On the sands they stood rich and thick a beneath a tent. The life saving raft was out to sea, packed with men and women in bathing costumes—the men in black briefs and tanks, same as the human fish were wearing; the women in short-sleeved, mid-length black dresses, bloomers, and stockings. All these eyes, including Vanderbilt eyes, Whitney eyes, Fair eyes, the eyes of Foxhall Keene, America's finest polo player, were fixed to a catboat out on the water.
Gilded: How Newport Became America's Richest Resort
Standing on the deck of the single-masted sailboat was Samuel Powel, Jr. In the water was Charles Oelrichs, the first man to play the fish, the line secured to his belt. He was flanked by a flotilla of safety swimmers—O. Belmont, famed Philadelphia swimmer Robert Ralston, and his brother Hermann—who are to provide him with assistance should he flounder.
Charles began the contest by pulling hard away from the boat, his powerful strokes causing Powel to rapidly lose line. He and his rod bent double as they withstood a first flight worthy of a sailfish. Swimming hard, Charles managed to keep his distance from Powel and the catboat, but eventually, he began to falter. Charles slackened, his great steam engine arms slowed, his legs seemed to be moving in syrup, as if the entire Atlantic has suddenly become viscous, and Powel pounced, and began to reel the human fish back in.
Gilded: How Newport Became America’s Richest Resort
Charles was pulled agonizingly closer to the now sinister-looking sailboat, losing one foot, then another There he went! The wily fish with brain of man was using his brain, perhaps? Merely resting? No one on shore could know for sure, but with a mighty dash he violently regained all of the ocean he had ceded, and was pulling hard, like a marlin!
The cliffs and sands rang with the thunderous ovation. Hermann was next to play fish. His belt was fashioned and once in the water he similarly drew out Powel's line, pulling it taut. Perhaps no sea-faring man was as emblematic of the masculine ideal of the times as Hermann Oelrichs. Standing roughly six feet tall and weighing close to pounds, Hermann was built like a mackerel shark, with a broad, powerful chest and tapered waist.
His handsome face was accented with a lustrous mustache, argent eyes, and crowned with short, neat hair. Hermann was considered to be among the best hammer throwers and baseball players in New York City, as well as among the most talented amateur boxers in the entire nation.
He helped introduce the game of polo to American, and was an influential player, and then president, for the New York Lacrosse Club. But it was as a swimmer that he developed the greatest reputation. He was famous for his incredibly long floats, wherein he would bring lunch, reading material, and simply drift out to sea.
Hermann was jokingly referred to as a hazard to shipping, or as the captain's first warning that landfall was imminent, Noah's dove. Hermann, being a literal captain of industry as an agent for the powerful North German Lloyd Steamship Company, seemed to aspire to nothing less than mastery of the sea, and in his Neptunian ambitions reached their zenith. Fueled by then cutting-edge science and the wide-ranging reports of his steamship's captains and crews, he set out to debride the public of their innate fear of sharks. A man of action, he took it upon himself to confront the creatures in their own element, swimming well off-shore of the New Jersey coast to roust the creatures and returning to triumphant headlines of his victories.
His ultimate battle with the sharks occurred in July of While entertaining aboard his yacht Hildegard, Hermann set the entire floating party nervously atwitter when he announced, a hundred miles offshore, that their little pleasure cruise was, in fact, a search for sharks. He planned to jump in to the water and prove, once and for all, who was truly the mightiest creature in the ocean. A rumble of fear and then action rippled through the deck, as those on board crowded the rails and began to place wagers. Upon spotting several large sharks off the starboard side, Hermann changed into his bathing clothes and leapt from the yacht into the rolling sea.
Hermann made a beeline directly for the sharks, which scattered as he thrashed about defiantly. As his foes disappeared into the depths surrounding him, the man climbed back aboard the Hildegard to the raucous cheers of the crowd; born, in smoke and diamonds, was a Star of the Sea. Five years later, his battle against Powel was not quite so dramatic, though no less impressive.
After holding the line taut for twenty minutes, he, too, was declared the victor, toughest fish in the sea, the money changing hands on the shores of Newport like the tide. The spectacle was a success—the Times declared it "the most interesting incident of the summer"—and another challenge was arranged for the very next morning, with the Oelrichs brothers facing a more worthy opponent. Only at Newport could a spectacle like this occur, men fishing for men with massive sums on the line with the eyes of the most fashionable, rich, and powerful upon them, and an enthralled nation to read about their exploits a day later.
It was the beachfront home of America's wealthiest and had been ever since the merchant and slave-trader Godfrey Malbone entertained George Washington there on his 24th birthday. From the late s to the turn of the century and slightly beyond , the Vanderbilts, Astors, Fishes, Tiffanys, Drexels, Whartons—the great American roll call—made Newport, and the Gilded Age, their own.
These were families of industry, capitalist royalty, and in the summer, spectacle was their chosen business. Denizens of the Queen of Resorts, the "haunts of wealth and fashion," as the Times called it, set the standard for and recreation.
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There was fierce competition over who could throw the most lavish parties, who could land the most distinguished guests, who could book the finest entertainments, and as the grande dames of Newport flexed their political and social power, their husbands took to sport. The push for general physical fitness had begun to take hold in the s, spurred in part by the "muscular Christianity" of English writers Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hughes, who argued that vigorous exercise need not cause moral or spiritual decay.
By the Gilded Age, sport had risen to become a regular aspect of American society, particularly as a way to combat what was perceived to be the general "feminization" of men in light of the advances of the Industrial Revolution. Where once the office-bound life of the executive—echoes of European royalty—was considered the most desirable station of a man, the concern was that the young boys of America's bootstrapping millionaires, having missed out on both the back-breaking labor and the soul-sharpening meritocracy by virtue of their last names, would grow to be soft and weak.
This island resort in Lake Huron, between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, was home to a British fort during the Revolutionary War and the site of two battles of the War of It served as a Confederate prison during the Civil War and was a center for fur trade and commercial fishing throughout the 19th century. In the s, tourists began arriving by boat from Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit.
Travel by ferry to Mackinac Island and explore its State Park established in , which takes up 80 percent of the island. Cars have been banned since the lateth century, and horse and carriage and bicycle travel add to the charm of a visit to Mackinac Island. Then a real estate developer established Avalon in , and a new resort destination was born. After a fire burned half the town, William Wrigley Jr.
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Take a cruise on a glass-bottom boat to see reefs and shipwrecks, or explore the Island from your home base on the historic Queen Mary. Scuba dive, snorkel, fly fish, parasail, or visit the Catalina Island Museum in the historic Catalina Casino to learn about the history of the island. In southeastern Wisconsin, just over an hour from Chicago and under an hour from Milwaukee, a small Midwestern town called Lake Geneva is perched on the shores of a sparkling lake by the same name.
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Visit Lake Geneva to marvel at the beautiful lakeside mansions, built from , and explore the Black Point Estate. Cape May is the only U. The island hosted countless politicians, professional athletes, artists and a U.
Navy facility during WWII. Discover the diverse migratory bird population , watch for whales or enjoy the local theater and music festivals in Cape May. The famous mineral water that gives Saratoga Springs its name has been attracting tourists to upstate New York for over years, and tourism began to flourish with the construction of the Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad in Spas and large hotels were built throughout the 19th century, including Grand Union Hotel — the largest hotel in the world at the time.
The opening of Saratoga Race Course in brought a new attraction, and Saratoga Springs was home or a retreat to many rich and famous people, including Gen. Ulysses S. Visit the many Revolutionary War sites in the area, enjoy the performing arts scene, take in a round of golf and visit Saratoga Spa State Park for hiking and dip in the mineral baths.
Venture to nearby Great Camp Sagamore to experience turn-of-the-century grandeur in the heart of the Adirondacks. Where are your favorite summer destinations?