Reade, H. C. O. (2022). A Hole in the Water To Throw Money Into. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.14418/wes01.1.2555
In the late nineteenth century, Martha’s Vineyard and the Maine North Woods both developed as attractions in the new trend of ‘tourism.’ Particularly, tourists largely from the cities and suburbs of the Northeast United States visited these places to briefly escape urban modernity, and sought an experience which contrasted the negative qualities of modern life. Vacationing in these rural places therefore meant enjoying their lack of industrial development, or their ‘pre-modern’ character, as an opposition to modernity. Martha’s Vineyard and the Maine North Woods both became tourist destinations around the same time that their local industries were in decline, and have since then made tourism central parts of their new economies. Given tourism’s emphasis on rural culture’s opposition to modernity, the regions that developed such economies worked to preserve and market this character. In doing so, they entrenched myths of pre-modernity into their identities. The tourist economies of Martha’s Vineyard and Northern Maine, both previously dependent on ocean and river commerce, yielded nostalgic revivals of wooden boats whose use had been declining for decades. The catboats of the former and wood-canvas canoes of the latter are emblematic of the physical production of pre-modern myth, as the attention of bourgeois tourists allowed for the continued production of artisan-made boats that would otherwise have faded into antiquity. These boats were constructed around the turn of the twentieth century, based on memories of functional vernacular craft and sought after by a new market of vacationers looking for ways to experience pre-modernity. The canoes and catboats of this era combined local culture and artisanship with recreation, and now provide material evidence for the exchange between the urban bourgeois and rural communities around the turn-of-the-century.