THE GROWTH OF POPULAR RECREATION IN THE UNITED STATES may be compared to a river-its course adapting itself to the nature of the country through which it flows, the main stream continually augmented by tributaries, and the river-bed itself ever growing both broader and deeper. In the early period of settlement it was little more than a thin trickle, forcing its way through a forbidding terrain, but with the eighteenth century it slowly gathered volume and flowed on quietly and steadily. The first half of the nineteenth century saw its course deflected into more narrow channels, and for a time the flow appeared to be almost checked, but after the Civil War scores of new tributaries swelled it to far greater size. The twentieth century transformed it into a riotous torrent, breaking through all barriers as it carved out fresh channels. Sometimes it appeared to sweep almost everything else aside, spreading in full flood over a vast territory.
This book is an attempt to trace the main course of this stream. Recreation is considered in its popular sense-the leisure-time activities that the American people have pursued over three centuries for their own pleasure. At all periods of history men and women have probably spent the greater part of their leisure in informal talk, in visiting and entertaining their friends, in casual walks and strolls, and sometimes in reading for their own amusement. But these more simple activities are hidden in the obscurity that shrouds private lives. Organized, public recreation has consciously been adopted as the basis for this record.
It has been found stupendously difficult to delimit its boundaries. There have always been leisure-time pursuits in which cultural and recreational motives are inextricably mixed, and in