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

By Cindy S. Aron | Go to book overview

1
Recuperation and Recreation THE PURSUIT of HEALTH and GENTEEL PLEASURES

In early August of 1827 Elihu Hoyt arrived in Saratoga Springs from his home in Deerfield, Massachusetts. His diary records his surprise at what he discovered there: "One would suppose that we should find every- body here on the sick list -- but it is far from being the case. . . . Many of the visitors come here probably in good sound health, for amusement, & for the sake of spending a week or two among the fashionable to see & to be seen. . . . We have fashionable balls,. . . concerts, and all descriptions of amusement." 1 Both Hoyt's expectation and the reality he encountered at Saratoga reveal much about the early history of vacations in the United States. Curing sickness and securing good health certainly motivated many of those who visited Saratoga during the summer. But the quest for amusement was also a critical part of the story.

This chapter charts the beginnings of American resorts, the development of the first American vacationing public, and the debate over leisure that emerged toward the middle decades of the nineteenth century. It explores how elite Americans sought health and pleasure at springs and seashore and how more middling folks used religious camp meetings as sources of both recreation and spiritual restoration. Significantly, neither of these groups

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