In the mid-1800s Americans started to receive a lot of extra time in their hand and had more time to do fun activities. Businesses declining working hours was a major reason for the rise of leisure time but what also had a huge impact was installation of the electric lighting in the city’s streets which made Americans have more time to perform activities at later hours (Lund). So what did Americans decide to do with this time? The recommendation of physical exercise as a way to relive of all the stress raised the importance of physical actives and to also attend spectator sports became part of the leisure activities in the United States. Vaudeville, dance halls, and motion pictures became popular, while new modes of travel allowed Americans to go visit the mountains, seaside resorts and county fairs (Lund).
To begin with after the Civil War, the popularity of sports as leisure activities grew as people began to see the importance of exercise to health. While initially only the wealthy could take part in most sporting events because the middle and lower classes couldn’t afford most of the activities .The opening of public available gymnasiums, courts, and fields allowed the middle class to participate in those activities as well (Lund). Athletic clubs such as the New York Athletic Club were organized and the YMCAs began to institute sports programs. These programs mostly focused on track and field events, introduced by communities of European descent, and gymnastics, heavily influenced by German athletics. Gymnasiums, which included exercises using Indian clubs, wooden rings, and dumbbells, were opened in many Eastern cities which helped expand exercise.
Also With the extra time Americans gained American sought out to find new ways to keep themselves occupied and entertained. Americans began to seek out new ways to distract themselves so they started to experiment in making new activities to do. As a result of Americans seeking for a new past time they invented Americas greatest past time today, baseball. Different types of Baseball have been played throughout time and before the 1800s but the rise of the sport didn’t come until after the civil war (Bluett). While at war the soldiers had a lot of extra time in their hands the soldiers from New York introduced the game to their comrades from their camps and soon the game also spread to other camps over the north and south. It was said that because of this baseball expanded from the north to the south baseball was recognized more after the civil war ended.
After all the soldiers from the camps were taught how to play, they went back home and introduced their sport to their families and friends which helped expand they name of the game (Bluett). In 1870 the first professional team were founded but didn’t last for more than five years. In 1876 the first major professional league that was formed was the National league of baseball clubs which still exist today. Another sport that was created by Americans in the 19th century which they invented to perform as a leisure activity was Basketball. The game was created from the mind of James Naismith in 1891, while he was an instructor at the School for Christian Workers, later called the International YMCA Training School, in Springfield, Massachusetts (McComb). The YMCA was an international organization that focused on the idea that physical as well as religious training was important for humans. Naismith had graduated from McGill University, and after leaving a Presbyterian seminary joined the YMCA school in Massachusetts.
When he arrived the director of the YMCA name Luther asked Naismith if he could design an interesting indoor sport for physical activity in a gymnasiums Americans can exercise while having fun in the winter when it was cold and couldn’t be outside (McComb). He thought that people were bored of just working out with weights and running around without a purpose. James considered the thought of throwing a ball into a box, like the warm-up exercise he had used when he played rugby but only this time the box was ten feet up and had to dribble the ball (McComb). The game was a success Americans all over the country were playing it and it even expanded internationally. In the 1880s women didn’t really perform any sports but after they were introduced with basketball they were so fascinated that it became one of women’s favorite sport in the 1880s. Furthermore although men performed the majority of sports activities around the 19th century. Opportunities for women began to appear as the century ended. Some of the most popular sports for women in the 19 century were basketball and lawn tennis.
Also by the end of the century schools began to offer even more sports activities for females, such as gymnastics and basketball. One of the most popular sports for women was basketball. Girls’ and women’s basketball flourished in the early years of the game. Two days after the invention of basketball, some female teachers who had heard the shouts of players coming from the gym, asked Naismith to instruct them (Woolum). Naismith did so and the women became very fund of the sport. In 1892 after the women new the game better the YMCA hosted the first tournament for women (Woolum). The game for women spread and they even got to play in college, in 1896 the first intercollegiate game was played in Berkeley between the University of California and Stanford. No male spectators were allowed at the Berkeley match because it was considered improper for male viewers to attend (Woolum). Also the other sport the women were very fund of was lawn tennis. Mary Ewing Outerbridge has been credited with introducing lawn tennis to the United States in 1874. When she went to Bermuda she watched as British Army officers were hitting a rubber ball with spoon-shaped paddles strung with catgut across an outstretched net. Fascinated by the game, Outerbridge brought a box of the tennis equipment with her and returned to New York (Woolum). When she got home she introduced the game to her friends and family.
The game rapidly got popular and became very popular not just with women but with men as well and rapidly spread throughout the Northeast as a favorite national pastime (Woolum). In addition Americans didn’t just past their times with sports they also enjoyed other activities like attending vaudeville shows. Within cities, people attended vaudeville shows which would include many acts. The vaudeville shows were usually watched by the middle class, the shows often ran for many hours so the people could come and go whenever they wanted (Ushistory). In the Vaudeville shows the viewers could enjoy a performance consisting of Shakespeare plays, acrobatics, singing, dancing, and comedy (Lund). Vaudeville shows weren’t just for entertaining they also talked about economic and ethnic situations. Other popular shows of the time included circuses and Wild West shows, one of the most famous plays was Buffalo Bill Cody’s by William F. Motion pictures also served as entertainment during leisure time for urban audiences.
Initially the movies were originalities in kinescope viewers, until they became acts in their own right on the vaudeville stage. As motion pictures became longer, they moved into storefront Nickelodeon theaters and then into even larger theaters (Lund). Finally another activity Americans did as for their leisure time was to go on vacations. Some people wished to go further afield on their vacations and leave the city now that they invented a new way to travel faster which was by trains (Ushistory). Many with limited budgets went to the countryside or the beaches which mostly included the lower and middle class. Towards the late nineteenth century resorts opened in the outskirts of cities, such as the beach area of Asbury Park in New Jersey which was founded in 1870 (Lund). Amusement parks opened in places like Coney Island in New York was founded in 1897.the Park offering rides, fun houses, and scenes from foreign life, and the latest technological breakthroughs, such as motion pictures.
National parks were created by the federal government to preserve nature and many began to tour these areas on vacation (Lund). One such example was Yellowstone Park where people camped or stayed at the hotels, the park was built there in the late 1880s. World’s fairs and expositions held in different U.S. cities offered Americans a chance to tour the world in one place. The fairs celebrated progress and featured exhibits of science and technology, foreign villages, shows, rides and vendors. The first major one was the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 (Lund). All in all Americans in the 19th century performed a large variety of activities for their leisure time. Men performed many different physical activities especially when clubs like the YMCA was introduced which helped more Americans become more active, also American performed sports like baseball and basketball in their leisure time. In the late 19th century even women were starting to take place in the sports and other activates. Another major activity Americans did for leisure time was to go to vaudeville shows which had all sorts of acts from Shakespeare plays to comedy acts. Finally after traveling was easier Americans started to go on vacations outside the city and go to resorts and world fairs for their leisure time.
a. Leisure after the civil war
b. Lund, Karen C. “America at Work / America at Leisure, 1894-1915.” America at Work / America at Leisure, 1894-1915. Memory.loc.gov, 01 June 2000. Web. 17 Dec. 2013.
2. http://www.pacivilwartrails.com/stories/tales/baseball-and-the-civil-war a. Baseball and the civil war
b. Bluett, Terry. “Baseball and the Civil War.” Welcome to the Pennsylvania Civil War Trails. Civil War Trails, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2013.
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a. Leisure time
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b. Woolum, Janet. “ELibrary: Login.” ELibrary: Login. Elibrary, 05 Aug. 1992.