Canoe and Canvas

“[Canoe and Canvas is] an important invitation for paddlers — and other outdoor recreationists — to dig beneath the stories we tell ourselves about where, why, and how we play. We might not like what we find. But it just might be time to start creating new and more equitable narratives.”

Marc Fawcett-Atkinson, Literary Review of Canada

Canoe and Canvas offers a detailed portrait of the summer encampments of the American Canoe Association between 1880 and 1910. The encampments were annual events that attracted canoeing enthusiasts from both sides of the Canada-US border to socialize, race canoes, and sleep under canvas. While the encampments were located away from cities, they were still subjected to urban logics and ways of living. The encampments, thus, offer a unique sitefor exploring cultures of sport and leisure in late Victorian society, but also for considering the intersections between recreation and the politics of everyday life.

A social history of sport, Canoe and Canvas is particularly concerned with how gender, class, and race shaped the social, cultural, and physical landscapes of the ACA encampments. Although there was an ever-expanding arena of opportunity for leisure and sport in the late nineteenth century, as the example of the ACA makes clear, not all were granted equal access. Most of the members of the American Canoe Association and the majority of the campers at the annual encampments were white, middle-class men, though white women were extended partial membership in 1882, and in 1883, they were permitted to camp on site. Canoe and Canvas also reveals how Black, Indigenous, and working-class people, while obscured in the historical record, were indispensable to the smooth functioning of these events through their labour.

Reach out to your local bookseller if you wish to purchase a copy of Canoe and Canvas. Otherwise, Canoe and Canvas is available through the University of Toronto Press.

Canoe and Canvas is an excellent contribution to the social history of upper-middle-class North American sport and leisure during this period. It is painstakingly research, well organized, carefully argued, and richly illustrated.”

Bruce Kidd, University of Toronto, Author of The Struggle for Canadian Sport

“This book is a welcome addition to the growing body of scholarship that reconsiders the history of sport and recreation from critical anti-colonial and anti-racist viewpoints. Dunkin’s work is carefully researched, intelligently presented, and a pleasure to read.”

Misao Dean, University of Victoria, Author of Inheriting a Canoe Paddle

Reviews of Canoe and Canvas:

Misao Dean, “Review of Canoe and Canvas,Canadian Historical Review 102, no. 3 (September 2021): 513-14.

PearlAnn Reichwein, “Review of Dunkin, Canoe and Canvas,“ niche-canada.org. 6 July 2021.

Dale Barbour, “A Summer Paddle on a Popular Stream: A Review of Canoe and Canvas,“ Borelia: Early Canadian History. 18 January 2021.

John Summers, “Review of Canoe and Canvas,“ WoodenBoat (May-June 2020): 98-101.

Marc Fawcett-Atkinson, “White Water: When the Canoe Went Mainstream,” Literary Review of Canada (November 2019).

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