I know films and historical accuracy are, unfortunately, enemies, but a couple of years ago I saw a film that included a family living in close quarters in a cabin and they all slept on cots on the floor to the exception of the parents.
Recently, I looked through some pictures of real life (old) cabins and they featured bed structures that kept the mattresses / cots off the floor.
Was there a reason for this? Was sleeping on a cot on a cabin floor too cold (at least in Canadian and Alaskan winters) in real life? Or would big families have beds only for some and the rest would really sleep on the floor?
Ignorance and myths ruled the day back then. I don't remember which museum I saw it in, but I saw a bed on display that was used by someone in the upper class. Each leg of the frame was inside a wide can like container that was filled with a fluid that would repulse any insect or vermin away from the bed frame. Very practical setup actually for said purpose.
'If Walls Could Talk': A History Of The Home
Lucy Worsley works as the chief curator in several palatial buildings in London, including Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London. In contrast, she lives in what she calls a "normal, boring modern flat."
The differences between her home and her workplace inspired Worsley to research the history of the home, which she details in her new book If Walls Could Talk. The book answers questions like: Why did the flushing toilet take two centuries to catch on? Why were kitchens cut off from the rest of a home? And did strangers really share beds as recently as a century ago? (Yes, they did.)
"You would have been quite happy to share your bedroom not only with your husband or wife, but with your colleagues from work — even with people that you didn't know at all," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And if you look back centuries, people have no particular requirement to sleep by themselves. And that's because there weren't enough rooms in their houses."
In medieval homes, servants were likely to bunk down together on the floor of a giant hall — where it was likely smelly, sweaty and not very quiet.
"But the alternative was worse," says Worsley. "To be sleeping outside, I suppose. If there aren't enough bedrooms, you have to share, and you're glad to do so — because of the warmth and security it brings."
Because bedrooms lacked privacy, young amorous couples often flocked to fields, says Worsley.
"You know, the merry month of May — this is the time when young people can get out of the confines of a cottage with very few rooms and enjoy themselves in the woods and fields," she says. "A level of supervision was very desirable."
To keep their children from going to the fields, some parents in the 17th century would allow a daughter to sleep in the same bed as the young man courting her — but both the woman and man were tied down with heavy rope in a practice known as "bundling."
"The idea was that they spend the entire night chatting and getting to know each other to decide if they wanted to get married," says Worsley. "I see bundling as a really important step in the journey toward marriage becoming a marriage of personal choice, rather than something you're just forced into by your parents for economic reasons, because you don't have to marry the man or woman after the night of bundling."
During a night of bundling, parents likely stayed elsewhere, because many homes contained only one room.
"The bedroom was the room for everything: cooking, leisure, sleeping, the washing and working as well," she says. "And the funny thing is, history has gone full circle, because my modern, boring flat where I live is essentially one room. And it's multipurpose. But between [older homes] and that, there's been an entire journey that homes that have taken, which has developed different rooms and reached a high point, I think, in really grand Victorian houses. But since then, there's been a trend back toward medieval simplicity and multipurpose rooms."
Lucy Worsley is the chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity looking after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace State Apartments, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and Kew Palace in Kew Gardens. Courtesy of the author hide caption
Lucy Worsley is the chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity looking after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace State Apartments, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and Kew Palace in Kew Gardens.
On the United Kingdom's lack of closets
"It's not a room type that we recognize anymore. We have freestanding pieces of furniture called wardrobes that might be used for storing clothes. But those little square, dark, walk-in rooms don't exist in the U.K. That's a little piece of history that you've got that we haven't."
On privacy in bedrooms
"It really flourishes in the Victorian age when the security and seclusion of your bedroom and bed linen becomes paramount. If you read Victorian manuals, they're crazy — the amount of attention they devote to the perfect making of the bed, the cleanliness of the bed, the hygiene of the bed."
On privacy in baths
"[Before the 19th century] people washed parts of their bodies wherever it happened to suit them. As part of the research for this book, for a week I went on a Tudor personal hygiene regimen. The rules were: no bath, no shower, no toothpaste, no deodorant. How did they do it? And I knew that they did just use a basin of water. They would wash all the parts of the body one after another. And they would do it wherever it happened to be nice and appropriate."
On Queen Elizabeth I's toilet
"She had a flushing toilet fitted in one of her palaces. She was aware of this technology, but she didn't use it because she didn't want to go to the loo — she wanted the loo to come to her. She wanted her servants to bring her a chamber pot whenever she wanted to."
Burnt toast crumbs – completely rubbish. I was using a twig. What worked quite well was a mixture of rosemary and salt mixed together, rubbed on with a cloth, actually, followed by a gargle of vinegar.
On using old 17th-century methods to brush her teeth
"Most of them were quite unsuccessful. Burnt toast crumbs — completely rubbish. I was using a twig. What worked quite well was a mixture of rosemary and salt mixed together, rubbed on with a cloth, actually, followed by a gargle of vinegar. Best of all was a 17th-century . recipe of cuttlefish. You know those white carcasses of fish? That ground up makes really excellent tooth powder."
On flushing toilets and Thomas Crapper
"The word 'crap' is actually another word that's very, very old. It was taken over from 17th century England by the pilgrim fathers, and Americans were talking about things being crap in the 17th and 18th centuries. What Sir Thomas Crapper — complete coincidence — does is not invent the flushing toilet, as many, many people believe, but was a great promoter for it. He ran a business marketing other people's products, and that's why his name was on them. When the American soldiers came over in the first world war, they all thought it was hilarious that it said 'crapper' on them."
On the royal family
"I think they're a very good thing indeed. As a piece of living history, it's brilliant to think that they're facing the same challenges that we can see coming up in so many of the royal characters that we see in our work as curators. So they're interesting from that point of view. They're terribly important to people's notions of Britain and Britishness, and they're a really big part of the tourist industry as well. All of those processions, the regalia, the crown jewels — they're essential to our conception of who we are over here. We know that people all over the world share this fascination and come to see them."
The History of Cass County, Michigan
In October 1825, Uzziel Putnam, his wife, Anna, and their two-year-old daughter, Ziltha, packed up their belongings-including three oxen and seventeen head of cattle-and left Fort Wayne, Indiana, for Michigan. They first stopped at Niles and then, on 18 November, moved into a small floorless shanty on the Pokagon Prairie, becoming Cass County's first permanent settlers.
The winter of 1825/26 was particularly harsh, but the Putnams, who moved into a log cabin in January, survived, though they often subsisted on boiled corn and occasional "johnny cakes" (parched corn pounded into flour and fried into cakes).
Other settlers soon followed the Putnams. Baldwin Jenkins, his wife and seven children, Abram Townsend, Lewis Edwards and Israel Markham were among those who settled a land characterized by small prairies, interspersed with thick woods and numerous lakes.
Cass County, named after Lewis Cass, was organized in 1829 when its population was about 900. As in other counties, land speculators lobbied for the location of the county seat in an area they owned.
Geneva, a small community in Penn Township, was the county's first governmental seat. Elias B. Sherman, one of Cass's early lawyers, had campaigned for Geneva's selection. But when the town's supporters reneged on a promise of land in return for his support, Sherman successfully sought to have the decision declared void "because the commissioners who named it were self-interested, having personally purchased land thereabout."
The campaign for a replacement soon began. In the meantime, Sherman had purchased eighty acres near Diamond Lake, platted a village named Cassopolis, donated land for the county's buildings, and named streets after the three commissioners who were to locate the new governmental center. In 1834 Cassopolis became Cass's new county seat.
In Cass County traditional east to west migration patterns were reversed. The early settlers came from the west, using Niles in adjacent Berrien County as a stepping-off point. Like all southern Michigan counties, Cass had its share of New England setters. But it also had many settlers from the South and unusually large communities of Native Americans and African Americans.
One of the most disgraceful episodes in antebellum American history was the removal of eastern Indians to unoccupied lands west of the Mississippi River. Most of the Indians forced to move were from the South, but Michigan Potawatomis also experienced the "trail of tears."
The Potawatomis lived in southwestern Michigan, including Cass. By 1828 they had signed treaties giving up all but a forty-nine-square-mile reservation in Berrien County. In 1833 demand for this prized agricultural land forced the Potawatomis to forfeit it too.
Landless and resented by many white settlers, the Potawatomis were ordered to move to Kansas. After many delays United States troops arrived in Niles to "escort" them to their new homes. Though many hid, they "were literally hunted down by the U.S. Army" and shipped west.
One band of about 250 successfully resisted. Led by Leopold Pokagon, the band by 1837 had purchased 1,000 acres of land in Cass's Silver Creek Township, a traditional hunting area. (It is unclear why the government did not force Pokagon's people west, but part of the explanation may lie in their conversion to Christianity decades before and in their land purchases.)
At the new settlement, Pokagon allowed each family to select land and build a cabin. The land was held in trust by the band, but after recurring problems, it was divided up. Two-thirds of the tribe then sold their land and moved to adjacent Van Buren County.
The Potawatomis' leader during the second half of the century was Simon Pokagon, Leopold's son. Born in 1830 near Sumnerville, Simon was educated at Notre Dame and Oberlin. He spent his life trying to improve Indian-white relations and make their integration as easy as possible.
Simon Pokagon authored numerous booklets and articles urging that Indians must "no longer live as their fathers, but must live as white men do, or else lie down and die before the cruel march of civilization." He also urged whites to accept Indians as equals and forced the government to live up to its treaty obligations to his band.
Many of the descendants of the Potawatomis still live in Cass and belong to the Potawatomi Indian Nation - an organization that preserves their Indian heritage and culture.
Besides being the home of Pokagon's Potawatomis, Cass County was a haven for African Americans migrating north during the mid-nineteenth century.
In 1836 Henry H. Way, a Quaker preacher, returned to Cass from the South with a fugitive slave named Lawson and settled him in Calvin Township. Soon Cass's Quakers, many of whom had left the South to escape slavery, were providing aid and comfort to escaped slaves along two different routes of the Underground Railroad. African American settlement in Cass was further promoted in 1849 when John Saunders, a Virginian, manumitted his inherited slaves, purchased land in Calvin Township and built a cabin for each family.
An African American community soon developed. Though occasionally harassed by southerners attempting to return runaway slaves, African Americans, both escaped and free, settled in Cass in large numbers. By 1860 the county's African American population was larger than that in all counties but Wayne.
African American settlers in Cass founded schools and churches, were elected to township offices and served in many non-agrarian professions. Though some simply owned small farms, others enjoyed greater prosperity. In 1873, when Cass African Americans made up seven percent of the county's population, William Allen, who had arrived in Cass during the late 1840s, was the county's principal stock buyer and owned 1,200 sheep, 100 hogs and over 800 acres of land.
By the early twentieth century Cass's African American population was exceeded by that of counties with growing metropolitan areas. But this fact does not decrease its nineteenth century significance. According to one historian, the experiences of Cass's African Americans were unlike those of northern urban African Americans because the economic dependency that developed between Cass's white and African American populations helped minimize racism, promote cooperation between the races and create an African American community unique to the North.
Dowagiac, which derived its name from the Potawatomi word Ndowagayuk, meaning "foraging ground," is Cass County's largest community. Settled in 1835, it incorporated into a city in 1877 and for several years claimed to be the nation's smallest city. It long ago lost that distinction, but it has been the home of several important inventors.
The most versatile of these was James Heddon. He came to Cass in 1860 at the age of fifteen and soon became interested in bees. By the 1880s he was internationally famous for his many innovations connected with bee culture, and his apiary made him the leading honey producer in the country.
Heddon's greatest invention, however, had nothing to do with bees. Apparently, one day while fishing Heddon tossed a small piece of whittled wood into the pond only to have the bass that had been eluding his hook leap for the wood. Heddon had invented the casting plug. He experimented and perfected his lures, and by the turn of the century they appeared on fishing poles everywhere. Heddon died in 1911. In 1956 his lure won him a place in the Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1854 P.D. Beckwith arrived in Dowagiac and began a machine shop and foundry. Responding to a request to make a heating stove, Beckwith soon found himself inundated with orders for additional stoves. The result was the Round Oak Stove Company.
In 1886 Beckwith manufactured the first Round Oak furnace. Though there were other furnace companies in Dowagiac, Round Oak remained the largest. Its furnaces were placed in thousands of homes across the Midwest. During its heyday in the early twentieth century, it employed over 1,400 persons and "for years almost everyone in Dowagiac had some working connection with the company." Today, however, Dowagiac manufactures neither furnaces nor stoves.
Nor does it manufacture cars, though in 1908 it seemed headed toward becoming a second Detroit. That was the year that Frank Lake and Leon Lyle founded the Dowagiac Motor Car Company. By early 1909 the company was producing both cars and trucks the largest truck was capable of carrying over a ton. Lake and Lyle were the inventive genius and the capable manager, respectively. The company folded soon after they both died in a streetcar accident in June 1909.
Cass County preserves its past in two house museums, the Pioneer Log Cabin in Cassopolis and the Newton Home in Volinia. The former was built in 1923 and now depicts pioneer life in Cass. The latter is a 1867 home with rooms furnished from the late nineteenth century.
The Prehistoric Past of Cass County
When the first white settlers began homesteading in Cass County in the 1820s, they occupied land that had been Potawatomi territory for centuries. At the time, there were three major Potawatomi settlements in the Cass area: Pokagon's village near Sumnerville, Shavehead's village near Shavehead Lake in Porter Township and Weesaw's village near Nicholsville in Volinia Township.
The settlers found ample evidence that other people had also lived in the area. Along the banks of Christiana Creek and Dowagiac Creek were round mounds of earth, some as much as 25 feet in height and over a hundred feet in diameter, most much smaller. In the central and eastern parts of the county were earthen walls enclosing a circular or rectangular space, usually under an acre in size. Two ditches forming a horseshoe or U-shaped pattern were near Sumnerville. On the prairies were raised garden beds formed of earth heed into checkerboard, parallel-rowed, or polka-dot patterns.
We sincerely thank Michigan History Magazine for granting reprint rights to this article, originally appearing in the July/Aug 1980 issue.
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19th century cabins: why were beds off the ground? Or weren't they? - History
by Merritt Clifton
My ancestors lived, worked, settled, unsettled, and died on the Old West frontier, on both sides of my family and both sides of the law. There are not many Old West roles that some of them didn't play. They were sodbusters, carpenters, mechanics, horsebrokers, outlaws, lawmen, some of the first corn-growers in Iowa, wheat-growers in Montana, and "Okies" driven out of the Depression-era dustbowl.
One of my ancestors bested Frank James--with Jesse James as referee--in a bareknuckled brawl to keep his prized horse, near Lenox, Iowa, during the aftermath of the infamous Northfield Raid.
Another possible ancestor was the notorious Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton, who won his nickname by blowing himself out the side of a moving train while trying to crack a safe. Surrounded by a mounted posse on November 7, 1897, on the Sid Williams farm near Checotah, Oklahoma, he suffered a broken arm and was knocked out of his saddle by the first shot fired, but landed on his feet and outran the lawmen until sundown.
According to Richard Patterson in Historical Atlas of the Outlaw West, "The posse was just about to give up when they discovered a tiny cabin in one of the thickest areas of the woods. On the chance that he might be inside, the lawmen fired their Winchesters in the air and shouted that they were going to burn the cabin down. In a few minutes an Indian woman and a child emerged. Shortly thereafter, the door was suddenly kicked open and Clifton rushed out, guns blazing. He made only a few yards before bullets cut him down. Two days later he was buried at the government's expense in the town cemetary at Muskogee."
My ancestors, especially the Cliftons, left their name on mining and lumbering camps from the no-man's-land between Quebec and the Thirteen Colonies to the mouth of the Columbia river. They included hunters, trappers, and sometime cowboys--and their legacy to me includes a realistic appreciation of who the Old West cowboys really were.
They most definitely were not rodeo-riders, nor rodeo fans, nor people who glorified the cowboy life when and if they were able to escape it. Most cowboys were boys, literally, who were deemed expendible because they were orphans, immigrants, Indians, half-breeds, or former slaves, with little education, no job skills, and no one to miss them if they happened to be killed on the job.
There is a myth that cowboys were drawn heavily from among the ranks of dispossessed and displaced former Confederate soldiers, as well as former U.S. cavalrymen. Actually, these sources supplied range bosses, and many of them were literally former slavedrivers.
Initially, cowboying was much like sheep-herding back in Europe. It consisted mostly of keeping track of the animals, chasing away predators, and alerting the master to rustling. The first cowboys rarely had horses. But Old West cowboy work was far more dangerous than European sheep-herding, not only because of the threats resulting from semi-perpetual war with hostile Indians and the presence of grizzly bears and pumas, but also because of the great distances between sources of help, food, and water, which necessitated the gradual introduction of mounted cowboys, and of firearms as a frequent cowboy accessory, among those cowboys who could get them.
As the frontier moved farther west, older cowboys especially--meaning cowboys barely older than today's high school students--became more heavily armed. They also became more predisposed to murdering one another in juvenile disputes misremembered today as heroic gunfights. Mark Twain accurately and thoroughly described the realities of Old West cowboying and gunfighting in his first book, Roughing It, and other authors including Jack London and Joaquin Miller, who actually were onetime cowboys, eloquently affirmed that the general reality of cowboy-work was child labor, even quasi-slavery. The conditions were much more congenial, because of the chance to work outdoors, than the conditions of the 19th century factories where other children labored, but were no less deadly. Rarely did a cowboy live past the age of 21.
Cowboys were heavily exploited and usually brutally treated until such time as they became able to beg, borrow, buy or steal a gun. They were used not only as cheap and disposable labor, but also for sexual release by older and stronger men. Such adult men used the pretext of a scarcity of women to establish enforced homosexual relationships in remote camps and ranches comparable to the relationships for which today's prisons are notorious.
The high incidence of pederasty and homosexual rape is the great dirty secret of the Old West frontier--and yet this is not from any lack of contemporary accounts which document or hint at it, including the famed woodcuts of men dancing with boys, descriptions of the practices of multiple men sleeping in single beds (as if there wasn't room enough out West for everyone to throw down his own bedroll), jokes about turns in the barrel, and the lyrics of certain Old West songs in which young men seem to be given women's names.
Indeed, the macho attitude traditionally affected by cowboys and gunfighters may have reflected the personal sexual insecurity of young men who often had little contact with women from the time they were first sent out on the range in their early teens, until a decade or more later--if they survived long enough and developed skills sufficient to get work back in town.
Meanwhile, many were "used as women" as the phrase of the day put it, unless they dared resist their masters, which could require murder. Such may have been the beginning of the story of Billy The Kid, among many others.
Once free, gunning down other young men little different from themselves was evidently for many gunslinging cowboys a form of venting the self-hatred of rape victims.
Those cowboys who survived to physical maturity typically seized upon any opportunity to do almost anything else for a living. Thus they became military cannon-fodder, participated in the commercial slaughter of the North American bison and the massacre of Native Americans, and joined in great numbers the mining rushes to California, Nevada, and Alaska.
Only after the Old West cowboy era had receded from the direct memories of most Americans could Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, et al reinvent their legacy. Much as minstrel shows reinvented slaves as happy-go-lucky banjo-pickers, cowboy movies reinvented cowboys as guitar-twanging knights errant. Only then did rodeo rise from being a regionally isolated remnant of lower-class Spanish culture to spread across the West as part and parcel of forgetting, as a culture, a set of truths too painful to confront. Only then could cowboy legends like Shane be invented, in which the boys are all grown men. Only then could the realistic depiction in Shane of a rancher hiring a gunslinger to help enforce his version of order be separated from the reality that such gunslingers were hired not just to deal with sodbusters, but also to keep the actual cowboys from resisting the rancher's authority.
Shane in truth was a story of sodbusters fighting range bosses, not cowboys per se. Real cowboys, undoubtedly off tending the cattle, scarcely appear--except for the silent, seemingly self-hating hero Shane himself, an apparent former cowboy who is unable to shake his unmentioned past, even in a blaze of gunfire that leaves three range bosses dead.
Shane's quest is for self-respect. He never seeks it at anything so absurd or pointless as rodeo. Rather, he seeks it through trying to free others of the tyranny of cowboy culture, even at cost of becoming one of the casualties. What Shane knows and Little Joey doesn't, as he rides away and Little Joey cries, "Come back, Shane!", is that the reality of cowboy life was not to be emulated and perpetuated--and Shane was too honest a man to want to tell the boy lies.
Modular and Mobile Homes
In the same year, Buckminster Fuller began developing his vision for a metal-dome home that could be easily disassembled and transported. Six years later, in 1935, another design classic appeared in the shape of Wally Byam&rsquos Airstream Clipper. Technological advancements continued, and taking inspiration from Henry Ford&rsquos assembly-line production style, a developer called William Levitt singlehandedly created Levittown, New York, using a rapid-construction process. His 750-square-foot Cape Cod homes could be created in an amazing 16 minutes.
The postwar prefab-housing boom meant that by 1960, mobile homes accounted for 15% of US housing. In 1967, Moshe Safdie&rsquos Habitat 67 was presented at the World Expo. A few years later, architect Zvi Hecker pushed the boundaries of prefab housing even further with the striking Ramot housing complex.
In 1996, IKEA and Swedish construction company Skanska teamed up to create BoKlok houses, making homeownership attainable for Scandinavians with modest incomes. Yet what prefab made up for in cost and labor efficiency, it lacked in design. And throughout the 1990s there was a decline in interest in prefab due to the stigma of over-standardization that developed around modular homes.
4 Forgotten Ways Your Ancestors Stayed Warm During Winter
Your home’s heating is an essential part of your survival in cold weather. Even if your house is insulated well, it will eventually get dangerously cold if your heating system is off or the power grid goes down.
Many homesteaders have fireplaces or wood-burning stoves in their homes, an idea that has plenty of merit, considering that wood has been the most common heating fuel throughout history.
On the plus side, wood is a renewable resource that one can harvest on their own. On the minus side, a fireplace or wood-burning stove is limited as to the area that it covers. You can’t heat an entire home with a fireplace.
Our ancestors solved this problem in a variety of ways — many of which we can adapt to our own use. Knowing what they did and why they did it gives us some insight into how to keep our own homes warm without electricity, even in the midst of a winter storm.
American homes have grown through the two centuries of our country’s existence. The average home size now is 2,600 square feet, which is large enough to be considered the home of someone wealthy 200 years ago. Wealthy people could afford more than one fireplace and many of their homes had them. Some even had a fireplace in every room.
It’s difficult to retroactively install a fireplace in every room of your home, even if you have the money to do so. It probably would be easier to build a new home designed for all-wood heating. But if that’s not an option, then we need to look at other options.
If we look at our country’s Colonial period and the westward expansion of the pioneers, we see that homes were much smaller. A one-room home was much easier to heat and a single fireplace was enough to do the job. So most people lived in one-room homes.
The fireplace became the focal point of the home, much like the television set is today. People would sit around the fire, talking and working on small tasks. Much of the handicrafts of the day were done sitting around the fire in the evening.
As homes grew, one of the first rooms added was a separate kitchen. This helped keep the rest of the home warm, as well as providing a larger work area for processing food. It also helped to keep the rest of the home cooler in summertime, as the main fireplace would not have to be lit. Kitchens always had their own fireplace or a wood-burning cooking stove.
Many homes had a loft where the children slept. Since heat rises, the loft would be the warmest part of the home. Mom and dad’s bed would often be located below the loft, so that they could have some privacy from the prying eyes of the children.
Here are a few “forgotten” ways our ancestors kept warm that we can borrow, either now or in the future when the electricity is out:
1. Thick bedding and curtains
The classic down comforter was intended to allow families to sleep in comfort, holding in their body heat. Beds were piled high with quilts and comforters in an attempt to keep warm.
Quilts and comforters weren’t the only thing that beds were piled high with they were piled high with bodies, as well. While mom and dad usually had a bed to themselves, the children often slept all together. As the family grew, there might be a boy’s bed and a girl’s bed to provide more room.
Warm night clothing was common as an additional layer of insulation against the cold. Most people even slept with stocking caps on, to protect themselves from losing heat through the tops of their heads.
The idea of bed curtains also traces its roots to trying to keep warm in cold weather. The extra layer of fabric used for the curtains would help hold a person’s body heat in the bed area.
2. Bed warmers
Before retiring for the night it was always a good idea to warm up the bed. This was done with a bed warmer. These are covered copper or brass pans, with a long handle. Holes would be punched in the lid, forming a design. The pan was filled with rocks that had been heated at the edge of the fire and then slid between layers of bedding using the long handle. This would warm the bed quite effectively.
3. Foot warmers
Foot warmers are both similar to and different than bed warmers. Typically, they were a wood-framed tin box with a wire handle on it. Like the bed warmer, heated rocks were placed inside the foot warmer, which could then be placed by the feet, under a blanket.
This was most commonly used as a heater in the family wagon, when going to the store or church. Wealthier churches had boxed-in pews, which allowed the families to bring in their foot warmer and lap blankets to keep warm in church. In many churches, this was the only heat to be found on a cold Sunday morning.
An alternative to the bed and foot warmer was a soapstone. Soapstones would be placed in the fire to heat and used directly, often wrapped in rags to prevent anyone from burning themselves on the hot stone. They could be used as bed warmers or foot warmers.
Due to their mass, soapstones were often more effective than a foot warmer. The more massive the stone, the more heat it can hold.
Have you heard of other ways our ancestors kept warm? Share your advice in the section below:
Excerpt: 'At Home'
At Home: A Short History Of Private LifeBy Bill BrysonHardcover, 512 pagesDoubledayList Price: $28.95
The risks were considerable and keenly felt, yet after only a few days of fretful hesitation the commissioners approved Paxton's plan. Nothing -- really, absolutely nothing -- says more about Victorian Britain and its capacity for brilliance than that the century's most daring and iconic building was entrusted to a gardener. Paxton's Crystal Palace required no bricks at all-indeed, no mortar, no cement, no foundations. It was just bolted together and sat on the ground like a tent. This was not merely an ingenious solution to a monumental challenge but also a radical departure from anything that had ever been tried before.
The central virtue of Paxton's airy palace was that it could be prefabricated from standard parts. At its heart was a single component -- a cast-iron truss three feet wide and twenty-three feet, three inches long -- which could be fitted together with matching trusses to make a frame on which to hang the building's glass-nearly a million square feet of it, or a third of all the glass normally produced in Britain in a year. A special mobile platform was designed that moved along the roof supports, enabling workmen to install eighteen thousand panes of glass a week -- a rate of productivity that was, and is, a wonder of efficiency. To deal with the enormous amount of guttering required -- some twenty miles in all -- Paxton designed a machine, manned by a small team, that could attach two thousand feet of guttering a day-a quantity that would previously have represented a day's work for three hundred men. In every sense the project was a marvel.
Paxton was very lucky in his timing, for just at the moment of the Great Exhibition glass suddenly became available in a way it never had before. Glass had always been a tricky material. It was not particularly easy to make, and really hard to make well, which is why for so much of its history it was a luxury item. Happily, two recent technological breakthroughs had changed that. First, the French invented plate glass -- so called because the molten glass was spread across tables known as plates. This allowed for the first time the creation of really large panes of glass, which made shop windows possible. Plate glass, however, had to be cooled for ten days after being rolled out, which meant that each table was unproductively occupied most of the time, and then each sheet required a lot of grinding and polishing. This naturally made it expensive. In 1838, a cheaper refinement was developed-sheet glass. This had most of the virtues of plate glass, but it cooled faster and needed less polishing, and so could be made much more cheaply. Suddenly glass of a good size could be produced economically in limitless volumes.
Allied with this was the timely abolition of two long-standing taxes: the window tax and glass tax (which, strictly speaking, was an excise duty). The window tax dated from 1696 and was sufficiently punishing that people really did avoid putting windows in buildings where they could. The bricked-up window openings that are such a feature of many period buildings in Britain today were once usually painted to look like windows. (It is sometimes rather a shame that they aren't still.) The tax, sorely resented as "a tax on air and light," meant that many servants and others of constrained means were condemned to live in airless rooms.
The second duty, introduced in 1746, was based not on the number of windows but on the weight of the glass within them, so glass was made thin and weak throughout the Georgian period, and window frames had to be compensatingly sturdy. The well-known bull's-eye panes also became a feature at this time. They are a consequence of the type of glassmaking that produced what was known as crown glass (so called because it is slightly convex, or crown-shaped). The bull's-eye marked the place on a sheet of glass where the blower's pontil -- the blowing tool -- had been attached. Because that part of the glass was flawed, it escaped the tax and so developed a certain appeal among the frugal. Bull's-eye panes became popular in cheap inns and businesses, and at the backs of private homes where quality was not an issue. The glass levy was abolished in 1845, just shy of its hundredth anniversary, and the abolition of the window tax followed, conveniently and fortuitously, in 1851. Just at the moment when Paxton wanted more glass than anyone ever had before, the price was reduced by more than half. This, along with the technological changes that independently boosted production, made the Crystal Palace possible.
The finished building was precisely 1,851 feet long (in celebration of the year), 408 feet across, and almost 110 feet high along its central spine-spacious enough to enclose a much admired avenue of elms that would otherwise have had to be felled. Because of its size, the structure required a lot of inputs-293,655 panes of glass, 33,000 iron trusses, and tens of thousands of feet of wooden flooring-yet thanks to Paxton's methods, the final cost came in at an exceedingly agreeable £80,000. From start to finish, the work took just under thirty-five weeks. St. Paul's Cathedral had taken thirty-five years.
Two miles away the new Houses of Parliament had been under construction for a decade and still weren't anywhere near complete. A writer for Punch suggested, only half in jest, that the government should commission Paxton to design a Crystal Parliament. A catchphrase arose for any problem that proved intractable: "Ask Paxton."
The Crystal Palace was at once the world's largest building and its lightest, most ethereal one. Today we are used to encountering glass in volume, but to someone living in 1851 the idea of strolling through cubic acres of airy light inside a building was dazzling-indeed, giddying. The arriving visitor's first sight of the Exhibition Hall from afar, glinting and transparent, is really beyond our imagining. It would have seemed as delicate and evanescent, as miraculously improbable, as a soap bubble. To anyone arriving at Hyde Park, the first sight of the Crystal Palace, floating above the trees, sparkling in sunshine, would have been a moment of knee-weakening splendor.
Excerpted from At Home: A Short History Of Private Life by Bill Bryson Copyright 2010 by Bill Bryson. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House Inc.
A City on a City
This massive regrade was going to take time, which meant that Seattle was a pretty bizarre place to live for a few years. For a while, streets and walkways were at the “new” ground level, but shop entrances were 12 feet down, meaning you’d have to climb down a ladder off the sidewalk to enter a building.
Shop owners and landlords also knew that the second floors of their new buildings would eventually be the ground floor. They mostly left the first-floors completely unadorned, while thoroughly decorating the second-floors. For a while, you’d approach a building and it would seem that its storefront hung 12 feet up in the air.
Once the regrade was complete, owners abandoned the first floors of their buildings and the city paved over the walkways in front of them, officially creating the Seattle Underground. This remnant of the previous ground-level still saw some use for a couple decades but in 1907, it was finally condemned out of fear that it was helping to spread the bubonic plague. The Underground was left to rot.
‘Go Down Together’
N.D. Houser, the owner-operator of the Red Crown Tavern and its adjoining two-cabin motor court, was suspicious from the moment Blanche Barrow walked into his office on July 18 and asked to rent the cabins overnight for a party of three. For one thing, Blanche was wearing her beloved "riding breeches" — jodhpurs was the correct fashion term — that were skintight across the rear and flared out from the hip to the knee. Pants like that were seldom seen in Platte City, Missouri, and several people who saw Blanche there were still remarking about them decades later. Then she paid the $4 rent in loose change, undoubtedly looted earlier in the day from the cash registers and gum machines at the three service stations in Fort Dodge. Houser took the money and watched as the fellow driving the Ford V-8 pulled up to the cabins, opened the door of the garage between them, and backed his car in. Criminals were notorious for doing that so they could make fast getaways.
Clyde got Bonnie settled in the right-hand cabin. W. D. Jones joined them there as usual. Buck and Blanche took the cabin on the left. Almost as soon as everyone was inside, Clyde sent for Blanche. He gave her more loose change and told her to go over to the tavern and buy five dinners and beer. She was to bring the food back so they could eat in the cabins. Blanche reminded Clyde that theyɽ just checked in as a party of three. Buying five meals would be a tip-off that there were more of them than that. But Clyde said he didn't care — she was to get five dinners, period, and he wanted chicken if they had it. Blanche did as she was told, and as she poured more coins into his palm Houser said heɽ have to go back to the cabins with her. Heɽ forgotten to take down the license number of their car, and it was required information from all their guests. Feeling helpless, Blanche led him back to the right-hand cabin and called for Clyde to come out. He opened the garage door so Houser could jot down the V-8 sedan's license number: Oklahoma 75-782. Clyde didn't think it was an immediate problem as he routinely switched plates on stolen cars. But it should have served as a warning sign that the staff at the Red Crown was especially vigilant. Clyde apparently didn't care. He told his family later that he liked the Red Crown cabins. They had stone and brick walls, which made him feel secure. If they needed to get to their car in a hurry, there was an interior door in Clyde's cabin that opened directly into the garage. Buck and Blanche's cabin didn't have one. They could only go in and out through the front door.
After dinner, everyone went to bed. They slept late on the morning of July 19. When Buck woke up, he told Blanche to go over to the other cabin and see when Clyde, Bonnie, and W.D. would be ready to leave. Clyde said heɽ decided they would stay another day. He wanted Blanche to fetch some more food and beer. Clyde felt relaxed about their situation. The cabins were nice. Bonnie needed rest. So Clyde gave Blanche yet another pile of change. After she brought the food, he sent her out to pay Houser $4 for a second night's stay. Blanche wasn't exaggerating in her memoir when she complained about having to run all the gang's errands. Houser took the money and told Blanche she could have a refund if her group decided to leave before nightfall. She thought it was an odd remark, and told Clyde that Houser "was the type that might tell the law we were there if he had the slightest suspicion about us." He was, and he didn't have to go far to do it.
The Barrow Gang had no idea that the Red Crown Tavern served as a gathering place for local cops and the state highway patrol. Two-way radios were still nonexistent for most lawmen in the region, so officers and supervisors would often meet somewhere at mealtimes to exchange messages and receive orders. The Red Crown was a favorite spot because the food was so good. On July 19, Missouri Highway Patrol captain William Baxter and some of his men met there for lunch. Either Houser or one of his employees mentioned to Baxter that the people in the two tourist cabins were acting awfully strange. The woman checking them in said they were a party of three, but she was buying meals for five. Besides paying for everything in loose change and parking backward in the garage the way crooks often did, whoever was in the right-hand cabin had taped paper across the windows to block anybody looking in. Houser described them to Baxter, and also gave him the Ford's license number. Baxter made a note to check the plate, and meanwhile put the cabins under surveillance.
Someone also passed the word about suspicious characters at the Red Crown cabins to Platte County sheriff Holt Coffey. Coffey and Baxter got along well. When they conferred early in the afternoon of the 19th, they concluded it was possible that the four or five people (they weren't entirely sure whether it was three men and two women, or two and two) might be the notorious Barrow Gang. Bonnie Parker was known to be badly injured, and a farmer in Iowa had recently reported finding used bandages at a campsite in the country. That meant the Barrows were probably somewhere in the region — why not Platte City?
The Barrows packed BARs, and Coffey worried that his own officers and the members of Baxter's highway patrol only had handguns and a few low-caliber rifles to return fire if it really was the gang and they tried to arrest them. Determined not to be outgunned, he went to see Sheriff Tom Bash, whose Jackson County department had jurisdiction for Kansas City and whose available armaments included machine guns, steel bulletproof shields, tear gas launchers, and armored cars. When Coffey drove over to ask for Bash's help, he didn't get the hoped-for offer of cooperation. As Coffey recalled it later, Bash snarled that he was "getting pretty damn tired of every hick sheriff in the country coming in here telling me they have a bunch of desperadoes holed up and wanting help." When Coffey insisted that they might be able to corner the infamous Barrow Gang, Bash finally agreed to send along a few officers and one armored car. This was an ordinary sedan whose sides had been reinforced with extra metal.
While Coffey pleaded with Bash, Lieutenant Baxter of the highway patrol got a report back on his license check. The number matched the plate on a Ford V-8 stolen on June 26 from a Dr. Fields in Enid, Oklahoma. Clyde, of course, had long since left that vehicle behind, but he foolishly kept the plate and screwed it on the bumper of the V8 he stole outside Fort Dodge on July 18. The Barrow Gang was suspected of the car theft in Enid, so Baxter felt he had more proof that Clyde and his cohorts were holed up in the Red Crown cabins.
By midafternoon, Baxter and Coffey began planning their raid. They knew Blanche had paid for the gang to stay a second night, so they decided to attack well after dark. The lawmen did their best to keep a low profile, but customers at the service station, grocery, and tavern all noticed highway patrolmen and county cops gathering and watching the tourist cabins. Word spread, and it soon seemed as though everyone but the Barrow Gang knew a confrontation was imminent. The newspaper Clyde had taped to his cabin windows to keep people from looking inside also prevented him from seeing what was going on outside.
At some point, either Clyde or Blanche walked to a local drugstore to buy bandages and over-the-counter medical supplies for Bonnie. Witnesses subsequently disagreed about who it was. Apparently, the lawmen let him or her come and go freely, not wanting to alert the rest of the gang and risk letting them escape. The druggist, whoɽ heard the rumors about criminals being in town, contacted Coffey to tell him about the purchases. The sheriff now felt certain that Bonnie Parker was in one of the Red Crown cabins.
That night in the left-hand cabin, Buck and Blanche talked about what they wanted to do next. Both were ready to leave Clyde, Bonnie, and W.D. They were tired of being bossed around. While Buck shined Blanche's boots, he suggested that they go north to Canada and find an isolated cabin to hide in. Buck thought they could make a living as trappers. Blanche said it would be fine with her -anything to get away from the others. Then Blanche walked over to the grocery across the road to buy some soap. When she went inside, she noticed there were quite a few people there, and all of them stopped talking as soon as she entered. While Blanche waited for her purchases, she stepped on a scale and discovered she weighed ninety-one pounds, almost twenty less than she had back in March when Buck was released from prison.
Back in the cabin, Blanche told Buck the people in the store had acted strangely. He suggested that she go tell Clyde about it. Buck added that he thought theyɽ be fine if they didn't leave until the morning. Clyde told her the same thing. He sent Blanche back to the left-hand cabin, and a few minutes later W.D. followed to say Clyde wanted her to return to the grocery for sandwiches and beer. She refused, so W.D. went. After he got back — apparently, W.D. didn't notice anything suspicious going on — everyone had some food and then went to bed.
Around 1 a.m. on July 20, Baxter and Coffey gathered their men together. Counting themselves, the highway patrolmen, county cops, and two officers sent by Sheriff Bash of Jackson County in the armored car, the posse numbered thirteen. Coffey's nineteen-year-old son, Clarence, was one of the highway patrolmen, along with Leonard Ellis and Thomas Whitecotton. Whitecotton had rushed from the department office to be there. He was still wearing the fancy seersucker suit and Panama hat he favored for days spent behind a desk instead of out on patrol. Baxter and Coffey had machine guns. They also had thick metal shields that they carried in front of them like medieval knights. The shields were supposed to protect them from even high-caliber bullets.
Coffey and Baxter were in the lead as the posse closed around the cabins. Jackson County officer George Highfill steered the armored car in front of the door of the garage connecting the cabins, effectively blocking the Ford V8 inside. Then he shone the car's lights directly on the left-hand cabin door. Crouching behind their shields, Coffey and Baxter moved forward. Coffey knocked on the door. Blanche jumped out of bed and began pulling on her jodhpurs and boots. Stalling for time, she asked who it was. Coffey yelled, "The sheriff -open up!" From the right-hand cabin a man's voice replied, "Just a minute," and then the Barrow Gang started shooting, Clyde and W.D. from the right side and Buck from the left, blasting their bullets at the lawmen right through the cabin doors and windows.
Watching from behind, Clarence Coffey told reporters later that he saw his father "pushed him back like he was hit by a high-pressure hose" as the bullets from the BARs smashed into his metal shield. Baxter was knocked back, too. The high-caliber slugs couldn't penetrate the shields, but their impact was still staggering.
Except for the headlights of the armored car shining on the door of the left-hand cabin, the light in the area in front of the cabins was patchy. All highway patrolmen Whitecotton and Ellis could see were two shadowy figures lurching in front of the cabins while gunfire exploded everywhere. Whitecotton mistakenly thought Sheriff Coffey must be one of the Barrows and yelled to Ellis, "There's one of ɾm! Get him!" Ellis, armed with a shotgun, raised his weapon and fired. A bit of buckshot scratched Holt Coffey's neck. Afterward, when Coffey bragged about being shot by the Barrow Gang and living to tell about it, Whitecotton and Ellis decided not to ruin the Platte County sheriff's story by revealing that heɽ been hit by friendly fire.
Inside the cabins, Clyde yelled for W.D. to go into the garage through the interior door and start the Ford. Bonnie fished the keys out of Clyde's pocket and tossed them to the teenager. When W.D. had the engine engaged, Clyde yelled for him to pull the garage door open, but the posse was pouring tremendous fire into the cabins and W.D. was too scared to do it. Holding his BAR in one hand, Clyde ran into the garage through the interior door and began pulling the door open himself. W.D. tried to help. As the door rose, they saw the armored car about fifteen feet in front of them blocking the way out. Clyde opened up on the car with his BAR. The car's side armor was supposed to repel any bullets, but Clyde's slammed through, wounding driver George Highfill in both legs. Another bullet smashed the horn button on the steering wheel, and the shrill howl of the horn blended with the gunfire. If Highfill had held his ground, the rest of the posse could have tightened their circle around the cabins and eventually captured the whole gang, but the injured officer astounded both his fellow lawmen and Clyde by easing the much perforated armored car several dozen yards to the right, opening a way for Clyde to drive the V8 straight through the surrounding cops. Both sides realized what was about to happen, and for a few seconds there was no more shooting.
Using the interior door in the right-hand cabin that opened directly into the garage, Bonnie hobbled into the V8. Clyde and W.D. climbed in. But Buck and Blanche had to leave their cabin through the front door to get to the car, and as they slammed the door open and began running for the garage, the posse laid down a high-caliber fusillade. A bullet from Baxter's machine gun struck Buck in the left temple and exited out his forehead, taking away part of his skull and exposing his brain. He dropped between the cabin door and the car.
Ever since she unwillingly joined the gang back in late March, Blanche Barrow repeatedly engaged in whining and other petty behavior. But now she proved she had courage. With bullets flying all around her, Blanche stopped to loop her arm under Buck's waist. Skinny and scared as she was, Blanche still helped Clyde drag Buck into the car while W.D. provided covering fire.
Somewhere behind the cabins, one of the lawmen fired a tear gas rocket that overshot the Ford, sailed across the highway, and exploded next to the service station. Clouds of stinking smoke added to the chaos. Clyde floored the gas pedal of the V8 and drove straight out of the Crown Tavern lot, past Holt Coffey with his metal shield and onto Highway 71. Everyone in the posse was shooting and their bullets smashed into the Ford. In the back seat Blanche was bent over Buck, trying to shield him from further harm. Her face was turned toward the right, and that was the side where most of the posse were standing and firing. One of their bullets struck the car's back window. It exploded. Though her body protected her mortally wounded husband, glass splinters drove straight into both of Blanche's eyes. She screamed, "I can't see," but Clyde had to concentrate on getting them out of there and kept on going, around a sharp corner and then off into the night.
The posse didn't immediately pursue them. The armored car was a sieve. Besides Highfill's wounded legs and Holt Coffey's nicks, several other officers had been injured, though none seriously. The Barrow Gang hadn't added to their body count of lawmen this time. Baxter got to a phone and called in a description of the gang's Ford, which like the Jackson County armored car was riddled with bullet holes. He emphasized that his posse "had a shooting scrape with the Barrow brothers." The lawmen found some pistols and a BAR in one of the cabins, along with syringes and morphine. The latter discoveries sparked rumors that the Barrow Gang were junkies, but the needles and dope were just the last remnants of booty from the doctor's bag Clyde had stolen back in Enid.
While the posse poked about the Red Crown cabins, Clyde was finding it tough to get away from Platte City. He spent several hours lost on backcountry roads. At one point a tire went flat, and the V8 had to bounce along on the rim until Clyde found a suitable place to stop and change it. They encountered several locals but no police. Clyde assured Blanche that despite the glass slivers driven into them, her eyeballs weren't "busted." The right eye was less damaged than the left — she could discern light and movement through it, but very little else.
Buck faded in and out of consciousness. Blanche tried to keep her fingers pressed tightly against the hole in his head. The floor by the back seat was soaked with Buck's blood. He asked for water — they had none to give him — and even in his dire condition Buck tried to comfort Blanche by telling her his head only hurt a little.
At dawn they stopped for gas at a service station north of Kansas City. Clyde told Blanche to cover Buck with a blanket, hoping the attendant wouldn't notice anything was wrong. Apparently he didn't think the man would see dozens of bullet holes in the car. But as soon as the attendant walked over, Buck began vomiting loudly, and the fellow looked in and saw the blood and carnage. Shaken by his brother's condition, Clyde simply drove away, telling Blanche he was sure the attendant would call the Kansas City cops to report seeing them. There was still enough fuel in the tank so that they could keep driving for a while.
Podcast #327: Heading Out — The History of Camping
Camping is one of America’s favorite pastimes. About 50 million Americans head out into the wilderness each year to refresh and reinvigorate themselves.
While it may seem like camping as a recreational activity has always been around, camping as we know it today is actually relatively new. For most of human history, camping is what you did during war or on a hunting or fishing expedition. It wasn’t something you just did for fun in and of itself. So how did camping become a modern pastime?
My guest today explores the answer to this question in his latest book. His name is Terence Young and he’s the author of Heading Out: A History of American Camping. Terry and I begin the show discussing how camping got its start as an anti-modern revolt after the Civil War, and the New England minister who wrote a book that would kickstart the camping craze in America in the 19th century. Terry then shares how businesses responded to the growing number of campers in America by creating and marketing products and goods to make camping easier, and how these products began a debate about which sort of camper is the most authentic camper — a debate which remains today. We end our conversation talking about the rituals of camping, why all campsites in America look exactly the same, and the state of camping today .
This is a great episode to listen to on your way to a weekend camp trip, or when you’re dreaming of your next outing on the way to work.
- When did camping become a recreational activity? (It’s later than you probably think!)
- Why did people start camping for its own sake?
- How camping fit into the broader arts and crafts movement
- The book that kickstarted the camping craze
- What camping was like in the 19th century
- How the conservation movement — including John Muir — reacted to camping
- How the camping gear industry was born
- The everlasting debate about “real” camping
- The ritual of the campfire
- How the automobile poured gas on the American camping flame
- The genesis of America’s campsite infrastructure, and how the modern campground was designed
- The long trail movement (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail) and the rise of backpacking
- How American camping is unique from other countries
- The state of camping in America today
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
If you’re a camper, you’ll definitely enjoy Heading Out. You’ll never look at this activity the same way again. It’s great to read in conjunction with On Trails by Robert Moor.
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
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Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another addition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. Well, camping is one of America’s favorite past times. About 50 million Americans head out into the wilderness each year to refresh and reinvigorate themselves. While it may seem like camping is a recreational activity that’s always been around, camping has no today because it’s actually reality new. For most of you in history, camping is what you did during war, or on a hunting or fishing expedition. It wasn’t something you just did for the fun of it, just in and of itself.
So, how did camping become a modern past time? My guest to explore the answer to this question in his latest book. His name is Terence Young and his book is entitled ‘Heading Out: History of American Camping’. Terry begins our show discussing how camping got a start as an anti modern revolt after the Civil War and the New England minister who wrote a book that would kick start the camping craze in America in the 19th century. Terry then shares how business respond to the growing number of campers in America by creating and marketing products and goods to make camping easier, and how these products began a debate about which sort of camper is the most authentic kind, a debate that remains ongoing today.
We end our conversation talking about the rituals of camping, why all campsites in America look exactly the same, or pretty much, in the state of camping in American today. This is a great episode to listen to on your way to a weekend camping trip or when you’re dreaming of your next outing on the way to work. After the show is over, check out the show notes at AON.IS/HeadingOut.
Terence Young, welcome to the show.
Terence Young: Oh, thank you. It’s great to be here.
Brett McKay: So, you wrote a history of one of my all time favorite activities, camping. And really, after reading this book, I’m looking at camping now with completely new eyes. I’m looking at campsites differently, because I know why campsites look the way they do and why there’s the one way loop and all that thing. But, what I found most interesting about this book was that, for some reason, I always thought of camping as sort of this er recreational activity, right? This sort of thing that humans have always done for fun for a long time but, then, when you think about it it’s like, “That doesn’t make any sense.”
So, you point out in the book that camping for the sake of camping is actually a relatively new concept. So, when did camping become just an activity that people just did for the sake of doing it?
Terence Young: Well, as you say Brett, camping is, in a sense, is ancient. Probably as long as there have been people, people have camped but, they didn’t camp for fun. They camped because they had to. The idea of camping, actually the word comes from the military word ‘campaign’, to engage in a campaign and they had to set up encampments and so, there were camps. Like, camp Lagune or things like this.
Camping as a recreational activity, in some ways, initially came along, at least in America, with hunting and fishing but, hunters and fishers would go out to do that, hunt and fish. But, they had to camp as a kind of adjunct to hunting and fishing. It’s only after the US Civil War ended in 1865 that we start to see people going camping just to camp, that they might hunt and fish. There were still many people still going hunting and fishing and then had to camp. But, this is when they first see the appearance of the idea, that camping itself is a form of recreation.
Brett McKay: So, I’m curious. I mean, what was it about coast velum America, the cultural melou of it that made people start camping just for camping sake?
Terence Young: The northern part of the country boomed. The economy boomed and industry was growing and the cities like, New York, Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia, they were growing very rapidly in population and getting much larger. Along with this industrialization and urbanization of America came a lot of regulation, a lot of pollution, noise, smoke, things like this. A lot of crowding, a lot of strangers that people didn’t know.
This was all knew to Americans. There had been cities like New York before the Civil War but they largely had been relatively small and the vast majority of Americans had lived in small towns and on farms and tiny settlements and stuff. And this new experience caused a sort of, I would say, identity crisis, if you will, amongst people who weren’t sure. Who am I, in a way, and is this still America?
One of the things, amongst many, that they turned to was camping. Camping going back with this kind of romantic idea of nature as relief, as whatever solution, anidine to their sense of like, “Am I really in the right place being here in the city?” They didn’t want to leave the city because that’s where the jobs were, that’s where the money was. But, they wanted some relief from the city and camping seemed to fill the bill.
Brett McKay: Right, so in a way it was an anti modern revolt? In a sort of-
Terence Young: Yes.
Brett McKay: But yeah, you said this was among other things. This was sort of … Besides camping, I know during this same period, people got really into arts and crafts. This is like when the arts and crafts movement started in Europe and America and people were all about “I’m going to build things with my hands and rustic things are great things because it’s not tainted by urbanization or technology.”
Terence Young: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, that’s right and we do … One of the reasons the arts and crafts movement rose was because people were increasingly in jobs where they didn’t make anything from beginning to end, right? They, whatever, made a part that was assembled into something larger and so, they didn’t necessarily see a completion to their actions. They came enamored of this idea of doing things themselves, and having control and finishing something. Camping is a part of that whole larger movement.
Brett McKay: Right. One of the individuals, most influential individuals in sort of kick starting the camping movement in America, never heard of this guy but he’s a pretty interesting character. His name is William HH Murray. What was it about his book that he wrote? It’s called ‘Adventures in the Wilderness’, that helped kickstart the camping craze?
Terence Young: Well, Murray, for a little background on him. Murray was a congregationalist minister from Boston. He was actually the head of the Park Street Church, which is probably the most significant, or was the most significant, congregational church in America. He was a graduate of Yale. He was very educated gentleman. He was a very enthusiastic outdoors man. He especially loved canoeing and, the thing about his book, his book is, I think, kicks off camping for a number of reasons.
One, it’s accessible, it’s still in print. It’s well written. He’s funny. He’s sort of self reflectively funny. But most importantly, unlike anybody before him, he basically came right out and flatly said, “Well, how do you camp?” He told people how to do it. Writers before him hadn’t really said that. They just assumed everyone knew how. Of course, most urban people in 1869, when ‘Adventures in the Wilderness’ was published, most urban people they didn’t have any idea about how to go camping into the wild. They lived in the city.
His book told them how. You needed to go here, do that. He told them where to go into the Adirondacks in particular. And he told them why. I think that why was also very important because what he did was, he addressed the anxieties that urban people in the post Civil War era were feeling. He came right out and said, “Yes, the reason you don’t feel good is, you work in an office, it’s crowded, your boss is a pain.” These sorts of things and he was the first one to come right out and say it and he was a minister saying this.
I think it gave him a lot of clout, you know? It’s a combination of a well written book, useful book, informative book, and one that explained why you’d want to go camping. People took him at his word and immediately took off and started camping.
Brett McKay: How much of an impact did this book have? Like, how many people started camping because of him and how did it change he Adirondacks and the economy there, and just the amount of people there?
Terence Young: It’s hard to say exactly how many people were effected directly by Murray’s book but, we know that he made a fortune on the book. He made $25,000 in the first year off sales of the book. This is at a time when the average, or per capita income in the US, is under $200 a year. So, he made an enormous amount of money, so then we know lots of copies were sold. In the Adirondacks, they directly felt it in the year prior to his book coming out. A couple of hundred people showed up as Sandarac Lack during the whole season to go into the back woods and stuff. The year that Murray’s book is written, 1869 that it’s published, they got at least two to 3,000 people. So, they had a 10 to 15 time increase in the number of people camping.
Then, the following year, 1870, there was at least 5,000 people or more show up. So, this is a tremendous increase in the number of people going to the Adirondacks.
Brett McKay: What was camping like at this time? I mean, who were the type of people going and how did they get there and what kind of stuff did they bring for them to camp?
Terence Young: Well, relatively few people actually go camping, compared to the total size of the population in the 19th century. This is for a bunch of reasons but particularly it’s mostly upper middle class people who can go camping. That’s largely because you had to have a lot of money, it’s not cheap to go camping in 1880 say, and you needed time. Most Americans didn’t have vacations in the 19th century, most working Americans. So, you had to have your own business or profession, or be able to sell or save enough money to be able to do this so, class people and a few wealthy people that are going.
They didn’t take much gear. There wasn’t much gear that we would … The kind of things that we would think of today, just most of them didn’t exist in the 19th century. So, what they would take was relatively heavy and cumbersome and difficult to move around, which means there were not a lot of people who walked as campers, like backpacking, just handful of them. There’s a fair number of people who went on horseback or in canoes, things like this.
Again, a few who would go with a horse and wagon, but horse and wagon was very expensive and you had to sort of get a bunch of people together to do it. When they went camping, mostly, they went nearby. They would, just say, take the train two stops past the edge of town, get off, walk out along some river and into the edge of a farm field and plop down and start camping. They were perfectly happy to just go, basically, near by. Only the wealthy, I mean and the truly wealthy, could go long distance to some place like Yellow Stone or Yosemite or something like that. Since most of the people who are camping at this time, in the 19th century, course live in the north eastern part of the US, and Yellow Stone is a long way away. So, you had to have a lot of time and money to do that.
Brett McKay: Yeah, and during this time, after Murray’s book, this whole marketplace for camping literature just sprung up. Articles started proliferating in magazines about camping. I know you said they talked about the benefits, as it’s a way to recoup from the stressful like of the city but, even though this was primarily an upper middle class activity, one of the benefits that these publishers pushed, or these writers pushed, was that camping was economical. It was like an economic recreational activity.
Terence Young: Yes. I mean, it is a common troupe here because I’m sure people were cautious. Somebody would say, “You should go camping for two weeks or a month.” And they’re going, “Yeah, but that’s extra costs.” So, there was many, as you point out, there were many articles that were published saying, “Oh no, no. It’s so inexpensive to go camping that, in fact, you can keep your house and go camping and your overall expenses will be reduced or, at least, no higher than what you’re already experiencing because you can catch your food. You can go out and catch fish, you don’t have to buy meat.” Something like this. You don’t need to buy fuel, you can just get the fuel from the forest, or something along those lines.
So, yeah, there was a lot of effort to sort of condense people to don’t worry. This is not going to cost you a great deal of money. Also, it’s in the light of people who, of this class, who one of the things they would typically do on vacations, if they had the time and money, was they would go to hotels. Say, in Saratoga or something like this, and that’s very expensive to do, to have a room for two weeks and eat at one of these places. So, camping, people who promoted camping, were situating it in this sort of like, “Yeah, you can do all those things but, you do this, you’ll have a better time and it won’t cost you so much.”
Brett McKay: You just said they just kind of plop their tent wherever. So, at this time, there still wasn’t an infrastructure for camping. Did conservationist … Because this is when the conversation movement was starting to pick up. Was they considered about the effect that campers were having on the environment and on forest because of their sort of indiscriminate camping?
Terence Young: Generally speaking, no. I’ve come across very little in the kind of like, “Be careful” or anything like that. Or, “Gosh, we have to control the campers.” Although, having said that, there are people who do note that there’s problems from this. The forest service, when it first gets money, the US Forest Service, when it first gets money to develop camping facilities it does so as an effort to prevent fires. Or, the park service, and one of the things the park service did, the rangers did, most commonly at first was give people tickets for leaving fires unattended. Fire was a particularly special concern.
John Mouer, again as unsurprisingly, one of the things he noted in the late 19th century was that campers were polluting streams. He was one of the first people to sort of mention it and he, in fact, used it as part of his campaign against Hechthechie and Yosemite Park. But, generally speaking, conservationist didn’t seem much concerned with the impacts of campers.
Brett McKay: Yeah, they might have probably liked it because it got people in nature and maybe helped promote the cause a bit. Like, “Oh, this is nice.”
Terence Young: Yeah.
Brett McKay: How did the market respond to America’s camping craze because whenever there’s a craze in America there’s always a company out there trying to capitalize on that. So, what sort of businesses popped up during this time that catered to campers?
Terence Young: Well, I think you can sort of put them into three kinds of groups. One is, there were lots of small companies popped up to provide all sorts of items, whether those were, say imagine if you will, before there’s much camping equipment people had to mostly bring plates that would be ceramic or, they would bring cookware that didn’t fit into each other and stuff.
So, initially companies sprang up to sort of say, “Okay look, we can sell you cutlery that fits inside your cups, which can be stacked together and all of these pots and pans, they can all be nested together.” They basically … These companies tried to provide greater convince and comfort and they made all sorts of things, all kinds of efforts at cooling, ice chest, there’s ice chest in the 19th century. Cookware in particular is one of the things that people go after. Clothing manufacturers are trying to provide. Tents.
But most of these companies, they made a product and then they pretty much disappeared. They didn’t last very long for whatever variety of reasons. In addition to them, there were businesses which recognize … Which already had a product and then, recognized that their product had a new market, potential for a new market, that was campers. So, for instance, Ivory Soap, which was the company that initially made Ivory Soap begins in 1840, long before camping and they’re selling soap to people in homes and stuff like that. But then, in the mid to late 19th century, campers come up and Ivory starts promoting its product to campers. It’s clean, it can clean anything, it floats, you’re not going to lose the bar of soap if you start washing in the stream. There’s a variety of these kinds of companies.
Eagle Brand condensed milk is another one that again and again they say, “We have a product. Let’s market it to campers too.” And a lot of these, you can still … If you go into camping supply store or sporting good stores, you still find products made by companies that generally you don’t think of as camping companies but they make a product that fits camping and gets sold in a sporting goods store.
Then, lastly, there are those businesses which sprang up and continue and lasted. They sprang up to make a product for campers and they’ve lasted all the way through. The one I always think of and remember most is Air Stream Trailers, say. Now, they’re the beginning of the 20th century but, Air Stream was one of many trailer companies, most of which failed ultimately, but there they are still putting out Air Streams and people still loved them.
Yeah, I mean, after about 1880, there’s a real awareness that camping is a market, that there’s a big market of campers and you don’t want to pass them up.
Brett McKay: Yeah, but what this … The market introduce all these comforts, they introduce this debate that we still see amongst campers, right?
Terence Young: Yes.
Brett McKay: About what is real camping. Like, backpackers will say, “Well no, we’re the legit campers because we just take everything we need in. Don’t bring anything out.” The car campers think, “Well we’re better than the trailer campers because at least we’re sleeping in a tent.” Did this debate exist back then, in the early days of camping?
Terence Young: Oh yes. Right from the very beginning. I think if we recognize, or we accept the idea, that camping is a sort of anti modern activity and that part of the modern world is technologies. One of the reasons I think campers divide along these different mode, lines of modes, backpacking, trailer camping, canoe camping, car camping. I think one of the reasons they do that is, they are willing to accept different levels of technological presence in nature with them. That tension has never ended.
I mean, totally. I mean, I feel it myself. I love to go camping and I’m sure I’ve made more than one observation that, “Well I would never use that kind of equipment” or something. But, camping is … Sort of, camping is what campers do. You know, if they’re happy with it and they feel good about it and it satisfies them, I think we have to accept that it is camping. Might not be the kind of camping that I or somebody else would care to practice and maybe I wouldn’t feel the pleasure and the relief and release from camping in somebody else’s mode with a trailer, with a backpack, or whatever. Never the less, I think it’s clear that the people who do use those kinds of technologies, they are enjoying themselves. They are having a good time. It does work for them. But, it doesn’t make them anymore satisfied with the other kinds of camping.
Brett McKay: Right, now there’s a lot of ritual around camping, even today, right? First thing you do get to a spot, you pitch your tent. Then, you get the fire going. Then, maybe you have a chuck box, you get that going. Were these rituals started back in the 19th century when camping was first getting going?
Terence Young: In the 19th century, there’s not so much of that. But, in the 20th century, at the very beginning, late end of the 19th, very beginning the 20th century, it starts to appear. You start to see it in magazines and in how to books, and stuff like this because you start to see articles appearing in, say, winter time in a magazine. Lady’s Home Journal or something like this, Popular Mechanics or something, talking about well now summer is coming. You want to get ready for that camping trip. You got to start planning it. You got to start thinking about it.
I think we see this, and this is not exclusive to camping, I think. But at the beginning of the 20th, end of the 19th century they start to … There’s this literature that says imagination is the first thing you do, is image where you’re going to go. Then, you plan it. Then assemble it all and finally, when you’re going to go and get out there. But, the one activity that I think has become most identified, I think with camping, one of those rituals, which does go right back to the very beginning is a camp fire. I mean, you can see people talking about “Be sure to have a camp fire.” Right in the 1870s, right after Murray’s book and virtually every first early books written about camping. They’ll illustrate them with camp fires, people standing around camp fires. It’s clearly something that has a strong ritual meaning for campers, no matter what kind of mode they practice.
Brett McKay: Yeah. That was interesting too, you bring up this point, by the early 20th century the frontier in America pretty much closed. All the states that were once territories were states. I live in Oklahoma. 1907 Oklahoma was a state. Few years later, Arizona was a state. So, there’s this closing of the frontier. How did that closing of the frontier effect how Americans viewed camping?
Terence Young: Well, this idea, which was made, whatever, widely known by Fredrick Jackson Turner, the historian, 1890s. When people came to think of the frontier as closing it wasn’t until it was going away that they came to think “This is how we became Americans.” The frontier was the place where immigrants from other countries, other parts of the world, other parts of America, they’d move out on to the frontier and even if they weren’t true Americans in a way, the interaction between them and the frontier left Americans behind. That it created Americans. So, it was people interacting with the American frontier.
Well, when it is officially declared gone and closed, camping becomes much more of a … It starts to be presented in literature as, “Look, this is how you got to get to the frontier. This is all that’s left. We don’t have that actual frontier anymore but we do have wild places.” What do you do? You go camping. It’s the closest thing we’re going to be able to do. Importantly, you take your children to go camping too because this is how you can be sure that they’ll get that experience that your forebears, that the pioneers, had. They’ll have that same experience and they’ll end up being rugged and tough and self supporting and this sort of thing. So, camping sort of got kicked up a notch culturally, by this idea that the frontier was gone.
Brett McKay: Right, and another idea of the frontier thesis was that the frontier is what made democracy work in America, right? Because the frontier, you could go out and everyone was pretty much the same, whether you were a banker from east or some rough neck or cowboy, you were sort of on the level because you were out facing nature with each other.
Terence Young: Yes. This is, again, a common sort of recognition on the part of individual campers. You can find it in their diaries talking about meeting people of all sorts of walks of life and being really pleased and getting along with them. They could go camp in Yellow Stone or Yosemite or Great Smoky Mountains or something and they would meet these people and they all came back feeling like, “Yeah, I’m an American. They’re an American. We’re all Americans here, out here in the woods, and doing this sort of thing.”
The parks and the forests promoted that. This idea. These are America’s playgrounds and by that, they mean this is where all Americans can come, all of us. I think that that notion still persist. Just my own experience with camping is that you get out, you get your camp site and people will just come up, chat with you, take a look at your gear, offer you things, be very helpful. I don’t think that has changed a great deal but, it’s definitely something that appears at least in the early 20th century, if not earlier.
Brett McKay: Right, so probably by the mid 1920s the car had become a main stay in American culture. How did the car pretty much poor gas on the camping flame in America?
Terence Young: The automobile transformed camping. The automobile, initially, was a play thing for the rich. It didn’t have much effect until through 1910, give or take. But then, Henry Ford, to his ever lasting credit, he figured out how to make automobiles cheaply and in mass numbers. People took to cars like crazy and the number of people who could camp skyrocketed.
The automobile really made camping available to anybody who could afford a car and there were a lot of used cars in short order. America really took to the road and so, we see the number of people going camping in the national parks just takes off like a rocket by the 1920s certainly. It’s just going up very, very fast. Campers loved this. They didn’t see the car … Many, at least most campers, they didn’t see the car as some sort of inappropriate invasion of the woods or desert or where ever. But rather, they saw it as something that facilitated their ability to get into the wild. That is, if nothing else, it could take them to the edge of some road less area. But, it did allow them to go into such wild places, which for the average person, seemed very wild. So, the automobile had a huge effect. Tremendous effect on camping.
Brett McKay: I’m sure the debate between what was real camping only intensified. Bet all the canoe campers were like, “Oh these car campers, they’re ruining the scene here with their cars.”
Terence Young: Oh yes! I mean, the automobile probably, indirectly, is responsible for the creation of wilderness in America and the prompting of a lot of backpacking. And as you say, a lot of canoe camping as well. People who were supporting of backpacking and wilderness and canoe areas and protected lake areas and stuff, they say the automobile as an invasion by people who just took advantage of the ability of the car to get anywhere and were just creating roads anywhere. Getting the government to do that. They then, pressed to get wilderness areas protected for backpackers or wilderness areas for canoe campers.
So, the automobile, it very much facilitated the number of campers but, in reaction to that, the automobile also ended up creating places for backpacking and canoe camping too.
Brett McKay: The automobile, one of the things it did as well, is it pretty much created the infrastructure of camping that we see today. Like, you go to any campsite, whether it’s a state park or national park, you’re going to see pretty much the same thing. You’re going to see a restroom facility. You’re going to see a table, like a cement table, or wooden picnic table with a grill, preset campsites. You’ll see showers and you’ll see the ubiquitous one way road that goes through. This started in about 1930s, right? With EP Meinecke, is that his last name? Tell us a little bit about him.
Terence Young: Just before the 1930s, as we said, camping is booming because of the automobile and lots and lots of campers are coming, especially to the national parks and forests in the west. There’s no regulation. The national park service has an approach to regulation, which they refer to as indirect. That is, they don’t like to put up signs. They don’t like to tell you, “You can’t park here. You can’t do this there. You can’t do …”
They’d rather put a rock in your way to get you to not park there or something like that. Well, they didn’t want to tell campers, “Don’t camp in places.” So people could camp virtually anywhere in the national park and they did. The problem was, they particularly liked to all camp in the same places, which would be like Stone Men Meadow at Yosemite or something. They liked to be right up against the rivers and this was killing the vegetation, polluting the rivers. Something had to be done about all of this as a result. Then, there’s all these cars crammed together.
The forest service approached a gentleman named EP Minecky who worked for the department of agriculture. He was a plant pathologist. And they said, “Can you help?” He’d helped them with other vegetation issues and they said, “Look, the campers are basically killing the redwoods. The giant Sequoia as Sequoia National Park and the around the area. Can you help us?” Minecky went, took a look and said, “Yep, you’re right. All these campers in these cars, they’re killing the trees because they’re running over the roots.” So, they said, “What can we do?” Long story short, Minecky basically developed a design, the modern camp ground.
That is, like you were saying, you now have fixed roads. They’re one way. Can’t go in both directions. You have a camping spur for your car. It’s sort of a garage in the forest if you will. There’s a table sitting there. There’s a place where your tent is supposed to go. There’s supposed to be, should be, some vegetation around you.
So, sort of what he did was he created a space that mimicked a domestic space, which you had to fill up. Then, there were restrooms that you had to walk to nearby and water fountains, or whatever, spigot. Things like that nearby. This is all Minecky and he did this, basically, in 1932 is when he came up with this design, which as you said, is now just everywhere. Virtually every state national park I’ve ever been to basically uses this same design for their automobile campgrounds.
Minecky is the fellow who put that together and one of the peels to this, for the forest service and the park service, was not just that it eliminated pollution and that sort of thing, but also was, the parks were being over run by people. They were being loved to death by campers and the forest but, the administrations didn’t have anyway to sort of manage that. This camp ground gave them a tool. That is, what it did was, as they say it, unitized the campsites. That is, there’s a campsite number one, and when all campsites, all your 38 campsites or 107 or whatever there were, when somebody was in everyone then the authorities could say, “Camp ground’s full. You can’t camp here.” And previously they’d not been able to say it was full. People would just say, “I can cram something in there. I could shove a car in there. It’ll be fine.” This gave them an ability to control the campers so that they could make space.
Then, they added the two week rule, or 30 day. Initially a 30 day rule, then a two week rule. You can only stay for 30 days or you can only stay for two weeks and then, you have to leave so somebody else can come in and camp here. It gave the authorities not only better protection of the environment but, it also gave them more control over camp grounds so that people would just come, which they did, and come and camp for three months and basically use up all the space.
Brett McKay: Yeah. So, the car democratized camping even more but then, as you talk about in the book, there was sort of a revolt against car camping and this sort of emphasis on canoe camping but also backpacking. But one of the other movements that was going on in America that coincided with this shift was The Long Trail Movement, that started with the Appalachian Trail, then the Pacific Crest Trails. How did the Long Trail Movement sort of put the gas on backpacking in America?
Terence Young: People had been hiking, particularly in the northeast and the Appalachians. The Appalachian Mountain Club is an old organization, which had been about hiking. They had cabins and stuff like this along, they still do, along their trails. But in the early 20th century, 1910s, actually the first long distance trail is called the Long Trail in Vermont and this was supported by people who wanted to go out and camp as well as hike and just walk along so they’d have a place to do that. Backpackers, these things are all coming together. Backpackers had become more enthusiastic and they were more active and their equipment, their gear, was getting lighter in the early 20th century and they wanted places for themselves.
So, they pushed to create these long trails and as you said, probably the best known of the early ones is the Appalachian Trail, the AT, stretching, whatever it is, 2,000 miles. Then, it was followed, pretty quickly at least, by the idea of – took a little longer to complete – The Pacific Crest Trail. I think that the significance of these trails and the significance of backpacking in popular imagination has always remained strong, in that, this is form of camping, which even those people who don’t want to practice it, I think would admit that, “Yeah, there’s … It’s a special form and provides a special experience because you have to walk, just like people have always had to until 20th century, or whatever.” They finally got cars but people for 10,000 years have had to walk if they wanted to get places. That’s what backpackers do and it has this special appeal.
I think we can see that popular significance, even today, in the consequence of Sheryl Straid’s book ‘Wild’, then the movie being made from it. This idea, Sheryl Straid, she went on the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself in that long walk and I’ve heard this from many people who have done seriously long distance backpacking, which I admit, I have not. But, I talked to one gentleman. He walked the AT three times, the entire thing and the last time he did it, at the end he broke down and just started crying and he couldn’t stop because he said doing that kind of long distance walking puts you in a mental state that’s simply not reproducible else where. There’s special places.
Brett McKay: I’m curious, I forgot to ask this Terence but, was this whole camping craze, beginning in the 19th century into the middle part of the 20th century, was this a uniquely American thing or were other western countries also experience this sort of camping craze going on?
Terence Young: Well, camping is equally popular in Canada, to Americans. It’s more or less contemporary with what’s happening in the United States. I don’t think it’s quite as intense. The forms are practiced elsewhere but the meaning, I think, is really an American Experience. I mean, you can go to France. French are big campers. Or Germany or Sweden, or any of number of places around the world, Australia and stuff. And you’ll find people who are camping but the reason they camp is, like in the case of Europeans in particular, it’s an inexpensive form of vacation. They’ll tell you that. “Why you camping?” “Well, it’s cheap and allows us to be here.”
But, I think to say that about American camping, just see it as something that’s inexpensive vacation, misses the cultural significance that it has held for us for a long time. It’s a means for Americans who aren’t comfortable with cities to kind of make up for having to live in them. I mean, we understand if you want to have a job and good income and all that today, you’re going to more or less end up living in a city. But, you don’t have to like it. Camping is a way to kind of make up for it for a couple of weeks, or whatever. That is unusual. That’s something Americans do. More than anybody else.
You’d have to ask … If you go to Britain, “Why do they camp?” They have other reasons but not the same as us.
Brett McKay: What’s the state of American camping today?
Terence Young: It’s still very strong. Latest surveys I’ve read put camping, we’re talking at least, a minimum of 50 million Americans, about 1/6 of the population go camping every year. When you ask people, “What do you do in your leisure time?” You give them a list of things and they’ll pick them. Camping almost invariably ends up in the top 10 and that’s up there with watching television, and going to restaurants and stuff like this. It remains extremely popular in America.
At the same time, I would say it is not as significant … Well, the numbers are still enormous. It’s not as culturally significant as it once was. I think the kind of high point in American history for camping, as a kind of cultural phenomenon, was the 1920s. It was that car. I mean, the car liberated people to go camping. Everybody went camping. Henry Ford, John Burrows, Harvey Firestone and Thomas Edison had these annual camping trips that they did and that were in the news and stuff like this. President Harding joined them on a camping trip. It was enormous at that time. But the total number, of course, is much smaller than now.
The other thing I would say about camping today is I suspect in part, it’s slowly declining. Not seriously and certainly in backpacking hasn’t declined but, the other forms of camping, the number of people doing them, seems to be in a slow decline but not serious. I would like to think, I mean I’m not sure exactly why, but I would like to think that one of the reasons is that American cities are becoming more comfortable little … There’s a little bit more wildness in American cities and the need to leave the city, to go into some place far away, isn’t quite as necessary anymore.
I say this in part because if you look at pictures of American cities in 1920, they are just so bare. Those street trees and are few and just little green anywhere. You compare that now to the efforts that I think we’re trying to do now a days to green up our cities, put in more squares, put in more street trees, just generally make them more comfortable in terms of mix of wild and art, human art. It’s perhaps taken a little bit of the sting out of life in the city and therefore, a little less desire to go camping.
Brett McKay: Well, Terence this has been a great conversation. There’s a lot more we could talk about in the book but where can people go to learn more information about the book?
Terence Young: Well, I have a Facebook page for the book, as a matter of fact, called Heading Out or Camping in America, I think either one will take you there. But also, the book is published by Cornell University Press and they have a website, CornellPress.Cornell.edu and you can find out everything about it there and it’s for sale in book stores, online, that sort of thing.
Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Terence Young thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Terence Young: Oh, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you for asking me to be here.