PHOTO: Sloane Dougherty with archivists Gary Saretzky and Mary Hussey at the Monmouth County Archives in the Manalapan library
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ – At first it looked like a flat rock. But when eight year old Sloane Dougherty turned it over and took a closer look, she could see what appeared to be faint letters on the reverse side. It was enough to tickle the curiosity of this soon to be fourth grade student and culminated in a trip to the Monmouth County Archives at the Library Headquarters in Manalapan.
Sloane, the daughter of Bryan and Erin Dougherty of Center Ave, brought her find, the small round piece she found when she and her sister were digging in their back yard, into her mother for more information. Erin, always ready to respond to questions from all three children, including Sloane’s younger sister Piper and brother, Beckett, brought the youngsters to next door neighbor and former mayor Helen Marchetti. Saying it was a coin but unsure of its origin or purpose, Marchetti suggested further research.
With a bit of cleaning of the coin, the words Red Bank Agricultural Fair, and the year 1914 became legible, leading to a phone call to the Monmouth County Archives and a conversation with archivist Gary Saretzky. He opined it appeared the piece could be either a medal, token or coin from the Fair, and offered to meet with Sloane to see the coin and offer more information.
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All of which led to Sloane, her mother, and even neighbor Marchetti meeting with Saretzky and research archivist Mary Hussey for not only a tour of the Archives, a better understanding of the find, and even some recorded information about the Dougherty house as shown on Atlantic Highlands maps in the Archives.
Hussey also took the time to unroll a map from the 1700s showing Monmouth County as it was then. She brought out scrolls, maps, documents and paintings of Monmouth County in earlier eras, and captivated her audience with her knowledge and the billions of documents Monmouth County preserves and protects for its citizens.
As for the coin, it appears it came off a ribbon from the 1914 fair, Hussey and Saretzky agreed, possibly a prize in a baby contest, or a contest for the best tomato or biggest blueberries.
Agricultural fairs have been a part of Monmouth County history for decades, and the Red Bank Agricultural Fair began in 1907. By 1914, it was known as the Blue Ribbon Fair because of the number of medals it awarded and the monetary size of the awards. There were contests ranging from flowers to poultry, horse and motorcycle races, and plenty of music, games, and contests for all.
For Sloane, it was an exciting day spending so much time with the archivists, then topping it off with a visit upstairs to see the headquarters library of which the Atlantic Highlands Library is a branch.
It also gave this year’s trip by the Dougherty family to the Monmouth County Fair a new twist. Sloane said she was trying to compare the 2019 version of the fair to the 1914 fair, and decided that while plants and animals, games and medals continued into the 21st century, the 2019 County Fair certainly had more rides, “probably because some of them weren’t even invented in 1914,” she said. She does think there were more people at the earlier fair than this year, though.
An avid reader….Sloane finishes a Harry Potter book in a week and is currently on the last one of the series, the youngster is anxious to go back to school and share her coin and its stories with her friends. She’ll also tell them about the map that showed the streets of her hometown over 100 years ago, and how she could see her own home’s location with the magnifying glass Hussey had given her to use.
Sloane said that both the visit to the Archives, thanks to the kindness of Mrs. Hussey and Mr. Saretzky, as well as the trip to the 2019 County fair, were certainly both highlights of her summer season.