Post cards are like messengers and couriers bringing greetings and almost always telling a story. Over at least the last hundred plus years since the advent of picture post cards in the very latter 1800s, these little messengers have invariably been intertwined with travel and tourism as transportation innovations made it possible for people to visit new places more easily. The post cards and often their messages have in essence really become reflections of the actual travel experiences of a friend or relative. So do not underestimate the inherent value of each and every single picture post card because it’s really all about storytelling! That being said, let us now delve into the substance of this particular story.
Prior to the July 1911 official opening of the Stone Harbor Ocean Parkway, there were very few ways for Wildwood and Cape May visitors to get to and from Stone Harbor. Aside from using the railroad which was less convenient and more costly, there was also a ferry service which operated between Mace’s Wharf at North Wildwood/Anglesea and Stone Harbor. As you will see, small open-air boats with a canvas covering to protect passengers from the sun and weather were used at the outset. Over time somewhat larger capacity boats would be providing regularly scheduled service as frequently as every half hour, day and night! It would appear that these ferry operations enjoyed a rather brisk business as a mode of transportation, especially during the summer months from 1907 leading up to the time of the economic depression of the 1930s. Please keep in mind that travel by automobile in the first two decades of the 1900s was not yet very prevalent and it would be a few more years that at the start of the decade of the 1920s when such travel by road would become possible and more commonplace. It should be remembered that while automobiles existed before the Twenties, they were notably expensive, unreliable, and generally toys for the rich and influential. As time advanced however, besides automobiles, other different kinds of vehicles were pressed into service including busses operating on schedules which would bring from the cities like Philadelphia and Camden people often referred to as “day-trippers’ or “shoebies” who wanted to experience a more affordable one-day excursion to the Jersey Shore.
This article will feature 11 images, including 9 different picture post cards plus the reverse side of two of these cards, chronologically arranged and postmarked at Stone Harbor between the years 1908 and 1927. These vintage post cards all depict this important means of ferrying or transporting people by boat to and from Stone Harbor. The terminus point located at Anglesea or Wildwood as previously indicated was known as Mace’s Pier and at the other end service extended to the Shelter Haven Basin at 96th Street, even before the construction and opening of the Shelter Haven Hotel in 1912.
The first post card shown here is captioned “Express Launch used by South Jersey Realty Company between Stone Harbor and Anglesea”. As a side note, the one-way fare for this ferry service was 10 cents. Hand-dated on the front in European style 3/8/08, this very early usage postal item bears a nicely struck Stone Harbor, N. J. postmark dated AUG 3, 1908 and has had affixed to it a 2-cent U.S. postage stamp sufficient to carry it by ship via international mail all the way to the addressee, a lawyer by the name of Ernest Butler, Esq., living in the City of Southampton, England.
And so our story begins with this very early post card. The geography of an up and coming seashore resort in New Jersey, namely Stone Harbor on the Atlantic seaboard, gets conveyed by a post card to a person living across the Atlantic Ocean. Such sharing of information via post cards increased people’s knowledge of the world outside of their communities and served as a geography lesson in and of itself. Now consider the actual link or connection associated to this post card with the Risley brothers’ South Jersey Realty Company and the boat as well as the man portrayed in the photo by reading the handwritten message that appears on the back of this post card just featured. The sender writes the following: “We are all down here for our holiday. This is my brother’s boat which he rents out to the realty company when he doesn’t use it. We are anticipating our first sail this afternoon.’’ Notice the specific reference to the pictured boat being rented out to a realty company – surely the sender was referencing the South Jersey Realty Company which was mentioned in the caption on the lower front border of the post card. This very message abruptly ends and there is no name of the sender given in closing. In addition, notice the word “Delphine” that was written on the picture side. Might “Delphine” be the name of the boat in the photo or possibly the first name of the sender of this very post card? Perhaps we will never know why that word was penned on the front of the this card.
As time progressed, the popularity of the ferry service connecting Stone Harbor increased and you will notice as we proceed the boats ferrying people in these subsequent post card images became larger and in this manner capable of carrying more passengers. The second post card image shown bears the heading “Landing of the Anglesea-Stone Harbor Ferry Boat at Stone Harbor, N.J.” In this particular image, a sizable number of people can be seen preparing to return to Anglesea. This circa 1910 photo was taken at the ferry pier located at the Shelter Haven Basin before the Shelter Haven Hotel had been erected. There is a very large outdoor billboard sized sign in the background strategically placed for all to see which states in bold letters, “NEW STONE HARBOR.” The rest of the information contained on this sign is not decipherable but one can only imagine it is proclaiming all the amenities and conveniences that Stone Harbor has to offer.
This second post card while not postally used was specifically prepared for advertising purposes and contains on the back or the address/message side a detailed description of the various ferry and other transportation services available as well as the costs associated with each route serving different destinations to and from Stone Harbor. Illustrating this message as it appeared on the actual post card itself leaves something to be desired and it may be difficult for the viewer to read it in its entirety. Therefore, I have reconstructed the advertisement verbatim and typed it all out by hand for you to be able to read it at this point.
TAKE A COAST TRIP FROM
AND ATLANTIC CITY ALL FOR $1.03
- From Wildwood – Take North bound trolley to Mace’s
Pier, Anglesea,………………………………………………one way 5 cents
- Take motor boat “Stone Harbor” or “Court House”
to Stone Harbor running half hourly day and night
both ways…………………………………………………….one way 10 cents
- Take through train from Stone Harbor to Ocean
City, buy ticket on train, Round trip 75 cents, one way 58 cents
- Take Fast Shore Line Trolley at R.R. station Ocean
City, Round Trip 60 cents…………………………… , one way 30 cents
Or, ferry across Egg Harbor Inlet to Longport, one way 10 cents
then via trolley to Atlantic City, 10 cents one way, Total….$1.03
By buying round trip on train and trolley the cost is $1.65
Via ferry Longport, $1.45
Distance from Wildwood to Atlantic City, 37 miles
Time, two and a half hours.
Reverse this schedule returning.
VALUABLE SOUVENIR BOOKS FREE
Register your name and address at the STONE HARBOR
REST ROOMS at Wildwood, N.J., or Harbor Inn at Stone
Harbor, N.J. and receive copies of “A Brief Sketch of Cape
May County,” and “The Story of Stone Harbor,” most
complete, authentic and up-to-date surveys of the wonderful
progress and resources of a remarkable county and resort.
The third image is a post card that was published by R. W. Ryan of Wildwood, N.J. with a photo credit and copyright by E. F. Sherman in 1912. Bearing the inscription “Arrival of Boat from Stone Harbor, at Anglesea, N. J.”, we see passengers disembarking as well as more passengers waiting to board the ferry at Mace’s Pier. This particular wharf at Anglesea was home to a large fisherman’s fleet of sail boats as evidenced by the many boat masts seen behind the ferry in this particular scene. In due course and brought on by increased demand, the one-way fare would be raised from 10 cents by 50 per cent to a hefty 15 cents as more and more visitors and sightseers availed themselves to using the ferry to discover the charm of the new resort community known as Stone Harbor.
The next two post cards, the fourth and fifth shown here, are easily recognizable and characteristic of A. M. Simon of New York published images that were produced and sold during the late teens and the early 1920s as these two items went through the mails and were properly postmarked at the Stone Harbor Post Office on AUG. 14, 1919 and AUG 18, 1920 respectively. One photo is a “VIEW FROM FERRY, Stone Harbor, N. J.” Very careful inspection and enhancement of this image reveals a parked passenger railroad train having entered Stone Harbor in the upper right background. At this time it was not uncommon for trains to frequently bring many potential investors and tourists alike from Philadelphia and from the mainland by way of Cape May Court House to the island resort for a look-see or an inspection tour as often was the case. One might also conclude that trains carried considerable numbers of passengers to and from Stone Harbor at least during the summer season. The other photo is titled just “FERRY, Stone Harbor, N. J.” The name appearing on the bow of this boat is FLORENCE W II, a sister ship to two other ferries providing the same service including the NELLIE BLY (a well-known ferry that we will see in the next image) and the LOTTIE W II. Once more there is evidence of a railroad passenger train parked on 96th Street in the background. This author conjectures that it is likely both these photographs were snapped just minutes apart on the same occasion while the FLORENCE W II was first moored at the pier and then after it had just departed from the Shelter Haven Basin pier in Stone Harbor.
The next trio of post cards (taken circa 1915), the sixth, seventh and eighth items, were postally used bearing 1924 and 1927 postmarks and all three views took place in the same general vicinity, namely the pier at the Shelter Haven Basin. Interestingly, the item inscribed “Stone Harbor Boat Landing” and postmarked at Stone Harbor in July of 1924, reveals the sister ship bearing the name NELLIE BLY, PHILADELPHIA, PA painted on the stern. This particular scene depicts two interesting features: there is the tiny outdoor ticket window/booth situated on the pier and the ferry is shown preparing to depart with what appears to be a full load of passengers bound for Anglesea.
The other two scenes that are described as “General View of Basin, Stone Harbor, N. J.” and “96th Street Basin, Stone Harbor, N. J.”, each postmarked at Stone Harbor during the summer months of 1927, clearly indicate they were taken or photographed from an elevated vantage point overlooking the pier, the small ticket booth and the ferry readying for departure. The photographer in all likelihood snapped these two scenes from the third floor roof in the rear of the Shelter Haven Hotel and overlooking the basin. In fact, one of the images actually shows a portion of the roof of the Shelter Haven Hotel in the lower left foreground. As we look basically southward and aside from considerable “green space” or undeveloped land captured in these views, it is also interesting to see the gravel covered thoroughfare called Third Avenue progressing and veering toward the southern portion of the island. In fact, as far as the eye can see looking southward (at least beyond 100th Street), there appears to be very little if any housing development. Although we do know for example that the Bungalow Colony (consisting of some 82 or 84 units) of small cottages and Ye Olde Tea House had all been built earlier around 1914-1915 and were occupied and operational by 1920. These very structures must have been out of view in the photos as they were situated further south between the 108th Street and 111th Street area as well as between Second and Third Avenues. It should also be said that in the early 1920s aerial photographs taken of the town do clearly show the Bungalow Colony clustered together as well as a scattering of larger homes along Golden Gate Road overlooking the Great Channel and the Pleasure Bay and Carnival Bay areas.
The ninth and final image selected for this article is entitled “Bay View, Stone Harbor, N. J.” Notice once more the ferry in the center of this view operating and preparing to arrive at the Shelter Haven Basin pier with yet another load of passengers. Two other smaller pleasure boats are visible and seem to compliment this charming and tranquil scene.
Wrapping up our story, one of the things we do know is that post cards are indeed personal. You need only to gaze upon those messages of yesteryear to realize that very fact. And since the amount of space allocated for a personal message on post cards was quite small and thereby very limited, the senders of such cards in the early 1900s hand wrote – generally in pencil, but sometimes even with an ink pen – scrawled messages that were almost always short and sweet and very much to the point. Allow me an opportunity to close by citing a prime example of such a message by quoting an actual inscription written by a woman named Alice who wrote on the back of one of these just presented Stone Harbor post cards in July of 1927: “The weather couldn’t be nicer – cool at night and a nice breeze in the day time. Will be home Sunday. Lots of love, Alice.”
So there you have it folks! Another fascinating account featuring aspects of the life and times in the early years of Stone Harbor history as portrayed by using vintage post card images!