History Is His Passion

Author Ben Miller has turned his love of Cape May into book, just in time for the town’s 400th birthday.

Miller’s book, The First Resort: Fun, Sun, Fire and War in Cape May, America’s Original Seaside Town, was published this spring. It’s a big, sprawling coffee-table book, filled with stories and photos of Cape May’s colorful past. 

Miller’s fascination started when he visited his grandmother in Cape May as a child. “I remember taking trolley tour after trolley tour in the early ‘80s, because with each one, I learned something new,” says Miller, 34. “Back then, the trolleys were pulled by tractors and the town looked quite a bit different then it does today.”

In 2005, Miller (no relation) started writing a history column for the town’s weekly newspaper, even though he lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The book was the natural next step, though not an easy one. Miller spent “hours upon hours” conducting interviews and doing research in libraries, historical societies, and newspaper archives. He worked with 27 different groups on the photos, drawings, and images that appear in the book, from private collections to the Cape May Fire Department.

“My goal was to find the hidden gems that had been lost over time and tell the story with as much detailed accuracy as possible. I remember sitting in the Colonial House in the dead of winter,” he says. “There is no heat in the old structure, so it was an interesting experience that helped me get into the right mindset to write about colonial Cape May.”

Cape May’s actual birthday is today, August 28. On this day on 1609, Henry Hudson hit a sandbar in Cape May before sailing to New York.

What would Miller say in a birthday card? Tough one, he says, but he settled on the following: "Through good and bad, you’ve always been there, welcoming me home when I found myself lost in the turmoil of life. Happy Birthday, my old friend.”

For a sneak peak of The First Resort, check out the video.

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