No. 540
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
October 24, 2021

New Jersey’s Great Wash Day.

Farmers with their wives and buxom daughters enjoy their annual bath in old ocean, at Spring Lake Be
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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. [more]

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.