SHIPWRECKED, Coastal Disasters and the Making of The American Beach

by author Jamin Wells. Ph.D

Hosted by Pierce Rafferty, director Henry L. Ferguson Museum January 31, 2021 in partnership with the New London Maritime Society – Custom House Maritime Museum, Susan Tamulevich, executive director.

Though the American beach is now one of the most commercialized, contested, and engineered places on the planet, few people visited or called it home at the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, by the twentieth century, the American beach had become the summer encampment of presidents, a common destination for millions of citizens, and the site of rapidly growing beachfront communities.

Mr. Wells tells the story of this epic transformation, arguing that coastal shipwrecks themselves changed how Americans viewed, used, and inhabited the shoreline. Some welcome food for thought as we hunker down both here on Fishers and in far flung places while looking forward to warmer walks along the beach.

We hope this recorded mid-winter illustrated talk will bring you summery thoughts as you consider the beaches of Fishers Island with a new perspective.


SHIPWRECKED, Coastal Disasters and the Making of The American Beach by Jamin Wells (2020) The University of North Carolina Press.

Caleb West: Master Diver by F. Hopkinson Smith (1898) various publishers.

Captain Thomas A. Scott, Master Diver: one who was Not Afraid and who Spoke the Truth by F. Hopkinson Smith (1908) various publishers.

The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History by John R. Gillis (2015) University of Chicago Press.

Cornish Wrecking, 1700-1860: Reality and Popular Myth by Cathryn Pearce (2010) Boydell Press.