Wilderness wives and dishwashing husbands: comfort and the domestic arts of camping in America, 1880-1910.
|Abstract:||In the late nineteenth century, many well-off white Americans turned the practice of camping out into a leisure activity. Where camping had existed as a mode of ordinary travel, a staging ground for labor, a necessary skill of foot soldiers, and an activity associated with transients, for some it arose as an appealing vacation alternative to the resort hotel. These campers narrated their travels in the wilderness as prompted by a desire to escape the bonds of modern city life and get back to nature. And yet much of their time and recollections focused on chores: raising tents, making beds, organizing living spaces, building fires, cooking meals. In outdoor magazines, popular guidebooks, and private diaries, campers elevated the domestic arts of camping out. The concept of comfort--and who produced it--emerged as meaningful in the shifting notions of class, gender, and the body in turn-of the-century America. The campers' wilderness sat, not outside of civilization, but offered a kind of stage for it, a space to audition modern social relationships. Leisure camping offers new frameworks for asking how Americans understood the role of nature in modern culture and accommodated the social changes they attributed to modernity.|
Camping (Environmental aspects)
Camping (Media coverage)
Country life (Appreciation)
Farm life (Appreciation)
Wilderness areas (Appreciation)
Domestic relations (Social aspects)
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Social History Publisher: Journal of Social History Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: History; Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Journal of Social History ISSN: 0022-4529|
|Issue:||Date: Fall, 2009 Source Volume: 43 Source Issue: 1|
|Topic:||Event Code: 290 Public affairs|
|Product:||Product Code: 7949111 Wilderness Areas; 9106270 Wilderness Area Programs NAICS Code: 71219 Nature Parks and Other Similar Institutions; 92412 Administration of Conservation Programs|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States|
When Grace Mitchell's husband proposed a camping vacation in
the Bitterroot Mountains with another couple during the summer of 1905,
she was suspicious. What would they do? How would they live without
familiar comforts? As she later recalled, "The first suggestion of
living for over three months in complete isolation was not very
enthusiastically received by two young married women, accustomed to
spending their vacations at a fashionable hotel in the typical Eastern
summer resort." After a few weeks of mulling it over, she became
intrigued with the idea and agreed to go. But when the moment arrived
she found herself panic-stricken. "To sit in a New York library and
talk about the delights of camp life, the cold nights, the sleeping on
boughs, the limited menu, the rough trails and obligatory male attire,
was one thing; but to sit on the piazza of the Rivalli Hotel in
Hamilton, Montana, and realize that it was to be our last night of
civilization for many weeks, was quite another." (1) Mitchell as
yet knew little of outdoor life, but the prospect of leaving
civilization behind, even temporarily, both troubled and exhilarated
her. The next morning, curiosity triumphed over trepidation and she
stepped off into her unknown.
Mitchell was not alone, either on that fateful day or among her generation. Though her moment of doubt echoed the experience of nervous overland emigrants contemplating their departures decades before, the object of her venture signaled changes in the camping landscape. (2) Nineteenth-century uses of outdoor camps ranged from ordinary necessities of travel and staging grounds for labor to gathering places for tramps and, by the later decades, included an emerging leisure practice, popular among upper- and middle-class white Americans. (3) These campers traversed woods and wilderness to more than a physical destination. For them, outdoor accommodations were instrumental in a new kind of journey. Camping figured meaningfully in the expansion of tourist choices presenting travel as experience, one simultaneously personal and national. (4)
That Americans of the upwardly-mobile, city-dwelling sort took to the hills for tourist camping in the late nineteenth century should not be surprising. This was, after all, the era in which a growing set of elites adopted a cultural taste for wilderness and nature appreciation as well as political interests in conservation. (5) Moreover, as both scholars and participants have suggested, this moment produced a host of moral anxieties that propelled many citizens to seek solace in some form of the simple life. Whether fretful of the pace of life that industrialization and urbanization demanded, or fearful of the physical and mental debilities industrial cities were said to produce, urbanites searched for alternative outlets. This desire nurtured such trends as the consumption of Craftsman furniture, the practice of woodcraft, interest in American Indian cultures and products, and the nature study movement, to name a few. One particular form of this impulse revolved around a fascination with the frontier and its announced closing in 1890, prompting worry over the apparent loss of the national reserve of open land, where citizens could start their lives anew and symbolically restart American civilization from scratch. Add Theodore Roosevelt's heralding of a "strenuous life" as antidote to all these perils, and a stampede of campers hitting the trails for temporary respite and rehabilitation in nature appears virtually guaranteed. (6) Indeed, the connection seems so logical that it hardly begs much analysis at all.
Yet this explanation offers a rather neat a model of history, with anxiety about over-civilization answered directly by self-renewal in wilderness. If such a relationship might exist, it presumes a material divide between wilderness and civilization that scholars have complicated considerably. As the meaning and placement of this division shifted historically, so too have the understandings of nature and society upon which camping is premised (7) Leisure campers marked the landscape as divided in all the expected ways, but they also narrated a more complex sway between civilized and wild. In the pages of new outdoor magazines, popular guidebooks, and private diaries, campers assayed this perplexing terrain on the borders of Nature and Culture. (8)
What preoccupied many turn-of-the-century campers, in or out of the campground, was the notion of comfort. A variable mode of expression, comfort helped campers interpret the corporeal experiences and social meaning of their endeavors. Return to Grace Mitchell and her apprehensive list of so-called camping delights: "the cold nights, the sleeping on boughs, the limited menu, the rough trails and obligatory male attire." (9) The chilly air she would breathe, the pine boughs upon which she would sleep, the food she would eat, the rocky paths she would walk, the clothing she would wear--what concerned her was not leaving civilization in the abstract, but its more tangible comforts. How comfortable could she be in the wild? How would her body fare without the comforts of home ? Camping entailed not simply seeing nature, which one might do from a window overlooking Central Park, but putting one's body in its midst. Preparing the body for camp and the campsite for bodies entailed a specific set of practices geared towards mitigating the physical effects of wilderness. Yet those experiences that to Mitchell initially denoted austerity came to represent a peculiar set of camp comforts. As she would later recall, "Experiences of this kind are often referred to as rough, especially for women, but we certainly did not find them so. We had every comfort." (10) (See Fig. 1) Wild and civilized, then, were not always measured on the map, but through the body and interpretations of its comfort.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
As a modern sensibility, historian John Crowley has suggested, comfort emerged in the eighteenth century, where its material connotation began to supplant earlier definitions as spiritual solace. By the early nineteenth century, people not only spoke of comforts as consumer goods but also imagined physical comfort as key to social well-being, situated as it was between the poles of luxury and necessity. (11) Members of the late Victorian-era middle class further cultivated comfort as a social good and a hallmark of respectable taste, whether in the mode of overstuffed chaise-lounges or the more starkly styled Morris chairs. As embodied in such furnishing, as Katherine Grier's studies of parlors suggest, comfort signified both a distinctly "middle-class state of mind" regarding household consumption and a public ambivalence about what comfort entailed. The escalating number of consumer goods apparently required to make places comfortable, where "time could be spent in a pleasurable physical state," caused some to ponder the social consequences of comfort. (12) Comfort could appear a worthy goal so long as one did not become too comfortable. Amidst a swift pace of change, comfort could indicate a sense of domestic order, a standard of success, and a class position. An elastic concept, comfort could also trigger debate over gender systems, class relations, notions about the body, and consumer expectations.
Comfort won in camping offered an opportunity not only to ruminate on one's physical and cultural relationship to modern society, but also to try it out for oneself. Campers admired their abilities to produce comfort and found that doing the work of camp, making the beds and the fire, was in itself comforting. The practice of camping thus pivoted not only upon the experience of humans in nature but on the performance of human nature. (13) Their behavior, their bodily sensations of comfort and discomfort, their visceral and narrative reactions to nature all suggest that the campers' wilderness was not outside of civilization but a kind of stage for it. Usually understood as a preeminently natural space, wilderness, as campers put it to physical and rhetorical use, became a domestic environment, if only temporarily. As such, leisure camping offers new frameworks for asking how middle-class urbanites understood and accommodated the changes they associated with modernity. That those who were able to access the best of city life in this era periodically and enthusiastically forsook those advantages for a try at roughing it suggests how natural and social worlds intersected in significant and meaningful ways.
"A temporary home in the wilds": Making Camp
Following the Civil War, camping existed simultaneously as a mode of ordinary travel in areas with few lodging options, as a memory of army encampments for thousands of veterans, as an activity associated with transient (and troublesome) Westerners and Indians, and as a vacation alternative to the resort hotel. It was the latter set, the leisure campers, beginning in the 1870s and gaining through the end of the century, who made wilderness a defining factor of the representation of camping. Working to differentiate themselves both from non-leisure campers and resort vacationers, these outdoor enthusiasts emphasized the wild nature of their surroundings on a new level. Wilderness, however, was less a physical description than a social marker indicating a place beyond civilization. Particular places mattered to campers, but places were also interchangeable and largely symbolic. The lake just outside of town could sometimes suffice as easily as remote mountain ranges, and campers could reasonably conceive of many kinds of places as wilderness.
What, then, did the backdrop of wild nature do for them? Horace Kephart, the early twentieth-century's self-appointed "Dean of American Campers," answered: it elevated the individual. Kephart, author of dozens of articles in sporting periodicals as well as voluminous manuals on the outdoors, gave voice to this emergent perspective. He suggested that the impetus for camping lay not in the desire to experience nature itself, but in the individual's need to slip the reins of civilization. He urged the over-civilized man to escape the clangor of the wearisome city for green hills and tall forests, to "go where he can hunt, capture, and cook his own meat, erect his own shelter, do his chores." This, he suggested, provided simultaneously "freedom from care," "unrestrained liberty of action," and "proud self-reliance." The confidence that came from such outdoor experience was intoxicating. "Carrying with him, as he does, in a few small bundles, all that he needs to provide food and shelter in any land, habited or uninhabited, the camper is lord of himself and his surroundings ... [and] absolutely his own master." (14) Doing for oneself, Kephart proposed, lent camping its psychic reward--the discovery of an independent self that was buried in the bonds of society.
It was propitious that Kephart and his many readers elevated the mundane tasks of preparing food and securing shelter in camp. Campers had to expend significant effort creating their campsites, both physically and rhetorically. Camping during this era was not regularized; few established campgrounds catered to travelers, even in the initial national parks. Campers traveled via train, horseback, wagon, or on foot, and squatted on private or public lands, selecting their sites by their proximity to useful natural features, such as shade trees or a water source, much as migrants and ordinary travelers did. They pitched their camps from scratch, often improvising from the landscape for everything from a cooking fire, seats and tables, bedding, and privies. Canvas tents, cooking pots, and canned foods usually numbered among the supplies campers brought with them. As the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth, equipment increased in variety and specialization. Still, in the years before automobile camping and state-run campgrounds, enthusiasts often found themselves relying a great deal upon their own devices to build a viable camp.
Camping, therefore, meant work. Practitioners warned that only those prepared to work should attempt camping at all. One counseled readers in 1892 that "To make a successful camping it is necessary, first, to take none that are unwilling to share the daily duties of camp life." (15) Another writer noted succinctly: "No lazy person should go camping." Such rhetoric evoked camping as the prototypical working vacation, which both entailed the possession of leisure time and demanded physical labor--the latter assuaging any doubts about the indulgence of the former. (16) Still, camping represented more than work for work's sake. The setting in which campers understood themselves as performing this work--wilderness--framed camp-work as a kind of novel experiment in survival.
As part of this enterprise, camping proponents avidly swapped definitions of "roughing it," a process that implied deprivation along with work. A writer for Country Life in America disparaged "the expensive kind of so-called camping in the Adirondacks, where one can live in a house with every luxury the whole summer through." This, the author contended, was not "real camping. For the genuine thing, you must sleep in the open or in tents in some wild spot several days from civilization." (17) Sleeping arrangements, that is, whether one's roof was stars and canvas or tin and shingle, made a crucial difference, but not the only one. True campers must "scorn wooden floors to a tent, despise sheets on their beds, scoff at china plates and glassware, and frown at all superfluities of baggage." (18) These common caveats rendered camping a stern exercise in self-abnegation. Historian Roderick Nash went so far as to characterize the appeal of camping to those in the wilderness cult of the late nineteenth century as "masochistic--in that it provided a chance to play the savage, accept punishment, struggle, and, hopefully triumph over the forces of raw nature." (19) As Kephart suggested, camping could be a test of resilience for both body and mind.
Despite these assertions, leisure campers did not seek austerity alone in their sojourns in the outdoors. They insisted that the goal of their labors was to make camping comfortable. A veteran outdoorsman ensured readers as usual that his camps were "real camps. No cottages or hotels or sanitariums for us." But he went on to suggest that his camps included comfort--"a nice cozy tent with all the fixings arranged to take up little room, but everything we need to be comfortable." (20) There was no reason, many campers believed, that one could not have both wilderness experience and leisurely comfort. Without veering into luxury, they wanted to preserve some semblance of modern amenities. Vaunted comforts like good bedding, warm fires, and dry feet clarified the lines campers drew between their civilized selves and the wilderness around them.
As such, extreme deprivation was folly. One asked, why "go twenty-four hours without water; camp where there is no wood to cook your meals. ... endure pelting rain and howling winds?" Only a tenderfoot would think it necessary to sneer at "comforts within his reach." (21) Others agreed; "There are persons inexperienced in camping who imagine that hardship is a necessary incident to camp life. They want to 'rough it,' and if they are not uncomfortable they fancy they are not getting the genuine thing. But the more experienced sportsman realizes that comfort in camp pays." (22) How to determine and achieve the correct level of comfort was a valued skill, both in the ability to create comfort and to he comfortable doing without some accouterments of modern life.
It was a fine line--comfort maintained civilized standards in the wild, but care too much about comfort and you could be thrown in with the cottagers. Camp-life still had to be about getting away, a means to escape "the telephone and all the other discomforts of home." (23) Instead, comfort emerged in camp, as it did for Goldilocks, as a way to identify the appropriate, the reasonable, the respectable middle. As one experienced camper calculated, he sought a "happy medium between the enervating luxuries of highly-wrought civilization and the rude asperities of savage life ... The object is to get the most comfort consistent with the most freedom." This calculation echoed broader social deliberations on the competing virtues of a genteel "ethos of pleasurable consumption and graceful use" and the common symbol of self-reliance that saturated domestic manuals. (24) Campers joined this discussion with a rousing debate in their periodicals and guidebooks as to the ideal balance of natural and cultural factors needed to create comfort.
Whatever the metaphysics of this calibration, the practicalities of producing comfort in a remote camp could be daunting. In her journal of "A Family Camp in the Rockies" published in Outing in 1893, Charlotte Conover recalled feeling overwhelmed upon arriving at the campsite. "What to do first? The magnitude of our undertaking dawned upon us. Here we were, a family of nine, set down among the rocks and sand and pines, to begin living! Nothing to sit on, sleep on, eat on, or cook on; no place to lay a thing down or hang it up; two miles from an egg and six miles from a safety-pin." She began to feel more at ease as they set up camp. As the men worked at building tables and chairs, "Alice and I arranged our part of the household--put up curtains, tacked on table-covers, and 'read up' in the cook-book . ... When we had a jar of dried bread crumbs and a dish of cold boiled potatoes on the pantry shelf it seemed as though we were at last really keeping house." Conover's discovery that it was possible to recreate her home amidst the wilderness gratified and delighted her. A male camper agreed. He enjoyed his side of making camp too, devising "improvements in the camp, its shelter, table, cookery and belongings . ... There is, to most men, if they would only realize it, a real pleasure to be found in the very act of making a temporary home in the wilds comfortable and attractive." (25) If camping appeared to be about getting away from things like "keeping house," these campers had a different agenda.
The attraction to the concept of a temporary home is telling. Campers might have been roughing it, but they imagined themselves as creating little islands of civilization in the wilderness. Camp-work elevated mere chores, even so-called primitive labors, into the arts of comfort. The juxtaposition of wilderness with comfort, and the domestic work required to transform one into the other, generated much of the satisfaction of camp. Yet it also presented a paradox; while campers expressed a desire to escape civilization, they also set themselves the task of reproducing it.
The elements of civilization they approximated in camp suggested that travelers sought a certain familiarity amidst the unknown. They demarcated areas of their camp as rooms of their houses, usually set off in their texts by quotation marks--the 'kitchen,' the 'parlor.' The deliberate tags indicated that these places were not real kitchens or parlors--amusingly far from them, in fact--but gave the suggestion of familiar function and comforts. Campers often followed function with form, embellishing their "rooms" with appropriate decorative schemes. One woman insisted, "A camp can be made just as gay and attractive as a drawing-room, and ought to be." She counseled her readers to purchase brightly colored rugs, blankets and chintz pillows, as opposed to plain surplus army gear. (26) Female campers in particular believed that camps ought to emulate household models of organization and decoration. Raw materials made this challenging, but not impossible. One woman, deliberating on her dining area, stipulated, "The table depends upon the environment. Boulders do very well, but with the ax and some nails the men can manufacture one out of the virgin forest, and the ensuing comfort repays for the labor." (27) More than the want of something to sit, sleep, or eat on, the desire to craft a home out of the forest itself had great appeal.
As the term itself conveys, camp-ing was fundamentally about the tasks of making camp. And these practices took up as much space in camping discourses as the wilderness in which they took place. In their guides and memoirs, campers repeatedly professed their enjoyment of camp chores. T.C. Yard put it succinctly: "The work of the camp is part of the fun." (28) This pleasure-work of camping appeared in surprising ways. Take one woman's description of her husband's joy in washing dishes.
Although she remained a little skeptical of the process, and perhaps the cavalier attitude, she could not argue with the results and found that men did not object to dish-washing in camp as long as they could do it in this fashion. (See Fig. 2) Now, it was clearly the creek and not the dishes that counted in such zest for simple chores; the setting created the novelty, improvisation, and very unlikelihood of the act. But, in so doing, campers wrestled with more than the matter of dirty dishes.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Domestic dramas like this one confronted campers with shifting notions of both class and gender, particularly the expectation of what constituted comfort and who produced it. While the invisibility of middle-class wives' production of the comforts of home became a marker of status over the course of the nineteenth century, steadily rising standards and technologies for comfort in fact increased the necessity of their housework, even if such work constituted managing the labor of servants. (30) Performing chores amidst wilderness, often without hired help, highlighted the usually masked labor of housework. Whether the dishwashing husband was replacing his wife or his servants, camp made women's typical labors more visible. None doubted that making camp relied upon the deliberate efforts of all campers. This recognition prompted the question of who exactly produced the comforts of civilization in an era where the definition of home came to center upon the purported absence of productive labor. Still, a man washing dishes in the woods remained invisible in a way his taking up a station in the kitchen at home would not have. Perhaps the isolation of camp that made possible the male willingness to cook and scrub also blunted the social effects of this inversion. And yet, the publication of the image in a popular magazine exposed the role-reversal supposedly hidden in the woods. The scene is a self-conscious pose, but not a misleading one, as both the practice and narration of camping was a form of posing, modeling the civilized self in nature.
Whether campers employed servants or not, where such figures fit into the camping landscape prompted a good deal of discussion. For some, having servants took away from wilderness experience. Mary Barr's definition of a rugged camping trip was, in fact, "a long cruise without a servant." Like many, Barr did not complain about this hardship, but found that she enjoyed the vacation from managing servants. Others found that hiring help freed them up to appreciate the scenery. Two families hired a farmer and his wife to do the work of making and breaking camp each day, while allowing them to make an early start and eliminating "the disagreeables of camping--cooking and washing dishes ... so there was nothing to mar the pleasure of the nightly home-coming." (31) One writer allowed that "It, of course, makes less work and more time for play to take a servant," but warned that because many liked camp work that servants would run out of things to do, be miserable, and make themselves a nuisance. (32) In the discourse of roughing it, servants presented campers a dilemma.
The servant quandary was not solely a camping phenomenon. As many scholars have shown, Americans were perpetually dissatisfied with their hired help, and the evolution of what appeared an unsolvable "servant problem" became a locus for articulating the shifts, debates, and anxieties of class relations. The possession of servants, especially live-in, had become one of the clearest ways of defining middle-class status in the nineteenth century. By 1870, between a fifth and a third of families in the major urban areas of Boston, New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Chicago had at least one live-in servant to light stoves and fireplaces, prepare and serve meals, make beds, diaper babies, sweep, launder, and iron. With the turn of the twentieth century came a notable shift in the economy and expectations of domestic service. The increase in alternate employment for women after 1900 accompanied a drastic decline in the availability of servants; by some estimates, the years between 1890 and 1920 saw the ratio of domestic servants to the general population fall by half and those that remained were more likely to be black day workers rather than white, immigrant live-ins. This shift was bound to impact those for whom the employment of a full-time servant was the sine qua non of middle class identity. Householders struggled to redefine both the tasks of keeping house and the relations of dependency that the service class had modeled. (33)
Leisure camping, with its celebration of domestic labors in natural settings, emerged as a popular middle-class pursuit just at the moment that the meaning of domestic labor in the modern home was changing. The acclaim for the physical work of camp, then, must be read in the context of a decline in the servant population. As a vacation from servants, a camping trip thus also promised relief from the frustrations of the servant problem--perhaps a key factor explaining its rising popularity among the middle classes. It was an opportune time to re-imagine certain tasks as part of the making of a comfortable home, rather than as menial chore one could pay others to perform. Camping outfitters also led the way in marketing technologies that could replace some of the work that maids, cooks, and laundresses did. Labor-saving appliances, like the wilderness camp, did not so much eliminate as alter the forms of household labor. (34) The campground offered a key site for narrating these changes, and their ethnic, class and gender implications.
For those who argued for servants in camp, the discussion often hinged on a nostalgic view of ideal servants, and their purported respect for class and ethnic hierarchies. Particular types of servants, moreover, appeared to add noteworthy elements to the camping experience. The "Canuck guide," the "Chinaman cook," and the "Indians" became stock characters in some campers' stories, who contributed equal parts expertise and ethnic flavor. One writer recommended specific trips with reference to ethnic factors; near Banff in the Canadian Rockies "you get the real broncho [sic] busters for guides, Indian ponies to ride, and a Chinaman for a cook, and you sleep in Indian tepee tents" while in Maine "you can get Indian, Yankee, or Canuck guides ... and your cooking done for you." Camping writers typically quoted these individuals in dialect, detailed their ethnic origins, and noted their quirky talents, herbal remedies, and flapjack skills. One woman described their head guide as "a Scotch half-breed, with a sturdy name and quaint accent," ably assisted by a "merry, handsome" French-Canadian, and a retinue of "dusky mates." Labeling the latter as "our Indians," this canoe-camper enjoyed the end of the day where "we could lie down in a shaded place and watch the now picturesque Indians carrying and loading. (35) (See Fig. 3) Whether the enjoyment came from having the laborious task of portaging and making camp done by others, or done specifically by "picturesque" others, was difficult to disentangle.
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
Despite the exotic attraction, not all estimations were positive, as some found themselves unnerved by strangers in their midst. Indian guides seemed to cause more nervousness than others. In her journal of a 1908 canoe trip, Caroline Turner recorded a dispute in their party over their Indian guides. Her husband Fred "insists upon having a guide familiar with river & rapids" and was satisfied with them, while she complained that they were "very dirty" and reported that another of their companions "refuses to be in canoe with an Indian." After an argument the party decided to make a change, and Caroline was happy that "the new guide turns out to be a Canadian boy & nice fellow." (36) But employee relations could be tricky no matter the ethnic lines. Camping advocate and country club executive Herbert Jillson advised Outing readers in 1901 to mind the class divisions between camper and guide with care and respect. Maine guides, he asserted, lived plainly but honestly, and gave of their experience and strength with willing humility. "With scarcely an exception, they know their place and keep it, seldom mistaking kindness for familiarity or imagining that they are the sportsman and the sportsman the guide. They do not expect to be put on a basis of familiarity ... They only ask to be treated like men, nothing more ... [T]reat that guide 'white,' and there will be no trouble." Jillson outlined the "sportsman-guide" relationship as one that cohered to an older pattern of deference, where both common whiteness and social hierarchy was respected. (37) This contrasted both with the awkward negotiations of the Turners and with the changing ethnic pool of domestic servants more generally. That one might achieve a perfect employer-servant relationship in camp, when it was illusory elsewhere, could not have failed to attract some to the woods.
Even when guides or servants were not present, the larger public discourse over the performance of domestic labor reverberated in camp. Contemplating who would create whose comfort contained gender as well as class implications. Whether in the form of dishwashing husbands, or guides who exemplified both hardy backwoodsmen and accomplished cooks, the complex gendering of camp chores was everywhere in evidence. In asserting that, "a guide is much like a wife," Jillson listed the key qualities to look for as compatible companionship, "coffee [that] never fails to be good, the trout cooked to a turn, the bread light, the flapjacks brown and tender." (38) Without guides, who at least in theory could achieve the ideal balance of male outdoor prowess and female domestic abilities, women and men who camped constantly reworked the boundaries of gender. If campers sometimes seemed to controvert the prevailing norms, these less often predicted radical departures than they did provide novel terms in which to navigate a clearly gendered terrain.
Charlotte Conover's party took no guide on their sojourn. As one of the few adult women, she assumed it was her responsibility to maintain acceptable levels of comfort and hygiene for all--whether they appeared to want it or not. Comfort, and worrying whether she could provide it, framed her experience of wilderness travel. As her family prepared to ascend the Rockies, she found herself torn between counting blankets and bars of soap and reveling in the mountain scenery. Even before embarking, she weighed in on practical matters:
Reducing the difference between civilized and wild to the number and type of pots made for an amusing anecdote. Yet, as Conover suspected, more than pots were at issue. Her exchange suggested the shifting relationship of domestic labor and comfort in modern life, a tension that followed campers up the mountain.
Like Conover's desire to launder her socks and simmer her stew separately, women's need to bring "just one more item" became a humorous cliche. But underneath the smirk, the argument added to the notion that, as historian Jeanne Bodyston described, "housework was not really work at all, but a kind of leisure for married women." (40) On the one hand, men admitted that women were crucial in providing both material and social comfort in camp. One writer listed various ways that having a woman around would be helpful, particularly when foodstuffs were low. "The skill of the women will produce a most delicious soup from [few] materials, even if venison or other meat be wanting in camp." (41) Others found that women added to more than the menu. "There are days when fish will not bite and when bait is elusive, and there are days when it rains. ... At such times a pretty jolly girl is more than ever a joy." (42) On the other hand, male campers warned that women could be frivolous, impractical, and naive. An 1889 article in Outing remarked that, "In these days it has become more and more the thing for ladies to join camping parties. I need not say that I think this a good thing, provided always the fairer section of the party does not expect to find a drawing room in the woods." (43) Yet, both women and men imagined that part of the goal of camp was in fact to create and inhabit a "drawing room." This doubled vision, where women labored under the assumption that they were responsible for producing camp comforts, and yet risked derision for desiring unrealistic comforts, continued the trend of both highlighting and obscuring the labors of domesticity.
Just as campers set about making their camps into rustic versions of their urban homes, they also reinvested in the family roles those abodes entailed. One modern woman in 1905, upon arriving in camp promptly "forgot for a time that she was a doctor and became very domestic, ... gathered fruit and berries, and then turned out the most delicious pies and puddings, rice cakes with honey, and fried chicken done to a turn." (44) Nature, this camper believed, had induced a more 'natural' woman and thus a propensity to bake. Emily Palmer also found that in camp, "new life is born to the soul, and to the body." Men experienced this renewal, she argued, through hunting and increasing physical stamina, while women found it in the "watchful care for others." Together, they created a domestic idyll:
Palmer found unconventionality in the simplicity of the arrangements in her temporary home--no servants or social changes to muddy the idealized family roles. For her, camping crystallized a form of civilized family life that felt new, but not unknown.
Imagining the family in camp suggested for some a satisfying resolution of wilderness and civilization, of a natural and social self. Samuel J. Barrows, a Unitarian minister, wrote of his own camping experiences in an 1880s series for Outing. Widely cited by other campers, his narratives imagined the family as the best social unit for camping out. "The Shaybacks have long since accepted the ideal of Genesis. They have chosen an Eden for their camp-ground, and have always maintained that every Adamic member should be neutralized by an Eve. Little Cain and Abel are taken along too, on condition that they will not club each other." (46) Replicating this mythic human family in its natural habitat was a tall order. Yet making one's camp the original garden both naturalized modern middle-class family arrangements and tamed the nature in which it resided. Returning to Genesis, Barrows argued that, "Adam was the first camper-out. He found, as many a modern camper has done, that it is not good to live alone, even in Eden. ... Eve was essential to the completeness of the Edenic camp. It was the serpent that was superfluous." (47) A serpent-less Eden was indeed a domesticated wilderness. A temporary home raised within it suggested that, at least in terms of class-orientation and gender expectations, camp did not represent a complete break with civilization. Wilderness instead provided an opportunity for campers to reconceive and demonstrate their domestic arts.
"Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs": Making Campers
Making camp was a process of imagination that required physical labor. But work was not the only corporeal experience camping enthusiasts sought. Even the archetypal hermit, Henry David Thoreau, was on a "corporeal quest" of his own. Although few leisure campers in this era would have read Thoreau's invocation to "Open all your pores and bathe in all the tides of Nature," they echoed his sentiments. (48) Perhaps more followed John Muir's vigorous adventures in print, though it is doubtful that many attempted his daring exploits in person--climbing a tree in a wind-storm, clinging "with muscles firm-braced, like a bobo-link on a reed," to experience nature's "passionate torrent" firsthand. For Thoreau and Muir, physical immersion in nature promised primarily spiritual redemption. (49)
Campers were not immune from contemplating the spiritual possibilities of nature, but their bodies were usually conduits for redemption of a more earthly sort. In temperament, they compared more closely to Mark Twain: "It was comfort ... to sit up and contemplate the majestic panorama of mountains and valleys spread out below us and eat ham and hard-boiled eggs while our spiritual natures reveled alternately in rainbows, thunderstorms, and peerless sunsets. Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs." (50) Twain linked his view with his breakfast, so took the measure of wilderness around him. Campers delighted in physical sensation, in privation and satisfaction of the simplest sort. In 1893, Charles Greene gushed that the "whole charm of camp life" lay in these unexpected discoveries. In camp, he marveled, you "sleep on a bed that would rouse your indignation at home--of common straw ... with no sheets or pillows. You eat food that nothing could prevail on you to touch, if you were within four walls. You disregard dust and dirt, and the lack of a thousand little conveniences. And without hypocrisy, you say you enjoy all these things." (51) Camping made visible the daily corporeal requirements of sleeping, eating, washing, and moving, and in turn made the body a sounding board for nature.
As the concept of home was a fulcrum for civilization and wilderness, the body mediated the divide between self and nature. The body is, as historian Christopher Sellers noted, "a paradigmatic site where our humanity entangles with a nature at once 'us' and 'other' from us." (52) Observing the effects of nature upon one's own body appeared a common camp experience. New York artist Radclyffe Dugmore took his lessons in exposure one step further by camping in winter. He admitted to his readers that, "to give up the warmth and other comforts of home and take oneself off to the cold northern woods may not sound alluring," but for him snow camping contained "peculiar fascinations" and a physical exhilaration not easy to relate in words.
While conveying the unexpected pleasures of these unusual sensations, Dugmore compared them to the more typical, where those who camp during the summer find "comfort in abundance and drawbacks scarcely noticeable." (53)
Not all held such a rosy view of physical discomfort, or found it absent in summertime. One woman painted a pretty disagreeable picture of the experience in 1880: "I was bounced sore. My nose was peeled by sun and cold. ... My hands bled constantly. ... The black flies made the days unendurable and the mosquitoes made the night as well as the day a wasting misery." Unsurprisingly, she did not recommend the experience, "No, don't camp out unless you can make up your mind beforehand to every kind of discomfort, and inconvenience to mar all that is beautiful and all that is pleasing." Another such disappointed camper exposed the many nuisances of nature she experienced in a letter to the New York Times in 1900. An unfortunate string of events--frequent rain, a leaky tent, a smelly stove, wet clothes, muddy ground, and an invasion of spiders--produced companions who forgot "all sense of propriety" and a "Summer with very few; pleasant recollections." (54) In writing anonymously, these women seemed aware of the contentious nature of their complaints, disputing as they did the ascendant creed of roughing it that Dugmore and others exalted. Though relatively few published such grievances, these writers could not have been alone in their discomfort or their conclusions that crossing nature with the body took more than a physical toll; it produced social effects.
While Dugmore began by luring his readers with his enthralling corporeal reaction to cold and a colorful description of peeling off layers, his article went on in more mundane detail about the careful preparations and proper clothing "necessary for comfort" on such a trip. Though most would not attempt Dugmores extreme camping, campers did spend significant time considering what to wear, both from a physical and social standpoint. The question of how to dress the body for the camping experience offered women in particular both the possibility of an uncommon comfort and a continuing source of frustration. In guidebooks and magazine articles, women insisted that wearing practical clothing should not have to mean the abandonment of fashion or femininity. They desired, as one woman put it in 1889, "a costume both sensible and becoming." On the one hand, both male and female advocates urged women to choose comfort and utility over fashion, and at the very least to abandon their corsets. (55) Yet, on the other, they determined upon keeping up their appearance. Mary Barr cautioned, "do not be persuaded that anything will do to wear: it will not; a great deal of your pleasure depends on having comfortable and pretty clothing, nay, even stylish, for the camping-out dress has a style and grace that can be very effective and becoming." (56) These women did not express an absolute desire for corporeal freedom, but rather to find a comfortable method of inhabiting their bodies betwixt the wilderness-civilization divide.
Women thus faced a keen sartorial dilemma. Rena Phillips' 1904 contribution to Outing detailed her difficulties in assembling a costume both sensible and becoming. Phillips reported that improper clothing made her first camping trip the "most miserable day" she ever spent: "Of course I wore a long skirt, a shirt waist, straw hat and veil, kid gloves and low shoes, and was as uncomfortable as it was possible for a woman to be." Upon surviving several such dreadful trips, Phillips decided to pursue a more suitable ensemble. She surveyed outdoor outfitters and dress shops, and could find none that sold ready-made clothes fitting for women in the outdoors. Her husband's answer to the problem was simple; she should purchase "a boy's suit of corduroy knickerbockers." Phillips was appalled: "I objected vehemently and told him it positively would not do; that I would not make a monkey of myself by appearing in public dressed in boy's clothes." (57) She wanted freedom from female dress, but still imagined nature as enough of a "public" arena not to surrender her femininity.
The remainder of her article documented the camping dress she designed. It included "a short skirt, an ordinary canvas hunting coat, a soft felt hat, a double breasted woolen shirt converted into a blouse waist, a pair of trousers that were neither bloomers nor knickerbockers, cotton stockings with woolen bicycle stockings over them, and a pair of ordinary heavy shoes with sensible heels." She went on to reveal the modifications she made in order to make this outfit presentable. For example, her use of the "ordinary canvas hunting coat" was anything but ordinary. She bought a boy's hunting coat but found upon consulting the mirror that she might like it better "if it fit less like a bag, so I went to work with the scissors and needle on the side seams and took out enough to give it a little shape at the waist." When she finished she was pleased with its appearance, utility, and comfort, delighting in its large number of pockets uncommon in the women's coats she examined. (58)
Phillips found the whole fiasco ultimately liberating and suggested that others follow her lead. "Any woman will find this outfit, ... almost the ideal dress for an outing trip anywhere." Though it may have shocked readers already skeptical of her dubious attire, she added,
Phillips was not alone in taking the chance to be "as free as a man" in bodily movements. (See Fig. 4) Women remarked again and again upon their joyful discoveries of, as Margaret Bisland put it, "the pleasurable sensation of bodily ease and comfort that is [our] brother's right from his youth up" and bemoaned with her that "coming back to civilization was a disagreeable wretch." Civilization, it seemed, required women to move less. (60)
[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]
Though Phillips seemed reluctant to wear pants in "civilization," she did allow the photograph of herself so-attired to appear in a publication that circulated in the city. Why would she do one and not the other? On the one hand, women's discovery of bodily ease and vigor had the potential to destabilize certain gender norms, and the pages of a magazine offered perhaps a less risky venue to make a statement than the sidewalks of her hometown. But, one the other hand, these experiments in roughing it did not incubate direct challenges to modern, middle-class constraints. The assumption that the hiatus from civilization.--and any social heterodoxy it triggered--was temporary necessarily limited the possibilities for seeing camp as a form of political critique. Framed as a delightfully fleeting departure, camping never materialized into a platform for women's rights, or even for dress reform, as it did more readily for wilderness preservation.
The most tangible attempt to sustain the transformations of camp existed in the narratives campers created afterwards, which as often celebrated the gulf between nature and society as complained about it. Campers' stories, by men as well as women, in fact hinged on the inability to bring camp home; it was the opportunity for a temporary crossing over to a place called nature that camping writers used to hook readers (and perhaps themselves). The published renditions of campers' social and corporeal risks, such as the daring photograph of Rena Phillips, thus not only described leisure experiences but also produced them as objects of consumption. Reading the tales of others was itself a form of leisure activity, perhaps a more leisurely one than actually going camping.
Clothing did not offer the only evidence that campers estimated physical sensation differently in the city than in the outdoors. Hunger, food, eating, and satiety all took on new meaning in camp. Keen appetites and heightened palettes numbered among campers' most frequently cited corporeal experiences. Campers described their hunger as if discovering it anew, repeatedly voicing the belief that mountain air makes one hungry. Most camping narratives, published or private, were filled with descriptions of meals, lists of provisions, and the pleasure of consumption. Grace Mitchell was typical in her remarks that, "Already the Montana mountain air had taken effect upon our appetites. We never enjoyed a dinner quite so thoroughly as this our first one in camp; at least, it seemed so to us then. Our table was spread on the ground" and the menu included "tomato soup, beans, trout fresh from the stream, delicious broiled grouse, fried potatoes and a generous supply of hot biscuits and apple sauce with tea, coffee, and plenty of the best of cold water to drink." (61) There was, according to Twain's ham-and-eggs logic, a vital link between the tastiness of the food and eating it on the ground.
The unexpected hunger prompted campers to meditate on the relationship between eating and dining, and thus between physical and social needs. Zephine Humphrey, a Vermont author of fiction and local history, serialized her diary of a camping trip in the Canadian Rockies for Outing in 1909. She recalled, "Ours was the primitive, elemental hunger which it is not given civilized people to feel very often in these days . ... One may be ashamed of an appetite in a New York hotel, never in the wilderness." (62) Her statement suggested as much about how campers conceived of their city-bound bodies as for their understanding of any "primitive" hunger. The need for food, after all, is as "elemental" in New York as it is in the wilderness. It simply was not polite to admit it. While heavy foods and intricate manners were common to upper and middle class American dining during this era, eating itself could be a touchy subject. Discussing the effects food had on the body, even in praise, potentially drew indecorous attention to animal nature or sensory experience. A few found this problem only exacerbated in camp, not least those same malcontents cited above, who found camp dinners nauseating. One wrote, "At the dining table food was eaten by some of the campers in a such a ravenous way that it would almost spoil the appetite of any one used to refinement." The other reported, "I had indigestion from eating things fried in pork fat from the first meal until 1 got a civilized repast at Frank's House in New York." (63) Whether camp cuisine inspired or disgusted, what one cooked and how one ate in camp became a key measure of the experience.
Many remarked on how foods and habits they found intolerable at home seemed perfectly natural and enjoyable in camp--food prepared simply or even badly, cating on the ground with crude utensils. As one writer assured possibly doubtful readers in her 1910 article on camping for women, "Even if the pine needles drop into the coffee and the chops are burnt, you are so hungry that the meal will taste good just the same." Recalling her first camping trip, another suggested the variance between actual food quality and the camping mentality: "We cooked our breakfast and ate with ravenous appetites tho' the coffee had no cream, the bacon was very much burned and the pan-cakes were declared fine tho' my remembrance now is that they were slightly tough." (64) But neither could match Zephine Humphrey's gastronomic adventures. She was famished one afternoon during a day hike, because one of her companions forgot the packed lunch. Finding themselves at a miner's cabin they gratefully accepted some of his meager provisions.
After also being served hot cocoa in empty baking-powder cans, they "dropped more of the patent breakfast pellets into the drink. I assert, with the fullest conviction, that never, at any epicure's table, have I eaten a meal so delicious as that." (65) Humphrey's vehemence seems laughable, but camping writers were often given to such fits of passion when it came to their food.
Such concoctions offered comfort because of the setting rather than the ingredients. Perhaps more than the physiological sensation of hunger, wilderness enhanced the interpretation of satiety. Dan O'Hara, who authored a recurring column on camp cookery in Outing in the 1880s, found that the "hand-to-mouth" element of eating in camp--catching fish, trapping squirrels, shooting robins--made him realize that "in fact, we live from hand to mouth" all the time. "Camp life accentuates the primitive wants ... That is half the charm of the experience." The association of wilderness with primitiveness, if not a unique one, did not always follow predictable tropes. O'Hara, for example, invoked not the emergent cultural preoccupation with primitivism and primitive peoples, but the insecurity he felt outside of civilization. What was primitive for him was the very lack of assurance that basic human requirements would be met. "As to breakfast, dinner, and supper, all are unknown quantities. There is no bill of fare. We don't know what we shall have; we only hope it will be enough! There is no finer sauce than unexpectedness." (66) The element of uncertainty, whether eating from a day's quarry or from a store of cans, privileged hunger and the need to feed the body rather than the finer quibbles of gourmands. O'Hara also romanticized hunger in ways only possible for one sure of a return to the secure comforts of middle-class predictability.
What campers found a primitive corporeal experience, an elemental bodily need, became in repetition by camping writers throughout this entire period, a chosen style. As Horace Kephart made clear, the presentation made all the difference: "Let us sometimes broil our venison on a sharpened stick and serve it on a sheet of hark. It tastes better. It gets us closer to Nature ... You feel that you have red blood in your veins, and that it is good to be free and out of doors." The sharpened stick was as deliberately styled a manner of food preparation as a white linen tablecloth, each meant to convey a certain cultural message about the food to he consumed upon it. (67) Like the negotiation over the appropriate quotient of roughing it, discussion of primitiveness suggested that campers sought to present themselves as pursuing a comfortable medium between privation and excess.
Often this medium took the form of the "pioneer." As a symbolic figure inhabiting the line between civilization and wilderness, the pioneer had camped. Camping evoked those emblematic frontier moments when men and families had first begun to hew civilization out of the wilderness. As one guidebook reminded, "Men were campers before they were house-dwellers; but, hemmed in by brick, stone, or wooden walls for generations past, their hand has forgotten its cunning in the matter of out-door homemaking. Now, when they would dwell in tents or brush houses, even for a time, they must unlearn that which their fathers have taught them and learn that which their forefathers knew." (68) (See Fig. 5) This call to the self-reliance of yore gave camping meaning beyond the exercise of leisure, the enjoyment of wilderness, or the rewards of work--it was out-door homemaking, a relearning of the skills of civilization itself.
[FIGURE 5 OMITTED]
The effects of such experiences, campers attested, were written plainly on the body. In her 1879 guidebook, Anna Gordon related a scene she observed in Colorado involving the transformation of some latter-day pioneers. Her party met a group of "gentlemen of fortune and leisure" from Philadelphia returning from six weeks " 'in the heart of the mountains.' They all looked well, seemed cheerful, and claimed to be 'hale and hearty.' Their blackened and sunburned faces told plainly that as pioneer soldiers they had seen service, while their robust appearance was convincing that they had braved dangers as well." (69)
As early as the 1870s, while homesteading remained a significant socioeconomic activity, urbanites like these took off for the wilderness to play-act the pioneer and declare its benefits to the body and mind. Such comparisons on the one hand seemed to trivialize this activity, as surely as Annie Schenck's reference to her "old-fashioned, white canvas covered wagon" in 1871 made it seem part of a quaint past to visit. And yet, replaying these moments also elevated the pioneer experience as fundamental to civilized national life. Two decades later, campers echoed none other than Frederick Jackson Turner in their equation of frontier experience with American character. As one mused in 1895, "To be cast upon one's own resources when entering the wilderness begets a spirit of freedom and independence." (70) Asserting a producerist foundation to an otherwise modern bourgeois experience in nature, camping writers offered readers who did not take themselves bodily to the woods a reminder of a national ideal steeped both in hardy self-reliance and domestic comfort.
Camping thus embodied acts of memory--national, cultural, personal, or corporeal. Zephine Humphrey did not imagine herself reenacting a pioneer drama, but found that camping represented a form of remembrance.
The memory of her trip invoked for Humphrey the very memory of humanity, the barbarous body in civilized clothes. Such repeated musings on the borderland between self, society, and nature offered campers a narrative framework in which to make sense of their corporeal experiences. Perhaps imagining themselves on a metaphorical frontier between wilderness and civilization, between past and present allowed campers to integrate not-so-easily grasped sensations felt on bodies used to feather beds, complex meals, and clean hands. Whether journeying through trails in the woods or words on the page, camping as playing-the-pioneer offered a recognizable model for domesticating both wilderness and oneself.
* * * * *
For many, the essential attraction of camping was to the duality of the experience--the desire to go wild and the comforts of keeping house, the exhilaration at feeling free as a man and the ability to remain feminine in such a feral environment, the chance to be ravenous and the moment to savor nourishment, the excitement of escape and the assurance of coming home. Camping out with these social expectations, on the one hand, positioned Americans as modern anomalies in the wilderness, signifying the divide between civilized and wild. On the other hand, by transforming wilderness into home, campers worked to cross the gap they had created. The attention they paid to the moments of embarkation and return, as well as the novelty of creating forms of comfort in crude surroundings, suggested a fascination with the edge, the borderland between civilization and wilderness. Camping modeled this liminality, demonstrating that the cultural traverse from primitive to modern was not a one-way trip. It was a perpetual back and forth, an ambiguity never quite resolved.
The continued if incomplete partition of wilderness and civilization, indeed the concept of wilderness itself, represented a modern sense of order in the landscape. Campers organized an outdoor space as wilderness, classified it as a place for leisure and liberty, and inhabited it with a discrete set of social practices. This model is distinct from the definition of wilderness that would become dominant--as a place where human presence is temporary and human impact is slight. Yet, even if campers' physical occupation of the land was temporary, the ideological control persisted; if their impact on certain ecologies was, if not slight, arguably less transformative than agricultural or urban uses, the imprint of campers and a camping wilderness on modern culture was significant. Campers were not escaping civilization to some untamed place. Nor were they, for the most part, indulging anti-modern longings. Instead, camping defined, disciplined, and ultimately tamed wilderness--at least rhetorically--as key component of modern civilization.
But, this essay began by insisting that camping was not really about wilderness per se. What this delicate dance of going wild and finding comfort offered was a place to sort out the relations between nature and human nature in modern life. What was natural about humans? How did spaces fashioned as nature alter gender conventions or visions of self? Why did corporeal sensations produce social effects? Camping, as simultaneously a personal experience and a cultural narrative, opened up a space to ponder such questions of human nature--but it also reaffirmed the importance of homes and bodies to one's place in modern society. However unexpected seemed the play of wilderness wives and dishwashing husbands, their practices confirmed their civilized selves, validated their standards of living, and endorsed the social good of their desired comforts. Somewhere between the call for a camper's rugged independence and the campsite as a temporary home in a new Eden emerged a notion of self, body and family freed from social encumbrances. Camping became a reassuringly traditional platform on which to audition modern family arrangements, like the servantless household, the corsetless woman, the suburban backyard. Camping made these developments appear to belong more to the familiar figure of the pioneer than an unknown future society.
Perhaps campers' perspective on material comforts suggested a renewed definition of comfort as spiritual solace for a modern age and its intensifying consumer culture, assuaging doubts about the social dangers of consumption. Transforming the wild spot chosen for a camp with the comforts of home, leisure camping represented not reversion but a modern, civilized, domestic art. Indeed, as the proof that Americans could create comfort and society in the wilderness, the practice of camping mirrored for its well-off, largely white participants the domestic arts that supported civilization--offering the natural world as confirmation for their place in an evolving social world.
Yet, Zephine Humphrey, among others, hinted that wilderness experience did not absolutely confirm a modern self. If camping proposed to travelers and writers like her that barbarity and civilization retained competing claims on humanity, perhaps it also revealed that the anxieties of the age did not come entirely from the attendant changes of modernity, but from the suspicion that its transformation would be incomplete. At the same time as it highlighted physical sensations for a modern audience, camping also pricked the sensibilities of those who would narrate its meanings. The domestic adventure in wilderness prompted the question of whether the notion of a modern self would turn out to he a perpetually thin, easily permeable gloss on human nature.
Department of History
Boulder, CO 80309
The author would like to thank Erika Bsumek, Bill Deverell, Sarah Igo, Kathy Peiss, Marguerite Shaffer, Theresa Smith, and the two anonymous reviewers at the Journal of Social. History for their insightful critiques. I am also indebted to Peter Blodgett, archivist at the Huntington Library, and Leigh Mesler, former student and research assistant, for their generous aid in locating materials. A Mellon Faculty Fellowship at the Penn Humanities Forum provided support for this work.
(1.) Grace Olney Mitchell, "Two Women Outdoors in Idaho," Country Life in America 10 (June 1906): 199.
(2.) John Mack Faragher, Women and Men on the Overland Trail (New Haven, 2001; 1979), 24-28; Lillian Schlissel, Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey (New York, 1982), 19-76.
(3.) For work on the emergence of camping as a specific type of vacation and leisure pursuit, see Cindy S. Aron, Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States, (New York, 1999); Terence Young, "Camping In America: From 1869 to the Present" Arroyo View 12 (2000): 9; Warren J. Belasco, Americans on the Road: From Autocamp to Motel, 1910-1945 (Baltimore, 1979).
(4.) Marguerite Shaffer, See America First: Tourism and National Identity, 1880-1940 (Washington, D.C., 2001).
(5.) Roderick Frazier Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (New Haven, 2001, 4th ed.), ch. 9.
(6.) T. J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (Chicago, 1981); Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (Chicago, 1996); David E. Shi, The Simple, Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture (New York, 1985).
(7.) For varying scholarly and public treatments of the conceptual relationship between wilderness and civilization, see, William Cronon, "The Trouble with Wilderness; or Getting back to the Wrong Nature," in Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature, ed. William Cronon (New York, 1995), 65-90; J. Baird Callicott and Michael Nelson, eds., The Great New Wilderness Debate (Athens, 1998); Mark Spence, Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks (New York, 2000); Michael Lewis, ed., American Wilderness: A New History (New York, 2007).
(8.) Writing about camping appeared with increasing frequency during this era in popular magazines, including: Outing, which began publication in 1882; Ladies' Home Journal, whose editor Edward Bok, used it to advance his vision of the simple life; and, Country Life in America, which was connected with Liberty Hyde Bailey's Country Life Movement. Shi, The Simple Life, pp. 181-207; Richard Ohmann, Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century (London, 1996).
(9.) Mitchell, "Two Women Outdoors," 199.
(10.) Mitchell, "Two Women Outdoors," 201.
(11.) John E. Crowley, The Invention of Comfort: Sensibilities and Design in Early Modern Britain and Early America (Baltimore, 2001).
(12.) Katherine C. Grier, Culture and Comfort: Parlor Making and Middle-Class Identity, 1850-1930 (Washington D.C., and London, 1988), viii-ix; Daniel Horowitz, "Frugality or Comfort: Middle-Class Styles of Life in the Early Twentieth Century," American Quarterly 37 (Summer 1985): 239-59.
(13.) Raymond Williams offers an evocative primer on the definitional tensions of the word "nature" and their significance in the history of culture in Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976; rev. ed., New York, 1983), 219-24.
(14.) Horace Kephart, Camping and Woodcraft: A Handbook for Vacation Campers and for Travelers in the Wilderness, vol. 1: Camping, (1906; Knoxville, 1988), 17-21. For discussion of Kephart's influence, see Jim Casada, "Introduction," to Camping and Woodcraft, vii--xxxiii. For a bibliography of Kepart's works, see Hunter Library Special Collections, Western Carolina University, "Bibliography of Kephart Writings," 2005, Horace Kephart: Revealing an Enigma, http://library.wcu.edu/digitalcoll/kephart/horacekephart/bibliography.htm (February 15, 2007).
(15.) Helen Elliot Bandini, "Camping with Fox Hounds in Southern California," Overland Monthly 19 (February 1892): 148.
(16.) Mrs. Larz Anderson, "Camping for Women," Country Life in America (June 1910): 176.
(17.) Anderson, "Camping for Women," 177, 180.
(18.) Charles S. Greene, "Camping in Mendocino," The Overland Monthly 22:130 (October 1893): 338.
(19.) Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, 154.
(20.) Charles E. Ingalls, "How to Enjoy a Vacation," Country Life in America 16 (May 1909): 128.
(21.) S.J. Barrows, "The Shaybacks in Camp," Part I, Outing 4 (August 1884): 361.
(22.) H. A. Hill, "Camping in Comfort," Outing 32 (August 1898): 505.
(23.) emphasis added, Emerson Hough, Out of Doors (New York and London, 1915), 112.
(24.) Barrows, "The Shaybacks in Camp," 361; Grier, Culture and Comfort, ix.
(25.) emphasis from the original, Charlotte Reeve Conover, "A Family Camp in the Rockies," part 1, Outing 22 (August 1893): 361-62; Hill, "Camping in Comfort," 505. Conover was a mother of eight and a prominent member of Dayton, Ohio society, where she wrote books and articles in local history.
(26.) Mary A. Barr, "Camping for Women," Outing 6 (May 1885): 234.
(27.) Katherine A. Chandler, "Housekeeping in the Summer Camp," Sunset, vol. 9, no. I (May 1902): 22.
(28.) T. C. Yard, "Practical Camping-Out Near Home," Outing 34 (June 1899): 273.
(29.) Rena A. Phillips, 'The Woman in the Woods," Outing 46 (July 1905): 475-76.
(30.) Jeanne Boydston, Home and Work: Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic (New York, 1990), xvi; Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technologies from the Open Hearth to the Microwave (New York, 1983), 157.
(31.) Barr, "Camping for Women," 234; Martha Haskell Clark, "Co-Operative Gipsying," Country Life in America 18 (May 1910): 59.
(32.) Yard, "Practical Camping-Out," 273.
(33.) Cowan, More Work for Mother, 42, 121-22; Steven Mintz and Susan Kellogg, Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life (New York, 1989), 123-25. The social history of domestic servants and servant-related discourse in public culture can also be found in several other excellent studies: Phyllis Palmer, Domesticity and Dirt: Housewives and Domestic Servants in the United States, 1920-1945 (Philadelphia, 1989); Faye E. Dudden, Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, 1983); Daniel E. Sutherland, Americans and their Servants: Domestic Service in the United States from 1800 to 1920 (Baton Rouge and London, 1981); David M. Katzman, Seven Days a Week: Women and Domestic Service in Industrializing America (New York, 1978).
(34.) Belasco, Americans on the Road, 52; Cowan, More Work for Mother, 4-8, 175-78.
(35.) Anderson, "Camping for Women," 180, 177; Eergthara, (pseud.) "A Woman's Outing on the Nepigon," Outing 30 (September 1897): 483. See also John R.G. Hassard, "Camping Out in California," The Century Magazine 33 (March 1887), 736-50.
(36.) Caroline Mae Turner, Journal of a Camping Trip, with Mr. & Mrs. C.R. Van Hise, in Ontario, Canada, 1908, MS, Henry E. Huntington Library, Frederick Jackson Turner Collection, TU vol. XI. Caroline was the wife of Frederick Jackson Turner, the "Fred" referred to in the quotations from the journal.
(37.) Herbert L. Jillson, "The Maine Guide and the Maine Camp," Outing 38 (September 1901): 651-52. Jillson, originally of Worcester, Mass., held various positions on the executive board of the Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina.
(38.) Jillson, "The Maine Guide," 651. See Susan Johnson, Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush (New York, 2001), for deft gender analysis of male miners who camped in the nineteenth century, many of whom took on elsewhere typically female tasks.
(39.) Conover, "A Family Camp, 360.
(40.) Boydston, Home and Work, 141.
(41.) Hill, "Camping in Comfort," 509.
(42.) Yard, "Practical Camping-Out," 270.
(43.) Alfred Balch, "Camp Lore, With Notes on Outfit and Equipment," Outing 14 (August 1889): 372.
(44.) Katherine L. Storm, "How Six Girls Had a Jolly Summer," Ladies' Home Journal 22 (July 1905): 15.
(45.) Emily H. Palmer, "Family Camping," Outing 26 (September 1895): 479.
(46.) Barrows, "The Shaybacks in Camp," 361.
(47.) Barrows, "The Shaybacks in Camp," 361; Editor's Open Window," Outing 5 (October 1884): 63.
(48.) Christopher Sellers, "Thoreau's Body: Towards an Embodied Environmental History," Environmental History 4 (1999): 486-514; Donald Worster, Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas (Cambridge, 1977), 78; Henry David Thoreau, quoted in Sellers, "Thoreau's Body," 486.
(49.) John Muir, The Mountains of California (New York, 1894), 251-52. Thanks to Bill Deverell for sharing his notion of Muir and a redemptive West.
(50.) Mark Twain, Roughing It (Hartford, 1872), 50.
(51.) Greene, "Camping in Mendocino," 347-48.
(52.) Sellers, "Thoreau's Body," 486, 496-97. As Sellers suggests, the middle-class in this era was moving away I from embodied forms of knowledge, and towards more abstract, scientific, professionalized approaches, and as such, learning from one's own body could be a novel experience.
(53.) A. Radclyffe Dugmore, "Camping in the Snow," Country Life in America 3 (1902): 111. Dugmore was a New York City based hunter turned wildlife photographer, painter, and printmaker. See Lowell Thomas, Rolling Stone: The Life and Adventures of Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore (Garden City, 1931).
(54.) F.G., "The Miseries of Camping Out," Lippincott's Magazine 26 (July/December 1880): 387-88; "A Camper," Letter to the Editor: "Camping and its Drawbacks," New York Times, May 17, 1900.
(55.) Emily A. Thackvay, "Camps and Tramps for Women," Outing 14 (August 1889): 335-36. On corsets, see, for example, Margaret Bisland, "Women and Their Guns," Outing 15 (December 1889): 227; and, G.O. Shields, Camping and Camp Outfits: A Manual of Instruction for Young and Old Sportsmen (Chicago and New York, 1890), 24.
(56.) Barr, "Camping for Women," 233.
(57.) Rena A. Phillips, "A Woman on the Trail," Outing 44 (August 1904): 585.
(58.) Phillips, "A Woman on the Trail," 586-88. Phillips' outfit, however improvisational, entrenched her in the very consumer society that frustrated her search for comfort in the first place. Camping was firmly consumer-oriented with an increasingly specialized equipment industry. For discussion of consumption and environmental history see, Matthew W. Klingle, "Spaces of Consumption in Environmental History," History and Theory, Theme Issue 42 (December 2003): 94-110; and, Jennifer Price, Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America (New York, 1999).
(59.) Phillips, "A Woman on the Trail," 589.
(60.) Bisland, "Women and their Guns," 226-27. As Virginia Scharff has suggested "We understand movement--in the grossest sense, as the desire and capacity to get the body from one place to the next with one end in mind--in fundamentally gendered terms." Scharff, Twenty Thousand Roads: Women, Movement, and the West (Berkeley, 2003), 3.
(61.) Mitchell, "Two Women Outdoors," 201.
(62.) Zephine Humphrey, "Five Women on the Trail," parts 3-4, Outing 54 (June 1909): 344. Zephine Humphrey was born in Philadelphia in 1874, graduated from Smith College in 1896, and upon her marriage moved to Dorset, Vermont, where she achieved local popularity for her writings on New England history and culture.
(63.) "A Camper," Letter to the Editor; F.G., "The Miseries," 387-88; John F. Kasson, Rudeness and Civility: Manners in Nineteenth Century Urban America (New York, 1990), ch. 6, esp. p. 208.
(64.) Anderson, "Camping for Women," 176; Flora Smalley, " 'We Slept in the Wagon': An Arizona Camping Trip, 1902," Journal of Arizona History 12 (1971): 196.
(65.) Zephine Humphey, "Five Women on the Trail," parts 5-6, Outing 54 (July 1909): 431-32.
(66.) Dan O'Hara, "Camp Cooks," Outing 6 (May 1885): 207.
(67.) Kephart, Camping and Woodcraft, 110; Pierre Bordieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, Richard Nice, trans. (Cambridge, reprint ed., 2007).
(68.) Shields, Camping and Camp Outfits, 9.
(69.) S. Anna Gordon, Camping in Colorado, With Suggestions to Gold-Seekers, Tourists and Invalids (New York, 1879), 151.
(70.) Emphasis added, Annie B. Schenck, "Camping Vacation, 1871," Colorado Magazine 42:3 (Summer 1965): 187; William H. Hobbs, "Outfit for a Tramping and Camping Trip," Outing 26 (June 1895): 207.
(71.) Humphrey, "Five Women on the Trail," parts 7-9, Outing 55 (September 1909): 75, 77.
By Phoebe Kropp
University of Colorado, Boulder
[He] takes the dirty, greasy frying-pans and other cooking utensils down to the creek, ... and there, with his pipe a-light, he sits complacently down on a convenient rock and begins by throwing a handful of mud into the frying-pan. Then he dips up a little bit of water and with a handful of moss proceeds to scour and rinse alternately on every dirty dish until the camp culinary furniture shines like a brand new pin. (29)
Our standards, in the matter of kitchen utensils, did especially differ. I argued from the standpoint of a well-stocked house; [my brother-in-law] from the frugal outfit of a bachelor's ranch. A skillet and camp-kettle seemed to him ample provision for any culinary necessities. 'Do you mean,' said I, aghast, 'to boil the ham and the towels in the same kettle?' 'To be sure,' he answered with the nonchalance of an experienced camper; 'only you needn't put them both in at the same time.' This was too much. I made a valiant stand for my prerogatives, and secured a stew-pan. (39)
Happy the home where father, mother and children can gather together their needful belongings, betake themselves to the shores of some lake or stream, and raising their temporary home of white tents, find their best pleasure in being together and leaving behind them the care of conventional life. (45)
The keen air is so bracing that you feel equal to almost any task. ... You remove your heavy woolen jacket. Then your knitted gloves feel overwarm and they too, must come off. Wait a minute and see what the thermometer has to show: Twenty degrees below zero! Why, surely it must he wrong; but no! your fingers have frozen to the metal case, heads of perspiration change to ice as they fall from your brow.
I very frequently, after going to the woods, take off the skirt and put it in the big back pocket of my coat so it will not be a source of annoyance on the trail. This leaves me as free in my movements as a man, and 1 slip the skirt on again before coming back to civilization. No woman knows, until she tries it, what a relief it is to travel in the woods without a skirt. (59)
As for cereal! I had never been able to tolerate the glutinous stuff in the pampered east; but now, ever since that wilderness day, the sound of its name represents the acme of all gustatorial joys. There were no dishes and no spoons, so we each extended a grimy hand to be filled with the little brown pellets. The hands, coming back a good many times, were quite clean when we finished.
Like it or not, a camp sets up an incontrovertible claim over us. Though we are civilized somewhat, we are also sufficiently barbarous; and once we were barbarous utterly, shamelessly, gloriously. The memory of our past holds good beneath our latter-day aspirations, and sometimes it is a question which is the stronger with us, the tug of the old or the new. (71)
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