“The magnitude of our undertaking dawned on us”: Victorians Go Camping


Check out Liva Gershon’s piece at JSTOR Daily: “How the Victorians Went Camping.”  She builds it off of Phoebe Kropp’s 2009 article in the Journal of Social History: Wilderness Wives and Dishwashing Husbands: Comfort and the Domestic Arts of Camping in America, 1880-1910.”

Here is a taste of Gerson’s piece:

Camping brought the domestic work typically done by women into full view. One woman described her husband’s enjoyment of washing dishes in a creek, scouring them with mud and moss. “This recognition prompted the question of who exactly produced the comforts of civilization in an era where the definition of home came to center upon the purported absence of productive labor,” Kropp writes.

For many well-to-do campers, of course, the people who actually did much of the domestic labor at home were servants. That raised the question of whether to bring hired help along on a camping trip. Some families saw camping as a vacation from managing servants, while others appreciated not having to cook or wash the dishes themselves.

In other cases, campers hired “guides” who might explain the local landscape, handle unpleasant chores, and contribute to the campers’ spirit of adventure by embodying entertaining stereotypes. “The ‘Canuck guide,’ the ‘Chinaman cook,’ and the ‘Indians’ became stock characters in some campers’ stories, who contributed equal parts expertise and ethnic flavor,” Kropp writes.

Read the entire piece here.

Some Suggestions for a History-Related Vacation This Summer


Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington D.C.

Over at Time, several historians have suggested “U.S. historic places that are actually worth visiting.”

Michael Beschloss: President Lincoln’s Cottage

Ken Burns: The Lincoln Memorial

Eric Foner: Beaufort, SC Reconstruction Site

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham: Boston’s Black Heritage Trail

Erik Larson: Gettysburg

Patty Limerick: Storm King Mountain Memorial Trail

James McPherson: Shiloh

Edna Green Medford: The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

Lynn Novick: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Julie Reed: Hiwasee River Heritage Center


Where Was the Birthplace of the American Vacation?

According to this article at Smithsonian.com, the American vacation was “born” in the late 19th-century resorts of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.  Tony Perrottet has written a very interesting and informative piece about vacation culture in the Adirondack’s, but I would hardly call it the birthplace of the American vacation.

I don’t know when Americans first started leaving cities for country vacation destinations, but I do know that it was happening well before 1869.  For example, Philadelphia residents were going to the Jersey coast around the turn of the 19th century.  And some local historians in my area have uncovered information suggesting that Philadephia and Baltimore residents were coming to the sulphur spa in York Springs, PA (near Gettysburg) as early as the 1840s.

For more on vacations in American culture check out Cindy Aron, Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States.