“tempest in a teapot” — Long Island Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin

Today, the Long Island Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers when the quarantine scare aborted and the passengers aboard the ship were allowed to land on Fire Island on September 13, 1892.

From the St. Paul [MN] Daily Globe newspaper of September 14, 1892:


On Land at Last

Fire Island, Babylon, NY, Sept. 13. — From all indications in this place, the bay men’s little war is over. At about 4:30 this afternoon there was a small crowd of newspaper men, summer residents, bay men and idlers gathered around the end of the dock at the pier from which the little excursion boat Ripple, now the property of the state, plies between Fire island and the mainland.

In the middle of this throng was a handsome rig, in which four gentlemen were seated. The most prominent of these was the much-abused David S. S. Sammis, the late proprietor of the Surf hotel, Fire Island, whose action in selling his property to the state of New York for quarantine purposes has aroused a maritime plot which has been very much exaggerated.

An Associated Press correspondent asked Mr. Sammis to make a statement of his views of the whole affair, and he said:

“The whole matter has been a tempest in a teapot. I did what any other man in my position would have done. I was made a fair offer for my property and I accepted it. That’s all there is in it. Some of the bay men, excited by people who had political measures to serve, became impressed more or less with the idea that the establishment of a quarantine station at Fire island would injure their business. This is all bosh, and they now know that it is so, and practically admit it. The political leaders led them on for  effect, and the demonstration when the Cepheus first attempted to land the Normannia’s passengers was the result. There is no need now to send any troops here, and on Fire island, in Babylon, at Islip and at Bayshore all is quiet.”

Thy Normannia’s passengers have all been landed, and will be made as comfortable as possible.

The Associated Press report about the vacation of the injunction was the first intimation of the matter received here, and was immediately communicated to the passengers on the Cepheus, who acknowledged the receipt of the good news by loud cheers, the band at the same time playing “America.”

Soon afterward Sheriff Darling received a dispatch from Gov. Flower instructing him to aid in the work of landing the passengers, as the injunction had been vacated.

Senator McPherson, A. M. Palmer and P. T. Wall came ashore for the purpose of locating rooms for the use of the weary passengers.

The Associated Press correspondents subsequently interviewed a number of prominent men and all joined in saying that the views expressed by Mr. Sammis are undoubtedly correct in all the main particulars.

One fact became evident to the correspondent, and that was that the quarantine of the people on Fire Island is a farce of the very worst description.

The correspondent stood there and watched at least a dozen boats come from the island to the mainland and there land loads of people, who, it seemed from their conversation generally, and from the admission of several, have been in close communication and conversation with the Normannia’s detained cabin passengers.

Ex-Senator Otis, for instance, in his yacht, landed quite a cargo of people from Fire island, including Detective Sergeant McCloskey and Mr. Crowley, of Inspector Byrnes’ staff.

A number of newspaper correspondents also landed, some of them laughing and joking over their experiences.

It is said that when the steamboat Ripple left for Fire island on her last trip she carried about a dozen Babylonians and others who were going to Fire Island to spend the night and come back here in the morning.

This will give some idea of the quarantine farce as practiced here.

No news from the Bay shore meeting has been received here. At 11:30 p. m. a dispatch was received from Gov. Flower, addressed to Sheriff Darling, saying that the governor preferred that the sheriff should remain at Babylon for the present, and that troops would also remain there until all danger of interference with the state authorities had passed.

At this hour all is quiet.

The sheriff has informed Gov. Flower that there is no further use for troops.

It is expected that the military will be withdrawn tomorrow, and that they will not go to Fire island.

Tickled to Death.

Great Was the Joy of the Passengers on Landing.

Fire Island, Sept. 13.— Great bustle followed the arrival of the passengers at the hotel.

Considering the fact that 500 guests arrived within five minutes, it was natural that some confusion would result.

Everyone was good natured, however, and waited patiently until assigned to their quarters.

Such progress was made by the temporary hotel clerks that inside of two hours all were comfortably located.

No distinction was made in the disposition of rooms. It was all a lottery, but there was no grumbling— everyone was too happy.

Gray-haired men jumped about in the sand like boys.

The second-cabin passengers were put in the westerly end and the first-cabin passengers in the easterly end.

At 6:30 supper was served. The dining room was filled. Conventionalities were cast aside. Everyone knew everyone else and congratulations were showered from every quarter of the room.

No strict quarantine was maintained. Had they thought of it, one-half the passengers could have walked up the shore half a mile, hired catboats and sailed to the main shore.

A wind storm is now raging and all the passengers are thankful that they are not on the Cepheus tonight.


The Long Island Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with a leaflet describing the Fire Island Surf hotel, circa 1884, before it became the property of the state.

Long Island Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin