Summer of '69: Birthplace of the American Vacation | Res Ipsa - RES IPSA

Summer of '69: Birthplace of the American Vacation | Res Ipsa

Historically, leisure travel was available only to the wealthy. For example, the Habsburg Dynasty would depart with pomp and circumstance from Vienna for their summer residence, Schönbrunn Palace, in an elaborate procession of carriages. The wealthy whaling ship owners of Nantucket enjoyed summer cottages in Siasconset. But what of the rest of us? "Summer vacations" only became practical for the masses in the last 150 years. Did you know historians attribute the popularization of the summer vacation to a book written by a Boston preacher in 1869? 


Here in America, summer vacations became a mass phenomenon 150 years ago. It was the summer of 1869, according to the Smithsonian, when Boston preacher William H. H. Murray published a guide book on the 9,000 sq. mile Adirondack Mountains. Then a mere 36 hour train ride from New York or Boston, the mountain region was thought by Murray as an escape from from the wretches of city life and summer heat. In his book, Adventures in the Wilderness; or, Camp-Life in the Adirondacks, he suggested "that hiking, canoeing and fishing in unsullied nature were the ultimate health tonic for harried city dwellers whose constitutions were weakened by the demands of civilized life." 

New Yorkers and Bostonians began retreating to the mountain region by the thousands. By 1875, with some ten more editions of his book emerging after the first, the popularity of the Adirondacks was surging ten-fold -- over 200 hotels and camps were operating. In just twenty years thereafter, the region's summer population grew from 3k to 25k people. According to the Smithsonian, "the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Carnegies, Huntingtons and other fabulously wealthy industrialists built their own spectacular “great camps,” where they could disport with their families in private luxury. The American vacation was born—quite literally." 

From summer cottages in Nantucket to ski-lodges in Aspen, winter escapes to southern India or time spent sailing around the Mediterranean, Americans will find every chance (and excuse) to escape. Even the newest 'staycations', Americans have anchored to the 'Instagrammable' notion of vacationing perhaps more than any other culture around the globe. While vacation time is limited compared to other countries, what all started with the mere activities of fishing, hiking as well as intentions to retreat from the daily headaches and heat waves of city life has turned into a yearly travel experience for Americans unlike ever imagined.   

The technological advances in the 20th century not only allowed for growing numbers of Americans to afford travel as vacation, but the changes brought new waves of ideas and inspired infinite travel possibilities for the 21st century & onwards. For Americans that could afford it, travel turned into the greatest luxury. And the newest technology of the day, whether it be the automobile, an ocean-liner, a train or a plane, always became the front-page news.

Whether you're planning a summer vacation or a summer staycation, you're part of a tradition of summer travel that extends from European royalty to nearly every American family. 


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