Post Cards from Cape May’s Past
The experiences described in postcards from past visitors usually dance between eat, sun, swim, and sleep—normal vacation stuff. We’ve sifted through the stories from plenty of family vacations that sound downright delightful. The few exceptions we’ve come across include cases of the flu, missing loved ones, or, like the cards featured in our Mid Summer issue, a disastrous fire at the iconic and long-lost Iron Pier.
Alice’s written recollection of events definitely differs from the typical Cape May experience, and I’d say it makes for the most haunting postcard in our office’s extensive collection. The exact date is unclear because it was never stamped by the post office, possibly because it was sent in an envelope. Based on the colorized card we have concluded an approximate time frame of 1907. We know for sure that it was written on a Wednesday afternoon, documenting the terrible train accident that took old Mr. Biddle’s life.
Though a train was the perpetrator of Mr. Biddle’s unfortunate fate, Cape May’s early 20th-century heyday owes much of its success to the railroad system. This development made the island much more accessible to visitors beyond Philadelphia. The postcard, dated 1894, is the oldest one in our collection. It depicts the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Station that had just a few years earlier run tracks directly into the city, catapulting this seashore resort into real popularity.
Steam and steel no longer occupy the railroad tracks in Cape May. After many idle years the rails are being used by a railbiking attraction, the Revolution Rail Co. We continue to honor the history of the two railroad stations that once upon a time fed this town, providing it the prosperity to advance ever since. ■