Section 7: The Legacy of New Hampshire Summer Camps

September 27th, 2017 by Rebecca

The experience of leaving home and family in the city to discover a new home and family in the forest at summer camp has become one of the most iconic experiences of American childhood. For over a century, children have spent their summers living in cabins, singing songs around campfires, practicing arts and crafts, building strong relationships, and connecting to the natural world.

Woolsey S. Conover. "Next Generation." Oil on canvas. John Anderson Photo. Courtesy of the artist

Woolsey S. Conover. “Next Generation.” Oil on canvas. John Anderson Photo. Courtesy of the artist

Although the idea of summer camp was born in the nineteenth century, it still maintains a strong twenty-first century appeal. In 2015, over five million children went to summer camp in the United States and 82% of camps reported that enrollment was either steady or rising.

Few Americans are now concerned about the deleterious impact of the railroad on American youth, but fears for children still abound regarding too much screen time and too little time outdoors, which has led to the widespread popularity of groups like the Children in Nature Movement.

Courtesy of Camp Hale.

Courtesy of Camp Hale.

With all of the social and technological changes that have transformed America from the nineteenth century into the twenty-first, summer camp has maintained a unique role in our culture. That role is as vital today as it was when Ernest Balch founded Camp Chocorua, or when Alcott Farrar Elwell wrote of camp in 1925:

School books are closed, social qualities should dwindle, and the out-door be teacher. The child has placed his finger on the pulse of life that throbs in the little wood-folk as lustily as it does in his own comrades. The birds sing above him, the stars shine at night, the wind rustles the treetops as it goes murmuring through the forest. All weave into the imagination of the child, yet it must be linked into meaning by the guidance of mature minds. It cannot be emphasized too often that camp can never be an escape from present day life – if it is to be worthy. It is preparation for life, teaching how to find peace and understanding in order to play the game of life better in the surroundings in which modern man finds himself.

Courtesy of Camp Pemigewassett.

Courtesy of Camp Pemigewassett.

 

Walk Through the Exhibit

Section 1: Children’s Resorts in the White Mountains

Section 2: The Literary Links to Experiential Romanticism

Section 3: Satellite Campuses for America’s Top Schools

Section 4: Camps for All, or the Egalitarian Worlds of Summer Camps

Section 5: Constructing Meaning and Finding Lessons from Native Americans

Section 6: The Technology Needed to Reject Technology

Section 7: The Legacy of New Hampshire Summer Camps

Return to Exhibit Information