(Look Back is an occasional series with content and images from the Atlantic County Historical Society.)
Since 1897, while strolling the Boardwalk, visitors to the shore were fascinated by artists creating original works of art made only of sand.
In the beginning, the artists worked directly in the sand, using that medium as their base, often molding figures of nymphs and shipwreck victims. By the 1920s, most had switched to sculpturing on wooden frames. The subjects began to change into scenes of animals, military subjects, political figures and even full-size automobiles. These scenes were designed to attract the Boardwalk strollers who would gaze on these creations and sometimes throw a coin or two.
Here is how it worked: Each sculptor received 10 tons of sand, a hose, a set of frames and a temper (a device used to pound the sand) although some artists preferred to use their feet. Competitors stacked layer upon layer until the mound reached about 12 feet high. At this point, the sculptor began to carve, removing the forms, which acted as scaffolding as they advanced their creation. All forms had to be removed by the end and no power tools were allowed.
Sand sculpturing is not a forgotten art form. One of the most spectacular creations was on view during the 2017 commemoration of 9/11 in Atlantic City, where a memorial is located to honor the Atlantic City heroes of that day. You can still view sand sculptures in the local area on the Brigantine beach during the 10th annual Amateur Sand Castle Contest, which will take place Saturday, Aug. 3, in front of the Laguna Restaurant on 14th Street, South Beach in Brigantine.
Founded in 1913, the Atlantic County Historical Society has been preserving historical materials in its library and museum since. Every week, Wednesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., it opens its doors to share these collections with anyone who is interested. The society building is at 907 Shore Road in Somers Point. More information is available at www.atlanticcountyhistoricalsocietynj.org and on Facebook, or by calling 609-927-5218.