Footprints: Ice cream machine engine exploded

By: Iris Naylor
   A little over 100 years ago in April 1896, the residents of Church Street were shocked by a sudden loud noise.
   The engine that ran the ice cream making equipment in John H. Stockton’s ice cream saloon had exploded. Two sides of the building were blown out, and the engine room looked like "a scrap pile for old iron."
   Experts said the cause was the tank in which the kerosene oil was kept that ran the engine. For fire safety, the tank was covered with water. It appeared someone had forgotten to drain the tank overnight, and the water froze, bursting certain parts of the machine.
   No one was hurt but the ice cream business was temporarily out of business.
   It may have been cold enough to freeze the water in the tank the night the ice cream parlor exploded, but it was agreed the week before that was hot. One day the thermometer registered 85 degrees, said to be the hottest April day on record.
   Clearly, it was ice cream weather. The Beacon noted in May that for the next four months, ice cream would take the place of oysters on the menu.
   Fortunately, Mr. Stockton had other occupations to tide him over. He was agent for the "Rex" fire extinguisher. March he gave a very successful demonstration of the "Rex" for the New Jersey Rubber Company and its neighbor, the Frazer shoe factory.
   June, he had charge of the refreshments on sale at the Solebury Deer Park. Philadelphia investors had leased the park for several years and had installed swings, merry-go-rounds, toboggan slides, etc. By March there already were 30 picnics for the summer.
   The year 1896 was when the Major C.A. Angel Post 20 was informed it would receive four condemned cannons and 20 balls from the government. Members of the post planned to display these gifts at the soldiers’ monument they had placed in Mount Hope Cemetery in 1870. The monument was not moved to the York Street park until 1900.
   The flags flown at the Fourth of July celebration in 1896 had 45 stars. Utah became a state Jan. 4 of that year, leaving only Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Oklahoma and New Mexico still to achieve statehood.
   Samuel Slack once had a "shaving saloon" in Lambertville. He was a veteran of the Civil War. He attended the funeral of his 88-year-old father February 16, 1896, and three days later he died of paralysis. The father, John Slack, was said to have dug the first shovelful of earth in the building of the Belvidere-Delaware Railroad.
   Lambertville had 10 barber shops in 1896. One of these was operated by John D. Stockton on Main Street. At Stockton’s shaving parlor, in addition to a haircut and a shave, one could get a bath. Mr. Stockton installed the bath tub when he enlarged his shop and added another barber chair in March.
   While digging a ditch that would connect Mr. Stockton’s barbershop to the water company’s pipes, John Carmody dug down 6 feet and found a horseshoe. He dug another 2 feet and found a 6-pound Revolutionary War cannon ball.
   The water line was hooked up to Stockton’s bath tub, and he began advertising: "Have you tried a bath at Stockton’s shaving parlor, 48 N. Main St.? Refreshing, always ready. Single bath, 20 cts. or three for 50 cts."
   A few weeks later he had reduced the price to 15 cents or two for 25 cents. "Open only on Wednesday and Saturday."
   Apparently his invitation to bicyclists to refresh themselves after a run by taking a bath at his shaving parlor was not a huge success.
   Bicycling was very popular in 1896. The Beacon had a few choice tips for riders, such as don’t jump off your bicycle and throw yourself down on the damp grass; don’t think you’re entitled to any more of the road than any other bicycle rider; don’t forget that in a collision between a bicycle and a wagon, the wagon never suffers; and don’t drink the common drinking water in the different towns you pass through on your wheel.