America Learns To Play; A History Of Popular Recreation, 1607-1940

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Came across this interesting book on the history of leisure of America. It only goes up to 1940. I still think it's worth reading because it lays down the origins and history of recreation and play here in America. It seems like after the start of the industrial revolution, all of the sudden recreation became popular and all these games were invented for the masses to play. This book talks about baseball, football, hockey, basketball, running and other sports being participated in by the masses or spectated by the masses like never before after people went from an agricultural based society to an industrial machine oriented society here in America.

A good portion of the book talks about the Circus as a theatrical attraction. It talks about P.T. Barnum and his rise to fame by using the circus as a big spectacular attraction for the masses during the 1800s. Also this books talks about how religion used to teach the importance of hard work with very little leisure and how that had to all change in the 1800s once mass leisure was getting popular.

This book also touches on the vaudeville scene and the start of the motion picture industry as mass amounts of people sought leisure in the form of spectating at vaudeville performances and the movie theaters.

What I take away from a book like this is that it shows how a majority of Americans went from hard work on farms with more freewill (no bosses to report to/work for) to the industrial revolution where there was still hard work but now in the form of monotonous tasks being performed for a capitalist boss; thus the powers that be realized that this form of repetition was going to create an aversion to the machine oriented industry they were trying to get people to switch over. So suddenly leisure became popular for people to vent from the mental anguish of working at repetitive tasks in industrial jobs. To get people to stay within the mindset of accepting the new capitalist industrial society, mass leisure was launched for the public to consume.

This book talked about how the masses suddenly had more free time because of machines taking over and therefore that time was spent on leisure like never before in history. I think mass leisure/recreation was a artificial construct launched by the powers that be and their minions to get people into accepting the industrialized society in the 1800s and it's still being used today. Also I think this book ties into entertaining ourselves to death (Neil Postman) which is now apart of present day society. Our society keeps drifting further towards leisure and entertainment and I think this is by design.

Here's the free archive.org version of this book, which you can also read on archive.org:

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