On July 12, 1916, three people were attacked by a shark in Matawan Creek, with two dying from their injuries. These attacks followed previous and unprecedented shark attacks off of Spring Lake beach on July 6, and Beach Haven, in Ocean County, on July 1. Both victims of those attacks died. The Matawan incident was particularly shocking, as it took place 11 miles inland, in a freshwater creek, where sharks are rarely seen. Experts at that time believed sharks simply did not exist in these waters, and that sharks were not to be feared. Eventually, a 300-lb. bull shark (which is the only shark that can survive in salt or fresh water) was caught, and it was reported to have human remains found in its stomach, although this was not confirmed. The relationship between Americans and sharks would never be the same again.
Gambino, Megan. (2012). The Shark Attacks That Were the Inspiration for Jaws. Smithsonian Magazine, August 6, 2012. Available: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-shark-attacks-that-were-the-inspiration-for-jaws-15220260/
Corrections. (2001). The New York Times, September 8, 2001, Section A, P. 2.
Klein, Christopher. (2016). The Real-Life “Jaws” That Terrorized the Jersey Shore. History.com. July 1, 2016, Updated September 1, 2018. Available: https://www.history.com/news/the-real-life-jaws-that-terrorized-the-jersey-shore
Donahue, Brian. (2016). The 1916 shark attacks: Matawan, N.J.’s 100-year struggle with a bloody legacy. NJ.com, June 15, 2016, Updated January 16, 2019. Available: https://www.nj.com/entertainment/2016/06/100_years_1916_new_jersey_shark_attacks_matawan_ce.html
Image credit: This photo is claimed as a “file photo” by the Asbury Park Press but we have been unable to locate the specific edition that includes this image, nor have we ever seen this photograph in the context of any newspaper page. We consider the creator unknown, date of creation/publication July 1916. All newspaper content pre-1926 is public domain.