The George Moss Collection at Monmouth University

EphemerWHAT? Odds and Ends in the George H. Moss, Jr. Collection

By Juliana Illiano, Introduction to Public History, Spring 2018

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ephemera as "paper items (such as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles." The George H. Moss, Jr. Collection hosts a variety of such artifacts that provide insight into New Jersey, particularly Monmouth County, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This includes remarkable and detailed New Jersey postcards, holiday greeting cards, business advertisements, tickets to the Monmouth Park Racetrack and other events, as well as newspaper and magazine clippings, to name a few. A select few sample items are shared below.

An interesting component of the ephemera collection are magazine and newspaper articles and clippings that speak about the lifestyle and environment of the Jersey Shore, particularly during the summer months. In general, many of the magazines and newspapers feature articles that focus on the lively beach scene in the summer resorts, and popular areas of leisure and dining for local residents including Long Branch, Atlantic City, Asbury Park, Cape May, and more.

A specific monthly magazine featured in the George H. Moss, Jr. collection that provides insight into the summer scene along the Jersey Shore is Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, which was a popular monthly magazine published in New York beginning in 1876. The magazine was eventually renamed American Magazine in 1904.  Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly magazine commonly featured stories of popular culture and literature. The George H. Moss, Jr. Collection contains an article published in an issue of the Frank Leslie Popular Magazine that showcases popular summer resorts along the Jersey Shore in the early twentieth century. This specific article refers to summer resorts and hotels from Atlantic City, Sandy Hook, and Cape May as “charming.” The article further claims that among the different shore resorts, Atlantic City takes “first rank” compared to other summer resorts along the east coast. 

Another nineteenth century magazine article found in the George H. Moss, Jr. collection that speaks to the beauty and luxury of the Jersey Shore is found in the Appletons’ Journal. This journal began as a weekly publication in 1869 and published a variety of topics including literature, art, and science during the nineteenth century. The Moss collection is home to a August 21, 1869 publication of the Appletons’ Journal which features an article titled “On the Beach at Long Branch.”  The article, reproduced below, reveals that when visiting Long Branch beach, “people are actually enjoying themselves,” and women are spotted wearing “a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of diamonds." “On the Beach at Long Branch” also speaks to the popular fashions many men and women modeled during their time at the beach and resorts, as well as the type of upper social class that would frequently spend money on resorts, dinners, and gambling during the summer.

Then there's the Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, which speaks about the role of religion and morals living in local towns and summer camps such as Ocean Grove and Asbury Park. The description of Asbury Park in the article reproduced below states that Asbury Park is “a beautiful place of a higher rank." These contemporary descriptions of places like Ocean Grove and Asbury Park, Atlantic City and Long Branch, are essential in understanding the past of New Jersey, and how Jersey Shore tourist spots compare to the today’s Shore environment.  The ephemera found in the George H. Moss, Jr. Collection provides great insight into the life along the Jersey Shore during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and is sure to be a boon to researchers of the topic. 

Further Reading: