Having Fun: The Economics of Leisure
1. Beginnings of Leisure
By 1900, there were more than 29 million people in the American workforce including men, women, and children. Americans worked an average of 59 hours per week and usually received Saturday afternoons and Sundays off. Many companies provided unpaid leave to their employees. How do you think Americans might have spent their leisure time a century ago? Use the following images to spark your imagination and use the questions below to help you examine the images.
- Connie Mack, Catcher, 1887
- Carriages on Boulevard in Park, c. 1890-1910
- Football Team, c. 1895-1910
- Bathers, Atlantic City, c. 1900-1915
- Loop the Loop, Coney Island, c. 1903-1910
- A Morning’s Catch in the Adirondacks, c. 1903
- May Pole Dance, Central Park, New York, c. 1905
- Who is in the photograph?
- What can you tell about the person or people in the photograph?
- What is going on in the photograph?
- Where might the photograph have been taken?
2. Inventions and Leisure
Use one or more of the resources below to begin research on the various inventions that drove leisure and entertainment growth at the turn of the century.
3. Class and Leisure
Learn about class as a part of the economics of leisure using the following resources:
- Class in Newport student worksheet (PDF)
- Different classes in Newport
- Leisure Patterns—How Americans of different classes spent their leisure time
- People in Newport worksheet (PDF)
- People in Newport Biographies
A century ago, Americans had fun in different ways. In this activity, you will use the Internet to learn how Americans spent their leisure time and research some of the new forms of entertainment that they enjoyed.
With your classmates, conduct Internet research on your topic using the list of Web resources below. Create a brief report on its history and significance, its associated costs, and who might have enjoyed it a century ago. Your group will present this report to the class.
You may first want to look at the essays and timelines listed under "Leisure Overview." You can look for photographs under "Leisure Photographs."
Take notes on The Economics of Leisure worksheet your teacher has provided. Answer the questions below as you take notes.
- Where did this leisure activity take place?
- What is its significance?
- Include a brief history.
- What types of visitors engaged in this leisure activity?
- What types of transportation enabled visitors to get to and from this location?
- What forms of entertainment did people enjoy there?
- What new technologies, if any, were used?
- What did it cost to travel there and enjoy the entertainments?
- What other observations can you make about your topic?
Each group will choose one of the following:
- Leisure Photographs
- National Parks
- Seaside Resorts
- Spectator Sports
- Variety Shows
- World's Fairs
- The Making of Modern America—From the EDSITEment-reviewed resource Digital History
- America at Leisure—From the EDSITEment-reviewed resource American Memory
- Vacations and Resorts—Via Digital History
- Technology Timeline—Through the EDSITEment-reviewed resource the Internet Public Library
- Technological Timeline—From the EDSITEment-reviewed resource American Centuries: View from New England
- Interactive Timeline—From the EDSITEment-reviewed resource Learner.org
- New York Public Library Digital Collection
- National Park Service: Links to the Past
- Great Lodges of the National Parks
- New Perspectives on the West: Yellowstone
- New Perspectives on the West: Yosemite Valley
- All Aboard: The Role of the Railroads in Protecting, Promoting, and Selling Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks—From American Studies at the University of Virginia
- Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920
- Coney Island—From American Studies at the University of Virginia
- Coney Island History—A link on Learner.org
- Class and Leisure at America's First Resort: Newport, Rhode Island, 1870-1914—From American Studies at the University of Virginia
- Baseball—A link on The Internet Public Library
- Commodifying Leisure: The Business of Baseball in the Gilded Age—From American Studies at the University of Virginia
- Baseball Cards, 1887-1914—From American Memory
- Spalding Baseball Guides, 1889-1939—From American Memory
- Newport Casino—Tennis—A link on The Internet Public Library
- Spectator Sports—A link on the EDSITEment-reviewed resource Digital History
- Football—Via Digital History
- Baseball—Via Digital History
- The Circus in America Timeline: 1872-1905—A link on American Studies at the University of Virginia
- "In Business for Myself": P.T. Barnum and the Management of Spectacle—From American Studies at the University of Virginia
- Houdini—A link on The Internet Public Library
- Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies—From American Memory
- Movies—A link on Digital History
Music and Theater
- American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920—From American Memory
- Vaudeville—From American Studies at the University of Virginia
- Vaudeville—A link on The Internet Public Library
- American Music before 1900—A link on Digital History
- Theater—A link on Digital History
- The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition: Idea, Experience, Aftermath—From American Studies at the University of Virginia
- The Youth’s Companion World’s Fair—From the EDSITEment-reviewed resource American Centuries: View from New England
- 1904 World’s Fair: Looking Back at Looking Forward—A link on The Internet Public Library
- World’s Fairs—A link on Digital History
4.Create a Travel Ad
Examine an actual turn-of-the-century travel ad, and create your own:
- Easton’s Beach: The Coolest Place to Spend the Day (PDF) (advertisement also available on Class and Leisure at America’s First Resort)
- Brief history of Easton’s Beach
- Advertising Fun for Everyone
- The Marco Polo Printing Press Interactive