New Jersey Seashore
New Jersey Seashore
About the Author: This photograph is part of the collection of the Corbis Corporation, headquartered in Seattle. Corbis maintains a worldwide archive of more than 70 million images.
As Americans earned more money and enjoyed more free time, vacation travel became more popular. Once a pastime reserved for the wealthy, families of every income level took to the roads and rails in the twentieth century. The family vacation became a staple of American life.
Vacations were not always common. Throughout history, most travelers have typically been religious pilgrims or men on business. Travel was uncomfortable and often dangerous. For ages, travelers had worried about being attacked by bandits. By the nineteenth century, travelers on stagecoaches typically arrived at their destinations bruised and battered from being slammed around the inside of the coach as it bounced on rutted dirt roads. Early steam locomotives sprayed their passengers with burning cinders, occasionally setting clothing on fire.
Advances in transportation made travel easier and faster. Working class families, in particular, were able to take trips to nearby sites, such as the New Jersey seashore, because mass transit systems had made such travel quick, comfortable, and affordable. As more families bought cars, railroad travel lost popularity. In response, railroads used romanticized images of tourist destinations to boost business.
NEW JERSEY SEASHORE
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Family vacations have become a cherished part of life but the concept of such a vacation is new to the modern age. In the late nineteenth century, Americans began to copy the social travel habits of elite Europeans. Wealthy young adults, mostly men, took the grand tour of Europe as a rite of passage. Along with seeing the most notable examples of art and architecture, they made lifetime business contacts during a trip that lasted from one month to two years abroad.
When Americans turned their attention toward their own country at the start of the twentieth century, vacation destinations changed as well. Spurred on by the new conservation movement and the formation of the national park system, Americans took their families across the United States to experience its beauty. They went to Yosemite National Park, Florida, California and the seashore.
While such natural sites have never lost popularity, other travel destinations have emerged. Amusement parks, largely post-World War II creations that capitalized on the baby boom and greater discretionary income, have become synonymous with family vacations. Often described as tourist factories, places such as Walt Disney World and Six Flags have become meccas for families with children. As the tourist factories recognize, most family vacations center on notions of family togetherness. The high mobility of Americans in the post-war era has led to a new type of family vacation that focuses on reuniting with relatives whether in a park, private home, or resort area.
Jakle, John. The Tourist: Travel in Twentieth-Century North America. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985.
Rothman, Hal K. Devil's Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.