Date

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

History

First Adviser

Cutcliffe, Stephen

Other advisers/committee members

Simon, Roger; Pettegrew, John; Rome, Adam

Abstract

On the Trail: A History of American Hiking is a national history outlining a novel interpretation of the American hiking community as it evolved from the pursuit of nineteenth-century urban elites to a mass phenomenon by the 1970s. In contrast to historians' abiding assumption that environmental institutions flourished during the 1960s and 1970s, this work offers an account of the disintegration of a remarkably rich culture promoted by organized hiking clubs during the previous one hundred years. Between the end of World War II and the late 1960s, the size of the American hiking community grew exponentially, as millions of people went to the nation's trails for the first time. In a crucial departure from previous trends, most of these new hikers eschewed membership in an organized hiking club and instead hiked alone or in small, informal groups. Drawing from scholarship in American cultural history and environmental politics, this work argues that the typical American hiker evolved from a net producer--of information, maps, well-maintained trails, advocacy, outings and club culture--to a net consumer--of equipment, national magazines, and federally-subsidized trails. As Americans came to see trail access as a basic right--something for which they paid taxes and felt that government should provide--the volunteer ethic that had defined the hiking community for more than one hundred years was diminished.

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