Rockport native Merry Seppala has graciously allowed me to scan some of her old postcards and photographs, which I’ll be posting from time to time here over the coming weeks. She has several one-of-a-kind photos, so stay tuned.
This postcard is from her collection. Although I’ve seen it published elsewhere, including in Marshall Swan’s 1980 book, Town on Sandy Bay, I love it because it is one of the rare postcards that shows the trolley that once circled Cape Ann. (Here is another.) It also illustrates the merriment that ensued whenever the warships of the North Atlantic Fleet were in town. And, of course, it underscores Rockport’s long-abiding love of all things baseball.
Swan’s book credits Dr. William D. Hoyt, a longtime collector of historic Rockport images, as the source of his image and says it is from about 1908. The trolley was on Broadway when the picture was shot and was headed to Webster’s Field on Nugent Stretch, Swan says.
A 1906 newspaper article described how every ship in the fleet had its own baseball team. The teams played each other in a full season of games, including a championship. During the fleet’s 1906 visit to Rockport, the article said, “baseball will be the feature sport of the stay here,” including the final games of the fleet championship.
As for the trolley, began offering service through Rockport on July 4, 1896. It ran from Gloucester to Rockport, then on to Pigeon Cove and Lanesville. Fare between Rockport and Gloucester was 5 cents. Those traveling on to the Cove or Lanesville had to pay 10 cents.
At first the trolley was immensely popular (except among a few Rockport merchants who complained that the trolley was taking their customers to Gloucester). But over time the townspeople started to grumble about rising fares, frequent breakdowns and excessive noise. With ridership having dropped severely and maintenance costs soaring, the trolley ran its last routes on the night of June 19, 1920.
This postcard does not identify the publisher. The only information on the reverse is that it was printed in Germany, as most postcards were prior to World War I.