What is this?

playground-thumbOur exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it?

Children playing in outdoor gymnasium, Pope Park, Hartford, 1908, gift of Horace B. Clark. Reproduced from the originals in the CHS collection.

Children playing in outdoor gymnasium, Pope Park, Hartford, 1908, gift of Horace B. Clark. Reproduced from the originals in the CHS collection.

From 1865-1918, cities grew, and work became more mechanized. Work hours decreased, salaries increased, and people had more money and time to spend on leisure activities.

Attitudes about free time shifted, and there were competing views about acceptable places and ways to spend free time.

The parks movement in the mid- to late-nineteenth century was in reaction to this and provided free recreation to children and adults alike. Resorts gave upper and middle class families an alternative to spending their vacations in the city.

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The nation’s bicycle craze in the 1880s provided women, in particular, with the chance to pursue more outdoor activities and to pioneer more casual clothing styles.

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Railroads made traveling circuses and other shows accessible across the nation.

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Theater expanded from burlesque and Shakespeare to opera, Broadway shows, and nickelodeons (small movie theaters).

Golf, football, baseball, and horse racing were the most popular sports to watch and play.

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Mike Messina is the Interpretive Projects Associate at the Connecticut Historical Society.

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