Joseph F. Fralinger, the History of Salt Water Taffy, and the Gager Family

     Joseph F Fralinger Oval with signature 394x600px

 

Compiled by Arthur H. Gager, III, 1981
Revised: 1998, 2016

FORWARD

My name is Arthur Henry Gager, 3rd. Joseph Fralinger, the founder of Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy was my Great-Grandfather, Florence Fralinger’s, brother. I never knew either man personally, but my Grandmother, Estelle Fralinger Gager, and my father, Arthur Henry Gager, Jr, were consecutive President’s of Fralinger’s, Inc. and I followed in their footsteps being active in the company from the 1964 when I was a 14 year old stockboy at the Arkansas Avenue Store, working in the Factory in my teens, to being President during the 1980’s, until I left the company in 2012. I originally wrote this history for the many people from the media who would request the truth about Salt Water Taffy each Spring in anticipation of the coming Summer Season at the Seashore. I have offer an accurate and true history of this famous man and his legacy as the ‘King of Salt Water Taffy.

THE FRALINGER FAMILY

The following is as accurate an account as is possible of the history of Joseph F. Fralinger’s life and times and his importance in spreading the fame of Atlantic City and Salt Water Taffy.

In the 1840’s, three Freedinger brothers, John, Jacob and Franz immigrated from the Alsace-Lorraine region of Germany to the Pleasant Mills-Batsto area of New Jersey.  Both regions were well known at that time for their heavy industrialization and the iron trade.

Franz (then spelled) Froehlinger and his wife, Maria, had a son, Joseph F. October 22, 1848 at Pleasant Mills of Sweetwater, Atlantic County, New Jersey. The family name went through many changes from Froehlinger to Fraelinger to the present day Fralinger. His father died only six years later and was buried at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church Cemetery at Pleasant Mills (which can still be visited today).  Joseph was raised by an uncle. His only legacy was the local area’s major industry, glass blowing which he had learned from his father.  He worked that trade in Winslow, Waterford, and Philadelphia for sixteen years until strikes and disputes drove him to seek other employment.  He moved to Philadelphia and worked in the fish and produce markets near 8th street.  It was here that he met Nettie B. Beck.  They married on June 9, 1870. He prospered there and the 1875 Philadelphia Directory listed, “Jos. Fralingers, Oysters” with his business at 900 E. Tulip Street and his home at Sargent near Tulip.

In his free time he became active in baseball and played on teams with then-notables as Al Reach.  His interest in baseball was strong enough to entice him to manage the Quaker City Base Ball Club and then his own ball club at Philadelphia’s Jumbo Park. This team won 84 out of 96 games.

Illness of his wife led him to Atlantic City as it was a popular prescription for many illnesses of the late 1800’s.  He leased the playing field at New Jersey and Baltic Avenues, then formed and managed a team he named ‘The August Flower Base Ball Club’. This team was also quite successful.  At summer’s end, he accepted management of the Wilmington Club.  This venture was so unsuccessful that he was forced to sell all of his property and was left virtually penniless.

 AugustFlower2x2The AUGUST FLOWER Baseball Team Photo.
Joseph Fralinger stands proudly in the center.

Having formed a fascination for Atlantic City, he returned and accepted a job with brick layer Edward S. Lee.  His job was a hod carrier which was the bottom of the building trade’s ladder.  It is now approximately 1880 and the Ritchie Brothers and Windle W. Hollis had set up stands on the Atlantic City Boardwalk to sell taffy, the candy sensation of the day.

Atlantic City at this time was just a seashore village visited by some of the more daring summer vacationists, who rode hopefully shoreward over the narrow gauge railroad from Camden.  The tracks terminated on the landward side of the Thoroughfare and the passengers crossed over to Atlantic City by means of a foot bridge.  Their baggage was ferried over in a scow.  A few streets cut their way courageously through the sand dunes.  The dunes were a desert of dust when dry and a sea of mud in rainy weather.  Several frame hotels sat a safe distance from the beach so that the angry sea should not do them damage.  And, the ‘boardwalk’ was only temporary and was taken up after Labor Day and stored away until the next summer season.

Bathers on Beach 1875-1905 Stereograph-Robert Dennis Collection

SALT WATER TAFFY’S STORY

By 1883, a Mr. Bradley was advertising ‘Taffy’ at his stand on the Boardwalk near the David Lindy Baths at St. James Place.  He sold six pieces of taffy for 5 cents with each piece folded in a square bit of paper with the four ends twisted together. To Joseph Fralinger’s recollection, he was standing at Bradley’s booth one day and a little girl asked for ‘Salt Water Taffy’.  Another asked for ‘Ocean Wave Taffy’. Still another asked for ‘Sea Foam Taffy’. This caused Fralinger to ask, “How many names have you for that candy?”.  They answered, “We let them call it any old thing!”.

Now as fable has it, a nasty Nor’Easter (a strong storm with winds out of the Northeast) in August of that year sprayed the Atlantic Ocean’s waves over Mr. Bradley’s stock of taffy and when the next little girl asked for ‘Salt Water Taffy’ the name rang a bell. That Winter he reportedly had muslin signs made up to advertise the name “Salt Water Taffy” and the next summer did a superior business.

Amidst the whirl of excitement that Atlantic City was beginning to generate in 1883, a certain Mr. John R. Edmiston (who fancied himself as “Professor”) opened his ‘New, Enlarged’ Card Writing stand at the Victoria Skating Rink near New York Avenue.  He had rented this larger space from the well known Capt. John L. Young of the Applegate Pier and Young’s Hotel and his partner, Stewart McShea.  Edmiston took a partner by the name of John Cassidy.  Mr. Cassidy added a taffy concession to the card writing.  But, Professor Edmiston was unable to get along with Mr. Cassidy and fired him.  The Professor continued the taffy trade.  Mr. Cassidy went became partners with Mr. Bradley.

Cassidy's Salt Water Taffy
Cassidy’s Salt Water Taffy Store

HOW FRALINGER’S GOT STARTED

The year 1884 found Joseph Fralinger in better financial position and he opened a cigar store at 724 Atlantic Avenue.  He leased space for a soft drink stand from Young and McShea near New York Avenue across from the Professor.  Fralinger carried the first baskets of apples from the Florida Avenue Draw Bridge at the Thoroughfare as fresh fruit for his stand.  In addition to the apples he offered cider and mineral water and a ‘NEW’, cool and refreshing drink to the resort traveler, lemonade, which was to become ‘the national drink’.  He often attracted visitors to his stand by juggling lemons.

At the end of the Summer of 1884, Mr. Fralinger heard a loud argument between Professor Edmiston and Captain Young.  As Fralinger went across the then 15 foot wide Boardwalk to investigate, the argument grew louder.  He arrived just in time to catch the Professor’s hand which contained a two pound scale weight and was on route to the Captain’s head.  Later, Captain Young approached Fralinger about the incident. He said their argument had been about rent payments and he was so displeased with Edmiston as a tenant that he would like Fralinger to take over the stand and operate the taffy concession.  Fralinger agreed and in the Winter of 1885, he obtained books on confections.  That next spring he made his first batch of Salt Water Taffy.  He started with a molasses flavor, but quickly added the traditional favorites of Chocolate and Vanilla. As time went on more were added until the largest selection offered 25 different flavors.

1890's PostCard-Atlantic City+Jolly Bathers

HOW DID THEY MAKE TAFFY?

Taffy was first cooked in copper kettles over open coal fires, cooled on marble slabs, and pulled on a large hook on the wall.  The ‘Taffy Pull’ was a household enjoyment on Saturday nights as well as an Atlantic City enterprise.  Pulling taffy is designed to add air to the corn syrup and sugar confection.  By draping 10 to 25 pounds of cooled taffy over the hook and then pulling away from the hook, the taffy stretches.  When the taffy reaches a 5 or 6 foot length where it might become too heavy for itself and fall off of the hook, the puller loops the taffy back over the hook, folding it onto itself and trapping air between the two lengths of glistening candy.  An accomplished puller will work quickly and listen for the familiar `swish, then smack or slap’ of the two lengths as they join as one.  This process of aeration helps to keep the taffy soft and prevents stickiness.  The pulled taffy was shaped by hand-rolling it on marble or wooden tables into a 1/4 inch diameter snake. It was then cut to the proper 2 inch length with scissors.  And, finally, wrapped in a pre-cut piece of wax paper with a twist at both ends (“like those little ‘torpedoes’ the boys buy for the Fourth of July”- a comment from 1935).  All of this was done by hand and usually within the sight of the Boardwalk strollers who were eager to watch.  The popular purchase was a 5 cent bag.

JOE FRALINGER CONTINUES TO MOVE FORWARD

As Fralinger became accustomed to the Salt Water Taffy business, he came on the idea of a ‘box’ of Salt Water Taffy.  He obtained 200 boxes for the first weekend of his new idea and to his amazement the one-pounders were sold out by Sunday noon.  He immediately ran to a nearby seafood restaurant and finished the day’s sales with oyster boxes.  The one pound box of taffy became and still is the most popular size.  It is “The Atlantic City Souvenir”.  The Box brought rise to many novel sayings. One which the hawkers on the excursion trains used was “Don’t go home and say, ‘I wish I hadda gotta box”.

In 1887, an enterprising Theodore E. Lapres began to manage Fralinger’s stores.  Then in  1893, Lapres married Fralinger’s eldest daughter, Jeanette or ‘Nettie’ (after her mother). Lapres continued to operate the Fralinger stores and in 1902 was given control of the entire operation now famous to so many.  Joseph Fralinger remained ever busy as we will discover later.

John Cassidy went on to have his own stores, while Professor Edmiston left the Boardwalk for a store on Atlantic Avenue and finally left town to travel nomadically selling taffy from resort to resort.

Young and McShea built Young’s Merry-Go-Round Casino at South Carolina Avenue and the Boardwalk.  Fralinger opened a stand at this location and called it, what else, Fralinger’s Merry-Go-Round Store.  The site featured the largest carousel of the day with an Orchestration Organ featuring 100 musical selections for your listening enjoyment, much of it sacred music.  McShea’s strong religious beliefs stopped the carousel on Sundays, but allowed the sacred music to be played.

1896 Young and McShea's Merry-Go-Round

Fralinger 1900 Merry Go-Round Taffy Label
A Fralinger’s label from 1900

The year 1889 saw the first mention of Salt Water Taffy in the Atlantic City Directory, “Hollis Windle W., Original Salt Water Taffy, Boardwalk near Arkansas Avenue.” Salt Water Taffy was not again listed until the 1899 Atlantic City Directory, when forty-two ‘Confectioners’ were listed.  Only John Cassidy and Joseph Fralinger are associated with Salt Water Taffy from the names shown. The city was growing rapidly and Salt Water Taffy was becoming a household word.  While Fralinger’s idea of boxing taffy earned him the title “King of Salt Water Taffy”, it did not discourage his further enterprises.

The 1890’s saw the addition of confectioners Nicoli C. Tripician and Wm. W. Phillips. 1905 was the year Enoch James came to Atlantic City with his sons, Lee Grant, Harry Enoch, and Enoch Randolph. They had been selling taffy at State Fairs in the Mid-West and also handled lines of candy machinery.  One new item was the mechanical Puller.  This modern invention enabled the amount of taffy that could be pulled at one time to increase from 25 to 250 pounds.  A great stride for the business man was this wonder, but it eliminated the hand-pulling attraction to travelers from all over the world.

The Main store at New York Avenue had signage as Fralinger’s Apothecary.  This historical note was found, “A small, delicate glass bottle imprinted with the store’s name and address is owned by Mrs. Wilkinson of the old Wilkinson Hotel at Arkansas Avenue.”

 

Theodore J. Lapres

Joseph Fralinger hired a manager, Theodore J. Lapres.  As Fralinger became more involved in other real estate ventures, Lapres assumed the responsibility of running the Salt Water Taffy company.

1930's Theodore J Lapres Sr - Fralinger's Sunair Office 444x600 px
Photo of Theodore J. Lapres at his desk in ‘Sunair”, the Fralinger Office at Kentucky Ave & the Boardwalk

In October, 1894, Joseph Fralinger’s only daughter, Nettie, married Mr. Lapres. As a wedding present, Joseph Fralinger gave his Salt Water Taffy company to his daughter and son-in-law. In December, 1897, they had one child, Theodore E. Lapres. In April, 1914, Nettie Beck Fralinger Lapres died.

Joseph Fralinger had a brother, Florence, who lived in Bridgeton, NJ.

This is a photo of Florence L. Fralinger (seated), his 5 daughters and only grandson, Arthur H. Gager, Jr.
Florence L. Fralinger (seated) surrounded by his daughters (l-r) Christine, Josephine, Rose, Jeanette (Nettie), Estella (Stella) and her son, Arthur H. Gager, Jr.

 

Florence had eight daughters. Of his eight daughters, one died at birth, two drowned in a tragic Sunday afternoon canoe accident, one was deemed ‘incompetent’. Of the four daughters, Theodore Lapres found Christine V. Fralinger to be a beauty and he married her.

Christine V. Lapress, nee Fralinger
Christine V. (Fralinger) Lapres

Christine’s sister, Estelle, is my Grandmother.
Their father, Florence Fralinger, is my Grandfather.
Joseph Fralinger was Florence Fralinger’s brother.

 

By 1909 there were four Fralinger Boardwalk locations:

The Steel Pier Store
1011-1013 Boardwalk at Presbyterian Avenue

Captain Young’s Ocean Pier Store
1301-1303 Boardwalk at Ocean Avenue

The Main Store
1501-1505 Boardwalk at New York Avenue

Captain Young’s Million Dollar Pier Store
2029-2031 Boardwalk at Arkansas Avenue

In 1920, the Fralinger offices moved from New York Avenue to a beautifully appointed apartment over the Kentucky Avenue Store.  This was designed and built by Theodore.J. Lapres and named ‘Sunair‘.  It also housed his living quarters with room for a live-in maid.  The Lapres’ family lived there until the 1935.  The apartment was rented and occupied until destroyed by fire in 1978.

Fralinger's Kentucky Ave-Sunair 1930's-600dpiThis photo shows the Fralinger Store at Kentucky Avenue with ,Sunair, the residence of T.J. Lapres’ family and the Main Office of the T.J. Lapres Company. Click on the photo to see more about Sunair.

 

IS “SALT WATER TAFFY” TRADEMARKED?

The year 1923 brought the return of Mr. Edmiston. On August 23rd, he obtained trademark #172,016 for the name “Salt Water Taffy”.  He used this trademark to try and claim title to the “Original” Salt Water Taffy and, in so doing, demanded that the largest taffy firms account to him for the profits which they had reaped using ‘his’ name.  The James Brothers brought suit against Edmiston and during the court hearings many well known and long established residents and businessmen testified against the false claim.  The U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled against Edmiston on the grounds that the name had been used by too many people for too long for any one person to claim any exclusive rights to it.  “Salt Water Taffy is born of the ocean and summer resorts and other ingredients that are the common property of all men everywhere.”

Today, just about everyone claims to be the ‘Original’, but the real origin of Salt Water Taffy has been washed away by thousands of sea tides.  It does remain that Fralinger’s is the oldest retail trade on Atlantic City’s famed Boardwalk.

SODA FOUNTAINS

Soda Fountains were added at Kentucky Avenue in January of 1924, at the Pier store in April of 1924, and at Arkansas Avenue in November of 1924.

 

Fralinger’s stores grew to 6 locations each with its own soda fountain.  The fountains offered ice cream, fresh fruit, sundaes, splits, freezes, floats, flips, frappes, tonics, mineral waters, medicinal waters, and exotics such as capudine, edge-mur, and aromatic spirits of ammonia with bicarbonate of soda.  The candy selection was endless. Would you like to try Chocolate Covered Puffed Rice Brownies, Molasses Coconut Haystacks, Buttery Molasses Bars, and Egg-o-Whipt Colonial BitterSweet Chocolates.
Click on the Menus above and below to see the details and the prices of the day.

 

MORE HISTORY

In 1926, Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy was awarded the Gold Medal for the quality of its Salt Water Taffy at the Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  This award is unparalleled today.

Though Salt Water Taffy was firmly entrenched in consumer’s minds, advertising stated, “All enjoy kisses.  We make Sea Foam Kisses, Sunlight Kisses, Scotch Kisses and several other varieties.”  Even today Salt Water Taffy has a variety of styles.  We chocolate coat it to make Chocolate Dipped Salt Water Taffy, we fill it with coconut, jellies, and fruit and nut centers to *make our Filled Centers, and we even take our molasses taffy and give it two different peanut butter centers in a Peanut Butter Chew.
During World War I, Joseph Fralinger saw to it that great quantities of salt water taffy were shipped to our armed forces stationed both here and in Europe.
During World War II, the company continued this tradition, now shipping around the world.  Both wars saw severe shortages of sugar which necessitated rationing by the Federal Government. With expertise and ingenuity, Fralinger’s circumvented the problem by using barrels and barrels of molasses, the same sugar that was first used in 1885.

 

REAL ESTATE INTERESTS & THE ACADEMY OF MUSIC

Salt Water Taffy was not Joseph Fralinger’s only golden achievement.  His early friendship with John L. Young and Stewart McShea grew and led to numerous real estate ventures including the Toboggan Slide at Ocean Avenue.

At New York Avenue he built the Fralinger Pharmacy, a Fralinger Candy Store, and the first, real Boardwalk theater and named it The Academy of Music. The New York Avenue apartments were named the Jeanette Apartments, after his wife.  Later, they were known as the Fralinger Apartments.

June 22, 1892 was the eve of The Academy of Music’s Grand Opening.  During the rehearsal of Professor Bartholomew’s Equine Paradox, a trained horse show, the theater caught fire and burned to the ground.  To the amazement of all, the theater was rebuilt in just six weeks.  The second Academy had such illustrious features as ‘The Hearth of Chicago’ and the Payton Comedy Players presenting ‘Woman against Woman’, ‘Only a Farmer’s Daughter’, and ‘Alone in London at Night’.

The weather often played an important part in the events of the day.  The Atlantic City Daily Press recorded on October 25, 1897 the coming of the Civil War, domestic comedy “For Fair Virginia” with a complete scenic outfit.  A huge nor’easter flooded the island and prevented any trains from approaching from Philadelphia.  `Manager Fralinger was very much disappointed and promised ticket refunds.’

This structure lasted until February 07, 1898 when it was also destroyed by fire caused by electric light wires.  The headline of the Daily Union read,

This a photo of the Academy of Music Fire in 1898
The 1898 Academy of Music Fire

“ACADEMY OF MUSIC IN ASHES, For the Second Time in Its Brief History the Playhouse Succumbs to Fire, THE BOARDWALK FLOOR DID NOT ESCAPE.”  The entry in the company  diary read,

“Our store, the Academy of Music, Keffers Store, Myers Photo Gallery & Mervin’s Bath House were burnt to the ground.  The fire originated under the Academy at 8:00 a.m. and the store & our dwelling were burnt down by 20 minutes to 9:00 a.m.  We saved most of the store fixtures from the store.  Everything we had was lost – except – a trunk with a few unmade clothes, Nettie’s diamond pendant, my wheel, and a couple of over-coats.” Note: Nettie Beck was Joseph Fralinger’s wife.

“What is a ‘wheel’?  A January 1, 1898 diary entry reads as follows,

“in the evening I went to the Rafle of Bill Rois Wheel.  I threw 44 plus was offered $5.00 for my chance, but would not take it.  Charley DeHauser then beat my throw by one.”

What was it a raffle of?  What is a wheel?

A local newspaper article tells of two men caught speeding on Atlantic Avenue.  The police took away their ‘wheels’.  In the 1890’s, a `wheel’ was a bicycle. It was the height of the bicycle craze in America. Below are two styles of 1890’s bicycles. The one on the right is wooden.

This is a photo of an 1890's wooden wheel bicycleThis is an 1890's High Wheel Bicycle

Another unfortunate note from the Daily Union was that the Academy of Music had been a partnership of Young, McShea, and Fralinger until a day or so before the fire when Mr. Fralinger bought out his partners.  It is uncertain from this article whether Fralinger incurred the full debt of the disaster as the article goes on to say that the contractor, E.V. Corson, had not yet turned the Academy over to the owners.

The rebuilding of the Academy of Music for the third time began only five days after the fire.  It was constructed of brick on red cedar pilings at a cost of $80,000.00.  Quite a bit of money when an ‘iron grey’ suit cost $20.00 and the matching striped pants were $5.00 more.  The corner stores which housed the pharmacy and the apartments were again built of wood.  But, it was a marvelous structure with Turkish, peaked turrets and extensive bisque ornamentation.

The interior of this Fralinger Pharmacy is featured in our most famous postcard.  Interestingly enough, the first brick was carried in a hod by then Councilman E.S. Lee, owner of the same brick company that not long ago had employed Fralinger.  A silver-plated trowel was used to commemorate the event. The pharmacy and apartments were completed by May 1st.  And, on July 25 of that same year the Academy of Music opened with the ‘Egyptian of Pompii’, twenty selected voices from the Castle Square Opera Company, an ‘octette’ of ballet girls, and several specialty artists `who are well worth seeing’.  The Atlantic City Daily Press recorded the event, “HANDSOME THEATER CROWDED WITH FASHIONABLE THRONG. Expressions of Admiration Were the Rule – Proprietor and Manager Joseph Fralinger Was a Happy Man.”  The theater was described as being as beautiful and comfortable as any in the country with delicately tinted frescoes on the walls, hundreds of incandescent lights, a drop curtain painted with two warships cutting through the water at full speed, and each seat had a hat rack `thus solving the problem that frequently troubles every male theater-goer’.

Just to show how ever present the evil of fire was, on October 8th of that very same year, 1898, a fire erupted at 5:30 a.m. and burned down the old Merry-Go-Round which included Fralinger’s original stand, the new Merry-Go-Round of Triesinger Swamb, Mr. McShea’s and Mr. Haines’ homes, Moores Graffs poolroom, The Beach Pirates Chemical Engine Company No. 1 (a volunteer fire fighting unit), and Ferzan’s.  This means that within eight months, Fralinger had lost both of his stores.

Yet, life went on.  The summer season was over so there was no great hurry to re-build.  An October 13. 1898 diary entry shows Jos. Fralinger going crabbing with two friends while Lapres was left to tend the store.  And, times don’t really change all that much.  Another diary entry shows that even in the good old days, Joe Fralinger could have his Cleveland Bicycle stolen.

1900 Map of AC-Jos Fralinger Academy of Music with Legend and Inset 600x342This 1900 Map shows the location of the Fralinger Pharmacy and Academy of Music at New York Ave and the Boardwalk build as a ‘brick’ building.

Much to the dismay of all, a large fire caused by a gasoline lamp explosion on April 3, 1902 took a heavy toll of the Boardwalk and gutted the block of stores between New York and Kentucky Avenues for a third time.  The brick walls of the Academy of Music acted as a fire break and stopped the spreading fire, but didn’t save the Academy, the Apartments, or the store.    The diary entry reads,

“Everything on the Beach front from Illinois to New York Avenue (2 blocks) was burnt to the ground.  Fire started at 10:10 a.m. and lasted to 3:30 p.m.  Nothing left of our place but Academy walls.”

Click this link to read the New York Times account of the tragedy. The Academy of Music was valued at $50,000 while the Fralinger Pharmacy was $30.000.  This were certainly huge sums in 1902 when the average annual wage was $200-$400.

Academy of Music 1902 Fire- NY Times Article

The dauntless Fralinger remodeled the theater for a fourth time.  In only four days they had removed the debris and started the floors and roof of the stores and apartment on the corner.  By April 19th, a temporary drug store was up.  On July 24th, they opened the taffy store which featured marbleized columns and silver on the ceiling.  By August 12th, they were able to again sleep in their own beds in the apartments above.  The Summer of ’02 was a good one.  Numerous times the daily diary mentions ‘running out of taffy’.  On July 6th, they ran out a 3:00 p.m. and sold it as fast as they could make it until 10:00 p.m.  By 1903, business was so good that they began to take the store’s doors off their hinges in June and stay open all night, right through the summer.

The Academy went through some unknown hard times.  It didn’t re-open until April 12, 1908 and was renamed The Apollo Theater.

Academy of Music 1910 rebuild

It was now able to seat 1,600 people in the grandest style of the day.  Fralinger leased the theater to Sam Nixon for twenty years.  It flourished and became the ‘top’ legitimate theater of the town.  It was known for many years as a try-out house for Broadway shows.  The daily bill featured live plays and minstrel shows which were the ‘rage’.  After an illustrious period of providing the best in live entertainment, the Apollo became a moving picture theater in 1924.

Apollo Theater & Fralinger Pavillion  1925-0724 seen from the beach M0506-72dpiThe rooftop turret in the center of this 1925 photo is the Fralinger Pharmacy on the corner of New York Avenue. The Academy of Music is to the left. See the inset below.

1925 Nixon's Apollo Theater-inset

Apollo Theater-Nixon's circa 1925-0524 M0498-72dpiNixon’s Apollo Theater is seen on the far left in this 1925 Photo.

The theater was in active service until 1976 when it was finally closed.  The front facade continued to be used for retail stores.  In 1985, Hurricane Gloria’s 80 mile an hour winds knocked down part of the third floor exterior brick walls. In the Fall of 1985 the site was razed to make way for the Atlantic Palace Hotel/Condominium.  The demolition exposed huge painted murals to the sunlight for the first time in 77 years.  Some artifacts of the theater were saved by the Atlantic City Historical Society.

Fralinger’s other notable feats include his spearheading the drive in 1896 along with Young, McShea, and numerous Boardwalk land owners to increase the Boardwalk’s width to sixty feet on a new steel foundation.  He also fought to keep the railroads from laying tracks on the Ocean side of the Boardwalk.  Though he did not gain monetarily from these actions, he helped to preserve the beaches for bathing and sunning as they are today.  Through his real estate interests, he helped to build Chalfont and Westminister Avenues.

 

VOLUNTEER FIREMAN, BOY SCOUT, AND LATER YEARS

He also had an interest in the volunteer fire companies of the day.  These were made up of a variety of people from all walks of life.  Joseph Fralinger was a member of the Neptune Hose Company (pronounced `Nep-shun’ by the old-timers).  Their headquarters were located at Connecticut and Atlantic Avenues.  Established in 1882, they remained in force until 1904.  Their members included Judges, Colonels, and Senators.  Clement J. Adams founder of C.J. Adams, a local insurance company still in business in 1990, and, our good old friend, E.S. Lee were also members.  With all the bad luck experienced with fire, this was certainly a good investment for the future.

NeptuneFireThis photo shows the Neptune Fire Company with an inset photo of Joseph Fralinger.

Fralinger maintained a summer residence in Schwenksville, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. It was located high atop Spring Mountain overlooking the picturesque Perkiomen Valley.  It was here that he became interested in a boys camp that was in need of repair.  He purchased eleven acres of land along the river and donated it to the Boy Scouts for use as a summer camp.  Named Camp Fralinger in his honor, it was well used, especially by Boy Scouts from the Atlantic City area.  During his later years, he also maintained a home in Miami, Florida.

Joseph F. Fralinger, 78 years young, died on May 13, 1927 and was laid to rest at the Atlantic City Cemetery on the mainland.  His principles of sound business have been carried on until the present by members of his family.

 

THE FRALINGER BOARDWALK STORES HISTORY

A fire in November of 1924 destroyed the Pier Store. In February of 1925, Fralinger moved to the other end of the block at Virginia Avenue or 1001 Boardwalk and re-opened on April 11, 1925.  June 11, 1925 saw the Ocean Avenue Store move into the new Arcade Building on the corner of Tennessee Avenue.  There were also stores at South Carolina Avenue near Child’s Restaurant and at Mississippi Avenue.  Both of these stores were closed in 1926.

June of 1932 introduced a ‘Depression Store’ where the candy was made with quality but might be considered ‘seconds’.  But, the prices were right for the day.

1958-03 Fralinger Stores-486x800 pxFralinger Stores in March, 1958 –
Top row (l-r) Virginia Ave (Steel Pier Store), Tennessee Ave Store (Arcade Building)
2nd row – Tennessee Ave Store, Virginia Ave Store
3rd row – Arkansas Ave Store, Kentucky Ave Store
4th row – Kentucky Ave Store with Sunair above, Arkansas Ave Store

THE VIRGINIA AVENUE  or ‘THE STEEL PIER’ STORE
across the Boardwalk from the entrance to Steel Pier

Fralinger’s store at Virginia Avenue was across the boards from the famous Steel Pier.  The photos above were from the 1960’s and featured the popular Piggy Bank of Taffy.

Fralinger's Mail Order 1950's Giant Piggy Bank

It was a Styrofoam piggy bank available in assorted colors with eyes that moved, sometimes call ‘wobbly eyes’. Wobbly EyesLater the eyes were replaced with ‘lenticular’ eyes that changed as you move them, sometimes called ‘wiggle’ pictures.

The Virginia Ave store was destroyed once by fire on July 30th, 1954 and rebuilt on the same site.  The store was open until September 11, 1981 when Resorts International Casino & Hotel canceled the lease and demolished the property for their future development.  It became the site of Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino.

THE TENNESSEE AVENUE STORE

1970's Fralinger's Tennessee Avenue Store Rotating Sign 1970's Fralinger's Tennessee Ave Store-Mary Stopfer-Mgr Dolly Primrose-Asst Mgr 400x640px

Frallinger's Tennessee Ave 1950's

The Fralinger store in the ‘Arcade Building’ at Tennessee Avenue and the ‘Walk’ opened in 1925 and is still open today. The Boardwalk Arcade was built in 1925 and was probably the first ‘indoor’ mall in America.  It housed the Boardwalk National Bank, the ‘Trousseau Shop’ for dresses, and a variety of other retail stores. Each had  a ‘store front’ design with display windows and a recessed entry way.  The second floor was a financial office. In later years many of the stores were populated with offices including the Fralinger’s, Inc. Main Office and M.B. Markland Contracting Co. which built the Atlantic City Convention Hall on the Boardwalk.

Rent’s were always high along the Boardwalk, especially corner stores. Here’s a rent check from 1957 for $35,000.00 for the Tennessee Ave Store in the Arcade Building owned by the Boardwalk National Bank signed by then President, my grandmother, Estelle Gager and Josephine Sweeney, Fralinger’s Office Manger – CFO in in today’s terms.

1957 Fralinger Check to Boardwalk Natl Bank
Tennessee Ave Store Rent Check – Notice the Box design from the 1940’s

FRALINGER ALMOND MACAROONS

Fralinger Almond Macaroon

The Tennessee Ave store was the home of our famous Fralinger’s Almond Macaroon Shop. The Macaroon Shop was at the Boardwalk level and the floor of the Arcade Building was about 6 feet higher allowing you to look down into the Shop and watch the macaroons being made.

Almond Macaroons are a delicate bakery confection made of almond paste, egg whites, and sugar.  The recipe was acquired in the 1920’s from French owners of ‘The Macaroon Shop’ next to Fralinger’s Kentucky Avenue Store. A very simple formula of ingredients, but the slightest change ruins the beautiful cracked crust and flattens them like pancakes.

Until the 1980’s, the macaroon batter was scooped by hand onto baking trays. I remember watching our baker, Calvin Weeks, with an ice cream scoop in hand, dip into a very large bowl of macaroon paste, “scoop, scoop, scoop” up the side of the bowl, turning the bowl slightly each time leaving a  swirl pattern behind.  Then ‘plop’ onto the glassine paper liner on the tray. Four across and eight down making 24 macaroons per tray.  Then into the large commercial ‘pizza’ sized oven to bake.  The entire building filled with the wonderful smell of almond and sweetness. There were more than a few tenants of the Arcade the came into the store’s Soda Fountain for a cup of coffee and a couple of ‘fresh out of the oven’ macaroons.

In 1992, the macaroon shop was moved into the factory to accommodate our increased demands for Almond and the ‘newer’ Coconut Macaroons.

 

THE KENTUCKY AVENUE STORE

1960's Fralinger's Kentucky Ave Store with Sunair's orange tile roof

The store at Kentucky Avenue was in service for 71 years (1920-1991).  It suffered extensive smoke and water damage from a fire in October of 1978 which started at Illinois Avenue and burned northward destroying much of the block including the ‘Sunair’ apartment over the store.  It was completely destroyed by fire on October 15, 1984.  It was rebuilt and reopened on February 1, 1986.  Despite casinos in Atlantic City, due to location in the middle of the Boardwalk, but distant from the casinos, on January 1, 1991, 1601 Boardwalk closed due to lack of business.

THE ARKANSAS AVENUE STORE

1930's Fralinger's Arkansas Ave Store
The store at Arkansas Avenue was opened until February 7, 1978.  During a severe Nor’easter snow storm a fire badly damaged the apartments above and the surrounding buildings. One half of a block of stores was condemned and demolished. It included the Fralinger store.  A temporary store was opened in the front of what had been the Warner Theater.  The Warner Theater had been converted into a bowling alley in the 1960’s.  In 1978, the bowling alley was demolished to make way for Caesar’s Boardwalk Regency’s Casino parking garage.  This demolition left only the front 100 feet of the Warner Theater with it’s magnificent facade below which we sold Salt Water Taffy.  The Fralinger store then moved next to Bally’s Park Place Hotel/Casino for one year.

THE MILLION DOLLAR PIER STORE

1980 Fralinger's Million Dollar Pier Store across from Caesar's Hotel and Casino 600x400 px

In 1980, Fralinger’s and two other Boardwalk merchants built stores on the front of the Million Dollar Pier, an amusement pier, which was originally erected by good, old Captain John L. Young.

THE OCEAN ONE STORE

That location lasted fifteen months until the pier was raised to make way for “Ocean One”.  A shopping mall over the ocean, it housed over 100 retail shops and restaurants on three levels.  On July 1, 1983, Fralinger’s became one of the ‘Shops on Ocean One’ maintaining its location at Arkansas Avenue and the Boardwalk for over 80 years (1909-1993).

THE WARNER THEATER STORE

1980's Fralinger's Warner Theater Store Chris Tamburelli Rosie Gialouris Ann McCann 480x729px

The Million Dollar Pier was sold to Kravco, a Mall Developer.  The pier was completely re-built, pilings and all, into the Shops On Ocean One. So, the Million Dollar Pier Store was torn down and the store temporarily moved into the front of the closed Warner Theater, a landmark in its own right. But even that had been remodeled in the 60’s into the Boardwalk Bowl bowling alley.

BALLY’S PARK PLACE STORE AND GIFT SHOP

1998 Fralinger's store at Bally's Park Place Casino 640x480 px

In 1998, Fralinger’s open a store on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City in Bally’s Park Place Casino Hotel.  It was constructed with the same ‘old Atlantic City’ feeling of the Cape May store with hardwood flooring, tin ceiling, and engraved wood cabinetry.  The store on the Ocean One Mall was closed.

THE OCEAN CITY STORE – 11th  & BOARDWALK

1985 Fralinger's Ocean City Store at 14th St

The year 1985 saw Fralinger’s expand outside the Atlantic City limits.  A store was opened at in Ocean City, our sister island to the south, at 11th and the Boardwalk near the Flanders Hotel.  Recognition was instant and the store saw success from the day its doors opened.

THE CAPE MAY STORE – WASHINGTON STREET MALL

In 1994 Fralinger’s, Inc. purchased a building on the Washington Street Mall in Cape May.  It was renovated into it’s original beautiful Victorian style with hardwood floors, tin ceilings, and engraved wood cabinetry.  Our history was a perfect fit for the gem of the Jersey Shore.

 

FRALINGER’S FACTORY at 600 N. INDIANA AVE

For many, many years, Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy was made in the basements of each of the Boardwalk stores.  Then in the 1920’s, a factory was purchased at 600 N. Indiana Avenue in Atlantic City.

Fralinger Factory 1960's
1958 – The Fralinger’s Factory, 600 N. Indiana Ave, Atlantic City, NJ

It was headed by Mr. George Walters a superior candy maker.  Mr. Walters know how to craft a candy recipe that was exquisite.  He added the Creamy Mint Stick, a taffy shaped piece of candy that melted in your mouth with a strong peppermint taste.

Fralinger's Factory-Mary O'Dea 50 Yrs Service Award-1-3
These photos were taken at the Fralinger’s Factory. George Walters, Jimmy Graham and many long time employees can be seen here.

In the 1950’s, an effort was made to expand the product line.  Then President of Fralinger’s was Arthur H. Gager, Jr.  His wife, Evelyn, suggested something like a ‘Mary Jane’.  Mr. Walters set to the task and created the Peanut Butter Chew.  It was rectangular in shape and had an outer jacket of Molasses Taffy with two centers.  The inner most was a soft combination of Peanuts, Peanut Butter and confectioner’s sugar wrapped in a jacket of the same center used in the Fralinger’s Peanut Butter Taffy.  It is still one of the most popular candies made.  It is very hard to eat just one.
Some flavors were distinguished by 4 stripes: Spearmint had green stripes, Teaberry had red stripes, licorice-flavor Anise had black stripes and Molasses Mint had Chocolate Taffy stripes. At that time, the Peanut Butter Salt Water Taffy was distinguished from the Vanilla by having a Peanut Butter Center. When you looked at the end of the piece, you could see the brown center. Today, the brown center is gone as the PB Center is mixed into the taffy and it now has a red and a green stripe.
In the 1950, there were 26 flavors:
Mocha                              Apicot
Strawberry                     Peanut Butter
Fig                                     Orange
Molasses Cocoanut       Spearmint
Lime                                 Almond
Teaberry                         Brazil Nut
Molasses                          Lemon
Peppermint                    Vanilla
Sassafras                         Licorice
Pineapple                        Chocolate
Peach                               Molasses Walnut
Cinnamon                       Clove
Anise                                Molasses Mint

OTHER MAKERS OF SALT WATER TAFFY

Taffy is so popular and ubiquitous as an Atlantic City souvenir, that many people have tried their hand over the years. There was Tripician’s, Phillips, Henry’s, Steel’s, Shriver’s in Ocean City, and Dolly’s in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Most copied the 1 lb box size and the design of the Fralinger’s artwork. But no one has matched the quality and longevity of Fralinger’s Original Salt Water Taffy.

1950 design of the 1b Fralinger Salt Water Taffy boxThis is Fralinger’s original artwork “Atlantic City At Twilight”
created in the 1950’s and still graces the mainstay box today.

1940 Henry's Salt Water Taffy-600x448pxThis is a photo of Henry’s Salt Water Taffy store in the 1940’s.

1976 CASINOS IN ATLANTIC CITY

In 1976 the passage of the State of New Jersey’s law allowing legalized gambling in Atlantic City initiated the revival of the ‘Playground of the World’.  Old hotels and buildings were raised to make way for new 500 room hotels which include all the amenities for a fabulous vacation stay.

“UNDER THE BOARDWALK”

Another point of interest developed in the 1940’s.  The height between the Boardwalk and the beach became such that you could walk under the ‘Walk’.  Since bathing houses were still very popular, entrance ways were constructed to let bathers go directly onto the beach from their hotel or bathhouse.  Someone came upon the idea to lining the walkways with chairs and tables.  And soon, small food and soft drink stands populated the underside of the wooden way.  The side walls and floor were of sand, but it offered a shady rest for hot dogs and soda.  Fralinger’s operated such a stand at its Kentucky Avenue Store.

Submarine Grill

 

 

“HORSE RIDES ON THE BEACH IN ATLANTIC CITY”

During the ‘off season’ months October thru April, you could ride a horse on the beach in Atlantic City.  For the younger crowd, there were pony rides and pony cart rides. I r remember riding in the carts in the 1950’s.

1950's Beach Pony Rides by the Fralinger Arkansas Ave Store 385x300 px

 

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE 100?

The year 1985 marked the 100th Anniversary of Fralinger’s presence on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.  A huge birthday party was held on June 22nd in front of the famed Convention Hall.  Balloons, old-fashioned high wheeled bicycles, a Dixieland band, a barbershop quartet, and a tight-rope walking juggler highlighted the day of Boardwalk Ballyhoo!  The main event was an attempt to establish a world record for the longest salt water taffy.  A vintage 1900 Rose Cut & Wrap Machine was modified to size the candy into its normal one-quarter inch diameter but not to cut or wrap it.  Over 200 Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Mayor’s Youth Council, the Police Athletic League to name only a few were used to carry the length down the Boardwalk towards the Golden Nugget Casino and Hotel.  The green lime taffy went 500 feet, 10.8 inches before we ran out of people.  Media coverage was provided by newspapers, radio, and television.  A good time was had by all in an attempt to bring the old fashioned flavor of Atlantic City back to the new version of glitter and glass.

 

WHERE WERE WE in 1990?

Atlantic City continued to grow and change upon change took place. A fire in 1939 took the last stand displaying the Bradley name, while the retirement of Lee and Harry James in 1947 which led them to sell their business to Otto, Henry, Frank, and Joseph Glaser.  Frank J. Glaser, son of Henry Glaser, now owns James Candy Company.
Hank and Virginia Glaser, son and daughter of Henry Glaser, operated Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy in Ocean City, NJ.

Fralinger’s descendants have operated his namesake to this very day.  Estelle Fralinger Gager was President and managed the company’s direction through World War II until her death in 1957.  Her son, Arthur Henry Gager, Jr., became President of the corporation.  He set the company’s course through the strong 50’s, and the steadily declining 60’s and 70’s.  That fair lady, the Queen of Resorts was losing it’s popularity to air flights to Florida vacations.  Mr. Gager, Jr. died in November of 1973.  His eldest son Arthur Henry Gager, 3rd who at 14 began working Summer’s as a stockboy in the Arkansas Ave, then at the Factory at 17 cooking and pulling taffy, joined the company full-time in 1974 and became President in 1978.  In 1992, Frank Glaser purchased the company with Mr. Gager, 3rd remained as an active executive until 2013.

Salt Water Taffy today is measured by the hundreds of thousands of pounds.  The ingredients remain virtually the same, by modern methods of production have changed greatly.   Taffy is now cooked in huge copper or stainless steel kettles and then vacuum cooked a second time.  In the 30’s they called this the ‘Dry Cook’ method.  It reduces the amount of moisture in the candy leaving it less sticky.  Next, the pulling is done on mechanical pullers.  Modern ‘Cut & Wrap’ machines automatically size both the diameter and length of the candy, then cut it and wrap it once in wax paper and again in clear cellophane at speed of up to 1,000 pieces a minute.  It is then packed in a variety of boxes, bags, and novelty containers.  It is sold in Atlantic City and Ocean City and mailed all over the world.  Through the years the quality has never ceased, yet the speed of process and cleanliness have increased.

Even though none of the ‘fabled’ originators of salt water taffy are with us today, it is undisputable that Joseph Fralinger having opened his first stand on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk in 1885 is the oldest and most successful Salt Water Taffy merchant in the history of the city.  In doing so, he laid the foundation for a family owned and operated retail business that has spanned four generations and 108 years (1885-1993).  As this city continues to grow and change, Fralinger’s will strive to maintain its reputation for quality products, quality service, and the finest candy for the finest people.

 

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Frank Butler, Book of the Boardwalk, Atlantic City: the 1954 Association, Inc., 1953

George A. Crawford, Atlantic City Directory, Atlantic City: George A. Crawford & Co., 1899

Ed Davis, Atlantic City Diary – A Century of Memories  1880-1980, Egg Harbor City: The Laureate Press, 1980

Charles E. Funnell, By the Beautiful Sea, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975

John Hall, The Daily Union History of Atlantic City and the County, NJ, Atlantic City: Issued from the Office of the Daily Union Printing Co., 1899

Alfred M. Heston, South Jersey – A History 1664-1924,

New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1924

The Jersey Shore, A Social and Economic History of the Counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean: Family and Personal History, Volume III, New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1953

William McMahon, So Young…So Gay! Story of the Boardwalk  1870-1970, Atlantic City: An AC Press Publication, 1970

The 1875 Philadelphia Directory

__________ NEWSPAPER ARTICLES AND OTHER SOURCES __________

Atlantic City Daily Press, “Edward Lee Will Lay the Brick”, Saturday Morning, March 19, 1898

Atlantic City Press, “Taffy Famed World Around”, Sunday, March 3, 1929

Atlantic City Press, “Salt Water Taffy Stretches Resorts

Name Around the World”, Sunday, July 18, 1965

Atlantic City Press, “James Taffy Factory….”, Sunday, August 8, 1965

Sports of the Times – Special Supplement of the Famous Seaside Resorts Atlantic City, New York, May 16, 1903

Daily Union, “ACADEMY OF MUSIC IN ASHES”, February 7, 1898

Fralinger’s Original Soda Menu, undated.

Cover photo taken June 24, 1907 (source Fralinger’s Diary)

Nixon’s Apollo Theater Program, “Biography of Joseph Fralinger,

Owner of the Apollo Theater”, undated

Official Publication of the AC Chamber of Commerce, 1922

Personal letter from Joseph F. Fralinger to Theodore J. Lapres, Jan 10, 1923

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