The History of Organized Camping

Camping is a unique American tradition. Withalmost 140 years of history, the summer camp as we know it todayahs its roots deeply planted in American soil. But while clothing,music and past-times have changed over the years, camp has alwaysbeen a place where children could prepare to be productive andhealthy adults in the context of fun and games.

1861

The Gunnery Camp is founded.

The gunnery Camp is considered the first organized American camp.Frederick W. Gunn and his wife Abigail operated a home school forboys in Washington, Conn. In 1861, they took the whole school on atwo-week trip. The class hiked to their destination and then setup camp. The students spent their time boating, fishing andtrapping. The trip was so successful, the Gunns continued thetradition for 12 years.

1874

First YWCA camp

The Philadelphia chapter of the YWCA holds the organization’sfirst camp (or “vacation project,” as it was called).This summer boarding and vacation house was for “tired youngwomen wearing out their lives in an almost endless drudgery forwages that admit no thought for rest or recreation.”

1876

The first private camp founded

Dr. Joseph Trimble Rothrock founds the North Mountain School ofPhysical Culture near Wilkes-Barre, Pa. For about $200 boys fromPhiladelphia and Wilkes-Barre came for four months over thesummer. The idea was to take “weakly boys out into camp lifein the woods … so that the pursuit of health could be combinedwith the practical knowledge outside usual academic lines.”(Dr. Rothrock)

1885

First YMCA camp

Summer F. Dudley and seven boys from the YMCA in Newburgh, NY goon a camping trip. By 1891 there were 83 campers.

1900

First Boys’ Club camp

The Boys’ Club in Salem, Mass. Organizes a seven week summer campand 76 boys attend. By 1930, more than 60 Boys’ Clubs conductsummer camp with approximately 26,088 campers attending.

1910

The American Camping Association is founded

Under the original name, Camp Directors Association of America (CDAA),founder Alan S. Williams creates a model and standardizinginfluence in organized camping for the young. The CDAA merges withthe national Association of Directors of Girls’ Camps in 1924 andchanges its name to the Camp Director Association (CDA). In 1935,the name is changed to the American Camping Association.

1914

First Camp Fire Girls camp

Approximately 500 Camp Fire Girls participate.

1922

First Girl Scout camp

Ever since its founding in 1912, camp has played an important rolein the Girl Scout program. In 1922, the organization decides tocharter camps throughout the country.

1926

First issue of ACA’s Camping Magazine

Camping Magazine is the official publication of the AmericanCamping Association, under the authorization of the National Boardof Directors. Its purpose is to inform and educate campprofessionals and others in related fields so they cansuccessfully serve their clientele.

1930’s

National Park Service develops Recreation Demonstration Areas

As part of the federal government’s wo5rk relief programs, theNational Park Service develops Recreation Demonstration Areas, 34of which are organized camping facilities made available for leaseby camping groups that did not own camping grounds. These sitesare later turned over to state agencies, particularly state parks.

1948

Camp Standards are adopted by ACA

The standards, which are the basis for ACA camp accreditation, arerecognized by courts of law and government regulators as thestandards of the camp industry. There are currently 300 standardsfor health, safety and program.

1968

There are approximately 70 million youths in America and almost 8million of them have a camp experience.

1996

ASCAP agreement reached

The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers(ASCAP) agrees to let ACA-accredited camps pay only $1 per yearfor all ASCAP licensed music. Previously, camps had to pay severalhundred dollars each year even for informal sing alongs.

1998

The New Your Public School System initiates Breakaways

Creating a new model for public education, our nation’s largestpublic school system incorporates camp into its curriculum. Thenew focus on year-round learning adds up to 28 days ofnon-traditional learning during the summer and school-year breaks.

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