The Frontier of Leisure: Southern California and the Shaping of Modern America

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Overview

"The more Southern California is studied, the more relevant it becomes to understanding the national experience. Lawrence Culver's pioneering study, so superbly managed, chronicles the emergence of leisure as a near-Bill of Rights in the American way of living." Kevin Starr, University of Southern California" "Radiating outward like the rays of its famous sunshine, Southern California's recreational ideas and practices have shaped the lives of Americans and culture of the nation far beyond regional boundaries. Lawrence Culver takes leisure seriously, and we're all the beneficiaries of his insight." William Deverell, Director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West" "The bright lights of LA have inspired the dreams of millions. In his well-written and often provocative study of how the city became the most successful tourist attraction in history, Lawrence Culver explains how it also inspired new patterns of urban growth and architecture across the United States. Anyone interested in modern sprawl and its curious relation to modern nature cannot afford to miss it." Louis Warren, University of California, Davis" "A wonderfully fresh take on an enduring debate-Is southern California more American than the rest of America, or less? By tracing how the region translates the best and worst impulses in the American Dream into exclusive landscapes of leisure, Culver makes the compelling case that this slice of the United States with the sun in its eyes at once expresses these impulses as fully as possible and then remakes the rest of America in its own image." Jenny Price, author of Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America" "Southern California has long been promoted as the playground of the world, the home of resort-style living, backyard swimming pools, and year-round suntans. Tracing the history of Southern California from the late nineteenth century through the late twentieth century, The Frontier of Leisure reveals how this region did much more than just create lavish resorts like Palm Springs-it literally remade American attitudes toward leisure." "Combining environmental, urban, and cultural history, Lawrence Culver shows how this "culture of leisure" gradually took hold with an increasingly broad group of Americans, and ultimately manifested itself in suburban developments throughout the Sunbelt and across the United States. Beginning in the 1870s and continuing across the twentieth century, Culver illuminates the promotion of leisure and outdoor recreation in Southern California and the Southwest, explores the problematic place of public recreation in the region's largest city, Los Angeles, and traces the rise of private tourist leisure at two key Southern California resorts, Santa Catalina Island and Palm Springs. He shows that as Southern Californians promoted resort-style living, they also encouraged people to turn inward, away from public spaces and toward their private homes and communities. He also describes how nature was incorporated into the leisure lifestyle---how Americans experienced nature on vacation, how they remade houses and yards to utilize nature as living and leisure space, and how a new suburban landscape, combining the virtues of rural and urban life, took shape in Southern California, with profound consequences for the future of national urban and suburban development." Impressively researched, a fascinating and lively read, this finely nuanced history connects Southern Californian recreation and leisure to larger historical themes, including regional development, architecture and urban planning, suburbanization, and our changing perceptions of nature.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his first full-length effort, beach tans, bungalows, and the California dream drive historian Culver's smart and insightful exploration of the region's lasting association with tourism and recreation. While Culver views the promotion of leisure in Southern California as the coincidental result of a national phenomenon, he argues that this new attitude towards recreation played a big part in the country's development during the 20th century. The region as a realm of Anglo-American leisure was created by Charles Fletcher Lummis, a writer and California "booster," in the 1870s, Culver contends. And the newly-established Los Angeles appealed initially to the unwell but drew hordes of tourists and home-seekers by the 1920s, solidifying the region's identity as an exotic, libertine escape from East-coast labor, a myth that was aggressively promoted by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, among others. Culver also notes frequent historical attempts to limit recreation in Southern California to affluent whites and the resulting racial tension, but is primarily interested in the effect the area's leisure culture had on the country, influencing not only the construction of suburbs and homes, but the way that Americans think about nature, modernity, and play. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Beach tans, bungalows, and the California dream drive historian Culver's smart and insightful exploration of the region's lasting association with tourism and recreation." —Publisher's Weekly

"A most entertaining read and highly recommended to anyone interested in the cultural, urban, and environmental histories of the American Southwest." —H-Net

"The more Southern California is studied, the more relevant it becomes to understanding the national experience. Lawrence Culver s pioneering study, so superbly managed, chronicles the emergence of leisure as a near-Bill of Rights in the American way of living." —Kevin Starr, University of Southern California

"Radiating outward like the rays of its famous sunshine, Southern California s recreational ideas and practices have shaped the lives of Americans and culture of the nation far beyond regional boundaries. Lawrence Culver takes leisure seriously, and we're all the beneficiaries of his insight." —William Deverell, Director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West

"The bright lights of LA have inspired the dreams of millions. In his well-written and often provocative study of how the city became the most successful tourist attraction in history, Lawrence Culver explains how it also inspired new patterns of urban growth and architecture across the United States. Anyone interested in modern sprawl and its curious relation to modern nature cannot afford to miss it." —Louis Warren, University of California, Davis

"A wonderfully fresh take on an enduring debate: Is southern California more American than the rest of America, or less? By tracing how the region translates the best and worst impulses in the American Dream into exclusive landscapes of leisure, Culver makes the compelling case that this slice of the United States with the sun in its eyes at once expresses these impulses as fully as possible and then remakes the rest of America in its own image." —Jenny Price, author of Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195382631
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/24/2010
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence Culver is Associate Professor of History at Utah State University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The View from Fantasyland to Main Street, U. S. A 1

Chapter One Inventing The Frontier Of Leisure

Charles Fletcher Lummis and the Creation of the "Great Southwest" 15

Chapter Two The City Of Leisure

The Contested History of Public Recreation in Los Angeles 52

Chapter Three The Island Of Leisure

Tourism and the Transformation of Santa Catalina Island, 1887-1919 83

Chapter Four "In All The World No Trip Like This"

Santa Catalina in the Wrigley Era 113

Chapter Five The Oasis Of Leisure

Palm Springs before 1941 139

Chapter Six Making The Desert Modern

Palm Springs after World War II 170

Chapter Seven From Resorts To The Ranch House

Southern California's Culture of Leisure and the Making of the Suburban Sunbelt 198

Epilogue: The View from Mount San Jacinto 239

Notes 253

Selected Bibliography 291

Index 309

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