Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States

By Cindy S. Aron | Go to book overview

6
"Unfashionable, but for once happy!" CAMPING VACATIONS

In the summer of 1878 Scribner's magazine ran a story called Campingout at Rudder Grange. It told of a man who had decided to spend his two-week vacation relaxing at home until his doctor advised him differently: "[D]o nothing of the kind. You have been working too hard; your face shows it. You need rest and change. . . . Get a good tent and an outfit, be off to the woods, and forget all about business and domestic matters for a few weeks." 1 During the last quarter of the nineteenth century potential middleclass vacationers not only would have read such advice in their magazines and newspapers, but might have heard it from their doctors and ministers as well. And apparently many listened, because these years witnessed the emergence of camping as an increasingly prevalent form of vacationing.

The growing popularity of camping stemmed, in part, from an appeal that the wilderness in general held for American people by the last half of the nineteenth century. The rehabilitation of nature that romantic artists and writers had begun in the early nineteenth century proceeded in the years after the Civil War as photographers, painters, and journalists continued to celebrate not only the beauties of the East, but the newly discovered wonders of the West. Pictures and essays depicting Yosemite, Yellowstone,

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