A Lively Experiment

Notes on collections at the RIHS

Fun in the Sun!

vacation cover

Rhode Island Vacation F 77.3 R45 1947

Every year people flock to the beaches of Rhode Island for some fun in the sun.Beach front entertainment took on many forms as the years progressed from those first hesitant days in the ocean waves to the present era of anything goes!Let us take a peek into our collection at some beachy fun of bygone days…

Most kids love the beach! Exploring tide pools, making sand castles, jumping waves or just digging holes can provide them with endless hours of entertainment.

children on the beach

c. 1890 Narragansett By-the-Sea. Sallie W. Latimer

Even horses love the beach!

Newport Beach with Horse and Buggy crop

Newport, R.I. RHi (x3) 7540

The first bathing suits were very different then we see on the sands today. They were made of wool and covered most of the body. The most popular time to “bathe” was between 11am and 1pm. The women in the photo below seem to be having a great time regardless of the cumbersome covering!

Women Bathers

Subject File: Swimming,  c.1900

The latest, hot topic for Second Beach is the current parking fees–where to fit all those cars! In 1906, new-fangled automobiles gave demonstrations ON the beach, with plenty of spectators.

Middletown Beach crop

Sachuest Beach, Middletown, R.I. 1906          RHi (x3) 6891

This beach below, located in the Edgewood section of Cranston, was very popular in its day. In 1909 the area was acquired by the Metropolitan Park Commission and underwent improvements to make it “much more attractive to the general public”. The two acres north of here, situated closest to the Providence line, was marsh land which was reclaimed and covered with sand to add to the size of the beach.

Beach at Edgewood

The Beach at Edgewood. Board of Trade Journal, December 1909

Many Instagram feeds these days are filled with photos of people doing yoga on the beach. Below is a 1910 exercise class taking place on Hog Island, led by Miss Becky Chase. Becky became the first woman to be certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, and the first and only woman to captain the Hog Island ferry. She later married Sidney DeWolf Herreshoff and their son, Halsey Chase Herreshoff (born 1933) is a Naval Architect of production and custom yachts, sailor and former president of Herreshoff Marine Museum.

Portsmouth Exercise on Hog Island Beach

c.1910 Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Nancy Jensen Devin and Richard C. Simpson

A slow beach day at Narragansett Pier. Check out the stylish umbrellas and the (relatively) racy bathing suits. What a difference 25 years makes in bathing fashion!

Narragansett Bathing Beach 1920 crop

Narragansett Pier Bathing Beach, c.1925

These promotional pictures were taken from the Rhode Island Vacation brochure of 1944 that was produced by the Secretary of State, Armand H. Cote to advertise the wonderful offerings available to vacationers in Rhode Island.


                                                 Rhode Island Vacation  F 77.3 R45 1944

Hope you enjoyed this peek into the past- if you are inspired to hit the beach, remember the sunblock!

-Jennifer L. Galpern, Research Associate




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This entry was posted on 14 July 2016 by in Collection Notes and tagged , , , , , , .

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