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[[File:Screen-Shot-2018-12-05-at-10.19.24-AM-1632x1120.png|thumbnail|left|300px|Figure 1. In the late 1800s, summer camps were seen as places for boys to escape urban and indoor life that may otherwise make them too feminine, at least according to some.]]
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====
Effectively, the earliest summer camps were about escaping the big city and reconnecting with nature so boys can be better men. People saw that being outdoors built character and families began to place their kids, mainly boys, into the relatively few summer camps that established themselves in the 1870s-1880s. Camp Chocorua was an early dedicated summer camp, which was founded in New Hampshire by Ernest Balch, who was a student at Dartmouth college at the time. This camp was seen as a way for boys to heal from potentially negative effects of cities and help develop their character. Boys would get exposed to activities such as swimming, rowing, and even shooting or hunting, with camps also teaching them leadership skills.
Summer camps became not only places for playful activities and sports, but structured education, particularly with moral behavior, was part of the routines. This also meant that many early camps generally catered towards the upper classes as well, as middle and lower classes often could not afford the camps or needed to have their children around to help work in the factories or fields. Educators, philanthropists, health professionals, and religious leaders all soon became major proponents of summer camps, as their interests aligned in seeing summer camps being beneficial not only towards boys but also society more generally (Figure 1). <ref>For more on the establishment and early summer camps in the 19th century, see: Paris, L., 2010. <i>Children’s nature: the rise of the American summer camp</i>. New York University Press, New York, NY.</ref>
====Development of Summer Camps in the 20th Century====
thumb|Figure 1. Summer camps were seen as an important investment by the government in the 1930s. ]]
There were perhaps no more than 100 summer camps by the end of the 19th century. However, within the first decade of the 20th century, that number expanded to about 1000. By 1910, Alan S. Williams founded the American Camp Association, which began to create certified standards for camps, that included more regimented activities, health standards, and requirements for having a good camp. Children by then would now go for nearly the entire summer, sometimes not returning to their homes until the end of the summer. While many of the early camps focused on the upper class, and increasingly middle-class boys in the early 20th century, by the time of World War I families also began to see that girls also needed to go away to summer camps and that this time could benefit them.
By the 1950s and 1960s, summer camps increasingly took their more modern form. Activities that promoted sporting activities, while also encouraging social activity, became common, although specialized summmer camps, such as for Jewish children, continued to also cater their activities that helped acculturate children. For some cultures, it was this period that saw summer camps become a fixture of growing up in the United States. <ref>For more on how summer camps changed at around the time of World War II and later, see: Bond, H.E., Brumberg, J.J., Paris, L., 2006. <i>A paradise for boys and girls”: children’s camps in the Adirondacks</i>, 1st ed. ed. Adirondack Museum/Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, N.Y. </ref>
Summer camps have reflected America's changing and different attitudes towards urban life and its views of nature. some views have remained the same, with nature seen as a way to escape modern life. However, attitudes on who can go to summer camp have shifted. Initially, it was only boys, while girls, once they began to go, were relugated to activities that prepared them for motherhood. These attitudes, along with segregation of minorities and cultural groups, now done away with, although some may argue that class and racial divides are still evident in camps, where socio-economic status plays a role in the experience children have during the summer months.
[[Category:Wikis]][[Category:United States History]] [[Category: Social History]] [[Category:Gender History]]