While swim suit styles have evolved over the years, there are some things about summer in America that haven’t changed much.
From camping trips to amusement park excursions, Americans have enjoyed the simple pleasures of warm-weather activities for decades. Keep scrolling to see 35 vintage photos of summer in the US.
Going to the beach remains a quintessential summer activity.
What we wear to the beach may evolve, but sea and sand will never go out of style.
There were plenty of ways to enjoy a day on the sand, from a romantic picnic…
People have enjoyed eating outdoors for centuries, according to research librarian and food historian Lynne Olver. But the modern picnic basket is a relatively recent innovation.
“The largest [woven baskets] seem to resemble trunks, and that might be where we get the picnic hamper from,” the late Olver told NPR in a 2013 interview. “Picnic basket kits as we know today – having placeholders for dishes and silverware and glasses and napkins – actually begin to appear at the very dawn of the 20th century.”
…to a ball game.
The beach ball was invented in the ’30s, and has been a shore side staple since.
A man named Jonathan DeLonge invented the inflatable version of the ubiquitous beach toy in 1938.
Although people in early civilizations protected themselves from the sun with plant extracts, sunscreen as we know it today was invented in the 1930s and ’40s.
Sunscreen was popularized in the US after Benjamin Green, a Florida airman and pharmacist, invented a petroleum jelly-like lotion in 1944.
But there weren’t SPF ratings until the 1960s – and the scale wasn’t standardized until a decade after that.
Whether splashing in the waves…
… or building a sand castle, sunscreen was essential.
You should be wearing sunscreen daily – even if it’s cloudy out.
Beaches could be crowded…
Expectations for beach side vacations don’t always live up to reality.
Luckily, you could often escape the crowds by retreating to a boardwalk café.
Summer and al fresco dining have always gone hand-in-hand.
Or by renting a sailboat.
It looks like smooth sailing for this couple.
Even if you lived in a large city like New York, you could enjoy a leisurely summer boat ride.
The Central Park Lake spans more than 22 acres.
Or cool off in front of the spray of a fire hydrant.
New Yorkers have a long history of cracking open fire hydrants to cool off in the summer.
Or go swimming in the street.
It’s actually legal to open hydrants in the Big Apple if they’re fitted with sprinkler caps (also called spray caps). The devices control the volume of liquid being sprayed to reduce water waste.
Or escape to an island. Hawaii has always been a popular vacation spot for beach-lovers.
Although tourism was suspended in the Aloha State during World War II, Hawaii began to attract sightseers (as opposed to merchant seamen) in the 1860s.
American writer and humorist Mark Twain famously visited the archipelago – then called the Sandwich Islands – as a correspondent for the Sacramento Union newspaper.
Summer also means music festivals. There’s one for every genre, from classical…
This 1960 concert was held at the Berkshire Music Center (now called the Tanglewood Music Center).
…to rock and folk.
The legendary Woodstock Music & Art Fair took place over three days in August 1969 in Bethel, New York.
Summer has traditionally been a time to catch up with friends…
Nothing beats reading a good book outdoors on a sunny day.
… no matter your age.
It’s fun to bond over games, whether you’re playing cards or a classic board game.
Amusement parks have also always been a popular choice for summer day trips.
Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, boasts an iconic boardwalk. Between 1880 and World War II, Coney had the largest amusement area in the US.
In its heyday, there were three distinct amusement parks: Luna Park (which was revitalized in 2010), Dreamland, and Steeplechase Park.
Or for a summer job.
Amusement and theme parks in the US employ 500,000 seasonal employees, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA).
I scream, you scream…
We all scream for ice cream.
Warm weather meant outdoor cookouts.
You could make breakfast, like this pancake-flipper at a camp run by the Madison Square Boys Club (a founding member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America).
Or any meal at all.
People exercised in style, whether on vacation…
Danish inventor Mikael Pedersen is credited with inventing the tandem bicycle in the late 19th century.
…or at summer camp.
Summer camps were introduced in North America in the 1880s as a product of the “back-to- nature” trend – a movement gaining traction in an increasingly industrialized world.
One of the first organized summer camps in America, Camp Chocorua, was located in New Hampshire.
Open from 1881 to 1889, the camp was founded by Dartmouth student Ernest Balch.
Before email, campers relied on snail mail to stay in touch with friends and family.
Even today, many camps ban the use of computers.
Campers learned practical skills…
Like how to hand-wash clothes.
There were camps to fit every interest — including programs run by military academies.
Admiral Farragut Academy, a military academy and prep school, operated a summer camp at its campus in Pine Beach, New Jersey.
Although the Garden State school closed in 1994, the Academy still operates its second campus in St. Petersburg, Florida.
And camps run by religious organizations.
The Epworth League, a Methodist youth association, operated day camps for city children. One of the organization’s camps was located in Jamesport, New York, on Long Island.
There were also camps for the artistically-inclined.
Founded in the early 20th century by artists from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ox-Bow offers one- and two-week courses as well as residencies and fellowships.
Among Ox-Bow’s alumni are Expressionist painter LeRoy Neiman and Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz.
The campgrounds we’re familiar with today were established in the 1930s.
They were developed by the National Park Service as “Recreation Demonstration Areas.”
People who camped also went fishing.
New Hampshire, which has 944 lakes, remains a go-to destination for fishing enthusiasts.
But no matter how much fun you had, the season always came to an end eventually.
Wave goodbye to summer and say hello to fall.
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