In the summer of 1878, a jovial group of New York City artists called the Tile Club (1877-1887) made a trip to the East End of Long Island.
This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, as cosmopolitan artists had begun to make the journey from the city to sketch the picturesque windmills, saltboxes and beaches. What was unusual about this sojourn was that it was being sponsored by Scribner’s Monthly in exchange for a delightfully written account of their adventure, titled “The Tile Club at Play.”
The article was published in the February 1879 issue, thus helping to establish the allure of the North and South forks. Among these “Tilers,” so named for their decorative painted tiles, were the most distinguished artists of the day: Winslow Homer, William Merritt Chase, Charles Reinhart, Francis Hopkinson Smith, Thomas Moran and many more (34 members in all, rotating 12 at any one time and each nicknamed). Their ultimate destination on the South Fork was East Hampton, but since the Long Island Rail Road made it only as far as Bridgehampton at the time, the Tilers disembarked, and their afternoon was chronicled in the excerpt below.
“Arriving at Bridgehampton at noon, they bade a final adieu to the commonplace of railroading. The rest of their route eastwardly was pursued by more romantic methods of the wagoner or tramp. It was at Bridgehampton, while waiting for dinner, that the “Owl” [Hopkinson Smith] had an attack of acute decorative mania. He had been missed for some minutes … suddenly, a noise was heard and he came tumbling headlong out of a pretty little frame house, on the front of which was a modest sign that told of a millinery within. The “Owl” had a bonnet on his head, and two or three long crimson ribbons streamed behind him in the air as he came flying across the wide road. The Tilers yielded to the infection of the ribbons and in a few minutes all were in the shop of the pretty milliner, who was completely fluttered and discomposed at the irruption of such extraordinary customers … and “Sirius” [Reinhart] went out on the stairs and made a sketch of the whole scene.” Scribner's Monthly, Volume 17 Issue 4 (February 1879)
“The Tile Club and the Milliner of Bridgehampton” (1879), Charles Stanley Reinhart. Courtesy of the New York Public Library, www.nypl.org.
“The Tile Club at Play” from Scribner’s Monthly Journal, can be read in full online at digital.library.cornell.edu.
As an aside, a newspaper clipping from The Long Island Traveler (Southold) of October 3, 1878, states that Mrs. Morgan (Caroline) Topping was officially hired as the new librarian at the Hampton Library. She resided in the library, and the board of trustees gave her permission to open a millinery shop within it!