Provincetown: From Pilgrim Landing to Gay Resort

Overview

How did a sleepy New England fishing village become a gay mecca? In this dynamic history, Karen Christel Krahulik explains why Provincetown, Massachusetts—alternately known as “Land's End,” “Cape-tip,” “Cape-end,” and, to some, “Queersville, U.S.A”—has meant many things to many people.

Provincetown tells the story of this beguiling coastal town, from its early history as a mid-nineteenth century colonial village to its current stature as a bustling gay tourist destination. It ...

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Provincetown: From Pilgrim Landing to Gay Resort

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Overview

How did a sleepy New England fishing village become a gay mecca? In this dynamic history, Karen Christel Krahulik explains why Provincetown, Massachusetts—alternately known as “Land's End,” “Cape-tip,” “Cape-end,” and, to some, “Queersville, U.S.A”—has meant many things to many people.

Provincetown tells the story of this beguiling coastal town, from its early history as a mid-nineteenth century colonial village to its current stature as a bustling gay tourist destination. It details the many cultures and groups—Yankee artists, Portuguese fishermen, tourists—that have comprised and influenced Provincetown, and explains how all of them, in conjunction with larger economic and political forces, come together to create a gay and lesbian mecca.

Through personal stories and historical accounts, Provincetown reveals the fascinating features that have made Provincetown such a textured and colorful destination: its fame as the landfall of the Mayflower Pilgrims, charm as an eccentric artists’ colony, and allure as a Dionysian playground. It also hints at one of Provincetown’s most dramatic economic changes: its turn from fishing village to resort town. From a history of fishing economies to a history of tourism, Provincetown, in the end, is as eclectic and vibrant as the city itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

&8220;Krahulik offers a fascinating and lively account of how Provincetown, Massachusetts, became America's most famous gay resort. The book is both a celebration of the community's embrace of freedom and a reminder that Provincetown—despite its vaunted tolerance for sexual nonconformity—faced problems of racism, sexism, and economic exploitation. . . . Krahulik shows how the different and sometimes overlapping constituencies of Provincetown shaped compromises that allowed the community to persist and prosper. But this important book also reveals that being a gay resort did not protect Provincetown from class, racial, ethnic, or gender conflicts.”
-American Historical Review

,

&#8220t;Krahulik combines traditional research methods and oral histories to record and interpret this journey in a respectful, scholarly manner.”
-Choice, Highly Recommended

,

“At the end of curling Cape Cod, Provincetown has gone through several transformations since the Pilgrims landed there—from Yankee whaling town to Portuguese fishing village to bohemian artist enclave to, today, one of the world's most popular gay resorts. Surprisingly, each of those segments of society contributed to the ‘P-town’ of today.&”
-Chicago Sun-Times

,

&“Karen Krahulik’s Provincetown is the definitive book on the history of that mysterious and magical place. It’s a singular accomplishment. I’m grateful to her for writing it, as I suspect many others will be for years and years to come.”
-Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours

,

“This book performs a service by judiciously compiling the facts of Provincetown’s history.”
-Gay & Lesbian Review

,

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Karen Christel Krahulik is an Associate Dean of the College at Brown University.

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Table of Contents

Pt. I Inventing Provincetown, 1859-1928 17
1 Colonial outpost 23
2 "The perfect compromise" : Provincetown's Portuguese pilgrims 46
3 "Paradise of artists" 69
Pt. II Surviving Provincetown, 1929-1969 107
4 Weathering the Depression 113
5 "Provincetown tells the gayflower set : scram" 132
Pt. III Gentrifying Provincetown, 1970-2000 155
6 "Sexism in paradise" 162
7 "Gay world" 187
Conclusion : Cape Queer? 215
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2008

    Provincetown for the Record

    Provincetown: From Pilgrim Landing to Gay Resort by Karen Christel Krahulik 'A book review by Mark Krone' Sitting precariously on a spit of sand at the outermost edge of Cape Cod, Provincetown, is more than a fading fishing village turned seaside resort. There is an ephemeral, 'Atlantis' quality to the town, having to do with its tilt toward individual freedom and a tropical light that burns itself onto the sides of buildings and boats at the end of warm afternoons. But it is also a New England town with a white Unitarian church and a good library. Yet on some summer nights, especially outside the Atlantic House, the most popular gay nightclub, a Rio sexiness inhabits the tops of the breezes from Cape Cod bay and all bets 'and shirts' are off. The very name 'Provincetown' elicits reactions political, historical, sensual, moral, recreational, and nautical, depending on who you are. It is a kind of seaside Rorschach test. Apparently, Provincetown was always a summer place. Before the Europeans arrived, the Paomet Indians summered here, preferring to live in the nearby town of Truro the rest of the year. The Pilgrims 'who landed here before Plymouth Rock' saw it as an answered prayer after many horrifying months on the high seas. Portugese fishermen who were probably first drawn to Provincetown while fishing the fertile waters of the Great Banks off New England, came for a steady livelihood. For several generations of gay people, artists, writers, and those who are drawn to them, Provincetown has been a refuge in which to work, make love and live life without being the object of shock or worse. In time, a prevailing sense of freedom arose despite occasional attempts to impose restrictions by officials or local toughs. A place as colorful and historic as Provincetown is a natural for writers but surprisingly few books have been written about it and until now, no comprehensive history. Karen Christel Krahulik¿s Provincetown: From Pilgrim Landing to Gay Resort 'NYU Press, 2005' admirably provides an overdue record of the town¿s history. She traces its transformations: from Yankee whaling stronghold to Portugese fishing village to artist retreat and gay resort and finally to exclusive enclave. Krahulik is careful to point out that these transformations were not easily catagorized 'there were for example, gay Portugese fishermen, straight artists, Portugese men who did not fish, Yankees who married Portugese and so forth'. For those who love the town, it is a comfort to know that someone has finally given it the scholarly attention it deserves. But one is left wondering, where are the stories? For most towns, a careful economic history as provided by Krahulik suffices, but not this one. Eccentricity, personal expression, and sexual liberation cannot be captured without stories. This is a book about one of the most colorful towns in the nation, yet it is written in black and white. Eugene O¿Neill first arrived in Provincetown in the summer of 1916 and returned for two succeeding summers. He wrote his early sea plays in the town and several of them were performed on Lewis Wharf in Provincetown harbor, marking the beginning of modern American drama. As America and the world slid toward World War I, Provincetown enjoyed one of its most storied summers in 1917. O¿Neill was joined by journalist John Reed, playwrights Susan Glaspell, George 'Jig' Cook 'her husband', Neith Boyce, writer/poet Harry Kemp 'who would remain in the town to become one of its most beloved literary and eccentric figures', artists, Marsden Hartley and Charles Demuth, scene designer Robert Edmond Jones, and socialite Mabel Dodge 'who occasionally supported several of the artists and had an affair with John Reed'. There are breathing, feeling people behind these august names but Krahulik does not show them to us. Their arti

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