Early National Leisure and Recreation

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Historians have often characterized the early national era, or the years between the adoption of the federal Constitution in 1789 and the conclusion of Civil War in 1865, as a period of dramatic social, political, and economic change. During this time, the United States abandoned many customs, traditions, and institutions established in its colonial past, and adopted newer patterns and practices better suited to a modern nation-state. Not surprisingly, American leisure and recreation exhibited similar trends. A host of factors, including demographic change, urbanization, industrialization, the increased availability of goods and services, and the emergence of a mass audience, transformed the ways in which Americans experienced leisure and recreation. In the process, Americans retained some older forms of leisure, often adapting them to new purposes, and embraced an array of new forms of amusement and recreation.

Preindustiral Leisure

At the end of the eighteenth century, before the Industrial Revolution had proceeded far, most Americans pursued leisure with their families, communities, or small groups of friends. Though city dwellers sometimes had a wider range of drinking establishments, theaters, and other leisure venues available to them than did country folk, both urban and rural residents amused themselves mostly with simple pleasures: reading the few books and newspapers available, or listening to them being read by others; visiting with family and friends; enjoying music and dancing at gatherings of friends; and pursuing useful pastimes such as carving, whittling, sewing, or quilting. In leisure as elsewhere, gender often determined what one did and with whom. Men hunted, fished, and visited inns, hotels, and stores to drink, socialize, and talk politics with their peers. Women found amusement and recreation in more private settings, gathering in a friend's or relative's home to sew, quilt, and exchange news. Seasonal change brought some variation to this routine, with summer permitting picnics, outings into the countryside, swimming, and other warm-weather pursuits. Winter, although it kept many Americans indoors much of the time, meant a respite from agricultural labor, conversation around the family hearth, and winter sports like skating and sleighing. Special occasions also provided opportunities for sociability and recreation: families and friends gathered to celebrate marriages and births, and the whole community turned out for speeches, parades, and barbecues on the Fourth of July.

Leisure and Work Before Industrialization

Before industrialization transformed the American economy, leisure and recreation were intertwined with work. The patterns and rhythms of labor, in both agriculture and manufacturing, shaped the types and amount of leisure activities Americans enjoyed. Artisans and skilled craftsmen, who produced everything from shoes to coffins, integrated frequent breaks in the workday for drinking and socializing. Each craft had its own traditions, but artisans commonly paused at midmorning for alcoholic refreshment, drank again at lunch, and broke up the afternoon with another respite. Moreover, artisans frequently set the pace of their own labor and leisure, choosing to labor slowly for the first part of the week, then working frenetically to finish their tasks before the weekend began at noon on Saturday. Having worked hard during the week, artisans and craftsmen reserved Saturday and Sunday for recreation and amusement, which often included the consumption of large quantities of alcohol. This pattern helps to account for the Anglo-American tradition of St. Monday, in which exhausted and hungover artisans worked slowly or not at all on Monday, turning it into an informal holiday.

Agricultural laborers and rural dwellers also intermixed labor and leisure. As prevailing opinion held that alcohol revived both body and mind, custom dictated that farmers provide alcoholic beverages for their workers during rests from the arduous tasks of planting and harvesting. The pattern of intense labor followed by unrestrained recreation characterized the farm as well as the workshop, especially during the fall harvest. Farm laborers, male and female, had to work unceasingly to gather crops before cold or inclement weather ruined them. At the harvest's conclusion, farmers, along with their families and hired help, joined in a celebration featuring music, dancing, and abundant food and drink. Other occasions for collective agricultural labor also combined work and play, especially when the community gathered to help with a task too big for one family to manage alone. Neighbors helped each other raise barns, butcher hogs, collect maple syrup, and shear sheep. When the day's labor was finished, all joined in a lavish dinner and party provided by the family benefiting from this shared work.

A limited number of sporting events and commercial amusements enlivened this general pattern. In all parts of the United States, horse, foot, and boat racing, as well as various forms of group hunting were popular. City residents might be able to attend the theater or circus, though some states and localities, particularly in New England, prohibited these activities as immoral. Itinerant entertainers sometimes brought exhibitions of unusual animals, dramatic readings billed as "moral lectures," musical performances, or feats of acrobatics and physical skill to even remote communities in the South and West. During the late 1820s, for instance, Raymond and Ogden's Menagerie toured rural Pennsylvania and points west, delighting spectators with tigers, elephants, ostriches, and other exotic creatures.

In areas linked to eastern manufacturing centers by good roads or rivers, commercially produced leisure goods were available: books, pamphlets, musical instruments, sheet music, and toys. At the turn of the nineteenth century, however, before the expansion of the national market and its attendant cash economy, many Americans would have been unable to purchase these goods even if they were available because of their high cost and a general lack of hard currency. Until the early decades of the nineteenth century, then, most Americans experienced leisure and recreation as their forebears had for decades, if not centuries: intermixed with work, and centered around family, friends, and small community groups.

Regional Variation in Leisure

Regional differences added some variety to American leisure. In the Northeast, urban and manufacturing centers permitted the development of nascent leisure industries, and greater availability of commercial amusements and recreational goods. Northerners approached leisure somewhat differently than their counterparts elsewhere in the country, often opting for free-time activities that served some instrumental or useful purpose. French traveler Alexis de Tocqueville observed this tendency during his visit to the United States in the 1830s. Even the rich, who had time to spare, Tocqueville remarked in Democracy in America, devote their "leisure to some kind of industrial or commercial pursuit"; they would think themselves "in bad repute" if they employed their lives "solely in living," (vol. 2, p.152). By contrast, southerners rejected work as the worthiest aspect of life, adopting a leisure ethic that placed genteel amusement and repose at the pinnacle of human existence. The elegant lifestyle of the plantation elite set the tone for this ethic, and provided a model to which poorer whites aspired. White southerners seemed untroubled by the fact that involuntary labor made their leisure possible, preferring to see in African American music, dance, and communal sociability evidence of a carefree, happy black population whose love of leisure and recreation received a salutary restraint through slavery. Finally, the West exhibited patterns of leisure that combined eastern influences with a reliance on traditional pursuits imposed by necessity. Westerners partook of whatever commercial leisure they could get, but the imperatives of carving farms and towns out of undeveloped land, combined with the difficulty and expense of procuring goods and services from distant markets, often relegated western residents to simpler preindustrial amusements. In every section of the country, the experience of leisure would be changed dramatically by social and economic developments in the early decades of the nineteenth century.

Economic Change and the Transformation of Leisure

During the first three decades of the nineteenth century, the rapidly changing U.S. economy altered the way that Americans pursued and experienced leisure and recreation. While many traditional amusements, such as barn raisings, harvest festivals, and drinking on the job, persisted throughout the nineteenth century, they began to be supplanted by new customs and practices. Changes in the nature and rhythm of work accounted for much of this transformation. In town and cities, the craft system of manufacturing, in which a master craftsman worked at home, often boarding his journeyman and apprentice employees within his household, began to break down with the emergence of industrialization and factory labor. Though factory work required less skill than the craft system, it imposed work discipline on laborers unaccustomed to the regimentation of their time and activities. Because factories required a steady, reliable workforce that would produce consistent amounts of product during the week, preindustrial patterns of work and leisure began to disappear: Employers discouraged drinking on the job, forbade socializing during work, and prohibited Monday holidays (St. Monday) to recover from the weekend's excesses. As historian Paul Faler has noted, workers responded in a variety of ways to these changes. Some adopted new standards of promptness, diligence, and temperance in an effort to gain favor and economic advancement from employers. Others rejected the new industrial discipline, clinging to older patterns of work and leisure. Preferring independence to advancement, traditionalist workers preserved drinking practices, favored periods of intense labor followed by raucous celebrations, and continued to celebrate St. Monday. Still others adopted new patterns of leisure, but not to please employers. Labor organizers who wished to limit employers' authority urged workers to be temperate and to use their leisure for reading, reflection, and intellectual improvement. Sober, literate workers, they reasoned, would be more useful in the struggle to gain concessions from employers.

The Separation of Leisure and Work

The emerging industrial economy produced other changes in leisure as well. Leisure became increasingly separate from work, rather than intertwined with it. Employers considered the workday time that laborers should devote exclusively to the tasks at hand; recreation and amusement would have to wait until after quitting time. In addition to separating work and leisure, industrialization also changed their venues. With the rise of factories, fewer workers labored at home. Though workers continued to recreate with their families, they also sought amusement and sociability outside of the home, in taverns, theaters, and clubs populated by other workers. A host of new leisure venues and services, ranging from icecream parlors and workingmen's libraries to brothels and unlicensed drinking establishments, sprang up to meet the new demands for recreation outside the home.

Women, too, felt the impact of these changes. With men away from home, child-care and family responsibilities fell more heavily on wives and mothers, curtailing, in some cases, time that might have been devoted to leisure pursuits. The new public leisure facilities often excluded women, making recreation outside the home largely a male preserve. Thus women's leisure and recreation centered more than ever on the home, and on interaction with other women. Moreover, women, especially those of the middle class, assumed responsibilities for making men's leisure time spent at home pleasant and uplifting. Women's historians have documented the importance of domesticity as a female attribute during the early national years. Social critics, clerics, and advice writers encouraged wives, mothers, and daughters to make home a cheerful, enjoyable place for men to relax and recreate with books, music, and conversation after a hard day's work. By making home a site for uplifting leisure, supporters of female domesticity argued, women could prevent men from seeking more destructive recreational alternatives such as the tavern or gambling hall.

Market Expansion and the Transformation of Leisure

If industrialization changed the venues and rhythms of leisure, the expansion of markets transformed the number and variety of recreational options available to Americans during the first half of the nineteenth century. The creation of a national market for leisure (as well as other) goods and services proceeded from a number of factors. Urbanization provided large markets for recreation and amusement in cities. The movement of settlers westward offered new opportunities to sell manufactured goods, while population growth in eastern cities provided an industrial labor force capable of supplying them. A rapidly expanding and improving transportation network, including turnpikes and canals early in the century, and railroads during the 1830s and 1840s, made travel and the delivery of goods easier and cheaper. These developments benefited the American economy as a whole, but also had important ramifications for leisure and recreation. With expanded markets for products ranging from sporting goods to sheet music to novels, individuals, businesses, and nascent industries could make profits meeting the demand for amusement and recreation. Pianofortes manufactured in Boston or Philadelphia graced parlors in faraway Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Catering to working-class tastes and pocketbooks, the "penny press" in New York and elsewhere churned out thousands of flimsy and lurid (though entertaining) newspapers costing only a cent. More genteel publishers put out annual "gift" books of poetry, prose, and moral exhortation, which were intended to be given as presents. Numerous individuals and stores manufactured and sold dolls, games, fireworks, and other items designed to entertain and delight children. Consequently, the number and variety of leisure options available to Americans increased dramatically in the decades before the Civil War. To some extent, this expansion of commercial leisure goods fostered traditional patterns of recreation. Mechanics banded together to buy newspapers and books and establish a workingman's library association; middle-class families purchased musical instruments and sheet music for use within their homes; the wealthy purchased elegant sideboards, decanters, china, and furniture for entertaining guests. In another sense, however, the new availability of leisure goods presaged a transformation of leisure from an activity pursued or produced by people to a commodity purchased by consumers. Nowhere was this trend more apparent than in the tremendous growth of commercial leisure services.

The Commercialization of Leisure

Leisure services as well as goods proliferated with the expansion of national markets. Most cities and many towns had halls and auditoriums to rent for parties or lectures, and a growing number of caterers, musicians, and performers offered their services to the public. Lessons in fencing, dancing, art, and music became available for those with the money and inclination to perfect their leisure skills. Various performances, exhibitions, and shows provided spectators with a wide range of amusement and instruction. Panoramas, or large paintings, of famous battles, prominent cities, or biblical scenes proved especially popular. Baltimore's citizens, for example, thronged to a 230-square-foot painting of the Battle of North Point in 1815; in 1825, a large portrait of a manufacturing city; and in 1829, a painting depicting the doom of Sodom. Lyceums brought prominent intellectuals and public figures to urban and rural areas to give speeches and lectures. Menageries and circuses reached most of the United States, satisfying the public's desire to see exotic animals and daring acrobats. Dramatic performances proved a consistently popular leisure activity for many Americans. By the 1820s, most major cities boasted at least one professional theater, and touring theater troupes brought tragedy, comedy, and farce to even remote parts of the United States. Sol Smith, an actor and theatrical manager, for instance, conducted an itinerant acting company through Missouri and the frontier Southwest during the 1820s and 1830s. So extensive was the demand for theater that celebrated English actors who traveled to the United States found it profitable to perform in western and southern cities like New Orleans and St. Louis, as well the theatrical centers of New York and Philadelphia. Even miners and prospectors in distant California periodically witnessed performances of Shakespeare and other dramas during the late 1840s.

With growing public appetite for commercial leisure, a mass audience for amusement and recreation took shape by the 1830s. Americans hungered for new, unique, and exciting leisure activities, and they were willing to pay for them. Increasingly, they became consumers rather than producers of leisure. A barn dance organized by friends and neighbors, for instance, paled before the elaborate and refined balls and cotillions held by clubs, societies, and dancing instructors. The novelty and variety of commercial recreation and amusement motivated many Americans to buy their leisure instead of taking an active part in creating it themselves. Here again, theater provides a case in point. Before about 1810, amateur theatricals put on by local students or other nonprofessional actors composed the bulk of dramatic performances available in many towns and cities, especially in the West. In early nineteenth-century Pittsburgh, for instance, groups of young lawyers and professionals staged farces and other entertainments on makeshift stages. Here as elsewhere, neighbors created their own theater, amusing themselves and providing entertainment for the community in the process. With the growth of commercial theater, these amateur efforts withered into insignificance. By 1850, Pittsburgh boasted no less than eleven theaters or halls suitable for professional entertainment.

P. T. Barnum and the Commercialization of Leisure

No one understood or exploited this trend toward commercialized leisure better than did P. T. Barnum. Though best known today for his postbellum career as a circus promoter, Barnum made a fortune before the Civil War as an exhibitor of entertainers and attractions. Recognizing the public's fervent desire to be amused by the novel and unusual, Barnum searched for unique people and objects with which to satisfy it. A large part of Barnum's success lay in his ability to engage public curiosity and skepticism: He realized that people would pay to be amused, even if they suspected that they were being deceived, or "humbugged," in the process. As historian Neil Harris observed, Barnum cultivated an operational aesthetic in his audiences, encouraging them to inquire into how things worked, and how his implausible claims about his attractions could be made to seem true. In 1835, Barnum exhibited Joice Heth, an elderly African American woman whom he claimed was the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington. Several years later, Barnum displayed the Feejee Mermaid, a grotesque, mummified monkey's body sewn to a fish tail, which he suggested was a real sea creature. Two of Barnum's most popular attractions were entertainers. Tom Thumb, a midget who sang, danced, and told jokes, made a fortune for the showman in the United States and Europe. Barnum also arranged for Jenny Lind, the celebrated Swedish soprano, to tour the United States. Though largely unknown before her arrival, Lind became wildly popular, largely due to Barnum's presentation of her as a leisure attraction that no American should miss. Barnum set the tone for future commercial leisure with his New York museum, an establishment that offered patrons a dizzying array of stage plays; animal exhibitions; and displays of curios, artifacts, and historical memorabilia. As one European visitor noted at midcentury, no trip to New York was complete without a visit to Barnum's American Museum.

Leisure and Social Differentiation

With the expansion of opportunities for recreation and amusement, and the growth and diversification of the American population, the social function of leisure changed considerably. Though different occupational and ethnic groups had always pursued varying pastimes, leisure in the preindustrial world had to a great extent promoted a sense of community. As noted above, neighbors gathering for work, play, and celebration fostered sociability and communal solidarity: Leisure provided a common experience and identity for those participating. By the 1820s, commercialization and demographic change had altered this pattern. With new and exciting leisure options available, like those offered by P. T. Barnum, traditional forms such as husking bees, barn raisings, and country dances lost much of their luster. Unlike older recreations, new forms like popular theater, sporting events, or pleasure gardens—the precursors of modern amusement parks—did not require or necessarily promote a sense of community or neighborliness. Frequently, the only trait that participants had in common was the price of admission.

Demographic change also fragmented communal leisure. Immigration, particularly from Germany and Ireland, increased markedly during the antebellum years, and these new Americans often pursued different amusements and pastimes than native-born citizens. The Irish, for instance, formed Hibernian societies, which organized social events, dinners, and celebrations of St. Patrick's Day, all in an effort to keep Irish culture and identity alive in their new home. German Americans, too, formed social clubs and fraternal organizations to provide immigrants with customary amusements. Germans frequented beer gardens for eating, drinking, singing, and socializing; established gymnasiums to provide venues for calisthenics and other sports; and formed turnvereins, organizations devoted to marching and martial exercises. Some groups founded separate leisure organizations out of necessity as much as choice. In areas with sizable free black populations, for example, African Americans who were excluded from most white organizations established their own Masonic lodges and other social clubs.

The development of party politics, which occurred during the first half of the nineteenth century, also undermined communal leisure and promoted social differentiation; political affiliation made up an important aspect of men's identities. To nourish partisan allegiance, parties established social clubs, held celebrations, and discouraged fraternization with members of other parties. During the 1830s, for instance, the Whig and Democratic Parties both held barbecues, parades, rallies, and speeches, using leisure activities to attract support and differentiate themselves from their rivals. Even ostensibly communal leisure on national holidays like the Fourth of July or Washington's birthday highlighted political differences rather than a shared patriotism. All over the United States, political celebrations used festivities to deride their opponents in parades, speeches, and after-dinner toasts. In 1840, for example, Uniontown, Pennsylvania, Democrats used their Independence Day celebration of the "Sabbath of American liberties" to denounce their political opponents, toasting the "rough sea of Whiggery, the deep dead sea of Federalism, floating with 'log cabins and hard cider' to the port of Democracy."

Leisure and Class

Leisure fragmented along class as well as ethnic and political lines. The American class structure, like the political party system, solidified during the decades before the Civil War. As Americans strove to establish class identities, they used leisure activities to signify their position in American society. The wealthiest Americans, especially in urban areas like New York, Charleston, Boston, and New Orleans, strove for a refined, genteel style of leisure. Upper-class pastimes included travel to visit friends and relatives; elegant, costly balls; dinners, parties, and other social occasions; fox hunting; and the enjoyment of fine art and music. The middle class, conscious of its inferiority in wealth, nonetheless considered its approach to leisure superior to what it considered the extravagance and decadence of elite amusements. Middle-class leisure emphasized respectability, morality, and edification. Lectures; religious activities; membership in charitable, intellectual, or service organizations; and decorous social gatherings were staples of middle-class recreation. Recreation at home, in the bosom of one's family, also made up an important aspect of middle-class leisure. The parlor became a center for this domestic leisure, where family members could read, converse, or listen to music played on the pianoforte or other instruments.

Rejecting both upper-class elegance and middle-class restraint, working-class leisure stressed informality and raucous enjoyment. Constrained by lack of funds, workers' leisure depended on casual drinking and socializing with friends, family, and coworkers; reading the antebellum era's many inexpensive books and newspapers; parties with singing, dancing, and eating; and patronage of inexpensive commercial amusements. Labor unions, trade and craft associations, and occupational groups also provided opportunities for recreation and amusement. A carpenters' guild might offer its members a lending library, sponsor a float and celebration during a holiday parade, or organize an entire celebration of the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving.

Class Segregation in Leisure

Inclination and financial constraints imposed de facto class segregation on many aspects of leisure during the early national era. As commercial amusements assumed a larger role in American leisure, financial resources influenced how and with whom people spent their leisure. Upper- and middle-class Americans gravitated toward more costly pastimes and activities that separated them from what they considered the less respectable working class. Emerging leisure industries catered to the desire for class-specific recreation. In theaters, for instance, a tripartite seating arrangement separated the classes: The well-to-do occupied expensive private boxes; the middle class and prosperous artisans sat in the pit immediately in front of the stage; and apprentices, unskilled laborers and other impoverished workers filled the gallery behind the pit. In New York, whole theaters took on class characters. During the 1830s and 1840s, New York's Bowery Theater furnished working-class dramatic fare, while the Park Theater attracted a more aristocratic crowd. This class division in leisure could produce unfortunate results. In 1849, a mob of workers stormed the Park Theater to protest an insult to an American actor appearing at the Bowery by an English tragedian then playing at the Park. The mob was dispersed only when a local militia fired into the crowd, killing nearly twenty people.

Class segregation also characterized other areas of leisure, such as the emerging custom of summer vacationing. In hot, crowded, and often unhealthful cities, many people sought an escape from oppressive urban summers. As in the case of theater, leisure entrepreneurs offered a variety of options. By the early decades of the century, wealthy urban dwellers traveled to elegant summer resorts, frequently located at natural springs that promised health benefits as well as recreational opportunities. In the South, the plantation gentry favored a number of Virginia springs, where they could socialize with other members of the plantation elite, and survey matrimonial prospects for their sons and daughters. For wealthy northerners, Saratoga Springs in New York served a similar function. Middle-class vacationers, who usually could not afford the cost of travel or board at elite resorts, chose from a variety of regional mineral springs. In Pennsylvania, Bedford Springs offered patrons opportunities for sociability, relaxation, and romance similar to those at elite resorts, albeit among a slightly less elevated clientele. For the working class, for whom an extended vacation at an expensive resort was not financially feasible, day trips to rural retreats or recreational facilities provide the only relief from sweltering cities and towns. In areas with access to lakes, rivers, or the seashore, steamboats or other conveyances transported working-class constituencies on outings for swimming, boating, and other outdoor activities. Around some cities, pleasure gardens offered arbors, trails, flower gardens, and other attractions to urban amusement seekers. In antebellum Pittsburgh, for example, Greenwood and Rosedale Gardens, both a short distance from the city on the Monongahela River, charged a small admission price to use facilities for picnics, walks, sports, and dancing.

The Reform of Leisure

Many Americans welcomed the new opportunities for recreation and amusement afforded them by market expansion, demographic change, and industrial growth.

Others found new leisure practices and products disturbing, with some reformers condemning them outright as immoral and destructive. Opposition to theater had a long history in the Anglo-American world by the early nineteenth century, but it acquired a new urgency with the increase in theatrical activity. Clerics and moralists emphasized the corrupting influence of the theater and the loose morals of actors, but reserved especial opprobrium for the infamous third tier of boxes. This, the highest level of boxes in many urban theaters, provided a venue for prostitutes to solicit clients, and sometimes even to ply their trade.

Social commentators, politicians, and religious figures questioned the moral tendencies of other aspects of the new leisure as well. Novels, their critics charged, created imaginary worlds that seduced the weak-minded (by this they meant primarily women) from recognizing the demands of duty and morality. Excessive drinking, which had not been a major problem in the eighteenth century, increased dramatically during the early national period, motivating a reappraisal of alcohol's role in leisure. Gambling, which many observers linked to drinking and prostitution, also seemed to be on the rise. Indeed, a host of sexually oriented leisure activities for men, ranging from brothels to exhibitions of "model artistes," or nude women, shocked and dismayed reformers. Even non-salacious commercial amusements such as the circus, boxing matches, and dance halls alarmed the moral establishment, especially when they remained open on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. Some of the concern about leisure reflected nativism as much as moral qualms. Native-born white Americans disdained the amusements of German and Irish immigrants in particular. The Irish drew fire for what many considered their inordinate use of liquor, while Germans were taken to task for their use of Sundays for eating and socializing with family and friends.

Reform Movements

Though many local efforts sprang up to deal with particular abuses, two major national reform movements emerged to address issues raised in part by new leisure practices. The temperance movement, which originated early in the century, aimed first at promoting moderation in drinking and eliminating illegal vendors of liquor. By the 1830s, however, temperance advocates became convinced that total abstinence from alcohol provided the only sure protection against drunkenness. Their tactics shifted from moral suasion, the attempt to convince individuals not to drink, to legal coercion, the effort to make states and localities pass prohibitory legislation. The campaign for coercive legislation culminated in the 1850s, when Maine passed a prohibition law in 1851, providing a model that more than ten other states followed.

Sabbatarianism, the other major reform movement aimed at reforming leisure, focused on the violation of the Christian Sabbath. Rather than pursuing religious observance and devotions, Sabbatarians charged, too many Americans spent the day in secular pursuits. Though they objected to business activities on Sunday as well, reformers expressed horror that many of their fellow citizens treated the Lord's day as a mere opportunity for leisure and amusement. A host of commercial amusements remained available on Sunday, making matters even worse. Through a combination of moral suasion and legislative coercion, Sabbatarians hoped to remedy this assault on Christian piety. Clergymen preached sermons and denounced Sunday recreation in print, while secular critics militated for the passage of "Blue Laws" (so called because the first ones enacted were printed on blue paper) that mandated the Sunday closing of a variety of businesses.

The Impact of Civil War

By the eve of the Civil War, the pattern of leisure expansion had been set. Leisure industries, based mostly in the Northeast, supplied consumer goods as well as commercial amusements to customers all over the United States. The Civil War disrupted this system temporarily, but did little to change it. During the war, much of the North's industrial capacity shifted away from consumer goods and toward war material, though the production of leisure goods continued. Perhaps more important, southern markets became unavailable to northern manufacturers and performers, making distribution impossible. The South, which lagged behind the North in manufacturing, devoted all of its resources to the war effort, causing shortages of leisure products such as novels and books; food, dishes, and furniture for entertaining; and musical instruments and sheet music. After the war, the South's economic prostration strengthened further the predominance of the North as the center of leisure industries.

See also: Barn Raising, Drinking, Genre Reading, Prohibition and Temperance, Sabbatarianism, Vacations, Working-Class Leisure Lifestyles


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Early National Leisure and Recreation