim Brittingham, history enthusiast and host of the video series Curiosities of Ocean Grove.

Click Here to Book Now!

Mrs. Wagner’s Pies and Ocean Grove, New Jersey

What’s the connection between music duo Simon & Garfunkel and a lady from 19thcentury Ocean Grove, New Jersey who loved to bake?

It started in the 1870s when a certain Mr. and Mrs. Wagner came to make their summer home in Ocean Grove.

Mrs. Wagner was an energetic woman. She liked to stay busy and she was a fantastic baker, so she offered to do baking for her Ocean Grove friends and neighbors. Pretty soon word got out that Mrs. Wagner’s pies were heavenly, and she started to sell them. In those days, she baked on an old-fashioned wood stove in her small kitchen on Webb Avenue. It probably looked similar to the one pictured below. Her husband delivered the pies in a large wicker picnic basket.

Mrs. Wagner’s pies became more and more popular. So popular that by 1890, the Wagners traded in their wicker basket for a horse-drawn pie wagon, and they moved from Webb Avenue to the house pictured above at 124-126 Mt. Tabor Way. (In the photo above, that’s Mrs. Wagner on the porch with the cat.) In the basement of that house they built a 20×20-foot coal-fired brick oven which could bake between 150 to 200 pies in 45 minutes. They also had a small shop on the basement level. When the neighborhood kids smelled the mouth-watering aroma of those pies wafting over Ocean Grove, they’d press their faces against the window to get a glimpse of the fresh pies coming out of the oven. Years later in the 1950s the house was torn down to make way for a new cottage, and the builders had to excavate the street to get that huge oven out of the basement.

Mrs. Wagner made her pies from fresh fruit that was delivered daily from nearby farms on horse-drawn wagons. She also received 40-quart cans of fresh milk from local dairies. In those days, the milk already had the cream in it, which may have been one of the reasons Mrs. Wagner’s pies were so decadently delicious. We know that she didnot use starch to congeal the pie fillings — just good fresh eggs, and plenty of them. The secret to her light and flaky crust was supposedly a ratio of 12 ounces of pig lard to every pound of flour.

Around 1890 Mrs. Wagner was making 12-inch pies that cost 25 cents each, and single serving pies that cost a nickel. The big pies came in a metal pie plate like the one pictured here. You can see the pan is embossed with “Mrs. Wagner’s Pies”, and you can still sometimes find one of these on eBay.

Mr. Wagner served as the first pie delivery man, until business got so big that the Wagners had to hire a second driver. Each driver would cover one half of Ocean Grove. They’d drive around slowly, twice a day, calling out “Pieman, pieman!” Customers would hear the call, come out to the wagon, and buy pies. Sometimes the customer returned the metal pie plate. But sometimes the Wagners ran low, and in those instances, the customer would bring her own plate out to the truck and a fresh pie would be slid right onto it while it was still warm.

For at least part of the 1890s the Wagners also had a home in New York City, in what we now call Tribeca. They lived across the street from the Washington Market. Washington Market was established in 1812. By 1900 it was the largest market in North America, stretching about a dozen blocks around Washington, Fulton and Vesey Streets. Mrs. Wagner sold her pies there at least part of the year, when she wasn’t in Ocean Grove. She left the Grove in January and returned in the spring. As the popularity of her pies grew, Mrs. Wagner opened additional bakeries in Newark, Jersey City, and Brooklyn.

Joseph Walker was a baker who joined Mrs. Wagner’s Ocean Grove operation in 1904. He was interviewed for a local newspaper in 1965. He gave us a peek into what it was like working in the Wagner’s Ocean Grove bakery. The day before baking at 11:00 a.m., six bakers gathered in the basement on Mt. Tabor Street to prepare the fresh fruit. Then the pie crust would be made and left to stand all day in lard tubs. Meanwhile, the bakers ate and slept upstairs in the house. At 1:00 a.m. the following morning, with Mrs. Wagner supervising, they rolled out the dough on a table that was 4 feet by 40 feet long. The bakers worked on both sides of the table. One would roll out the bottom crust, another the top crust, while yet another would fill the shell with freshly prepared apples, peaches, pineapples and blueberries, and in winter, pumpkin and mincemeat. The bakers worked 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week.

The Ocean Grove bakery was probably at its height of production in 1907. That year, the bakery turned out 201,746 pies, an average of 650 pies a day. All in a basement in Ocean Grove!

After World War I, production in Ocean Grove stopped and pies for the Jersey Shore were delivered from the Newark plant. The company continued to grow. Mrs. Wagner’s pies were featured at the 1939 World’s Fair, and by then they had loading stations across the country: in Toledo, Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlantic City. 40,000 stores and restaurants bought their pies from Mrs. Wagner. Some of those stores and restaurants kept Mrs. Wagner’s pies in handsome pie safes like the one shown here. You can see the Mrs. Wagner’s label at top center.

By the way, the lady on the label isn’t Mrs. Wagner. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, the model for the label was a lady named Clara Louise Bissell.

Sometimes when I’m giving tours at Centennial Cottage in Ocean Grove, I’ll get visitors who grew up in Brooklyn and they still remember going to Mrs. Wagner’s bakery at 283-301 Fourth Avenue between 1stand 2nd streets. On certain days you could buy big restaurant pies with broken crusts for just a dollar. Today it’s an artist and craftsman supply store.

Mrs. Wagner’s pies went out of business in July 1968.

Also in 1968, Simon & Garfunkel released an album called Bookends, which included a song called “America”. Here’s are some of those lyrics:

So we bought a pack of cigarettes

And Mrs. Wagner’s pies

And walked off to look for America.

Below, watch an episode Curiosities of Ocean Grove about Mrs. Wagner’s Pieswritten, researched and hosted by Kim Brittingham.

 

New Video: Orphans in Ocean Grove 1878-1902

Ocean Grove, New Jersey has a long history of taking an interest in orphans. In Episode 9 of Curiosities of Ocean Grove, learn about the orphanage that used to stand beside Fletcher Lake; the trainloads of Victorian-era orphans who used to strike tents in OG, and the controversy surrounding The Willard Home, a short-lived orphanage in West Grove/Neptune that had all of Ocean Grove and Asbury Park scrambling to its rescue at the turn of the 20th century.

Watch this and earlier episodes here.

The Rjukan Shipwreck of 1876

Did you know that there are the remains of a shipwreck underwater where Ocean Grove and Bradley Beach meet? I just found out about this and I had to go digging for more information. Here’s what I learned.

The newspaper known as the Philadelphian and Ocean Grove Record called it “a first class sensation.” It was the day after Christmas 1876. At around 6:30 a.m. an Ocean Grove citizen named Louis Rainear was taking a walk when he was surprised to see a 160-foot long ship running aground on a sand bar about 200 feet off the beach. It was a Norwegian vessel – a barque. The three-masted barque was the most common type of deep water cargo carrier in the middle of the 19thcentury. The vessel was named Rjukan, after a town in her native Norway. She was headed from London to New York in ballast when a northeasterly gale blew her towards the beach.

She hadn’t always been a cargo ship. Earlier in her career the Rjukancarried immigrants between Norway and Canada, and Great Britain and New York. As a matter of fact, I managed to find this passenger list from the Rjukan when she sailed in 1868:

When the Rjukan struck the sand bar her mainmast fell, and then her foremast. Her sails and spars were hanging over her side. It must’ve been a dramatic and frightening sight, especially with crew members scrambling on deck, shouting and waving desperately for help.

Mr. Rainear did call for help. A messenger was sent to a nearby station of the U.S. Life Saving Service – Station No. 7 located on the Shark River. The U.S. Life Saving Service would eventually join with similar organizations to become the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915.

I was able to piece together what happened from eyewitness reports. A surfman from the Shark River Life Saving Station showed up, but he hadn’t brought a lifeboat with him. He said the wagon they used to pull their lifeboat had gotten stuck in sand. Then he took one look at those rough seas and decided he’d better get someone from Station 6 in Asbury Park to help him out. So he started to run off.

But by this time, a number of citizens had gathered on the shore and one of them asked the surfman, where was he going? And why wasn’t he doing anything to save the men on that ship?

Supposedly the Shark River gent replied, What, in that surf? No way will a boat make it throughthose breakers! (or something to that effect).

Just then, the onlookers saw a capable-looking man running down the beach. According to one newspaper account, a gentleman in the crowd pointed and bellowed, “Now there’s a man that will go to her!”

The running man was Russell White, with his brother Drummond White following close behind. The Whites had been part of the community for a long time. In fact, Ocean Grove was built on their land. The Whites had sold tracts of their property to the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association and to James Bradley who developed Asbury Park.

Russell and Drummond White — or Drum, as he was known locally — were both experienced sea men. As they ran to the scene, Russell spied a yawl boat on the beach and immediately put it into service.

Eventually the keeper from the Shark River Life Saving Station came back, and this time he brought a lifeboat. But he wasn’t interested in being a hero. Instead, he handed the boat over to the White brothers and said something like, You guys look like you’ve got this. I’ll just watch from back here.

People from the neighborhood came out to watch. About 500 of them, causing someone to remark that even though it was the wrong time of year, it looked like the camp meeting was having a surf service. Throughout the afternoon, the beach became strewn with debris from the wrecked ship, including pieces of joiner work, rigging, chests, bedding, tools and clothing. Some men and boys came out to scavenge for valuables and souvenirs. This would not have been a strange sight to Drum White. When he was a boy in 1854, a ship called the New Erawrecked off the coast of Asbury Park and 300 German immigrants lost their lives. Among the debris washed ashore from the New Era, Young Drum found a brush, the kind used to brush lint from clothing. Its bristles were white, except down the center where some black bristles spelled out the German surname Koch. It was probably similar to the brush shown below spelling Chilvers. Drum White kept and used the brush for the rest of his life. I can’t help wondering if finding such a personal item from such a tragic shipwreck had a lasting effect on Drum White, perhaps motivating him in his adult years to save as many lives as possible.

On the day of the Rjukanshipwreck, the White brothers worked eighteen hours straight without food, making perilous boat trips back and forth between the wreck and the shore. They saved the lives of all twenty crewmen on board.

This wasn’t the first rescue for Russell White. Earlier that same year, Drum had taken two visitors from Abner Allan’s boarding house in Asbury Park on a fishing excursion. The three men got tangled in fishing lines, but fortunately, Russell saw what was happening from shore. He set out immediately and rescued them, and he was given a gold medal for it. A year later, Drum would assist in the rescue of the brig Etta M. Tucker, which was carrying a cargo of coffee from Rio de Janeiro to New York. And when Ocean Grove added a steam launch to carry passengers over Wesley Lake, Drum White was put in charge. Of course, that was only a 15-minute voyage round-trip, providing fewer opportunities for Drum to demonstrate his bravery.

Just a few days after the wreck of the Rjukan, on January 6, 1877, what was left of the ship’s wood was auctioned off. The lucky bidder was G.W. Patterson and Company of Asbury Park, which paid $140. Some of the Rjukan’s wood was used to build a wooden plank sidewalk in front of Dr. Kinmonth’s pharmacy on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park. Dr. Kinmonth’s was right about here, at the corner of Cookman Avenue and Kinmonth Alley:

The Rjukan rescue was a source of controversy in the coming months. The Asbury Park Journalcriticized the men of the Shark River Life Saving Station for their “tardiness and inefficiency at the scene of the disaster”. That prompted a member of Shark River Station to burst into the office of another newspaper, the Red Bank Standard, and complain to a reporter there that his crew had been unjustly treated in the columns of the Asbury Park Journal and that he was greatly aggrieved. The Asbury Park Journal stood by its criticism.

In the meantime, Captain Merryman, a big wig at the U.S. Life Saving Service, made an investigatory trip to Ocean Grove. There was a hearing. Affidavits were taken from eyewitnesses, and the Rjukan’sCaptain Hansen was questioned. He blamed everything on the pilot, Phillips. Life Saving Station No. 7 from Shark River was exonerated from all charges of tardiness and inefficiency.

Today what’s left of the wreck has settled underwater off of the jetty just south of Newark and Ocean avenues in Bradley Beach. Here you’ll see a map of the wreck by Captain Dan Berg. He runs charter diving cruises to the sites of New Jersey shipwrecks. Here you can also see underwater photos of Captain Dan Berg investigating the remains of the Rjukan. He says there are still some ballast stones scattered around the wreck site, as well as wood planking held together by brass spikes.

Below, watch an episode Curiosities of Ocean Grove about the wreck of the Rjukan, written, researched and hosted by Kim Brittingham.