Vegetarians at the New Jersey shore
A couple of years ago, I read History of the Philadelphia Bible-Christian Church for the First Century of Its Existence, From 1817 to 1917. The book is about American adherents of a religious vegetarian sect that initially formed in England. I was thinking about it recently, as summer is beginning and the text makes mention of places where I spent summers as a child.
I’ve written a little bit about my time in Avalon, New Jersey, for Splice Today: “My maternal grandmother rented a house in this coastal borough, where her children and grandchildren stayed for two weeks during the summer. The location brings to mind happy memories of boogie boarding, touch football in the sand, and rushing home to watch Total Request Live.”
More than a century earlier, according to the aforementioned book, the American Vegetarian Society held an outing to Cape May aboard the Republic steamer. Over 40 members participated in the event on June 19, 1889. They hailed from Washington, Baltimore, Delaware, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
Avalon is in Cape May County. It appears the steamer was headed to the city of Cape May, which is about 20 miles away from Avalon. As for the steamer itself, a print of the vessel is featured on the Monmouth County Historical Association website, called Steamboat Republic Bound for Cape May. I’ve attached a copy of the print to this post.
In Historic Cape May, New Jersey: The Summer City by the Sea, Emil R. Salvini provides a glimpse of what the trip may have been like. “The Republic offered a dining saloon where breakfast, dinner and supper were served,” he wrote, adding the fare was fifty cents each way. “Bands would serenade the passengers as they traveled along at fifteen knots.”
Salvini continued, writing the vessel was in operation from 1878 to 1903. “The Republic would dock at the steamboat wharf on the Delaware Bay side of Cape May Point,” he said. “The Delaware Bay House, located at the landing, was a fully equipped excursion house that provided for the needs of the vacationers as they disembarked from the steamer.”
Around the same time — according to the history of the Bible-Christian Church — the Philadelphia Vegetarian Society held annual gatherings in Wildwood, New Jersey, among other places. Attendees came as far as New York, Baltimore, and Washington. Sometimes prominent speakers gave addresses. In other instances, picnics were planned.
One evening per summer, my cousins and I would visit what I believe was Morey’s Piers. The Wildwood I saw must have been very different than that seen by 19th-century vegetarians. For me, Wildwood was rollercoasters, go-karts, carnival games, and an endless variety of hemp necklaces for sale. My guess is it was less boisterous in the earlier period, but you never know.
I remember liking History of the Philadelphia Bible-Christian Church for the First Century of Its Existence, From 1817 to 1917. Readers of Slaughter-Free America who are interested in animal ethics, religion, and history might as well. I enjoyed considering how I may have occupied the same physical space as these ideological forebears.