The Mast-Head: Strong Bros. Ledger

The Uber of its day

At the end of the season in 1909, Frank B. Wiborg had a $261 balance due to Strong Bros. Livery Stable. This I learned from a tattered, cloth-covered ledger that was in the office attic.

There are any number of old records like this around The Star. My grandmother Jeannette Rattray was a local historian, having prepared what stands for East Hampton’s only official genealogy. Knowing this, people with ancient documents stopped by from time to time to see if she wanted them. From the quantity of material she left when she died in 1974, it is safe to say she wanted it all.

Wiborg, for whom a village beach is named, had a busy household. His account shows almost daily freight runs in 1909 for the months of September and October, likely for work on the Dunes, as his 80 acres on the ocean near Hook Pond were known. For the actor John Drew, the ledger records a July 2 auto trip to Canoe Place in Southampton and many entries related to the boarding of dogs.

Strong Bros. was like the Uber of its day, both a taxi service and a short-haul trucker that met the needs of farmers. There are multiple notes about loads of manure or sand going here and there. Summer ledger pages are filled with surrey trips to and from the beach, presumably loaded with folks planning to bathe or take in some sun. Lumber teams could be ordered. On June 17, 1910, the Base Ball Club is down for a hay wagon, cost $1.50. On Sept. 5, the club needed a stagecoach; that ran $3.

Frank Wiborg continued to order services from Strong Bros. In 1910, he asked for a runabout for fishing on Sept. 16 and almost daily stages. Change was in the air that year, too; the Wiborg account lists frequent purchases of gasoline starting on the eighth of June.

A scrapbook kept by Gerald and Sara Murphy of life at the Dunes (Sara was Frank and Adeline Wiborg’s daughter) contains a photograph of a shining, dark auto from about that time. The scrapbook is in the Yale Library’s collection, and I found a copy online. 

It is tempting to believe that this was the car for which the Strong Bros. recorded providing five gallons of gasoline and a quart of oil on June 9, 1910. Perhaps it was; perhaps it was not, but it is intriguing to think about. Mr. Wiborg did not order much beyond gasoline for the rest of the month.