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Nathaniel H. Bishop (1837-1902)

Brief biographical notes, based on Guthorn: Bishop was born in Medford, Mass. Hiked across South America at age of 17, published The Pampas and Andes: A Thousand Miles' Walk Across South America, in 1869. Moved to Ocean County, N.J., before 1864. Cranberry grower near Hanover. Moved to Manahawkin, by 1872 (close to Barnegat Bay), and became canoe enthusiast after British model of "Rob Roy" MacGregor. Ordered 18-foot canoe Mayeta, built by J. S. Lamson, Bordentown, N.J. Started on voyage from Quebec, but canoe became too heavy. Replaced by Maria Theresa, a 58-pound paper canoe built by Elisha Waters, Troy, N.Y. Paddled to Florida in it 1874-5, published Voyage of the Paper Canoe, 1878.

After trying out five Barnegat sneak-boats by 1875, he had the Centennial Republic built and rowed it down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Florida. This boat was exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition and then at the Smithsonian Institution. He published Four Months in a Sneak-Box in 1879.

Bishop corresponded with many interested canoeists through Forest and Stream magazine, which also popularized George Washington Sears ("Nessmuk") and the ultralight canoes made by J. Henry Rushton of Canton, New York. He suggested a common organization of American canoe clubs, and the American Canoe Association was formed in 1880 after a meeting on Lake George, New York. Bishop became the secretary until 1886. A poster [94KB] made by his friends commemorates his accomplishments for canoeing.

Guthorn relates that Bishop became successful at cranberry growing, owning some 60 properties, as well as homes on Lake George, in Monrovia, Calif., and Lake Worth, Fla., and on Water Street, Toms River, N.J. Bishop in his will of 1902 funded a public library for the Township of Dover, which was dedicated on Washington Street, a block and a half east of Main Street in Toms River, on January 16, 1941.

The Bishop Memorial Library (now Ocean County Library, Bishop Building), not surprisingly for such an adventurous man, continues to play a pioneer role. According to a kind message from Elizabeth Cronin, an Ocean County librarian, "Mr. Bishop was recalled [in September, 1997,] at the dedication of our new computer lab. One of the speakers hoped that such an intrepid Victorian gentlemen would have approved of his legacy being used both as a historical and genealogy library and as a computer center to teach the use of new library resources such as the Internet. It was very special to see Mr. Bishop's portrait over the fireplace and at the same time to see the same portrait from your website [that you are reading now] on a computer a very few feet away." Please refer to this library for more information on Bishop and sneak boxes, as we are not expert in either.

Purely of tangential and coincidental interest, like a James Burke "Connection," Rene Dubos at the Rockefeller Institution in New York City developed one of the first antibiotic preparations out of cultures taken by Rutgers scientists from a New Jersey cranberry bog, perhaps one that Bishop helped develop. This played some role in the fight against tuberculosis, a disease that was common in Bishop's time and caused victims to travel to distant places for a cure, such as Florida or the Adirondack woods. There these men, such as Sears, paddled canoes and made canoeing into a popular sport through their magazine articles, and at the same time encouraged the conservation and ecology principles that Dubos later also popularized.

Because readers may wish to read similar articles or books on canoeing or yachting of this period, we include here a Forest and Stream, May 1885, bibliography of American publications on nautical subjects, courtesy of Craig O'Donnell. You may find many of them on dusty library shelves. If you scan any of them, we'll post them here.

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