History Dona Brown INVENTING NEW ENGLAND

ISBN 13: 9781560984733

INVENTING NEW ENGLAND

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9781560984733: INVENTING NEW ENGLAND

Quaint, charming, nostalgic New England: rustic fishing villages, romantic seaside cottages, breathtaking mountain vistas, peaceful rural settings. In Inventing New England, Dona Brown traces the creation of these calendar-page images and describes how tourism as a business emerged in the nineteenth century and came to shape the landscape, economy, and culture of a region. She examines the irony of an industry that was based on an escape from commerce but served as an engine of industrial development, spawning hotel construction, land speculation, the spread of wage labor, and a vast market for guidebooks and other publications.
By the mid-nineteenth century, New England's whaling industry was faltering, lumbering was exhausted, herring fisheries were declining, and farming was becoming less profitable. Although the region had once been viewed as a center of invention and progress, economic hardship in the countryside fueled the development of the tourist industry. Before that time, elite vacations had been defined by the "grand tour" up the Hudson River to Saratoga Springs and Niagara Falls. Recognizing the potential of middle-class vacations, promoters of tourism fashioned a vision of pastoral beauty, rural independence, virtuous simplicity, and ethnic "purity" that appealed to an emerging class of urban professionals. By the latter nineteenth century, Brown argues, tourism had become an integral part of New England's rural economy, and the short vacation a fixture of middle-class life.
Focusing on such meccas as the White Mountains, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, coastal Maine, and Vermont, Brown describes how failed port cities, abandoned farms, and even scenery were churned through powerful marketing engines promoting nostalgia. "Old salts" dressed in sea captains' garb were recruited to sing chanteys and to tell tales of old whaling days to crowds of mesmerized tourists. Dilapidated farmhouses, "restored" to look even older, were transformed into quaint country inns. By the late nineteenth century, much of New England was highly urbanized, industrial, and ethnically diverse. But for tourists, the "real" New England was to be found in the remote areas of the region, where they could escape from the conditions of modern urban industrial life - the very life for which New Englanders had been praised a generation earlier.
In an epilogue that addresses the "packaging" of Cape Cod in the twentieth century, Brown discusses how human choices - not scenery - create a market for tourism. With fascinating anecdotes about entrepreneurial innkeepers, farmers, and others, Inventing New England explores the early growth of a new industry that was on the cutting edge of capitalist development even though its cultural "products" appeared untainted by market transactions.

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About the Author:

Dona Brown is an assistant professor of history at the University of Vermont.

Review:

“Brown . . . writes with charm and cautionary insight about the beginnings of what has become one of New England’s major industries. . . . Inventing New England would be the perfect book to read before heading off down to the Cape, up to the lake, or . . . for a day at the beach.”—Boston Globe

“A marvelous examination of the economic, cultural, and ideological foundations of the development of regional tourism. . . . Combines the best of local history with strong thematic analysis. . . . An examplary book.”—American Historical Review

“The chapters are eye openers. . . . Few studies of New England are as perceptive in their appreciation of the complex relationships between place, time, economics, and society.”—Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“Brown provides her readers with a richer portrait of early vacationing in New England than any previous writer. . . . Inventing New England will come as a breath of fresh air to readers who have had their fill of Puritanism, the writers of the ‘flowering,’ and the victims of industrialization.”—New England Quarterly

“Along with John Sears' Sacred Places, Inventing New England ranks as essential reading for students of nineteenth-century tourism and leisure.”—Journal of Social History

“A solid contribution to the history of tourism and the understanding of tourism's cultural and economic significance. Brown's discussion of tourism as one of the earliest forms of industrial capitalism is particularly impressive.”—John F. Sears, author of Sacred Places

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