The Book

Canoe and Canvas: Life at the Annual Encampments of the American Canoe Association, 1880-1910 (In press with University of Toronto Press).


Canoe and Canvas is a close reading of the annual meetings and encampments of the American Canoe Association between 1880 and 1910. It follows the temporal arc of organizing and attending a meet from the identification of a site to the dismantling of the tents. In a series of thematically organized chapters, the book considers the locations the canoeists chose, the ways in which they organized the encampments, the activities that occupied them for the two weeks, and the workers who made their leisure possible.



The annual meetings of the ACA are a unique site for exploring cultures of sport and leisure in late Victorian society. Canoe and Canvas is particularly concerned with how gender, class, and race shaped the social, cultural, and physical landscapes of the encampments. While there was an ever-expanding arena of opportunities for leisure and sport in the late nineteenth century, as the example of the ACA makes clear, not all were granted equal access; the majority of the campers were white, middle-class men. Canoe and Canvas is also concerned with understanding the broader effects of the encampments on the lives, liveliehoods, and lands of rural whites, Indigenous peoples, and Black Americans through an examination of the workers who made the events possible and the territorial imperatives of the encampments.

The author recreates the world of the encampments through a close reading of association literature, newspapers and magazines, letters and memoirs, and photographs and scrapbooks. These primary sources are made sense of using a broad secondary literature. Canoe and Canvas contributes to a number of historical fields, including the history of travel and tourism, environmental history, gender history, and the history of labour. However, it is chiefly a history of sport and leisure.