Morris chose to highlight one of the most distinctive aspects of Ocean Grove in his photographs; its tents. The tents originally provided temporary housing for the attendees of the Methodist revivals but stayed a part of the community even as permanent structures sprung up in Ocean Grove. In the late 19th century, tents could be found throughout the town and about 100 still remain. Tent life was extremely popular in Ocean Grove, allowing residents easy access to religious services and the opportunity to live simply. In the Ninth Annual Report of the President of the Ocean Grove Camp-Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church, President E.H. Stokes wrote that “tent life at this place instead of losing, increases in interest every year.” Each summer, both when Morris visited and today, tent owners pull sheets of canvas from the shed at the rear of each tent and stretch it over a wooden platform, creating their home for the next few months.
In addition to the camp meetings, its beautiful shoreline contributed to Ocean Grove’s popularity as a summer destination. A stereograph by Gustavus Pach from the Library Company’s collection shows a crowd enjoying Ocean Grove’s beach. Bathing attire in the 19th century was significantly more modest than today’s, and this was even more important than usual in a religious town like Ocean Grove where the “improper, immodest and exposed condition” of bathers was discouraged outside of the bathing grounds.
Alison Van Denend
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