The late 1800s featured a lot of change for the country — president James A. Garfield was assassinated, skyscrapers rose throughout cities, electric lighting became more prominent, the Great Blizzard immobilized the East Coast and Coca-Cola was created during Prohibition.
Locally, populations were growing, the agriculture industry was flourishing and tourism was thriving in coastal towns.
It also saw the creation of the Suffolk County Historical Society in 1886.
Now, 130 years later, the organization is celebrating the anniversary with an exhibition focusing on the county’s 10 towns during the 1880s.
“We went town by town, covering where each town was at in their level of development, whether it was agricultural or tourism or what landmarks were established by that point,” executive director Victoria Berger said of the display, which opened Saturday and runs through the end of the year.
The room is separated into 10 sections, one for each town, including Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island.
Each town has its own collection of artifacts hanging on the walls, which include pictures, postcards, records of “buried people,” grocery lists, maps, songs, town seals and more.
Ms. Berger said her favorite part of the display, which took approximately nine months to create, is a poster from Southold advertising a lecture at Belmont Hall hosted by G. W. Bullock where Mr. Bullock would detail his side of his recent divorce.
“The treatment a husband received and bore in silence for five years, now told for the first time,” the sign reads. “I can and will prove that I am not guilty of the acts charged or I wouldn’t show myself in Southold.”
Residents from across the county traveled for the opening day of the display, which contained artifacts from the Suffolk County Historical Society archives, local town historical society archives and personal collections, Ms. Berger said.
Calverton resident Ron Ondrovic said he’s been coming to the historical society’s events because he “always learns something new.”
“I’m a railroad fan and I couldn’t tell you that there was a South Shore railroad until today,” he said. “It competed and then merged with the Long Island Rail Road. It’s just all very interesting.”
Riverhead resident Dale Jacobi felt similarly.
“I’m just interested in the local history,” she said. “It’s so in depth … it’s such a deep, deep history of a slice of America. It’s got so much going for it, I just wish some of these old buildings were still here.”
The display runs until the end of the calendar year. Suffolk County Historical Society museum is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Photo caption: The new exhibit opened Saturday. (Credit: Nicole Smith)