Leisure in America,
In a farming
society, work is defined more by the seasons and need than by the
divisions of a clock. Planting, cultivating, harvesting and food
preservation are seasonal work. Fixing fences, mending tools, and
caring for animals are more need-based – the work is done when the
need arises or time permits. Time not working was more flexible and
dependent upon the current needs of the farm.
Leisure time, as we
know it, is an invention of the industrial era, where work takes
place at a certain location and is driven by a strict time
schedule. In the early industrial era, the location was the factory
and the strict time schedule was communicated by the mill bell which
rang out work start and stop times for more than 10 hours a day, six
days a week.
industrial society, defined by factory and office work, the strictly
defined time to work created an equally strictly defined time not to
work. Evenings, Sundays, and eventually Saturdays became “time off”
and a new opportunity opened up: what to do with this time off?
Massachusetts’ industrial economy had been growing for 60 years.
What to do with the populations’ leisure time had become an industry
in its own right. From the mid-19th century, when the
mill girls of Lowell created their own literary books and societies,
new ways to entertain during leisure time had been growing as well.