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A History of Camping

Camping with a Pop-up Camper in 1973. Photo courtesy of the Ackermans.

The camping industry over the last few years has really boomed.  Trailer sales are soaring and campgrounds are becoming destination locations with amazing amenities and activities for all ages. In addition to tents and trailers, families can camp in style (now known as Glamping) in yurts, treehouses, cabins, park models and even tents all fully furnished.  So how and when did it all begin?

Let’s rewind the clock to 1869.  William Henry Harrison Murray, father of the Outdoor Movement, published Camp-Life in the Adirondacks.  This publication highlighted the beauty, adventure and even medicinal advantages of camping in the Adirondacks.  Within 5 years of publication 200 camps were erected, not necessarily tent campsites but many family compounds of cabins.  Overseas, the Thames River in the UK in the 1880’s was the the place to be; boating was all the rage and along with it, camping.  Folks used their boats to transport equipment or even used their boats as a place to camp.  This type of recreation led to a more organized revolution of the activity thanks to Thomas Hiram Holding, later known as the “father of Modern Camping”.  Holding, an outdoor enthusiast and traveler most his life, published Cycle and Camp in Connemara (1901) and The Campers Handbook (1908).   It was thanks to his first book that the Association of Cycle Campers was born, the first known camping group.

When it comes to physical camping locations the first US campground established may have been the Gunnery Camp in Washington, Connecticut in 1861.  This was a boys camping area developed by Frederick and Abigail Gunn who ran a boys school.  In 1874, the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) founded “Sea Rest” a campground for women in Asbury Park, New Jersey.  The men followed, developing a YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) camp named Camp Dudley in Newburgh, New York in 1885.  Soon after, campgrounds were developed by the Boy Scouts, followed by the Girl Scouts and the National Park Service. The first possible public camping ground in the world may have been established in 1894, Cunningham’s Camp on the Isle of Man, between England and Ireland.  All of these camping grounds paved the way for private land owners to establish their own.  Driftstone Campground was established by Earl and Margaret Ackerman in 1965, becoming fully operational in 1966.

Entrance of Driftstone in 1973. Photo courtesy of the Ackermans.