RED BANK: BOTTLING THE MAGIC OF HISTORY

A poster from Glenn Vogel’s collection of Red Bank memorabilia on display at the borough library. Below, Vogel inspects a bottle brought to the library  by Ron Costa, who found it in the Navesink River.  (Photos by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

One man’s obsession is Red Bank’s history – and it’s on display at the Eisner Memorial Library through the end of the year.

Glenn Vogel discovered that history is literally underfoot in 1980 when a fellow road builder at the Fort Monmouth section of Naval Station Earle suggested they check out the woods on a lunch break.

“He was getting stuff out of the ground, and he handed me a Red Bank bottle,” said Vogel, who was living in the borough at the time. “That intrigued me very much.”

It was the beginning of Vogel’s odyssey.

“A friend had a jug with the same name as on the bottle. I thought that was cool,” Vogel said in an interview at the library last week. “Then I started getting piles of paper and piecing together the personality of these businesses – the label, bullhead, receipts. They tell a story.”

And so the remnants of businesses that once flourished here are on display in the New Jersey History Room on the second floor of the library, 100 years later. There were about 15 different bottling companies in town at the turn of the 20th century, because by law breweries were not allowed to bottle their own beer, Vogel said.

Among the businesses artifacts at the library are items from “local grocery stores, Doremus Brothers on Broad Street, and L. McQueen, which was woman-owned,” Vogel noted.

The exhibit also includes military history in Red Bank and, of course, relics from the Sigmund Eisner uniform factory. The library is named after the Eisner family, who once lived in the mansion that is now the library’s home.

“Red Bank had the Arrowsmith Lodge, of the GAR [Grand Army of the Republic], formed by Union vets [post-Civil War] to take care of themselves,” Vogel said. “They became very powerful and very political.”

Vogel plans to rotate parts of the exhibit. “I’ll bring in some dairy stuff and fire department material, maybe some police stuff.”

After 33 years as a civil servant, Vogel has retired, and his odyssey continues in earnest, taking him to antique, photo, and paper shows around the country and around the corner. He and his digging buddy Glenn Harbor are working on a site in Long Branch.

Vogel estimates that at 3,000-plus pieces, his is the largest collection of Red Bank memorabilia in existence.

Local history librarian Elizabeth McDermott, who curated the exhibit, hosted Vogel for a talk at the library last month. “Over 80 people attended,” she said. “It shows the great interest the community has in our past. We hope to do more historic programs and oral histories but budget constraints right now prevent us from doing all that we would love to to do.”

The public can help by offering to host and organize oral histories and programs, McDermott added. The library will archive any material gathered.