A Manufactured Wilderness: Summer Camps and the Shaping of American Youth, 1890-1960

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Since they were first established in the 1880s, children’s summer camps have touched the lives of millions of people. Although the camping experience has a special place in the popular imagination, few scholars have given serious thought to this peculiarly American phenomenon. Why were summer camps created? What concerns and ideals motivated their founders? Whom did they serve? How did they change over time? What factors influenced their design?
To answer these and many other questions, Abigail A. Van Slyck trains an informed eye on the most visible and evocative aspect of camp life: its landscape and architecture. She argues that summer camps delivered much more than a simple encounter with the natural world. Instead, she suggests, camps provided a man-made version of wilderness, shaped by middle-class anxieties about gender roles, class tensions, race relations, and modernity and its impact on the lives of children. Following a fascinating history of summer camps and a wide-ranging overview of the factors that led to their creation, Van Slyck examines the intersections of the natural landscape with human-built forms and social activities. In particular, she addresses changing attitudes toward such subjects as children’s health, sanitation, play, relationships between the sexes, Native American culture, and evolving ideas about childhood.
Generously illustrated with period photographs, maps, plans, and promotional images of camps throughout North America, A Manufactured Wilderness is the first book to offer a thorough consideration of the summer camp environment. (Architecture, Landscape, and American Culture Series.)

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Van Slyck (art history, Connecticut Coll.; Free to All: Carnegie Libraries & American Culture) examines the major trends in American summer camps between 1890 and 1960, placing special focus on the physical layout and landscape of camps, their programs, sleeping and meal accommodations, sanitation, and their use of Native American motifs in their activities. Drawing on archival data, especially old photos, maps, and structural design plans, Van Slyck provides a sociohistorical review of this particular culture. She concludes that summer camps were especially integral for white, middle-class youth, whose parents wanted their children to reconnect with nature. Van Slyck's work is an informative and comprehensive look at its subject, yet its target audience is unclear. It is therefore recommended for appropriate sports and leisure collections. Tim Delaney, SUNY at Oswego Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations, Acknowledgments, Introduction: Summer Camps and the Problem of Modern Childhood, 1. Putting Campers in Their Place: Camp Landscapes and Changing Ideas of Childhood, 2. Fun and Games: The Serious Work of Play, 3. Housing the Healthy Camper: Tents, Cabins, and Attitudes toward Health, 4. Feeding an Army: Mealtime Rituals at Camp, 5. Good and Dirty? Girls, Boys, and Camp Cleanliness, 6. Living like Savages: Tipis, Council Rings, and Playing Indian, Epilogue: Summer Camps, Modern Architecture, and Modern Life, Appendix: ACA Accredited Residential Camps Established before 1960, Notes, Bibliography, Photography, Credits, Index

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