Jersey Reflections: Two Dry Towns

2620

By: Vince Farinaccio

An early 1860s brochure published by A. Cole & Co. to promote the settlement of Manumuskin shares many of the same ingredients found in Vineland founder Charles K. Landis’s newspaper ads of the same period, but each marketer offers a unique style of salesmanship in advertising his respective town.

Of particular interest is a comparison of how the climate of the two locations, which are only a few miles apart, is depicted by Landis and Cole. The Manumuskin climate is described as “delightful” and noted for “having the same latitudes as Baltimore and the District of Columbia, and lying upon the line which divides the Northern and Southern sections of our country, [so that] it is free both from the extreme cold and extreme heat of those regions.”

Landis, however, chooses a briefer, more succinct description, explaining that Vineland is “in a mild and healthful climate thirty miles south of Philadelphia by Railroad, in New Jersey on the same line of latitude as Baltimore, MD.”

Both locations boasted soil consisting of “clay and sandy loams,” but whereas Cole gives a range of crops and fruit grown in his community and focuses on how “sweet potatoes last year produced from two to four hundred bushels to the acre and sold at prices ranging from one dollar to two dollars per bushel,” Landis seems content to offer the reader a more general description of economic rewards. He confidently reports that Vineland’s soil “is rich and productive…suitable for wheat, grass, corn, tobacco, fruits and vegetables. Grapes, peaches, pears, etc., produce immense profits.”

By the time Cole published his brochure, Manumuskin had established a Methodist church, a schoolhouse, and a post office that handled daily mail, all similar to the additions of Vineland during its earliest years. Manumuskin also chose the same path of temperance that Landis desired for his town, but the means of enforcing it couldn’t be more different.

As the brochure explains, “…in order effectually to ensure the community of Manamuskin [sic], throughout all time, the blessings that attend upon temperance, a condition is inserted in the deeds that no intoxicating drinks shall ever be sold upon any portion of the premises conveyed to them.”

While Landis preached the communal benefits of temperance to residents and ultimately left the decision in their hands during election time, Manumuskin defended its identity as a dry town through legal means. “Upon a breach of this condition [of temperance],” the brochure states, “the premises revert to the grantors and to their heirs, and by this means it is believed that one village, at least, in New Jersey may be forever secured against the curse of a grog shop.”

Landis had been wary of land speculators opening offices in Vineland, but A. Cole & Co. made efforts to thwart the competition before they reached the town. Philadelphia readers interested in visiting Manumuskin by way of the West Jersey Railroad were cautioned “to be on their guard against agents of runners whose business it is to be at Walnut Street Wharf, Philadelphia, on the ferry boat, and at the Camden Depot to watch those coming to our place.”

The brochure warns that “if you have a carpet bag, or in any other way indicated that you may be a land seeker, it is their custom to attempt to insinuate themselves into your company, and by certain questions to ascertain your place of destination, and, upon discovering it to be Manamuskin [sic], they will dispense to disparage it in order to induce you to stop at a point where their interests lie…Of all such beware. They are receiving large salaries for this express work.”

Even the concluding comments by Cole and Landis carry with them the unmistakable brand of salesmanship each chose to put before the public. The brochure proudly proclaims, “we are assured by good judges that we have the best tract of land in Southern New Jersey.” Landis maintains that Vineland is “worthy of a visit” for any “who desire mild winters, a healthful climate and a good soil, in a country beautifully improved, abounding in fruit and possessing all other social privilege, in the heart of civilization…”



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