*** boys clothing for outdoor activities and other outings

Activities and Events Away from Home: Specific Activities

Figure 1.--The seaside and beaches were an early popular family outing. Here we see American children about 1910. We think they are at Coney Island, but we are not sure.

Many fashions are associated with a variety of family outings or at showcase contemprary fashions. Most cities opened public parks in the 19th century. Hyde Park in London and Central Park in New York were two of the most famous. These outings were an excellent opportunity to display the latest fashions and mothers insisted that the children be attired as fashionally as they did. Family incomes were rising in the 19th century, especially the late 19th century. Many families for the first time had the money to go on outings, especially during the warm summer months when the rapidly expanding private and state schools were not in session. Families in the 19th century often dressed up for these events like picnics or even trips to the seaside, outings that would be considered casual events in our modern world. Mostof these events were family events. One major event specifically for the children were summner campos--often a child's first experience away from home. Some families went camping as a family group.


Outings to the beach began in 18th Century Europe for the wealthy. By the late 19th Century even people of modest means were acquiring the habit of seeking a vacation and the seafront was a popular choice. Many were going to the beach, to escape the heat of the inner city. Many large cities had nearbu beach resorts. The clothes they wore, while perhaps casual by the convention of the day, seem amazingly formal and heavy to our modern eyes. One of the most popular choices for boys was the white or light colored sailor suits.

Bikes and Pedals Cars

Bicycles of various designs appeared in Europe and America during the late 19th century. Primitive bicycle-like contaptions appeared earlier, but were novelties until improvements made the bicycle more useful to the public. At first they were difficult to ride, but continued improvements made them practical mode of transportation by the late 19th century. Tricycles appeared for younger children as well as a variety of pedal cars.


Boating is another popular activity for boys. Girls also enjoyed boating, but boys seem much more interested. Most city boys got their boaring experiences at camp or if wealthy at summer cottages. There are quite a variety of boats involved here: canoes, motorbosats, rafts, rowboats, and saillboats. Some boys used boats fir fishing. Other activities are associated with boating, including diving and water skiing. But for many boys boating was popular just for the fun of being on the water.


Here we are talking about two different phenomenon. One is family camping. This meant the family going into wilderness areas and living at campsites around beautiful scenery and fresh air. Naturewalks, and fishing are often associated with family hiking, but hunting less commonly. We have relatively little information about family camping. We suspect that this may be an American phenomenon and partially associated with the development of the automobile, but this is just speculation at this point. One interesting aspect of family camping is the relative formality of dress even while roughong it in the country side. The other important type of campingis summer camp. Here we are talking about estanlished camps for children in senic sides near cities. These camps were normally situated on lakes so water activities could be added to the program. Again this seems to have been an American phenomenon, at least at first, but soon became popular in America.


Ealy cars were very expensive. From the beginning the car became an important tool in family outings. The car was perfect as the whole family could pile in and there was room for everything required for a picnic as well as other items like horse shoes. The cost, however, meant that only the very rich could go out on these outings. Once Henry Ford began producing the economically priced Mode-T, outing in the family car became popular wuith even Americans with modest incoms. Family outings in cars became a destinctly Americn expeience because cars were much more wudely owned in American than in other countries.


Circuses in the sence of equestrian and animsal shows date back to the Roman Empire. The modern circus dates to the late-18th century. England played a particulasrly mportant role. We notice portrits of the costumes worn by child performers in the circus during the 19th century. Picasso famously painted child performers. Child labor laws have restricted this agter the turn of the 20th century. The circus was hugely popular among children. We note large numbers of children who had their portrait taken wearing clown costumes in the late-19th and early-20th century . The single most popular one was the circus clown. Boys dreamed of running away from the circus. This was depicted in several movies, such as Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus. Going to the circus was a huge treat for children in the 19th and early 20th century. It has perhaps declined somewhat in popularity since World War II, in part because there are so many other recreational activities available to modern children. We do not have a general circus page. We do not yet have a general circus page. We do have pages on individual countries such as America, Belgium, England, and Germany.


The fair is an event of ancient origins. The modren fair has evolved from medieval traveling caravans of merchants and entertainers. There were also ancvient predecesors with whichnless is known, but there are connections with the hravest season as well as religious worship and feasting. The origins of the term comes from Latin 'feriae' meaning days of holiday, rest, and feasting. Fairs became part of the quickening of commerce as Europe moved out of the Dark Ages. Fairs developed in market towns whih also became religious centers such as cathedral cities. They that drew large numbers of people for religious ceremonies, but these were often not solem occassions. The events drew merchants, vendors, and entertainers of all sorts (acrobats, actors, clowns and musicians). This was not just a European phenomenon. We see similar events in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The Haj is a religious pilgrimage which even today includes a caravan of traders. There was an association with agriculture at historic fairs. The basis of ecomomies through the 18th century was primarily agriculture. Most people lived in ther country and were involved in farming. Crowds were generated by atracting rural people into the towns and cities for the religious events, enterainment, food, and more. Farm produce could be sold and livestock traded. The industrial revolution changed the nature of many fairs. Populations grew in the cities and increasingly fairs became more purely entertaiment events. Some were even called 'fun fairs'. Items once sold in fairs were now sold in shops. There were still agricultural fairs and shows, but urban fairs often had little agricultural connections. In America the agricultural fair became major ecents. Elkanah Watson was a major figure in the development of the American agricultural fair. Watson founded the Berkshire Agricultural Society in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1810 and, at its second annual meeting, the Society offered prizes in a competitive display of livestock. This was just the beginning. Prizes and certificates for excellence were awarded for livestock, field and orchard crops, and handicrafts. There were all kinds of contests: plowing, spinning, cooking, sewing, races. and much more. Parades with marching band were a popular attrction. And all kinds of tasty treats began to be offered. Commerce, competition and celebration became the major ingredients of popular agricukltural fairs. Fun ridessuch as the carosel appered and were popular with the children. They were held at the country and state levels and have continued into the modern industrail era.


Summer fêtes are common in Britain. They are fund raising events held by churches, schools, villages, and various chgaraties. They are momally outdoor events held on village greens or various recreation grounds. chools and churches use thaeir own grounds. A variety of activities and games are organizxed. Fêtes can also be seen in former British colonies. Attractions can include tombolas, raffles, coconut shies, bat a rat stalls, white elephant stalls, cakes, and home produce such as jams and pickles. Competitive baking, such as making Victoria sponge cake are all part of the classic British fête. School fêtes often have booths created by and manned by the children. Entertainment at fêtes may include Morris dancing, tug of war, fancy dress, and pet shows.


Garden Parties

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding was not just a sport or passtime in the 19th century. Horse power was how people traveled. The clothes boys wore while riding horses is thus an interesting question, especially before they were breeched.



Many of the activities here are active outdoor activities. Not all boys were athletically inclined. Even those that were had occassion to visit the local public libary system. This was both to check out reading material and to do research for school. America in particular developed a superb public library system, out classing amy country in Europe. Many people recall getting a library card. That opened up a while new world, searching through the stacks. Libraries today are an imoortantboart of modern lide and bow are nit hust about books, but are media centers. Lovraries have existed since ancuent times. The Alexandria Library os surely the best known. Free public libraries are a modern invention and Amneriva led the way. Early American public libraries were established through philanthropic contributions (18th century). From this developed free public libraries (19th century). This was a product of course of feee market capitalism. Andrew Carnege in America played an especially important role in launching public libraries. This allowed even low income families access to books for their children. Public llibraries in other countries were more due to municipal and developed for the most part after American public libraties.


Parks existed before the 19th century, but it was in the 19th century that they came into their own. As industru=ial cities grew, it was incesinky seen that gree areas for the city eidents were neded. Many of the most famous parks, like New York's Central Park, were opened in the 19th century. Some parents used to dress their children up even for park outings. An important event in the daily life of nursery-bound children were daily outings to the parks which were created in important European and American cities. Many autobiographies of British, European, and American cities recall outings to Hyde and St. James Parks (London) and Central Park (New York) and a long list of smaller parks. Some of the first European zoos were attractions built in these parks. Many property owners maintained private parks in cul de sacs in their own neighborhoods. This and linked pages seeks to show the clothing worn by boys for these outings during various historical periods.


A popular outing for children of all ages are parties. The most common for younger children is the birtday party. The birthday party is today the most important day of the year for mmany children in the Western world. We are not sure about other countries. It certainly is for American children, equalled only by Christmas. The same is true for children throughout Europe. We assume that birthdays parties are also held in many other countries around the world, but have few details. We are not sure when birthday parties first became major events for children. We suspect that it is one of the institutions that became established during the Victorian age as the modern concept of childhood began to form. I'm not sure about the precise chronology of birthday paries. I know they were a well established convention by the time I started having mine in the 1940s. Children used to dress up for their birthday parties, although this varied from country to country. Modern birthday partoes are decidely casual events. Birtday parties are not the only type of parties for younger children, but they are the most important. American birthday parties primarily involve inviting childhood friends. In other countries it is more of a family affair. For older children, other kinds of parties begin to become more important.


I have collected very little information about picnics. I believe it is primarily a custom that became popular in the 19th century. This does not mean that picnics were not heald earlier, but I believe the picnic did not become a really popular event until the 19th century. Customs varied from country to country. The 4th of July picnic in America, for example, was the high point of the summer. As is trur for most occasions, dress was much more formal at 19th century picnics. What was considered casual at the time, such as boaters, blazers, and flannel trousers were summer picnic staples.

Punch and Judy Shows

One staple in Victorian and Edwardian parks and sea side resorts were the ubiquitous punch and judy pupet theaters. In the days before animated movies and cartoon TV shows, children of all ages delighted in these shows. Punch and Judy are the most famous puppets of all time and a delight to Eurioean children for centuries. An interesting glimpse of 19th and early 20th century boys' clothes is available by viewing the many images of the ubiquitos Punch and Judy shows. Most images of Punch and Judy shows come from the early 20th century, in fact the orgins go back to medieval Europe. In the days before movies, radio, and television they were a special treat for the children. They have not entirely disappeared, but are not nearly as important as in the past.

soap box derby Netherlands
Figure 2.--Soap Box Derbies which originated in America, proved extremely popular after World ar II in Europe. This image is from a Soap Box Derby in the Netherlands during 1950.

Soap Box Derbies

The Soap Box Derby was created by the American press photographer Myron E. Scott about 1940. He once saw boys going down a hill in their self made cars. These cars were often made out of soap boxes, hence the readson for the name. It was his idea to organize soap box races. These races were an immediate success in America and after World War II (1939-45) also caught on in Europe. In some countries such as the Netherlands they continud to be popular in the 1980s! In America it was one of the major youth evnts. About 4 million people attended the 1949 national soap box races in Akron, Ohio. The substantial press coverage provide us with fascinating annual glimpses of boys clothing in each fo the countries where the Soap o Drbies were held.

Summer Camps

HBC has not yet found a history of the summer camp movement. We believe it began in the late 19th century, even before the devlopment of camps bu uniformed groups like the Boy Scouts after he turn of the 20th century. Here we will consider summer camps not set up my youth groups like the Scouts, Hitler Youth, Young Pioneers, and others. The popularity of summer camps has varied greatly from country to country and over time. Usually boys wore their own clothes at these summer camps, but some camps had simple uniforms.


Travel is of course related to several other activities such as beaches, summer camps, and vacations, but so many images exist related to travel that it really becomes a category of its own. Trends varied from country to country. Many images exist from European railroad stations. In America the prefered mode of transporation was the family car. Conventions have varied over time. Families who once used to dress up to take a trip now dress very casually. Modes of transportaion have also changed. Rail travel was key in the late 19th and early 20 centuries. While still important in some countries, cars and planes now are often the prefered conveyances. The avialble images provide us many glimses at changing fashion trends.


I am not precisely sure when the advent of paid vacation time and annual summer outings began. I think we are primarily talking about the 20th century.

Zoological Parks

The origins of moder zoos are the menageries kept by royal and nobel families on the grounds of their palaces. A zoolgical park was in many ways similar to visits to other urban parks. In fact some of the early zoos were set in existing parks such as the Regents Park Zoo in London or the Cental Park Zoo in New York. The visits o the zoos, however, wer different in that the children came primarily to view the animals rather than to play like roll hoops or to sail model sail boats. By the late 19th century, major European capitals and many other large cities had zoos which had become very popular. We believe that boys wore much the same clothes when visiting zoos as they did when going to other urban parks, but this requires confirmation.

Unknown Events

We have noted some photographs taken at family outings. It is no clear grom the photograph, however, where it was taken. Boardwalks and state and country fairs, as well as other attractions often had fun places tgo be photographed. Some gtimes you stuck your head through holes in a humerous board. There were, however, many other more creative photographic experience. Of course these photographic booths were particularly poular in the early 20th century when family snap shots and photogrpjy was not as ubiquitous as is the case today.


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Created: 6:33 PM 6/11/2009
Last updated: 4:18 PM 1/11/2022