Camping at Columbia Lake

One of my favorite activities this time of year is camping.  The summer heat has broken, making it more comfortable to sleep inside a breeze-less tent, and the slight chill in the air makes it more enjoyable to sit around a camp fire.  I was thinking about camping the other day and started thinking about how camping has changed over the years.  Now-a-days we can pack all of our camping gear in a light-weight backpack weighing in at under 100 lbs without having to “do without” any of the essentials.  But can you imagine these campers putting all of their supplies in one pack?

Camp Parlor, Columbia, 1895.  1985.134.483.

Camp Parlor, Columbia, 1895. 1985.134.483.

I find this set of photographs in our collection extremely enthralling, especially after doing a bit more research on them.  The photographs were taken by Edward B. Owen, a young Manchester man born around 1877 to a lawyer father.  Edward would have been about 17 years of age at the time this camping expedition to Columbia Lake took place and these photographs were taken.  The photograph shown below is of “The Gang” and lists each person and even some of their nicknames.

The Gang Camping at Columbia. 1894. 1985.134.462

The Gang Camping at Columbia, 1894. 1985.134.462.

The participants on this particular excursion were: Mrs. Owen “The boss” possibly Edward’s mother; Esther B. Owen (about 22) and Katherine B. Owen “Rats” (about 18) Edward’s older sisters; Clara von Wettberg “Grandmother” (about 20); Katherine Spencer and Robert Spencer; Louise M. Seyms (about 17); James Thomson; and brothers Edward B. Morris “General” (about 18) and John F. Morris “Baby” (about 16).

Second Relief, Columbia Camping Party, 1895. 1985.134.484.

Second Relief, Columbia Camping Party, 1895. 1985.134.484.

After a bit of research into some of the individuals in “The Gang,” a few interesting details come to light…such as the fact that they are all members of prosperous Hartford County families and grow up in households with multiple servants.  I find this fact very intriguing as many of the photos of the camping trip would likely classify as “roughing it” to these young adults, photographs of doing dishes or scrubbing laundry.  I find it interesting that their “vacation” includes the type of chores their servants do every day.

Exercising the Washboards, Columbia, 1894. 1985.134.464.

Exercising the Washboards, Columbia, 1894. 1985.134.464.

The photographs appear to span two different camping trips, one in 1894 and the other in 1895.  However, it also appears that many of the same people attended both.  The activities of camp life, aside from the already mentioned dishes and laundry, are fairly relaxed, as they are on most camping trips.  Photographs of people reading, writing/sketching, lounging, and even playing instruments, help illustrate the camping trip and the activities of these friends.

Quartet at Camp Columbia, 1895. 1985.134.476.

Quartet at Camp Columbia, 1895. 1985.134.476.

Columbia Camping Party: the boss, 1895. 1985.134.486.

Columbia Camping Party: the boss, 1895. 1985.134.486.

This last photograph is certainly how I like to spend the majority of my time when camping…lounging in nature!  Don’t forget to do like these young folks did, and get out and enjoy this beautiful season.

This entry was posted in Collections and tagged , , , , by Karen. Bookmark the permalink.

About Karen

Karen DePauw is a Research and Collections Associate at The Connecticut Historical Society. Along with aiding patrons who visit the museum in their research efforts, Karen works behind the scenes with the costume and textile collection. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History, double minoring in Theatre and Theology, from Quincy University. Karen obtained her Master of Science degree at the University of Rhode Island in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising, and Design, with a specialization in Historic Costumes and Textiles.

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