The History of American Summer Camps


Summer Camp from 1899

For children and adolescents, summer camp has been a fixture of American life. In the summer months, parents have often placed their children in summer camps to avoid boredom or even keep them out of trouble. Summer camps can be educational but also fun for those involved, helping to get through the summer months. For adults, it provides a form of childcare as well.

The history of summer camps has in the United States has its origin in the evolution of modern, industrial life in the 19th century that changed the national economy and country.

Early History of Summer Camps

Perhaps the first organized summer camp for children occurred in Gunnery, Connecticut, where Frederick W. Gunn, a well-known abolitionist, established a recreational camp. Already then it was seen as a place where young children can connect with nature. As the Industrial Age progressed after the Civil War in the 1870s, families began to increasingly migrate to cities, escaping country life that also promised fewer opportunities for outdoor activities for families. As adults, often men, worked in factories and sometimes offices, children would often have little to do, in particular during the summer months when there were prolonged breaks from school.

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Categories: History of Culture

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