Friday, September 4, 2009

Peter Paul Boynton - The Pearl Diver

In the era before resorts hired lifeguards you entered the water at great peril. Should you require assistance and were lucky there might be a very skilled swimmer, an unofficial lifeguard for hire, on the beach. This was a common practice. While they would not throw you back if you or your family did not pay a reward :) ... it was expected.

A very interesting character was Peter Paul Boynton - known as the "pearl diver" because of his amazing swimming and diving skills. His name appears often as I do my research on the Jersey Shore and the U.S. Life-Saving Service that eventually became the United States Coast Guard.

He first popped up at Cape May where he operated an oriental gift shop while supplementing his income by saving lives during the summer season. Local residents blamed him for the devastating fire of 1869, he was questioned and released. They seemed to have it in for him and later arrested Boynton on a charge of filing a pistol from a moving train and endangering the life of a woman who claimed the bullet just missed her head. The City of Cape May fined hm $5.00 and Peter Paul had enough with New Jersey and moved Coney Island where his reputation as a swimmer, showman and entrepreneur grew. Boynton broke numerous swimming records and is credited with developing a rubber diver suit used by the early Coast Guard.
More to come on this amazing individual.

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