Tourists and travelers in the early nineteenth century saw American cities as ugly spaces, lacking the art and history that attracted thousands to the great cities of Europe. By the turn of the century, however, city touring became popular in the United States, and the era saw the rise of elegant hotels, packaged tours, and train travel to cities for vacations that would entertain and edify. This fascinating cultural history, studded with vivid details bringing the experience of Victorian-era travel alive, explores the beginnings of urban tourism, and sets the phenomenon within a larger cultural transformation that encompassed fundamental changes in urban life and national identity.
Focusing mainly on New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Catherine Cocks describes what it was like to ride on Pullman cars, stay in the grand hotels, and take in the sights of the cities. Her evocative narrative draws on innovative readings of sources such as guidebooks, travel accounts, tourist magazines, and the journalism of the era. Exploring the full cultural context in which city touring became popular, Cocks ties together many themes in urban and cultural history for the first time, such as the relationships among class, gender, leisure, and the uses and perceptions of urban space. Offering especially lively reading, Doing the Town provides a memorable journey into the experience of the new urban tourist at the same time as it makes a sophisticated contribution to our understanding of the urban and cultural development of the United States.