No, this post is not about the shipwreck of Paul in Acts 27-28 (I’ll save that one for another time). Instead, I wanted to thank everyone (esp. you KK) who helped me research, write and endlessly edit an essay on the 1896 wreck of the American Line steamer St. Paul. Good news–the article, “The Lure of the Shore: Authenticity, Spectacle, and the Wreck of the St. Paul,” was recently published in New Jersey History and is available online. Here is the abstract:
This paper investigates the spectacle of shipwreck and marine salvage through the wreck of the transatlantic passenger liner St. Paul near Long Branch, New Jersey in 1896. As a dangerous ship trap, the New Jersey shore witnessed many shipwrecks. By the late nineteenth century, the region’s extensive infrastructure facilitated the massive crowds that turned coastal wrecks into national spectacles. Businesses and entrepreneurs commodified these spectacles, exploiting fin-de-siècle America’s fascination with the maritime world, technology, and “authentic” experiences. Commodification ultimately undermined spectators’ search for authenticity, and successful salvage only reaffirmed the faith in American modernity that the wreck had challenged. Yet their sustained popularity during this period suggests that shipwreck spectacles fulfilled some of their promise. As a representative example, the St. Paul wreck demonstrates how shipwreck spectacles were an essential element of the lure of the shore in turn-of-the-century America.