Few people today realize the enormity of the U.S. political scene in the 1880s – those heady days between the Civil War and the start of the 20th Century! Those were the days powered by the “Robber Barons” of Mark Twain’s Gilded Age. And if the era was the Gilded Age, then Long Branch, New Jersey was the “Gilded Strand,” where the wealthy and famous came to enjoy their summers.
Scotch Plains, NJ author Feather Schwartz Foster offers a glimpse of that era of sprawling 30-room “cottages” in her new novel, “Garfield’s Train.” The fictional Dunbar family interacts with such characters as General Grant, Roscoe Conkling, James G. Blaine, and, of course, the Garfield family in the early 1880s.
James A. Garfield was only president for six months – three of which were spent dying. To finally escape the fetid and miserable heat of the Washington summer and offer the dying man some respite, he was brought to Long Branch for his last days. In a burst of patriotism, caring and community spirit, a ¾ mile railroad spur was built overnight for the President to be brought from the train station right to the door of a cottage-by-the-sea without painful jostling in a wagon over a rutted road.
According to the author, “This was arguably Long Branch’s proudest hours, and for some reason, it has become a mere footnote to history. The actual historical records only indicate that it happened – not how it happened. In ‘Garfield’s Train’, I tried to draw the picture in my mind of the entire posh resort and the way the 3,000 residents turned out to support the railroad workers in their labor of love and patriotism.
Feather Schwartz Foster has also written “LADIES: A Conjecture of Personalities” about the First Ladies between Martha Washington and Mamie Eisenhower, and an e-book, entitled “On The Road With The Old Gals,” about her lecturing experiences. She has made more than 100 appearances in the New Jersey area talking about the “old” First Ladies, and has already been engaged for several more about the Garfield era.
Author Feather Schwartz Foster has been an “amateur” presidential historian for three decades. Following a long career in advertising and having written a score of children’s musical shows, she has decided to draw on her thousand-volume personal presidential library and her love of history by penning “LADIES: A Conjecture of Personalities” and “Garfield’s Train”.
“Garfield’s Train” (ISBN: 1-4137-6915-2) is 226-pages, published by PublishAmerica of Frederick, MD, and sells for $19.95. It is available at most online booksellers, directly from the publisher at www.publishamerica.com, or through the author’s webpage at www.authorsden.com/featherschwartzfoster.
NOTE TO EDITOR/PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Ms. Foster may be reached for interviews at 908/753-6999, or at fsf.comcast.net.