Shown here, Dr. Emlen Physick ordered a hat from the John B. Stetson Company, Philadelphia, Pa., which arrived in this very box in the late 1800s. Learn about how Victorians obtained consumer goods like these during guided tours of the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate. Photo by Susan Krysiak, courtesy of MAC.
CAPE MAY – Learn about the tremendous changes in how Americans shopped during the Victorian era during guided tours of the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St., now through April 2018.
American consumerism took off during the Victorian era because there were more people with more money purchasing more goods that were advertised more widely and available more cheaply than ever before.
New developments such as department stores, chain stores, mail order catalogues and enticing advertising drove consumer culture during Victorian times in America. Department stores played a huge role. When John Wanamaker opened a new Philadelphia store in 1876, only a few dozen U.S. department stores existed. Some five decades later, over a thousand such stores were visited by a hundred thousand shoppers daily. By 1915, the expression “chain stores” had come into usage and chain grocery stores were evolving into “supermarkets.” Mail order catalogues, such as those from Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, reached millions of Americans in rural areas, while advertising for any company selling consumer goods became a necessity, as competition between purveyors was increasing daily.
The Emlen Physick Estate is an 18-room mansion built in 1879, attributed to renowned architect Frank Furness. The Physick Estate is one of the finest examples of Victorian “Stick Style” architecture in America. Visitors will learn about Victorian life and the fascinating history of the estate and its former inhabitants. The Physick Estate was built for a rather unusual household: Dr. Emlen Physick, who never married; his widowed mother, Mrs. Ralston; and his maiden aunt Emilie. Dr. Physick was descended from a famous and wealthy Philadelphia medical family. His grandfather, Dr. Philip Syng Physick, was known as the Father of American Surgery and invented the stomach pump.
This new house tour theme will be offered through April 2018 (except during the Halloween and Christmas holiday seasons). Guided tours are offered daily through the end of the year; hours vary. Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children (ages 3-12). Tours can also be combined with trolley tours of Cape May’s Historic District, for $22 for adults and $14 for children (ages 3-12). Also available are Physick Estate Children’s Tours, especially geared to children ages 5-10, on Mondays, July 3-Aug. 28 at 11:15 a.m. Admission is $8 per person.
For more information, call (609) 884-5404 or (800) 275-4278, or visit MAC’s website at www.capemaymac.org.