"Summer hotels are everywhere . . ." A FLOOD of VACATIONERS
In the summer of 1873 Louisa Roberts traveled with her husband, a dentist, from their home in Philadelphia to the Put-in-Bay Islands in Lake Erie near the mouth of the Detroit River. There she found "thousands" enjoying the boating, fishing, bathing, and sunshine. Roberts remarked in her diary that although easterners knew "little . . . of this island watering place, it is very popular with the west and southwest and is yearly growing in importance." She found all the hotels "full to overflowing." 1
The crowds at places like Put-in-Bay testified to the increasing importance of vacationing among the emerging middle class. Beginning in the 1850s and only temporarily interrupted by the Civil War, the growth of vacationing proceeded rapidly in the three decades after 1870. Expanding numbers of vacationers demanded new resorts, and savvy entrepreneurs accommodated the growing vacationing public. Railroads played a critical role, providing not only the means of getting vacationers where they wanted to go, but the advertisements to lure them and the capital to build many resorts. Supply and demand worked in tandem, making vacationers and vacation spots more prevalent and more visible in the American social landscape.