Kitchen Technologies and Mealtime Rituals

Interpreting the Food Axis at American Summer Camps, 1890–1950

A B I G A I L A . V A N S LY C K

Summer camps may seem like an odd place to study the relationship between technology and culture. After all, organized camps—the industry’s term for overnight camps attended by children without their parents— were initially established in the 1880s and 1890s as antidotes to overcivilization, a condition exacerbated by the technologies of comfort and convenience that had blossomed in the second half of the nineteenth century. Although camps with distinct goals sprang up in subsequent decades, most sought to develop in campers both the manual skills and the habit of hard work that would allow them to sever their dependence on modern technology and regain the self-reliance of their forefathers. Touched by the antiquarian impulse that also informed the Arts and Crafts movement and other late Victorian enthusiasms that T. J. Jackson Lears has identified with antimodernism, organized camping maintained a back-to-basics disdain for technology throughout much of the twentieth century. Specialized camps have emerged in recent decades to give campers intensive exposure to technology, but for many camp organizers the phrase “computer camp” remains an oxymoron.1

Dr. Van Slyck is Dayton Associate Professor of Art History at Connecticut College. She is the author of Free to All: Carnegie Libraries and American Culture, 1890–1920 (Chicago, 1995) and is currently working on a book manuscript titled A Manufactured Wilderness: Interpreting the Cultural Landscape of American Summer Camps, 1890–1960. She thanks Joy Parr and the two Technology and Culture reviewers for their careful reading of and thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this article. ©2002 by the Society for the History of Technology. All rights reserved. 0040-165X/02/4304-0002$8.00 1. For an overview of the range of camp types instituted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Eleanor Eells, History of Organized Camping: The First 100 Years (Martinsville, Ind., 1986), chaps. 2 and 3. T. J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880–1920 (New York, 1981), esp. chaps. 2 and 4.

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Yet if camp organizers deliberately decided not to adopt all of the technological innovations available to them (a culturally significant act in its own right), they did use technology selectively, especially in connection with food preparation. Well into the 1930s (and particularly during malnutrition scares in the 1910s), rebuilding the health of urban-dwelling children was one of the explicit benefits of the camp experience, and most camps prided themselves on their ample, wholesome food. The challenge of providing three meals a day for a small army of campers was substantial, prompting many summer camps to make a dining hall with a properly equipped kitchen the first permanent building to grace the camp property. From this perspective, then, it is no more strange for summer camps to employ available kitchen technologies than it would be for colleges, hospitals, or prisons to do so.2 A great deal of scholarly attention has been devoted to kitchen technologies in private dwellings, but we know very little about the growing numbers of kitchens that operated outside the home in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Molly Berger has considered the physical evolution of hotel kitchens, demonstrating their role in creating new standards of refinement by insulating genteel diners from the sounds and smells associated with food preparation. Harvey Levenstein and Dolores Hayden have investigated aspects of public kitchens established at the end of the nineteenth century, first in Boston and later in other cities (especially in connection with social settlements such as Chicago’s Hull House), to reform the eating habits of the working poor. These not only provided cheap and nutritious meals (at least according to contemporary scientific standards), but cooking took place in open view in order to encourage customers to emulate slow-cooking techniques at home. But where neither the quality of the food nor the character of the dining experience was the primary focus, in institutions in which meals were simply an infrastructural adjunct to educational, medical, penal, or religious activities, kitchens have largely been ignored. These kitchens were technological systems as necessary as those that provided light, heat, and sanitation, responding primarily to practical imperatives and contributing little to the larger mission of the institutions they served.3 Or were they? Can institutional kitchens tell us more about cultural priorities than we have assumed they can? Have we missed something by con2. On the relationship between summer camps and changing ideas about health, see Abigail A. Van Slyck, “Housing the Happy Camper,” Minnesota History 58 (summer 2002): 68–83. For more on concerns about malnutrition in the 1910s, see Harvey A. Levenstein, Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet (New York, 1988), 112–20. 3. Molly W. Berger, “The Magic of Fine Dining: Invisible Technology and the Hotel Kitchen,” ICON 1 (1995): 106–19. Levenstein, 48–59. Dolores Hayden, The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities (Cambridge, Mass., 1981), chap. 8.

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sidering the kitchen in isolation from the other spaces and activities involved in producing and consuming meals—social rituals brimming with cultural meaning? Have we perhaps hampered our ability to interpret institutional kitchens by focusing too closely on what happens within their four walls? Architectural historians have been guilty of such lapses, even when studying domestic kitchens, as Elizabeth C. Cromley has pointed out. Her concept of “the food axis,” the system of activity arenas devoted to food storage, meal preparation, eating, and cleanup, is a very useful reminder to look beyond the walls of the kitchen and to take seriously the interconnections between seemingly disparate alimentary tasks.4 In the case of American summer camps, a consideration of the entire food axis will help us understand the relationship between developments in kitchen technologies and changes in socially constructed ideas about childhood. Meals were key moments for camper socialization. Strictly observed mealtimes gave a clear and consistent structure to each day, and mealtime order and routine functioned to reconnect campers with civilized human society after periods of rough-and-tumble activity in the more rustic corners of camp. These were ritual occasions, both in the sense that they tended to follow predictable patterns in which each participant had a welldefined role and in the sense that those patterns were intended to communicate important messages about the larger meaning of camp life. Mealtimes were moments when the camp community acted out for itself and others its own sense of its larger mission. An examination of the food axis at summer camps will also help us understand something about camps that we cannot learn from written sources alone. Mealtime practices took on heightened importance in the late nineteenth century and beyond, as eating became (in historian John Kasson’s words) “the most exquisite social test” of genteel behavior.5 Despite the apparent contradiction of learning these behaviors in a rustic setting, meals shine a bright light on a camp’s commitment to gentility and to class-inflected notions of gender roles. Especially in the early years of the camp movement, from about 1880 into the 1920s, differences in mealtime rituals reveal a range of attitudes that are almost invisible in written statements about the importance of camping for boys. That those differences had begun to disappear by the 1930s is undoubtedly the result of the growing professionalization of camp directing in the period; indeed, their disappearance helps identify the moment when professionals redefined the camp’s role in the process of socialization. Once understood to be bridges between childhood and the world of adults, American summer camps at first sought to instill self-reliance and a sense of satisfaction at a job well
4. Elizabeth C. Cromley, “Transforming the Food Axis: Houses, Tools, Modes of Analysis,” Material History Review 44 (fall 1996): 8–22. 5. John F. Kasson, Rudeness and Civility: Manners in Nineteenth-Century Urban America (New York, 1990), 182.

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done by maximizing camper involvement in food preparation while minimizing the use of cooking technology. But by midcentury they used a full range of kitchen technologies to distance campers from routine meal preparation, ultimately reinforcing the boundary between the realms in which adults worked and those in which children played.
Manliness and the Beginnings of North American Summer Camps

First introduced to the North American landscape in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, summer camps for children were initially established in response to a cluster of late-Victorian concerns about child rearing, especially as it affected boys. Camps were part of a back-to-nature trend that had been developing in Anglo-American culture since midcentury. In this respect they are comparable to urban parks, residential suburbs, resort hotels, and national parks—all institutions aimed at providing respite from the moral and physical degradation of urban life, evils to which women and children were particularly prone. In the early twentieth century, the importance of getting children out of the city was reinforced by new scientific theories. The germ theory of disease, for instance, heightened awareness of urban crowding as a menace to physical health, while child psychology hinted at the city’s dire threat to the child’s mental wellbeing. The recapitulation theory advanced by psychologist G. Stanley Hall held that each child repeated (or recapitulated) the evolution of the human race from savagery through barbarism to civilization. Not only were children closer to nature than their parents, but thrusting them too soon into modern urban civilization could derail their normal development.6 In the view of Hall and his contemporaries, these theories had great import for boys, whose incipient manhood seemed particularly threatened by what came to be called “overcivilization.” Scientists believed the male body was more prone than the female to neurasthenia, a neurological illness discovered by physician George M. Beard and defined by him in 1881 as “a lack of nervous force” caused by modern civilization. More generally, overcivilization was linked to effeminacy and racial decadence, prompting intellectuals throughout Europe and Anglo-America to worry about the “emasculating tendencies of excessive civilization.” As historian Gail
6. For turn-of-the-century ideas about nature’s physical and social benefits for urban children, see Galen Cranz, The Politics of Park Design: A History of Urban Parks in America (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), 61–68. Hall is credited with coining the term “adolescence,” which is also the title of his best known work, Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education, 2 vols. (New York, 1904). See also Dorothy Ross, G. Stanley Hall: Psychologist as Prophet (Chicago, 1972), and Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880–1917 (Chicago, 1995), chap. 3.

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Bederman has demonstrated, these anxieties prompted a wholesale shift in middle-class ideals of male identity. While Victorian culture had valued high-minded self-restraint, the chief quality in what it called manliness, middle-class men at the end of the nineteenth century came to consider such conduct effeminate and sought to temper it with more aggressive behaviors associated with masculinity, itself a new term in the late-Victorian period.7 If anxieties about overcivilization challenged Victorian notions of manliness, they also called into question the value of institutions established to civilize young boys. The feminized home and Victorian motherhood were favorite targets for censure in the late nineteenth century. Middle-class men who might once have praised doting mothers for their maternal dedication increasingly accused them of coddling their sons and preventing them from developing the self-reliance that characterized earlier generations. Some charged that such mothering practices undermined military preparedness. The Boy Scouts, one of the first youth organizations to endorse summer camps in the United States, had been established in England in 1908 by Robert Baden-Powell, who was motivated in large part by the poor quality of soldiering he had encountered during the Boer War. While Baden-Powell blamed the ignorance of working-class home life, his American contemporaries made it clear that they considered middle-class mothers equally guilty of undermining robust manhood. G. Stanley Hall was among them. In a 1908 article titled “Feminization in School and Home,” Hall stated flatly that “the callow fledgling in the pin-feather stage of the earliest ’teens whom the lady teacher and the fond mother can truly call a perfect gentleman has something the matter with him.” 8 Such concerns were exacerbated by the unprecedented amount of leisure time available in the late nineteenth century, especially during the long summer vacation, an interval characterized by Henry W. Gibson as “a period of moral deterioration with most boys.” According to Gibson, who directed the Young Men’s Christian Association’s (YMCA) Camp Becket in western Massachusetts between 1903 and 1927, camps offered a healthy alternative for “literally thousands of boys who have heretofore wasted the glorious summer time loafing on the city streets, or as disastrously at sum7. On the introduction of the term “overcivilization,” see E. Anthony Rotundo, American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era (New York, 1993), 251–55. George M. Beard, American Nervousness: Its Causes and Consequences (New York, 1881). On the relationship between neurasthenia and manliness, and on turn-of-the-century ideas about masculinity, see Bederman, 84–88, 16–23. 8. On the critique of mothering and the crisis in masculinity, see David I. Macleod, Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and their Forerunners, 1870–1920 (Madison, Wisc., 1983), 48, 268. For a discussion of Baden-Powell’s response to the Boer War, see Macleod, 136–41. G. Stanley Hall, “Feminization in School and Home,” World’s Work 16 (May 1908): 10240.

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mer hotels or amusement places.” Given that men often visited their summering families only for brief intervals during the season, this criticism of summer hotels is linked to anxieties about too much female influence.9 For many Americans, the solution lay in instituting a new kind of summer experience for the boy, one that would remove him from the feminized home for some period of time and send him out into nature in the company of the right kind of man. There could be some difference of opinion about the attributes of the ideal role model: the YMCA emphasized religious feeling, for instance, while many private camps placed greater store in athletic prowess or knowledge of the out-of-doors. What was beyond dispute was the close connection between a natural setting and the fostering of a new mode of manliness. American clergyman and author Edward Everett Hale made this connection explicit when he stated that “A boy must learn to sleep under the open sky and to tramp ten miles through the rain if he wants to be strong. He must learn what sort of men it was who made America, and he must not get into this fuss and flurry of our American civilization and think that patent leather shoes and white kid gloves are necessary for the salvation of his life.” Although camps for girls existed in the early twentieth century, the summer camp as an institution was called into being by modern anxieties about boys, and their needs dominated the public discussion about the form and role of the summer camp.10
The Food Axis at Early Boys’ Camps

If early converts to the cause of camping espoused a common faith in the benefits of bringing boys into contact with nature, there was little consensus on what form the camp landscape should take. As Barksdale Maynard has demonstrated, some of the earliest private camps for boys—Camp Chocorua (established in 1881), Camp Asquam (established in 1885 as Camp Harvard and renamed in 1887), and Camp Pasquaney (established in 1895), all in New Hampshire—housed campers and camp activities in rustic lodges, among them freestanding dining pavilions. Fitted out with deep piazzas supported by posts formed of tree trunks, these lodges drew heavily on the Picturesque aesthetic tradition that emerged in England in the eighteenth century. Celebrating the quaint over the grand, the rustic over the polished, and the irregular over the symmetrical, the Picturesque was initially associated with rural retreats of the aristocracy, then with nineteenth-century suburbs and other sites aimed at enhancing middle-class enjoyment of nature. At early summer camps Picturesque design principles not only informed the character of individual buildings but also affected the overall layout of the camp, with pavilions scattered throughout the
9. Henry W. Gibson, Camping for Boys (New York, 1913), 7, 9. 10. Hale is quoted in Gibson, Camping for Boys, 38.

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wooded site in an irregular arrangement designed to complement the natural surroundings.11 Despite such formal similarities, early private camps differed sharply in the degree of primitiveness to which they subjected campers, generating a debate that became particularly heated in connection with mealtime practices. At one extreme was Camp Chocorua, where founder Ernest B. Balch insisted that boys do all the cooking and cleaning themselves. Balch employed no professional chef, and prided himself on the fact that only tin dishes were allowed in camp. In contrast, Asquam and Pasquaney both employed professional cooks and used fine dinnerware. Pasquaney’s founder, Edward S. Wilson, scoffed at the idea of “cooking one’s own food (poor stuff at that!) and eating off of tin with jack knife and a two-pronged fork or no fork at all!” He advised a prospective counselor to impress upon parents that at Pasquaney “we have first class food and plenty of it and well prepared by a professional man-cook whom I pay $2.00 a day. We also eat off of China, and use silver-plated knives, forks, and spoons!” Wilson’s attention to the details of table settings underlines his concern with maintaining new standards of gentility emerging in the late nineteenth century. As John Kasson has pointed out, the two-tined fork (its sharp prongs made of iron) and the associated practice of using a knife to put food in one’s mouth had both been commonplace in the early part of the nineteenth century, but as early as the 1830s they began to be seen as “marks of rusticity and vulgarity.” By the end of the century they had fallen out of favor completely, and silverplated flatware “had gone from being a luxury associated with the nobility to a ubiquitous necessity among the middle class.” While Balch may have used tin plates to evoke an old-fashioned rusticity—a quality that many adherents of the new manliness considered a healthy antidote to overcivilization—for Wilson these older practices could not be separated from their vulgar connotations and so were unacceptable, even at camp.12 Unlike these elite camping endeavors, many early YMCA and Boy Scout camps eschewed Picturesque aesthetics and settled instead on the military encampment as the most appropriate model for camp life, allowing boys to experience an all-male environment that would counteract the influence of the feminized home. At YMCA Camp Becket, for instance, campers slept in tents pitched around a square parade ground, which served as the stage for a wide range of military rituals that structured the daily routine: reveille, the parading of the colors, morning inspection, calisthenics, taps. In some camps the military theme was reinforced in other ways, often with camp uniforms modeled on military drab.13
11. W. Barksdale Maynard, “‘An Ideal Life in the Woods for Boys’: Architecture and Culture in the Earliest Summer Camps,” Winterthur Portfolio 34 (spring 1999): 3–29. 12. Wilson is quoted in Maynard, 20–21. Kasson (n. 5 above), 189–91. 13. For the early history of Camp Becket, see Camp Becket In-the-Berkshires, 1903– 1953 (Boston, 1953). Images of the camp are used throughout Gibson, Camping for Boys.

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Military trappings also had a practical appeal for these relatively inexpensive YMCA and Boy Scout camps, many of which were located initially on borrowed land. Sitting lightly on the land, such camps could be dismantled easily at the end of the season and reestablished elsewhere the next year, depending on the size of the camp population and the generosity of the camp benefactors. Camp Dudley, a YMCA camp organized by the Newburgh, New York, YMCA, is a case in point. First situated on Orange Lake, in 1885, the camp moved the very next summer to a better site on Lake Wawayanda in New Jersey, where it remained for five years. In 1891 it moved to Lake Champlain, and relocated to another site on the same lake in 1898. Under the circumstances, only a minimal investment in infrastructure or buildings made sense.14 Camps that catered to middle-class boys diverged considerably in their facilities for cooking and eating. In some, meal preparation took place in and around cooking and dining tents. Both facilities feature prominently in an article on camp planning published in 1902 by Edgar M. Robinson, the YMCA’s International Boys’ Work Secretary, who based his advice on the experience of a number of successful YMCA camp leaders. As described by Robinson, the cooking enclosure was a rudimentary affair. Although Robinson stated that “a shed of some kind is generally preferable to a tent for kitchen purposes,” he went on to admit that “a few pieces of old canvas will serve as a roof, while the sides of the kitchen are frequently open.” The technologies of cooking associated with this enclosure also varied greatly. At many camps (including Camp Dudley; see fig. 1), cooking was accomplished over an open fire with cooking vessels supported on “six or eight bars of iron about four or five feet in length, either solid or made from old pipe . . . supported about eight or ten inches from the ground on stones.” At other YMCA camps iron stoves and ranges were employed, although Robinson downplayed their usefulness, noting that they were “difficult and expensive to transport.” His enthusiasm for portable baker’s ovens, however, was unqualified. Made of galvanized sheet iron, they were light and easily transported, especially after their cast-iron fireboxes, designed for burning coal, were replaced by sheet-iron fireboxes for burning wood. Another advantage for YMCA camps (whose operating expenses at this date were no more than a dollar per day per camper) was the low cost of these ovens, which could be bought secondhand at bakeries or stove shops.15 In other YMCA camps meals were taken in permanent dining pavilions,
14. R. P. Kaighn, “Camp Dudley,” Association Boys 4 (June 1905): 109–11. 15. Edgar M. Robinson, “Association Boys’ Camps,” Association Boys 1 (June 1902): 85, 92. Operating expenses for YMCA camps were published in “Association Boys’ Camps Reported in 1901,” Association Boys 1 (June 1902): 122–23. Of the sixty-one camps that included information on their operating costs, only one, in Evanston, Illinois, spent a dollar per camper per day, while another, in Paris, Illinois, spent only twenty cents per camper per day.

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FIG. 1 Cook tent, Camp Dudley, New York, circa 1895. (Kautz Family YMCA

Archives, Andersen Library, University of Minnesota.)

although these seem to have been relatively rare in the early years of the century. One was built at Camp Becket in 1905 (fig. 2), but only because the camp held title to its site, which had been “presented by a man who saw the possibilities of the camp in the development of character in boys.” Housing both an open-sided dining room and an enclosed living room with a big stone fireplace, this “Mountain Lodge” (as Henry W. Gibson called it) used rustic design motifs reminiscent of the private retreats built in the Adirondacks in the 1880s. Nonetheless, its location—closing in the fourth side of the parade ground like a military mess hall—allowed it to contribute to the military theme around which the camp was organized.16 Whether in cook tents or enclosed kitchens attached to dining pavilions, meals were typically prepared by a single cook assisted by campers. Although Robinson reported that “many of the small camps actually thrive on the management of amateur cooks,” larger camps hired professional cooks. Another YMCA commentator characterized the professional camp cook as “an aristocrat who must be treated with respect, for whom water must be pumped, errands run, and wood carried . . . a tyrant subject to no one,” which suggests the authority such men wielded. Camp cooks came from a variety of backgrounds—lumber camps, ships, hotels, restaurants. Boarding schools were another source; according to a 1910 brochure, cooking at Camp Becket was under the direction of James Allston, former chef at St. Margaret’s School in Waterbury, Connecticut.17
16. Henry W. Gibson, “Camps Durrell and Becket,” Association Boys 5 (June 1906): 118. 17. Robinson, “Association Boys’ Camps,” 93. Frank H. Streightoff, “Summer Camps,”

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FIG. 2 Exterior view of dining pavilion, Camp Becket, Massachusetts, built in

1905. (Camp Becket for Boys [n.p., 1910], brochure, 4, Kautz Family YMCA Archives, Andersen Library, University of Minnesota.)

Even at camps that employed the services of a professional cook, middle-class campers were deeply involved in routine meal preparation. Kitchen chores were often assigned to small squads of campers on a rotating basis, although at many camps every camper was required to wash his own dishes after each meal. At mealtime, campers lined up, plates in hand, as their fellow campers dished out food from a makeshift serving table or from the benches in the dining tent (fig. 3). After meals, campers formed up again to proceed through the dish-washing line, in which each camper scraped, washed, rinsed, and dried his own dishes. Early camp literature played up this aspect of camp life with pictures of boys cheerfully pumping water, peeling potatoes, serving food, washing dishes. The boundary between work and play was intentionally blurred at early boys’ camps, both in terms of who did the work and in terms of the spatial distinction between the areas used for cooking and eating. Food preparation was simply an integral—and highly visible—part of camp life.18 On one level, this intimate involvement of male campers with food preparation—work conventionally assigned to women—seems at odds with the larger mission of the camping movement to forge a more virile
Association Boys 4 (June 1905): 131–32. Camp Becket for Boys (n.p., 1910), brochure, 3, Kautz Family YMCA Archives, Andersen Library, University of Minnesota. 18. The best sources for images of male campers involved in food preparation are articles published in Association Boys (a YMCA publication); see, for example, Gibson, “Camps Durrell and Becket,” 113–27, and Edgar M. Robinson, “The Experimental Woodcraft Camp,” Association Boys 9 (June 1910): 116–29. Comparable images for girls are to be found throughout Campward Ho! A Manual for Girl Scout Camps (New York, 1920).

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FIG. 3 Dining tent, Boy Scout encampment, Hunter’s Island, New York, 1912.

(Library of Congress.)

mode of manhood. At another level, however, food preparation in certain nondomestic settings was becoming increasingly associated with middleclass, white men. Not only were restaurant and hotel kitchens increasingly the domain of white, male professionals—typically identified as chefs, avoiding the less prestigious, racially coded term “cook”—but images of men cooking over an open fire dominated depictions of all-male sociability in the late nineteenth century. In an 1863 Currier and Ives print (fig. 4), guides cook the day’s catch while a fisherman pours himself a drink and surveys their activities. The scene celebrates a virile manliness in the absence of women and their domestic influence, underlining the self-sufficiency of these men and highlighting their ability to cope with the elements—even, in the case of the open fire, to command them. Equally important, the practice of giving campers kitchen duties on a rotating basis had obvious parallels with the army’s practice of assigning soldiers KP (“kitchen police”) duty, a term that became common in the years before World War I. At YMCA Camp Durrell in 1906 the adult in charge of this squad was even known as “the officer of the day.” By paralleling the practices of the quintessential all-male environment, this system of organizing the labor of food preparation remained perfectly consistent with the larger mission of early boys’ camps.19
19. On the gendered, racial hierarchy of professional kitchens, see Levenstein (n. 2 above), 14–15. Of course, the associations between manliness and cooking over an open fire continue in backyard cookouts, where Dad often “mans” the barbecue. Gibson, “Camps Durrell and Becket,” 116.

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FIG. 4 Camping in the Woods: “A Good Time Coming,” Currier and Ives, after

a painting by A. F. Tait, 1863. (Courtesy of the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, New York.)

When it came time to consume the meal, however, YMCA camps initially embraced a degree of gentility at odds with the metaphors of masculinity that dominated food preparation and even at odds with their own published statements. In a 1910 brochure for Camp Becket, for instance, prospective campers were warned that they “must not expect to find the dainties of the home table” at camp. Yet in Camping for Boys, published in 1913, Henry W. Gibson called upon his decade of experience as director of Camp Becket when he suggested that each camper be provided with a fulsome range of specialized dinnerware: “a large plate of the deep soup pattern, cereal bowl not too large, a saucer for sauce and dessert, a cup, knife, fork, table spoon, and tea spoon.” Although by no means as extensive as a formal dinner setting (Kasson notes, for instance, that by 1880 Reed and Barton offered as many as ten different kinds of knives, twelve kinds of forks, and twenty different spoons in each of over a dozen flatware patterns), this setting suggests that camp food would achieve a degree of elaboration—with sauces and desserts—that went well beyond the requirements for good health. With its choice of spoons, it also eschewed the “vulgarity” associated with the antiquated practice of eating only with the knife and two-pronged fork, and might be considered the minimum needed to sustain newer middle-class standards of gentility. Likewise Gibson’s description of the camp table—“set with white oil cloth, white enamelled [sic] dishes, both serving and individual, with decorations of ferns, wild flowers or blossoms”—may have acknowledged and even cele679

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brated the rusticity of the setting, but it also actively reinforced the importance of maintaining the material trappings of mealtime gentility.20 Equally telling is the time and attention that early camp organizers devoted to the issue of table manners. In his summary of the best practices at early YMCA camps, Robinson devoted six full paragraphs to “the systematic arrangement of tables in the dining tent,” dismissing the use of long tables with boys on both sides as disruptive to mealtime order. In his view, “to have a large number of boys laughing and joking together at a table, while waiters run up and down behind them shouting, ‘Coffee! Coffee! Coffee! Bread! Bread! Meat! Meat!’ is an unnecessary and unfortunate system of serving meals.” Robinson advocated instead a number of smaller tables—one for each sleeping tent in camp, each presided over by a leader who would “serve the food in approved family style.” “Under this system,” Robinson assured his readers, “decency and order of eating is [sic] preserved and the boys are not fed like animals at a trough.” Gibson was equally concerned with gentle mealtime behavior, declaring that “roughhouse table manners are a disgrace to a camp even as small as six boys.” 21 Yet Robinson’s condemnation of long tables confirms their use at those camps that modeled the dining experience more closely on the military mess, inspired perhaps by the actual encampments of the Great War. Camp Ranachqua, a Boy Scout Camp near Narrowsburg, New York, is a case in point. There the mess hall was open on three sides, with the fireplace at the other end marking the location of an enclosed kitchen. Although less elaborately ornamented than the dining pavilion at Camp Becket, this open-air dining room, its perimeter marked by rustic railings and its solid roof supported by unhewn timbers, shared many features with that earlier building (fig. 5). Despite the similarities, however, Ranachqua’s mess hall functioned very differently, with military analogies now structuring mealtime rituals as well as food preparation and cleanup. Of course, the very term “mess hall” was borrowed directly from the army; so too was the arrangement of the dining space itself, with long narrow tables aligned with the kitchen wall. The resulting seating arrangement facilitated food delivery by presorting campers into long queues that would lead to the serving table or serving window near the kitchen. A table for leaders near the kitchen confirms that the family-style dining advocated by Robinson was not practiced at Camp Ranachqua. While these military overtones were nominally in keeping with camp rhetoric, they held the potential to change the tone of camp life in important ways. By imitating military order at mealtime, camps sought not only to impose stricter control over camper behavior but also to achieve that
20. Camp Becket for Boys, 3. Gibson, Camping for Boys (n. 9 above), 52. Kasson (n. 5 above), 189. 21. Robinson, “Association Boys’ Camps” (n. 15 above), 86–87. Gibson, Camping for Boys, 52.

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FIG. 5 Interior view of the mess hall, Camp Ranachqua, New York, 1919.

(Library of Congress.)

control through the imposition of external regulations rather than the development of the camper’s internal sense of propriety. At the same time, by exposing campers to environments designed to coordinate the movements of a large number of people, the mess hall also implicitly introduced campers to the kind of rationalization that increasingly shaped the work lives of American men, in both factories and offices. In these mess halls, boys were encouraged to emulate adult males, but their activities were increasingly associated with routine work rather than with the daring and heroism of the military scouts whose example had inspired Baden-Powell and his contemporaries. To the extent that such arrangements treated the bodies of campers as interchangeable components of a large and efficient food delivery mechanism, they also undermined another important goal of the early camp movement, namely, to give campers a respite from “the indoor routine of city life.” 22 In short, the food axis was a locus of struggle in these early years of organized camping, a site where camp organizers tried to reconcile their own conflicting notions about camp life. On one hand, they valued the chance to involve boys in food preparation, and embraced military practice as creating an appropriately manly setting in which to teach boys to do for themselves. On the other hand, they were often unwilling to abandon the mealtime gentility that was a defining characteristic of middle-class respectability. Put
22. For Baden-Powell’s interest in turning military scouting into a game for boys, see Macleod (n. 8 above), 133–36. The quote is from Walter M. Wood, “Objectives in Outings and Camps for Boys,” Association Boys 6 (June 1907): 113.

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another way, the food axis was the site where camp organizers tried to negotiate the fine line between the civilized behavior that they still valued and the overcivilization that they had come to see as a threat to vital manliness.
The Girl Scouts Respond
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The extent to which the camping experience in general and the food axis in particular depended upon and reinforced notions about gender becomes even clearer when we consider the published advice regarding meal preparation at girls’ camps. The first of these camps were established around 1900, and like the first boys’ camps they were private institutions that catered to the offspring of elite families. Among the earliest were Camp Kehonka in New Hampshire, founded in 1902 by Laura Mattoon, and the Wyonegonic Camps in Bridgton, Maine, founded in the same year by C. E. Cobb. By 1910, forty-one private camps for girls were in operation, and were soon joined by camps associated with the Girl Scouts and the Camp Fire Girls, youth organizations serving middle-class girls. By 1925 there were some three hundred Girl Scout camps in the United States.23 On the surface, these camps had a great deal in common with boys’ camps. Certainly they shared the notion that time away from the comforts of home helped build a hardy self-reliance in growing campers. But camping for girls was more controversial. G. Stanley Hall, whose recapitulation theory had provided a scientific rationale for boys’ camps, was much less sanguine about encouraging girls to develop the same type of self-sufficiency. Haunted by the same concerns that had prompted Theodore Roosevelt to equate the rise of the New Woman with the falling birthrate and socalled race suicide, he expressed dismay at what he saw as “the new love of freedom which women have lately felt,” which, he complained, “inclines a girl to abandon the home for the office.” Nor were the directors of boys’ camps always sympathetic to the cause. Indeed, when the Camp Directors Association of America was founded in 1910, it barred women from membership. The fact that a rival group, the National Association of Directors of Girls’ Private Camps—officially established in 1916—welcomed both men and women suggests that the difference between the groups had as much to do with the sex of the campers as with the sex of the camp directors involved.24 Yet even those who championed camping for girls were not interested in encouraging female campers to act like boys. To be sure, girls’ youth organizations disliked conventional definitions of femininity; in Camp Fire
23. For early girls’ camps, see Eells (n. 1 above), 39–42, 68–69. 24. Hall, Adolescence (n. 6 above), 2:619. On organizations for camp directors, see Eells, 85–92. Roosevelt voiced his concern about race suicide in “National Life and Character,” in American Ideals and Other Essays, Social and Political (New York, 1897). These ideas are discussed at length in Bederman (n. 6 above), 200–206.

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Girl novels, women of the older generation were portrayed as helpless and sometimes hysterical. But both the Girl Scouts and the Camp Fire Girls still upheld the importance of gender differentiation, and continued to see marriage and motherhood as each girl’s ultimate goal. This commitment to policing the line between male and female behavior could manifest itself in even the smallest details. The Camp Fire Girls, for instance, encouraged members to dress in an interpretation of Native American garb, but forbade them to wear upright feathers in their head bands, a practice associated exclusively with Indian braves. Such prohibitions may seem inconsequential, but as Gail Bederman has pointed out, gender differentiation and civilization were closely interconnected. In the early part of the century, to give up on the former inevitably meant the demise of the latter.25 If girls’ camps were required to meet different ends than boys’ camps, those differences were particularly acute with regard to food preparation and cleanup, tasks assigned to women in the domestic sphere. The advice offered in Campward Ho!, a Girl Scout camping manual published in 1920, made it clear that female campers—like their male counterparts—should be intimately involved in food preparation at camp. The unidentified author’s confident assertion that it is possible to feed one hundred and fifty to two hundred people “with only one cook and a squad of Scouts,” was reinforced with numerous images of uniformed girls peeling potatoes, pumping water, and engaging in other cooking chores. At the same time, the mess hall plan reproduced in the manual confirms the appeal of military metaphors and military order at Girl Scout camp—not surprising, perhaps, given the military overtones of the British Boy Scouts, which spawned both the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts (the American version of the British Girl Guides).26 Yet Campward Ho! also made it clear that Girl Scout camps were not to mimic every aspect of boys’ camps. The author took particular exception to the dish-washing line, in which each camper washed, rinsed, dried, and stored her own dishes. Such a system may have been easy, but it also broke “the rules being taught to Scouts as to the proper way of washing dishes: namely, to wash glass first, silver next, change the water and wash saucers,
25. For a fictional contrast of an able Camp Fire Girl and her hysterical mother, see Julianne DeVries, The Campfire Girls as Detectives (Cleveland, 1933), 13–20. For rules regarding Camp Fire Girl costume, see Philip J. Deloria, Playing Indian (New Haven, 1998), 113. On the relationship between civilization and gender differentiation, see Bederman, 25. 26. Campward Ho! (n. 18 above), 37. On militarism in British scouting, see J. O. Springhall, “The Boy Scouts, Class and Militarism in Relation to British Youth Movements, 1908–1930,” International Review of Social History 16 (1971): 125–58. See also Allen Warren, “Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the Scout Movement and Citizen Training in Great Britain, 1890–1920,” English Historical Review 101 (1986): 376–98, and Springhall’s response, “Baden-Powell and the Scout Movement before 1920: Citizen Training or Soldiers for the Future?” English Historical Review 102 (1987): 934–42.

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cups, plates and so forth.” Not only was the dish-washing line unsanitary, but it offended the Girl Scouts’ sense of the proper division of labor: “No mother would think of having each member of the family stack her dishes, take them to the sink, wash and wipe them and put them away. This method would be considered most inefficient and confusing.” Clearly, the Girl Scout leadership counted on the camp program to instill domestic habits that they expected girls to apply eventually in their own homes.27 Such invocations of mother as the ultimate authority in domestic matters suggest that the Girl Scouts embraced the various aspects of meal preparation as particularly female skills. Indeed, the amount of attention the manual devoted to the layout and equipment of the mess hall kitchen was unprecedented in camping literature and might be interpreted as an attempt to reinforce claims to female control over the kitchen. In this context, the invocation of efficiency is equally telling. On one hand, it serves as a reminder that this early phase of camping for girls coincided with the loss of live-in servants in middle-class households and with attempts by a new breed of female efficiency experts (chief among them Lillian Gilbreth and Christine Frederick) to teach middle-class housewives to apply principles of scientific management to the domestic sphere. The new expectation that middle-class women would be more directly involved in every aspect of household labor meant that camp activities could no longer be considered generic exercises in usefulness. On the other hand, it is important to remember that the enthusiasm for efficiency had an ideological component. As Dolores Hayden has argued, the efficient application of so-called laborsaving technologies helped sustain conservative views of home life and women’s domestic labor by undermining earlier attempts at collective housekeeping.28 Paralleling changes taking place in middle-class homes, laborsaving technologies dominate the mess hall kitchen in Campward Ho! Gone is any reference to cooking over an open fire. While an integral wood shed suggests that the fuel source remained the same, the text itself emphasized the importance of a full-size range, noting that “the kitchen should be equipped with a good stove having ovens and hot water tank and be large enough to admit of holding big boilers and kettles.” The manual also favored installing a Standard Oil heater and boiler to provide piped hot water, although it noted that such arrangements were not within the reach of most camps, as they required “a tank and power of some kind to pump up the water.” Yet the kitchen plan published in Campward Ho! seems almost untouched by the sort of rationalization of space advocated by Frederick and other efficiency experts (fig. 6). Stove, sink, and serving window form
27. Campward Ho!, 45. 28. Christine Frederick’s influential domestic advice manual, Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home (Chicago, 1920), was published in the same year as Campward Ho! Hayden (n. 3 above), 264–65.

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FIG. 6 Mess hall plan for a camp of 150 to 200 girls, 1920. (Campward Ho! A

Manual for Girl Scout Camps [New York, 1920], 35. Used by permission of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.)

a work triangle of sorts, but the inefficiency of the rest of the kitchen—particularly the way the office limits ready access to the other side of the stove—suggests that the triangle was something of a fluke. In other words, Campward Ho! seems to have evoked the discourse of efficiency for rhetorical purposes rather than in a genuine effort to rationalize the functioning of the camp kitchen.29 In short, ideas about gender had an important influence on campers’ involvement with routine meal preparation at early summer camps. Although campers of both sexes were involved in similar kitchen duties, camp organizers accepted and even embraced different roles for men and women. They encouraged boys and girls to complete their kitchen tasks in different
29. Campward Ho!, 34–36.

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and (in their view) gender-appropriate ways and sought to imbue them with distinct and (they felt) gender-appropriate meanings. For boys, washing dishes at camp was something of a rite of passage, an unpleasant job that they were expected to take on cheerfully in order to demonstrate their solidarity with the group. But like the soldiers whose KP chores they emulated, male campers viewed their domestic servitude as a temporary state to be abandoned once they returned to their normal existence. In contrast, organizations like the Girl Scouts understood that meal preparation would itself become the normal existence for the girls who attended their camps. Although the tasks themselves were not so different, the emphasis on order and method encouraged girls to see these domestic tasks as important in their own right and as direct practice for the daily routine of adult life.
Camps and New Ideas about Child Development

The summer camp landscape began to change dramatically in the 1930s, partly in response to demographic shifts, as the age of campers dropped steadily throughout the twentieth century. Equally important, camp directors eager to enhance their own professional status began to apply the tenets of child psychology to camp activities and planning. Particularly influential was the idea that children naturally experienced distinct developmental phases that no amount of instruction or discipline could hurry them through. The result for camp programs was to de-emphasize camp activities associated with the adult world of work—especially routine food preparation—and to emphasize activities associated with play and leisure: crafts, swimming, canoeing, even baseball (once banned from the camp landscape as too urban an activity). For camp facilities, one result was the unit plan, in which camps were subdivided into small, age-based residential units, each pursuing its own age-appropriate activities while all shared the use of the playing fields, waterfront, craft house, infirmary, and dining lodge.30
30. The idea of child development as a series of inevitable phases had been at the basis of G. Stanley Hall’s recapitulation theory (first articulated in the 1890s), which held that each child recapitulated the evolution of the entire species. That theory had had a great impact on many early camp organizers, who based the rationale for camp on the need to allow children to be savages—quite literally—as they moved toward civilization. Perhaps because of this affinity with Hall’s theories, camp professionals were among the first to reject 1920s behaviorism (which sought to adjust infant behavior to a priori schedules established by adults) and to reemphasize the close observation of child behavior in order to identify developmental norms (something that came to dominate discussions of parenting in the 1940s, thanks to the work of psychologists Arnold Gesell, Frances L. Ilg, and Louise B. Ames). For an early discussion of a camp program that acknowledges these psychological theories, see Hedley S. Dimock and Charles E. Hendry, Camping and Character: A Camp Experiment in Character Education (New York, 1929). On the impact of Gesell et al. on parenting practices, see Julia Grant, Raising Baby by the Book: The Education of American Mothers (New Haven, Conn., 1998), 184–86.

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Thanks to a couple of key publications the unit plan soon became the industry standard, applied to both boys’ and girls’ camps. The first and most influential was Park and Recreation Structures, published by the National Park Service in 1938. This three-volume work documented and celebrated the material achievements of the New Deal in improving national and state parks and establishing Recreation Demonstration Areas (RDAs), sites where submarginal agricultural lands were converted into public parks. Forty-three RDAs were built by the New Deal, thirty-four of which included facilities for organized camps. Inspired by Park and Recreation Structures, the major youth organizations involved in camping published their own camp planning manuals soon after the conclusion of World War II, each of which incorporated the unit plan idea with its centralized dining lodge (as the camp dining facility was now called).31 These dining lodges were T-shaped buildings, with long, narrow dining rooms set perpendicular to the kitchen wing (fig. 7). Although related to the form of earlier mess halls, this arrangement minimized diners’ awareness of the kitchen by several means: reorienting the dining room away from the kitchen, a change reinforced by relocating fireplaces to the end walls; introducing windows into the wall on the kitchen side of the dining room, which enhanced an impression of the dining room as a freestanding structure; and creating a buffer zone between kitchen and dining areas to help keep kitchen sounds and smells from intruding upon the dining room. Distinctions between the dining room and kitchen were underscored by formal differences. Camp dining rooms retained—and in some cases exaggerated—the rustic qualities of the older mess hall. Indeed, camp histories often celebrate the work of local craftsmen who built the dining hall, hewing the logs for the walls and roof trusses, laying the stone for the fireplace, and forging the rustic light fixtures. On the other side of the swinging doors, the camp kitchen was a high-tech environment, planned in great detail for maximum efficiency. In fact, the kitchen plans of the 1930s and 1940s introduced an emphasis on rationalization that had been lacking in the kitchen layout published in Campward Ho! in 1920. In a kitchen plan for an organized campsite in the St. Croix River RDA in Minnesota, a prep sink is located in easy proximity to both the food storage zone and the kitchen range. In turn, this cooking area is close to the serving area, while both cooking and serving areas are close to the dish washing alcove. A kitchen layout published by the Girl Scouts in 1948 was similarly zoned
31. On the RDAs, see Ethan Carr, Wilderness by Design: Landscape Architecture and the National Park Service (Lincoln, Neb., 1998). The key camp-planning manuals of this era are Albert H. Good, Park and Recreation Structures, vol. 3, Overnight and Organized Camp Facilities (Washington, D.C., 1938); the Camp Fire Girls’ When You Plan Your Camp (New York, 1946); the YMCA’s Layout, Building Designs, and Equipment for Y.M.C.A. Camps (New York, 1946); and Julian Harris Salomon, Camp Site Development (New York, 1948), for the Girl Scouts.

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FIG. 7 Dining hall plan and perspective view, commissioned by the Dayton,

Ohio, Girl Scout Council. (Julian Salomon, Camp Site Development [New York, 1948], 50. Used by permission of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.)

into storage, prep, cooking, serving, and dish washing areas, but also pulled the range and oven away from the wall to create additional work stations— including one in the corner for a camp dietitian (fig. 8).32
32. A case in point is Kirby Lodge, at Camp Widjiwagan, a YMCA camp on Burntside Lake in northern Minnesota. Completed in 1949, the lodge was the product of professional design expertise, but the name most closely associated with the building is that of Robert Zimmermann, who supervised the log work that gives the dining room its distinctive character. The lodge was initially designed by an architect from Virginia, identified in camp records only as Mr. Aldrich, and then redesigned (to reduce the size and cost of the project) by the St. Paul architectural firm of Ingemann and Bergstedt. Dwight Ericsson and John Shepard, Widjiwagan: A History from 1929 to 1989 (St. Paul, 1994), 56–59.

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FIG. 8 Kitchen layout for a Girl Scout camp. (Julian Salomon, Camp Site

Development [New York, 1948], 59. Used by permission of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.)

Equipment and materials further distinguished the high-tech camp kitchen from the rustic dining room. Indeed, in the 1940s camp planning literature advocated what was essentially a well-equipped commercial kitchen; the Girl Scouts kitchen plan included a two-compartment deck oven (no. 7 in the plan) and a two-compartment, walk-in electric refrigerator (labeled “Meat” and “Veg.”) with deep-freeze locker (no. 16 in the plan), while the accompanying text also advocated a reach-in refrigerator in the kitchen proper. With their hard, reflective surfaces in industrial materials, these fixtures fundamentally altered the visual character of the kitchen, a development reinforced by the shift to concrete floors (recommended both for fire protection and easy cleaning).
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FIG. 9 Mealtime at YMCA Camp Conrad Weiser, Pennsylvania, circa 1950.

(Kautz Family YMCA Archives, Andersen Library, University of Minnesota.)

These architectural changes in the dining lodge paralleled other revealing changes in mealtime practices. Not only was the terminology of the mess hall abandoned in favor of the gentler dining lodge, but family metaphors reappeared, replacing military ones at every phase of the meal. Instead of being treated like interchangeable units slotted into production lines that delivered food and received dirty dishes, campers now took their meals family style with their cabin mates. Instead of joining a mass of campers at long tables, they sat at small round tables of seven or eight, with counselors standing in loco parentis. Instead of trooping individually through a cafeteria line, they stayed seated while one of their number (called the hopper) went to the serving area to pick up platters of food for the table to share. Being hopper was a rotating job, and also involved returning dirty dishes for the table to the dish-washing station. Official photographs confirm subtle changes in dining hall furnishings and the approved camper behaviors associated with them (fig. 9). The most significant change is the use of round tables that emphasized the unity of the cabin family, both by eliminating the head of the table (and the social regimentation that could imply) and by facilitating eye contact among the entire group. The rise of the dining lodge also coincided with important changes in labor organization, especially a tendency to remove campers from routine food preparation. While Camp Site Development (the 1948 Girl Scout camp

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planning manual) mentioned that campers “may assist with kitchen tasks,” it also emphasized the importance of restricting them to peripheral zones designed to limit their involvement with kitchen activities (see fig. 8). One of these zones was the breezeway near the storage area, where campers could collect supplies for a cookout or overnight trip “without being constantly in the way of the professional cook.” The other was the serving area at the other end of the kitchen, where a solid counter prevented campers from trespassing into the kitchen proper. The high-tech kitchen was now firmly the province of paid staff, with local youths furnishing the unskilled labor once provided free of charge by campers. More dependent on prepared foods—even frozen foods stored in the deep-freeze compartment— routine camp cooking had been stripped of all sense of adventure.33 Cooking undertaken by campers as part of the camp program became a completely separate activity, which often took place in the unit lodge, a new type of camp building developed in connection with the unit plan. Described in Park and Recreation Structures as “the rallying point of a camp unit,” these buildings were built for the use of twenty-four to thirty-two campers who lived in the five or six tents or cabins near by. The unit lodges built in New Deal RDAs comprised two rooms: the lodge proper, an enclosed area with a massive fireplace and ample fenestration, and a screenedin kitchen with a masonry camp stove “built integrally with the masonry chimney.” Architecturally the unit lodge was a miniaturized version of the older mess hall; in both building types, for instance, the location of the fireplace and the placement of the kitchen in line with the long axis of the main room highlighted the presence of the kitchen, which was fitted out with rudimentary cooking apparatus. Indeed, Albert Good, the author of Park and Recreation Structures, hinted at a functional similarity between the two types when he suggested that “experienced camping groups may essay to cook all their meals in the outdoor kitchen [of the unit lodge].” 34 Despite these formal similarities, however, the unit lodge came to play a very different role from the mess hall. Even Good had to admit that its primary function was not to facilitate routine cooking by campers but to let them “use it on occasion for practice cooking or the novelty of preparing a meal or two, on their own.” And, indeed, after World War II campers’ cooking rarely supplanted their regular meals. More commonly, postwar campers supplemented regular meals with snacks like “Some-Mores,” the recipe for which was published in Girl Scout handbooks as early as 1953.35 Dining lodges built in the late 1930s and 1940s were very different places from the cooking and dining tents, dining pavilions, and mess halls that housed the camp food axis earlier in the century. Now dominated by
33. Salomon, 58. 34. Good, 143. 35. Good, 143. Girl Scout Handbook: Intermediate Program (New York, 1953), 280–81.

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technologies common to commercial kitchens, cooking was no longer considered an appropriate part of the camper’s regular program, and campers (boys and girls alike) were deliberately removed from the camp kitchen. Equally important, the dining experience itself was closely modeled on practices associated with middle-class domesticity, a signal change in an institutional type initially established as an antidote to the feminized home.
The Shifting Boundary between Leisure and Work

Cooking at camp, then, was never a simple, transparent process of supplying ample quantities of wholesome food. As an important component of the food axis, cooking was an ideologically charged act through which camp organizers sought to affect the class and gender identities of their campers. Camp organizers gave serious consideration to every detail of the mealtime routine, including whether or not to make use of available kitchen technologies. Such material practices would literally shape the next generation. Nor was the growing dependence on cooking technology natural and inevitable. In the early part of the twentieth century, routine meal preparation was an integral part of the program at many camps, instilling in campers an appreciation for hard work and preparing both boys and girls for their different adult roles. Camp organizers employed available technologies only selectively, lest laborsaving devices undermine the sense of self-reliance that the camp experience was meant to foster. Camp directors introduced technologically advanced industrial kitchens only when meal preparation had become a service adjunct to the camp’s new focus on child-centered recreation. Like kitchens in prisons, hospitals, colleges and other institutions, the midcentury camp kitchen supported the socialization of campers but no longer played a direct role in that process. Yet perhaps the very notion of technology as an ideologically neutral “service adjunct” undervalues its role in cultural institutions. After all, the industrialized kitchen did not disappear from the camper’s experience of camp. Although midcentury kitchen plans kept campers behind a serving counter that prevented them from setting foot in the newly professionalized kitchen, these same plans also insured that campers had an almost panoramic view of this industrialized environment. Everything about it— its unfamiliar machinery, its reflective surfaces, its personnel—reminded campers that it was different from the rest of camp. Corralled in this separate realm and operated only by adults, midcentury kitchen technology reinforced in material ways the boundary between childhood leisure and adult work, and thus contributed to the larger mission of the camp. In the end, the American summer camp proves to be an unusually rich site for considering the complex relationship between technology and culture.

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