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  • angelonecaitlin

Ocean City, New Jersey

The weather has been mild, but that doesn’t mean you can't start thinking of your beach vacation for the hotter months ahead. In this post we are exploring the island of Ocean City, New Jersey, a beach city in Cape May County. Added above are postcards from my collection.

Before colonization, the beach of Ocean City was used by Lenni-Lenape for fishing. The waterways of the North East allowed the Lenape to make their way towards the ocean to set up camps for the summer and take advantage of the warmer weather to gather seafood.

Settlers came and went throughout the years, but one of the first to stay was John Peck. Around 1700 Peck settled in the area and used the island for his whaling business. This earned the island the name Peck’s Beach.

John Somers (whose family went on to find Somers Point, NJ) purchased land in 1750, primarily for cattle grazing. Ocean City has rich, lush vegetation. Soon, others began to bring their cattle to the beach for the Summer to graze before Fall.

In 1750, Parker Miller became the first full-time resident and built a family house that once stood in the historic district, 7th and Asbury. Miller had close ties to the ocean, representing insurance claims and protecting shipping companies' rights to their property when ships wrecked off land.

Peck’s Beach was about to experience some monumental changes. On September 10, 1879 four methodist ministers chose the island to establish a Christian retreat and camp, similar to Ocean Grove, NJ, not too far away down the coast. They met under a cedar tree which still stands today. They began to plot off land, plan businesses, and it officially became a borough of New Jersey in 1884. A bridge was built in 1883, connecting the island to land and soon the West Jersey railroad brought in visitors from Philadelphia.

Finally, on March 25, 1890 that city was incorporated as a city and officially given the name “Ocean City,” named after its ideal location along the Atlantic Ocean.

Promoted as a moral seaside resort, Ocean City closed businesses and forbade swimming on Sundays. The city also forbade selling and serving alcohol. While the official blue laws for Sunday were repealed in 1987, alcohol is still banned making Ocean City known for its family friendly atmosphere.

Another aspect that has made Ocean City family friendly was the care of their beaches. Beach tags, which acted as admission to use the beaches, were introduced in 1920, but became a staple in 1976. Tags are a major source of revenue for the city and allow the city to supervise the beaches. A substantial number of lifeguards and patrols were set up on the beach, creating life saving stations that predated the Coast Guard. The 5th avenue beach, which was the designated segregated area for people of color swimmers, was guarded by Alvin Thompson starting in 1928. Alvin was the first Black lifeguard and was voted the most outstanding guard in 1930 due to his service.

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