No. 583
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
November 29, 2022

New Jersey’s Great Wash Day.

Farmers with their wives and buxom daughters enjoy their annual bath in old ocean, at Spring Lake Be
August 18, 2015
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Fifteen-year-old Jody Randall of Long Beach, California, was in most ways a typical suburban teenager.  The one thing that set her apart was a passion for antiques which was unusual for someone of her youth.  As a result of spending all her available free time (and her parents’ money) on her hobby, she eventually amassed some impressive pieces, including a doll collection noteworthy enough to
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Strange Company - 11/28/2022
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Shell and Pea Game on the Trail"Sketched from life by M. W. Newberry"San Francisco ChronicleApril 10, 1898(Click image to enlarge)    UNKO MEN AND THEIR TRICKS      A wonderfully detailed description of the modus operandi of Soapy Smith's three shell and pea manipulators along the Chilkoot and White Pass trails. Witnessed and reported by Joseph D. Barry, and published in the San Francisco
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 11/21/2022
Working as a domestic servant in 19th century New York City had plenty of challenges. Sure, servants received room and board in addition to their wages, and they usually had at least Sunday afternoon off. But living in another family’s home was isolating and lonely—particularly if you didn’t speak English or weren’t accustomed to urban […]
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Ephemeral New York - 11/28/2022
On this date in 2002, Pakistani Mir Aimal Kansi, Kasi, or Qazi was executed by lethal injection in Virginia, U.S.A. “Real angry with the policy of the U.S. government in the Middle East, particularly toward the Palestinian people,”* Qazi on January 25, 1993 revenged himself on Central Intelligence Agency commuters queued for a left turn […]
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Executed Today - 11/14/2022
Museum of the City of New YorkWilliam Howe and Abraham Hummel were the most successful criminal lawyers in Gilded Age New York. With a combination of skill, showmanship, and unethical practices, they defended most of the city’s significant criminals and many of its murderers. Whether they won or lost, Howe and Hummel made every trial sensational. Here are a few of the many accused murderers
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Murder By Gaslight - 11/26/2022
Wishing you a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving Day! Lizzie is thankful for turkey and all the trimmings – and no mutton broth in sight!
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 11/22/2022
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
Cowboys Lassoing the Ballet. | An "Efficient Police."

New Jersey’s Great Wash Day.

Jersey Wash DayFarmers with their wives and buxom daughters enjoy their annual bath in old ocean, at Spring Lake Beach, N. J. 

Once a year the New Jersey farmers and their families have an annual wash in old ocean. They enjoyed this luxury at Spring Lake Beach, N. J. last week. They drove to the beach in wagons from all over the surrounding country. Fully 5,000 bathed. Farmers’ wives forgot the flight of time, forgot their dinners and their offspring and just sat around in groups in the moist Atlantic and gossiped.

But the prettiest sight of all, the most original bit in this whole study of farmer life, was the girl who came to the shore, like Sheridan, from twenty miles away, in her bathing suit and wore that same suit all day. She was wet all the time, but her head was dry and clear, and on that head she wore the best creation of her rural milliner’s art.

There were five thousand farmer folk and more than that number of visitors at the washing place. The beach was black with wagons of every imaginable variety. There were hundreds of buggies in which person about to be married had driven over to the cleaning ground. There were mule wagons and wagons that spend the best part of their narrow history carting hay; there were ox teams and dog teams and goat teams and push carts. Every one of these was loaded down with farmers and their chubby offspring. As soon as the beach was reached the horses or mules as the case might be, were unharnessed and their heads turned to the wagon body. Harness was piled on the ground and all minor considerations gave way to the grand work of the occasion.

Those who didn’t come in bathing suits proceeded in this fashion to prepare for the great event. A sheet was stretched about the rear end of the wagon and within this enclosure an entire family disrobed and donned their bathing suits.

All good things, however, must end somewhere and “Salt Water Day” ended for the farmers “after the ball,” that is, after their youngsters had danced themselves tired on the extemporized waltzing platform. Then oat-filled steeds were reharnessed to the wagons full of sleepy children and the journey to distant homes begun.


Reprinted from National Police Gazette, September 2, 1883.