Ward Larkin at Cape May Courthouse (NJ)

COURT HOUSE – The Cape May County Historical and Genealogical Society will be throwing open its doors to welcome Benjamin Franklin as part of the Cape May Mitten Festival.

“Cape Bank has generously agreed to sponsor the appearance of J. Ward Larkin, a well-known interpreter of Benjamin Franklin,” said Sheila McCloy-Nuss, museum curator. Larkin is lauded as being the eminent portrayer of Franklin in Philadelphia’s Old City historic district.

In pre-Revolutionary Cape May County the mitten trade tied with white cedar lumber as the county’s third most profitable export, said McCloy-Nuss.

“It is believed that the catalyst for the Cape May mitten trade can be traced to Benjamin Franklin,” she said. According to the curator, Franklin received a favor from a local scallop boat skipper. In order to repay the favor, the statesman’s wife, Deborah, sent the skipper’s daughter a “new fashioned cap.” The daughter wore the cap to services at Cold Spring Presbyterian Church, where other girls admired it and started knitting mittens to earn enough money to purchase similar caps in Philadelphia.

The Cape May County Historical and Genealogical Society will be celebrating those women and their entrepreneurial spirit who started the mitten trade with the first annual Cape May Mitten Festival. The event will be held Oct. 11 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the grounds of The Museum of Cape May County, 504 Route 9 North. Admission to the event is free.

Vendors may apply to be part of the Cape May Mitten Festival by contacting McCloy-Nuss at 609-465-3535. Upon acceptance, a $35 festival fee will be required to reserve a 10-foot by 10-foot space. Pop-up tents are permitted and encouraged, said McCloy-Nuss. Food vendors are also welcome to apply for spaces.

Donations of hand-crafted mittens for a silent auction are needed. All mitten donations should include a brief biography of the craftsperson as well as a description of the materials used for presentation to the winning bidders.

“We encourage everyone to come learn about Cape May County history and the rich heritage of women and girls in Cape May County and to meet Ben Franklin,” said McCloy-Nuss.