Photograph by Clifton Adams, Nat Geo Image Collection
Photograph by Clifton Adams, Nat Geo Image Collection

When Was the Jersey Shore Virtuous? In This Vintage Photo.

Before it hosted a spray-tanned reality show, New Jersey’s seashore was home to a teetotaling community with a strict dress code.

This story appears in the July 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine.
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James A. Bradley made his fortune selling brushes to the Union Army, but he found his true calling in the fresh air of the Jersey Shore. In 1871 the teetotaling Methodist bought 500 acres of marsh and sand dunes and built a new community called Asbury Park, molded to his strict moral code. Liquor was banned. Decency and family values were paramount.

Bradley mused that the seashore was the “nervine cureall” for those “whose nerves were shattered by too close application to their profession, studies, or their chase for the ‘almighty dollar.’ ”

In the summer of 1929, eight years after his death, these vacationers can be seen taking his advice. By October the stock market would collapse, the Great Depression would begin—and the nerves shattered from chasing the almighty dollar would no longer be cured by a simple day in the sun.