“ladies were robed in old calico dresses of many colors, and extraordinary cut”
About five hundred yards off was another grove,and between the two a salt meadow. Along the entire margin, among the rushes and at the base of the declivities, were people in the hundreds, either going into the water or coming out of it. The water itself was thronged with good folks, who were swimming, splashing, diving, and shouting in the heartiest style. The costumes of the bathers were not exactly en regale, for the ladies were robed in old calico dresses of many colors, and extraordinary cut, and the gentlemen for the most part eschewed everything but old pants.
Some more scrupulous, added caps, and one good-looking dame from the bricks-works at Perth Amboy, wore a tall stove-pipe hat, that probably was am heirloom. Among the trees of Florida Grove were stationed the carriages and buggies of the farmers, to number of at least 1,400. These had been converted into dressing-rooms by various contrivances. Curtains had been extemporized from house blankets and old shawls, and occasionally old top coats. Behind these recesses I presume that the fair daughters of the farmers disrobed for the bath, for stifled shrieks and pearls of laughter and exclamations of impatience were very audible. Occasionally an ill-fastened blanket would give way, at which the blushing nymphs would shriek with dismay, and would huddle up in confused heaps of loveliness until damage was repaired. When the difficult operation had been successfully accomplished, the girls would emerge from the sheltering wagon in the dingiest possible dresses, but with their locks flowing in undulating waves to their waists.
Joining hand in hand in groups of three, four and five, they would rush down the hill and plunge into the pleasant water, with peal upon peal of silver laughter. The young men made their bathing arrangements among the rashes that bordered the water near the Englewood Grove, and then swan like so many Leanders, to join their Heros. Old and young, male and female, would form rings by clasping hands and circle around in the water, which was only about four feet deep, though the channel is twenty-nine. The fun and the jollity were universal.Stout old farmers, with gnarled and wrinkled faces and brown sinewy hands, went with full heart into the mirth and shouted like boys. In one direction I could see two pretty girls swimming a race to the pier and back, in another a handsome young fellow teaching his lady-love to float. I noticed a gray-beaded Frenchman with his granddaughter in his old arms, showing how the ladies bathed in la belle France by professional bathers. Among the rushes there was a stout farm servant of the fair sex who scorned the concealment of blankets and cloaks, and who made her toilet among the rushes with perfect indifference to appearance. Afterward she emerged boots in hand and squatting down upon the sand put them upon her stout extremities with calmness and deliberation.
The above is a partial article written and published in 1871 by the New York Times- There is more to come of the article and photos of the Perth Amboy Waterfront..