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EXHIBIT: SHARK ATTACKS of 1916

AMERICA'S FIRST SHARK NATIONAL NEWS STORY

In July of 1916, New Jersey became the site of a series of vicious shark attacks that would span 12 days and take the lives of four people and severely injuring one.

"With previous deadly attacks in Beach Haven (Charles Epting Vansant, July 1st, 1916) and Spring Lake (Charles Bruder, July 6th, 1916) the shark made its way north and down a freshwater creek in Matawan, New Jersey on July 12, where it would attack and kill 12-year-old Lester Stillwell and 24-year-old Stanley Fisher within an hour of each other. The suspected man-eater would be caught two days later in the nearby Raritan Bay. To be sure it was the killer, the over 300 pound monster was dissected, and 15 pounds of human remains were found in its stomach."

While this has been the legendary tale, the attacks were most likely made by multiple sharks. The attacks in Matawan Creek have been accepted to be that of a Bull Shark, the only shark that can survive in both fresh and saltwater.

The incident was heavy inspiration for Peter Benchley, who would write his 1974 novel Jaws set on nearby Long Island.


SELECTIONS FROM THE 1916 SHARK ATTACKS EXHIBIT


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1916 SHARK STORIES

After the first shark attack on the Jersey Shore, the local public including fishermen offered their opinions on the recent “shark problem” which was surprisingly dismissed by many as an uncommon occurance, unlikely to happen again. Only days later, the shark attacks continued, leaving a total of four dead and one injured.

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ORIGINAL NEWSPAPER

THE BROOKLYN DAILY EAGLE

FRIDAY JULY 14, 1916

Private Collection - Keith M. Cowley

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SWIMWEAR 1916

This authentic 1916 women's swimsuit was the typical beach attire of its time. Made of wool, maximum coverage, it was appropriate and fashionable.

However, 1916 was the hottest Summer on record, and the first season in American history that more revealing designs were worn in public.

At the height of the polio epidemic, people flocked to the New Jersey shore for much needed R&R. Warmer temperatures and more people in the water may have been contributing factors to the NJ Shark Attacks of 1916.

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WOMEN’S WOOL SWIMWEAR - 1916

Acquired from an Asbury Park estate, NJ

Private Collection - Keith M. Cowley

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EXTERMINATION

After news of the anomaly of deadly shark attacks had reached national headlines, the Department of the Treasury granted $5,000 for the extermination of any sharks in coastal Atlantic waters. In Matawan, N.J., the epicenter of the terror, village authorities paid $100 for each shark caught dead or alive.

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ORIGINAL NEWSPAPER

THE EVENING STAR - WASHINGTON DC

FRIDAY JULY 14, 1916

Private Collection - Keith M. Cowley

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1916 SHARK CULL

Fishermen of the New Jersey coast took up the opportunity to kill any sharks in the nearby waters to achieve $100 per shark, which in today’s amount would equal $2,200. This was the first time in known American history that such a cull has occurred. People hunted the sharks by any means necessary. During the pursuit for the monster of Matawan Creek, bystanders shot firearms and tossed dynamite into the creek.

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BYSTANDER PHOTO, SHARK CATCH

Caught in 1916 during Government Shark Cull

10 FT, 400 LBS, - Beach Haven, NJ

Private Collection - Keith M. Cowley


MORE TO COME…

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