In the early days, taking a dip in the ocean was a new idea
By Michael Morgan
From the July 2017 issue
Don’t stand shivering and shrinking back from the spent waves,” the Rehoboth Beacon, advised in 1876, “Walk briskly out until waist-deep and sink down until the water touches your chin.Then you are prepared for business.”
When the Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association established Rehoboth as a seaside retreat in 1873, church members could escape the turmoil of the modern world and attend services in the shady grove on the west edge of town.
Very quickly, however, vacationers were drawn to the other end of town and the cooling surf.
Unfortunately, most of the early visitors to Rehoboth had never before experienced a dip in the ocean.
Nineteenth-century Americans had inherited an aversion to water from their European cousins, who associated water with a number of diseases.
Some folks went years without immersing themselves in a true bath, and many thought that the idea of jumping into the ocean for fun was idiotic.
By the beginning of the 19th century, people on both sides of the Atlantic were not only losing their distaste for bathing, but there was growing belief that immersion in cold water was downright healthy!
By the time that Rehoboth was established, support for ocean bathing came from Britain’s Queen Victoria, who put aside her stately image and took a plunge into the ocean, reporting, “I thought it delightful until I put my head under the water, when I thought I should be stifled.”
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