“The playground of today is the republic of tomorrow”: social reform and organized recreation in the USA, 1890-1930’s

Photograph of children playing at the University of Chicago Settlement, captioned "Gymnasium of University Settlement." From page 388 of The Kindergarten Teacher, vol. 13, 1900-1901. Sourced from the Wikimedia Commons where it is said to be in the public domain.

Linnea M. Anderson explores the development of organized recreation programmes in the American settlement and playground movements. She examines core themes and methodologies. These emphasized the relationship between organized play, health, character, and democracy.

Contents: introduction · the playground movement · settlements in the united states · recreation as social reform · conclusion · further reading and references · how to cite this article

The development of organized recreation programs in the American settlement and playground movements during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was part of the progressive reform response to industrialization, urbanization, and immigration and reflected concerns about the influence of the physical and social environment on the individual. This paper offers a brief background on the settlement and playground movements in the United States and gives an overview of core themes surrounding recreation, as expressed by social reformers from 1900 to the 1930’s. By current standards, some of the concerns and issues regarding recreation sound very earnest, and almost quaint. However, recreation activities, particularly recreation for youth, were a serious subject of social reform. Health, fitness, and physical activity for the individual were viewed as important national assets. Recreation was a means by which life in a urban industrial society could be made more tolerable, immigrant children molded into Americans, and children of all classes protected from vice and prepared for citizenship. Equally important, reformers viewed organized recreation as a way to reconcile the needs of an industrial nation with the principles of democracy.

The American settlement and playground movements shared many of the same theories about the importance of recreation. The two movements evolved at essentially the same time and cross-pollinated both ideas and personnel. Recreation ideologies and programs in both were influenced by turn of the century progressive reform spirit; belief in both public and private solutions to social problems; and emerging theories of psychology and child development, including the recognition of adolescence as significant developmental period. Across the country, particularly in poor, urban areas, settlement houses and playground associations established some of the first playgrounds and fought for public funding for recreation. They developed core themes and methodologies that emphasized the relationship between organized play, health, character, and democracy.

The playground movement

Histories of the playground movement credit the Sand Gardens in Boston, which were established in 1886, with being the first supervised, public playground in the U.S. When Charlesbank Gymnasium opened in Boston in 1889, it became the first public, free, equipped outdoor playground. The first playground in New York City opened in 1890 by University Settlement. In 1894, Hull House playground opened in Chicago. By 1905, 35 American cities had supervised playgrounds and the city of Chicago alone spent $5 million on 10 new playgrounds. (National Recreation Association records, “Brief History of the Playground and Recreation Movement in America”; Knapp and Hartsoe, 1979; Curtis, 1907 “The Playground”)

As the call for play space for children gained ground, the Playground Association of America (PAA) was established in 1906. The founding meeting of the Association was held at the YMCA in Washington DC on April 12, 1906. The delegates were eighteen men and women from playground associations, public school and municipal recreation departments, settlements, teachers’ colleges, the kindergarten movement, and charity organizations. Luther H Gulick, director of physical education in the New York City school system and founder of the Public School Physical Education Society and the Academy of Physical Education, was elected as the association’s first president. Gulick brought a YMCA-influenced belief in the connection between physical and spiritual health to the PAA. [In 1891, while head of the gymnasium department of the YMCA’s training school in Springfield, Illinois, Gulick, along with James Naismith, developed the game of basketball.]

Henry S. Curtis, supervisor of playgrounds for Associated Charities of Washington, D. C., became the secretary. President Theodore Roosevelt, who received the delegates at the White House, and reformer Jacob Riis were selected as honorary president and vice president, nicely symbolizing the association’s concern both for promoting health and character through exercise and organized sports and the improvement of conditions for the poor through supervised recreation. Among its founding principles, the fledgling association stated:

That inasmuch as play under proper conditions is essential to the health and the physical, social, and moral wellbeing of the child, playgrounds are a necessity for all children as much as schools. (National Recreation Association records, “Early Days,” undated)

The association’s first annual conference, called the Play Congress, was held in Chicago in 1907. The program clearly illustrated important themes of democracy, citizenship and morality that continued to guide recreation through the mid 20th century. Speeches included “Relation of Play to Juvenile Delinquency,” “Play as Training in Citizenship” and the “Social Value of Playgrounds in Crowded Districts.” Jane Addams spoke on “Public Recreation and Social Morality.” The convention concluded with a massive “play festival” in Ogden Park, attended by 4000 spectators. The program included: marching, singing and circle games by 300 kindergarteners; eighty girls in gymnastic games and eighty boys on gym apparatus; 100 girls playing volley ball; relay races of 100 boys and girls, respectively; Swedish, Hungarian, Lithuanian, and Bulgarian national dances in costume; and 100 boys demonstrating six athletic events “suitable for use in large or small playgrounds.” (National Recreation Association records, Program of the first annual Play Congress, June 20-22nd, 1907) At PAA conferences, even the delegates were encouraged play games in order to experience the “play spirit.”

The PAA, which became the National Recreation Association in 1930, lobbied for municipal funding of supervised public playgrounds, developed training programs for “play leaders,” provided professional consultation and coordination services to fledgling local recreation departments, and facilitated community surveys and playground campaigns. It also offered lectures and a publication service. The association’s journal, Playground, was a source of practical advice, programming ideas, and playground theory. During the PAA’s early years, funding from the Russell Sage Foundation helped the organization finance services and start-up costs.

From the earliest days, it was clear that recreation was not just about sports and physical fitness. In 1909, the PAA developed a curriculum for training playground and recreation directors. “A Normal Course in Play” covered: child development, psychology, evolution, education, play theory, social and industrial conditions (including “race history, tendencies and prejudices”), hygiene, eugenics, heredity, the playground movement in Europe and the U.S., playground facilities, playground management, games and activities, handicraft, nature study, playground planning, landscaping, record keeping, and fund raising. Texts included works by settlement movement leaders, such as Mary Richmond and Jane Addams. Writings by educators, psychologists and reformers were also featured, including: Freiderich Froebel, German education theorist and inventor of Kindergarten; pioneer psychologist, G Stanley Hall; Karl Groos, who introduced the idea that children’s play was preparation for adult life; and journalist turned reformer, Jacob Riis.

Settlements in the United States

The first social settlement, Toynbee Hall, opened in 1884 in the East End of London. It was the inspiration for the American settlement movement. The social settlement was based on the idea that those who wanted to help the poor would live (or “settle”) in the neighborhoods that they hoped to improve, often in a building purchased or donated by a benefactor. Many of these settlement workers were young, female graduates of education and nursing programs or women’s colleges. They endeavored to improve the lives of their working class, often immigrant, neighbors though social reform, educational programs, health services, and friendly example (or “uplift”).

The first settlement in the United States, University Settlement on New York’s Lower East Side, was founded by Stanton Coit in 1886. In 1889, Jane Addams founded Hull House in Chicago. Andover House in Boston and the Henry Street Settlement New York opened in 1891 and 1893, respectively. The National Federation of Settlements was formed in 1911, although associations of settlements in individual cities had been meeting since the 1890s.

Settlement houses, which existed on the “front lines” of poverty and urbanization, were logical sites for recreation programs in working class, immigrant, urban neighborhoods. They often provided the only recreation facilities and programs available in these areas. Even prior to the formation of the PAA, settlements fought for public funding of playgrounds, often with mixed results when faced with disinterest or lack of funds on the part of municipal governments. In the face of government indifference or foot-dragging, many settlements formed their own recreational facilities and programs.

Recreation was a natural component of the settlement program, not only because it promoted the health of urban poor, but also because of its socializing effects: neighborliness and neighborhood action and cohesiveness being crucial to the settlement idea. The connection between sportsmanlike play and good citizenship, so often touted by recreation reformers, was also an attractive consideration for settlement workers, whose programs and priorities were colored with concerns about transforming the poor or foreign-born from a civic liability into a civic asset.

Recreation as social reform

Several core themes motivated settlement and playground reformers. Both movements drew on ideas about industrialization, psychology, child development, and the effect of the environment on the individual to form a core argument that organized recreation was essential to the physical, mental and moral well being of the individual and critical to a modern, democratic, industrial society.

Not surprisingly, an important argument for recreation was the health and fitness of individuals. Physical exercise improved overall health, and benefited both mind and body. Recreation advocates cited toned muscles, improved circulation, increased vitality, better appetite, and improved coordination. Physical fitness was only one component of the recreation movement, however. Individuals were made fit, not only for their own sake, but for the good of democratic society, the industrial economy, and the future of American civilization.

Reformers also argued that recreation promoted spiritual, moral, and character development. In “Play and Democracy,” written in 1907, PAA president, Luther Gulick, refers to the playground as “our great ethical laboratory.” (Charities and The Commons, Vol. 18, August 3, 1907) PAA promotional literature touted the benefits of organized recreation and hinted at the dangers negligence. “Playgrounds develop [:] health, initiative, purity of mind, cooperation, ambition, honesty, imagination, self-confidence, obedience, and justice. Playgrounds diminish [:] idleness, delinquency, exclusiveness, unfairness, gang-spirit, selfishness, rowdyism, temptation, social barriers, reformatories.” (National Recreation Association records, “Playgrounds Develop, Playgrounds Diminish,” undated) Recreation was described as an “anti-vice, anti-saloon, anti-cigarette, anti-gambling influence and a positive training in morals.” (“Schools for Play,” Survey, Vol. 28, no. 17, July 27, 1912)

Biology, psychology, and evolution were used to support the argument that play was an essential part of the human character and that constructive, supervised recreation was necessary to positive character development. Humans, and children in particular, were described as having natural instincts and needs for play, outdoor activity, and group association. The very first sentence of the NRA philosophy describes play as a “fundamental urge in human existence, scarcely less powerful and important than the urges of physical hunger and sex.” (National Recreation Association records, “Brief Summary National Recreation Association Philosophy,” undated) Reformers argued that natural instincts lead youth to want play and fun, but could also mislead them. Recreation channeled and refined the play instinct.

Connecting recreation and character led some to draw links between physical and moral weakness. Citing physical studies of college students caught cheating or boys brought to juvenile court, Lee Hamner of the Russell Sage Foundation Child Hygiene Department and the PAA concluded that the physically inferior “lack ‘backbone’ in both the physical and moral sense” and that “The physically weak seem to be a prey to temptation.” (Hamner, 1910. “Health and Playgrounds”)

Gendered concepts regarding natural abilities of boys and girls also influenced arguments about recreation and character. In particular, boys were portrayed as having instincts for camaraderie, leadership, war, hunting, and physicality that could be developed for citizenship or lead to crime, delinquency, and immorality. Athletics and recreation were promoted either as a natural antidote to, or training for, boys’ war-like instincts, depending upon who was writing. Both boys’ and girls’ recreation emphasized fitness and health, leadership, self reliance, and courage, but promoters of recreation for girls also emphasized how sports added to beauty, grace, and friendships. Some recreation workers made the assumption that girls did not like competition.

Whereas boys were portrayed as training for leadership, girls recreation aimed to promote “sturdy, normal womanhood,” “wise, efficient motherhood,” and “worthy citizenship.” (National Federation of Settlements records, Study of Young Girls, circa 1921) In some cases, girls were portrayed as needing more vitality and intelligence than their foremothers, presumably to offset the stresses of modern life or to survive their lives as urban shop girls or garment workers with their morals and reproductive ability intact. (National Federation of Settlements records, “Conference on Girl’s work,” circa 1920) Recreation for girls related to preserving and improving racial stock as well as to preparation for citizenship. “The continuance of the race and its welfare, which is the main business of life, is left in the hands of careless children without any preparation or guidance whatever. The guardian of the future of race must herself be guarded from her own ignorance and folly and the selfishness or vice of others.” (Kennard, 1912. “Emotional Life of Girls”)

Some girls’ recreation programs were hampered by concerns for health and over exertion. At times, girls’ recreation staff seemed conflicted about how to reconcile physical activity for girls with assumptions about feminine characteristics. Participants in a United Neighborhood Houses of New York Girls’ Workers meeting in 1924 concluded “It is best to develop athletics for girls alone, since the ideals should be entirely different from the boys, stressing group work and the development of general physique instead of training individuals for record-breaking.” A ”Miss Wyman dwelt upon our moral responsibility in supervising athletics for girls” and “pointed out that the question of jumping for girls is a mooted one, and that in no case should indoor jumping be allowed, nor out-door jumping without a soft sand jumping pit, on account of the jar.” (United Neighborhood Houses records, Scrapbook 4-94, 1924) At first glance, recreation advocates of the 1910s appear to have taken more active, athletic approach to girls’ recreation than their counterparts of the 1920s and 1930s. However, more research is needed to determine the existence and prevalence of such attitudes.

Building character on the playground benefited society as well as the individual. Citizenship and neighborliness were touted as outgrowths of recreation. Speaking to the National Conference of Charities and Correction in 1910, Lee Hamner declared, “The playground of today is the republic of tomorrow. If you want twenty years hence a nation of strong, efficient men and women, a nation in which there shall be justice and square dealing, work it out today with the boys and girls on the playground.” (Hamner, 1910) “Health and Playgrounds”)

Settlement and playground advocates were eloquent on the subject of recreation as a foundation of citizenship. References to honor, loyalty, subjection to the rule of authority, fairness, honesty, and recognition of merit flowed freely. (Gulick, 1909; Lies, 1926; Kennedy ca.1931; National Recreation Association records, “A Constructive Creed,” 1910) They emphasized the group as a means of socialization and sports as an excellent source of group cooperation and loyalty. “Playground National Song” states “While playing we learn our duties, We owe to one and all, For with fair play and square deal, too, we are ready for our country’s call.” (National Recreation Association records, undated) “People who play together find it easer to live together. Individuals enjoying a wholesome happy play life are more loyal as well as more efficient citizens.” declared the PAA’s “A Constructive Creed.” (National Recreation Association records, 1910) (See Kenneth E Reid on the formulation of group work as a method).

Much has been written about the efforts of settlement workers and other early 20th Century reformers to Americanize immigrants. Teams of first and second generation immigrant children playing American sports, such as basketball or baseball, or participating in track and field events, with their classical Greek associations, were an important way that settlements fulfilled their role as socializers and trainers of new citizens. “Play as a school of The Citizen,” written in 1907 by Joseph Lee (philanthropist, reformer and vice president and future president of the PAA), is a densely-packed exploration of child development, democracy, and recreation. In it, Lee expresses ideas about freedom and cooperation through sport that were an important theme of recreation reformers. Lee argues that recreation develops “spiritual communication,” “bravery,” a “sense of organization,” “single minded determination,” “conscious participation,” “rhythmic instinct,” “loyalty” and a “sense of membership.” Significantly, he contrasts these traits to “the mechanical soldier of an autocracy,” the “hypnotic performance of a stereotyped part,” or the primitive “tribal consciousness.” (Charities and The Commons, Vol.18, August 3, 1907) In this light, organized recreation was one of the building blocks of the republic. Properly equipped and run by a good leader of “a high personal type” the playground was “a school of all civic virtues.” (Curtis, “The Playground”, 1907)

But what about those who lived in poor urban areas or worked long hours in factories, shops and offices? What kind of citizens would they become? It is not an accident that the settlement and playground movements evolved along with the industrialization and urbanization trends of the later 19th early 20th centuries. Reformers in the settlement and playground movements expressed profound concern about industrialization, urbanization, and mechanization – – concern for how Americans could retain their health, individuality (as opposed to citizens of non democratic countries), and moral character in the modern world.

Settlement and recreation workers often used the phrase “congested districts” to described poor, tenement neighborhoods. The concern with congestion related not just to overcrowding. The affect of crowding on physical health, nerves, and character was a constant refrain of the recreation and settlement movements. Furthermore, reformers argued, the natural physical energies of children, especially boys, led them to want play and fun, but had no good outlet in the city. Speaking to the first Play Congress in 1907, Jane Addams noted “We see all about us much vice which is merely a love for pleasure ‘gone wrong.’” (“Public Recreation and Social Morality” 1907) Without space for supervised play, children played in streets, “roamed” the city, or fell prey to commercial recreation places. Streets were described as a “school of crime.” (Curtis (1907) “The Playground”)

The urban environment made recreation more difficult, but even more necessary. The fresh air, sunlight, activity, and freedom of movement of the country were contrasted to the “vitiated air,” idleness, confinement, and overcrowding of city life. Lack of sunlight and pure air in cities was a constant refrain. Helene Ingram, Superintendent of Relief for the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor cited “…small dark bedrooms, the damp, unwholesome basements, the tall, overcrowded houses, the narrow street, the scorching pavements, the airless atmosphere…” in her paper on “fresh air” work at the National Conference of Charities and Correction. (“The Value of the Fresh Air Movement,” 1907)

Repeatedly, reformers expressed the fear that the nation’s youth were unfit for citizenship and not prepared to defend the country and identified urban life as one cause of the crisis. During the 1920s, the poor results of many World War I era selective service exams, in which 25 percent of inductees were supposedly found not fit for service, were cited repeatedly. “…[W]e have seen for the first time the nation’s child, measured, weighed and found wanting..” said the National Federation of Settlements. (“Study of Young Girls,” ca 1921) Young men were described as “incapable of effective service, and that at a time when civilization hung in the balance.” (Lies, 1926)

Reformers argued that urban life not only cut people off from the land, but also from each other and from beneficial traditions. This argument was applied to immigrants in particular, who were envisioned as uprooted, deprived of cultural background, and lacking in American traditions of liberty and individuality. Luther Gulick wrote how social pressures on the family and immigration, with its mixing of different cultures, lead to loss of traditions that were handed down from generation to generation. He believed that tradition had broken in the United States and deprived children of the guidance they needed to develop. “Therefore” he wrote “we need tradition carriers, play leaders – and that’s what the directors of the playground are.” (“Doctrine of Hands off in Play,” 1909)

Recreation advocates were conscious of living in the “machine age.” The repetition of machine work and the increased pace of life that resulted from modern inventions were viewed as damaging to the nerves and body. Toil indoors with machinery and the drudgery of repetitive labor in a factory or office were portrayed as dehumanizing and enervating, as opposed to the active, outdoor work of an idealized agrarian past. The NRA philosophy stated “It is believed that even the most citified individual has remnants of biological hunger for the soil…” (National Recreation Association records, circa 1931) A recurring theme was the fear that industrial society would transform the individual into “a mere robot, a clod” (Lies, 1926) who lacked the desire for individuality and freedom and, therefore, the desire to defend them. Urban dwellers and factory workers, especially immigrants who supposedly had no traditions of freedom of their own, were portrayed as especially vulnerable to this loss of individuality and vitality. Recreation literature sometimes contained an explicit or implied contrast between American workers and those in non-democratic countries and the fear that Americans would become “cogs.”

Some recreation leaders cautioned against over-scheduled time or regimented play and urged an emphasis on play that led to spontaneity, joy, and exuberance, what reformers called “Play Spirit.” Henry S. Curtis, Secretary of the PAA, stated “Play is our education in the spirit of joyousness, but is has much to do, not merely with the joyousness of childhood, but with the joyousness and optimism of all after life [adulthood].” (“The Playground,” 1907) The right combination of freedom and structure was necessary in order for recreation to successfully instill a desire for freedom alongside a willingness to work cooperatively and subordinate one’s own will to the group.

Mary Simkhovitch, founder of Greenwich House settlement, argued that “Recreation, like education, has suffered from regimentation…To be done good to, to be planned for, to be cast into a mold, to be the victim of a program means the fixing of well defined patterns of thought and conduct according to a predetermined standard…Recreation then has to begin with the understanding of the individual….Recreational guidance, like vocational guidance, has its base in a psychology which takes into account native gifts, practical opportunity, the background of social experience and tradition in which the individual is placed.” (“Recreation in a Settlement Program,” 1930)

How to pursue the benefits of organized play without over-regimentation was a tension in running though much of the rhetoric of play. The NRA philosophy stated that leaders should not “cramp initiative and resourcefulness.” If American children merely did what they were told on the playground, it defeated a crucial purpose of recreation: free association and energetic citizenship. They struggled to reconcile the need for structured play that would counteract the “rough” or “low” play of the streets and commercial recreation places with their concern that over-regimentation led to the loss of joy and vitality. Reformers looked at the regimentation of factory work and the grinding life in urban neighborhoods and worked to put the “Play Spirit” back into the lives of children – – not only for their own good, but for the good of democracy. Good citizens were not only fit, they enjoyed life.

Urban living in the machine age not only created problems for physical, moral and mental well being. Reformers argued that there was an increased need for leisure to counteract city and industrial life. Modern conveniences also produced increased leisure time. With time, however, came increased danger from the negative influence of commercialized amusements, such as movie theatres and dance halls: what reformers called “low forms” of recreation.

Settlement workers believed firmly in the settlement as a positive influence and as a counterpoint to life at home or on the streets. They were particularly concerned for the development of the children of immigrants and the negative influences of poor neighborhoods and “old country” ways of immigrant parents. This fit hand-in-glove with theories about the benefits of “wholesome,” supervised activities and the dangers of unsupervised, commercial recreation. The “tenement home was no longer a qualified place in which education, recreation and association could go on… many parents were so far out of relation with the actualities of life that they were not competent guides to their children in matters of health, education, recreation and vocation.” (Kennedy, “Settlement Method”) Bad homes and the lure of commercial leisure activities threatened these children. Louise de Koven Bowen, President of the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago, speaking at National Conference of Charities and Correction in 1910, described with delicious horror the result of this situation. The “…girl living in tenements and working in the shop is nervously tired at end of day, home is unattractive…” “She goes out onto the street and to the cheap theater, whose standard she possible adopts because she has none of her own, or else she goes to the dance halls. Her vitality is at a low ebb. [Author’s emphasis] She takes her first drink, which the boy in order to show his gallantry presses upon her, and so she takes her first downward step” (“The Need of Recreation,” 1910). Recreation programs in the settlements and city playgrounds provided one counterbalance to the leisure-time problem, but an attack on commercialized recreation was essential to winning the fight for the character of the nation’s future citizens. Motion picture houses, saloons, pool halls, vaudeville theatre, and even candy stores and ice cream parlors were portrayed as low, vicious, lustful, cheap, sordid, and dissipated. (Bellamy, 1914; National Recreation Association, 1917; Thomas, 1910) Dance halls were a chief target of recreation reformers. Robert A. Woods of the Andover House settlement wrote in the “Vice Problem in Boston,” dated 1923, that “The special evils which they present come of the free and indiscriminate mingling of young people who would ordinarily maintain quite a range of moral standards.” Woods suggested that social workers could combat “objectionable forms of dancing” with “attractive presentations of the better way.” (Woods, 1923) Anti-dance hall advocates expressed tremendous concern for the protection of innocent girls who might enter dance hall and the mingling of middle class girls with working class girls or even prostitutes. Dance halls were portrayed as scenes of predation and moral downfall.

It was not just commercial recreation that was viewed with suspicion. Unsupervised or unconstructive forms of play were also cause for alarm. George Bellamy of Hiram House settlement in Cleveland noted that a community recreation survey discovered children on the streets engaged is such activities as: “chalking suggestive signs on buildings,” “throwing mud at street cars,” “telling bad stories,” “looking at pictures of women in tights on billboards,” “watching arrests,” smoking, and drinking, among other unwholesome pursuits. (Bellamy, 1914)


“Recreation is stronger than vice and recreation alone can stifle the lust for vice.” wrote Jane Addams in The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (1909). Settlement and playground reformers took these words to heart. Good recreation was described and contrasted to “evil” recreation as wholesome, vigorous, manly, stimulating, joyous, free, organized, and cooperative. To settlement and playground reformers, good recreation meant supervised recreation. Their programs focused on athletics (team games such as basketball, volley ball, and baseball), circle games for young children, gymnastics (or “drill”), track and field games, play festivals or sports days, hikes and outings, and camping. Basketball was king of boy’s recreation, especially in urban areas. “Boys Athletics in 33 Settlements in the City of New York” notes that, of the 33 settlements studied, all had basketball programs and 32 had baseball teams. Handball, boxing, volleyball, track, swimming, and “informal games” were also popular. (Welfare Council of New York, 1931, in Albert Kennedy papers) Settlements fought for and then arranged to use city athletic fields. Most had indoor gyms and many had outdoor playgrounds. Some resourceful settlements that could scrape together funding even erected playgrounds on their roofs. There were at least 13 such playgrounds in New York City by 1931. In addition to sports, recreation also included settlement clubs, dancing (aesthetic or folk dances), handicrafts, pageants, dramatics, “sings,” stunts, and cheers.

Properly organized and filled with play spirit, recreation combated the temptations of commercial amusements and produced healthy citizens who were willing to be lead by those who showed themselves to be worthy captains. PAA literature was full of stories of children saved from drudgery, delinquency, and squalor by recreation. “Little thin hands and arms, flabby from inactivity, have become brown and firm. Pinched faces and dull eyes have taken on new light and expression. Coming from stuffy hot rooms, many of them have for the first time come into a real children’s world and have been free.” (“Six True Stories” undated) Recreation not only benefited individual but also transformed a nation of alien immigrants, or downtrodden, unhealthy factory workers, into cohesive, healthy, population of citizens working for common good or ready to defend their country.

Further reading and references

Addams, Jane (1909). The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (New York: Macmillan, 1909; BoondocksNet Edition, 2001). http://www.boondocksnet.com/editions/youth/ (July 6, 2001).]

Addams, Jane (1907). “Public Recreation and Social Morality” in Charities and the Commons, Vol.18, August 3, 1907, pp492-494.

Albert Kennedy papers. Welfare Council of New York, “Boys’ Athletics in 33 Settlements in the City of New York,” 1931, Box 5, folder 44, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries

Bellamy, George(1914). “Recreation and Social Progress: The Settlement,” in Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1914, pp376-377

Bellamy, George (1918). “A Community Recreation Program for Juveniles” in Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1918, pp65-67

Bowen, Louise de Koven (1910). “The Need of Recreation” in Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, p. 102

Bowen, Louise de Koven (1914). Safeguards for City Youth at Work and at Play. New York: The MacMillan Company

Chapin, T.F.(1902) “Play as a Reformative Agency,” in Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1914, pp437-440

Curtis, Henry S. (1907). “The Playground” in Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, p285

Daniels, Harriet McDoual (1914). The Girl and Her Chance: A Study of Conditions Surrounding the Young Girl between Fourteen and Eighteen Years of Age in New York City. New York: Fleming H. Revell

Forbush, William Byron (1907). The Boy Problem. Boston: Pilgrim Press.

Gillin, John L. (1918) Wholesome Citizens and Spare Time. Cleveland, Ohio: The Cleveland Foundation Committee.

Gulick, Luther (1907). “Play and Democracy,” in Charities and the Commons, Vol. 18, August 3, 1907, pp481-486

Gulick, Luther (1909) “Doctrine of Hands Off in Play,” National Recreation Association records, Box 14.

Hamner, Lee F. (1910). “Health and Playgrounds” in Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, p155-156.

Ingram, Helene. (1907). “The Value of the Fresh Air Movement” in Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, p288

Kennard, Beulah (1912). “Emotional Life of Girls” in Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, pp146-148

Kennedy, Albert. (ca. 1931). “The Settlement Method,” (manuscript) Albert Kennedy papers, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries

Knapp, Richard F. and Charles E. Hartsoe. (1979). Play for America: The National Recreation Association, 1906-1965. Arlington: National Recreation and Park Association.

Lee, Joseph (1907). “Play as a School of the Citizen” in Charities and the Commons, Vol.18, August 3, 1907, pp486-491

Lies, Edward T. (1926). “Community Recreation: Its Significance, Objectives, Machinery, and Standards” in Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, pp493-500

Moley, Raymond (1920). Commercial Recreation. Cleveland, Ohio: The Cleveland Foundation Committee

National Federation of Settlements records, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries

Study of Young Girls, circa 1921, p3

“Conference on Girl’s work,” circa 1920, Box 5, folder 36

National Recreation Association records, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries

Historical material, “Early Days,” undated, Box 1, folder 1

Program of the first annual Play Congress, June 20-22nd, 1907

“Brief History of the Playground and Recreation Movement in America,” undated, Box 1, folder 4

“Playgrounds Develop, Playgrounds Diminish,” Box 1, folder 3

“Brief Summary National Recreation Association Philosophy,” undated, Box 2, “Philosophy” file

Playground Association of America, “A Constructive Creed,” 1910, Box 1, folder 2

“Playground National Song”, undated, Box 2,”Association Song” folder

“Brief Summary National Recreation Association Philosophy,” circa 1931, Box 2, “Philosophy” folder, p3

Playground Association of America, “Six True Stories,” undated, Box 1, folder 3, p.2

“Making a Recreation Survey,” 1917, Box 39, “Forms, old” folder.

National Recreation Association. Committee on a Normal Course in Play (1910). A Normal Course in Play for Professional Directors. New York: Playground Association of America

“Schools for Play” in Survey, Vol. 28 (17), July 27, 1912, p585

Simkhovitch, Mary (1930). “Recreation in a Settlement Program” in Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, p373

Thomas, W. I. (Mrs.)(1910) “The Five Cent Theatre,” in Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1910, pp1445-149.

United Neighborhood Houses of New York records, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries

Girls’ Workers meeting minutes, scrapbook page 4-94, 1924, Box 63, folder 17

Minutes of the Round Table on “A City Plan for Settlement Athletics,” 1928, Scrapbook 9-15, Box 66, folder 32,

Winter, T. (2004) “Luther Halsey Gulick,” The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education, www.infed.org/thinkers/gulick.htm.

Woods, Robert A. (1923) The Vice Problem in Boston,” Reprint from National Municipal Review, Volume 12, December, 1923, pp710-711.

Acknowledgement: Photograph of children playing at the University of Chicago Settlement, captioned “Gymnasium of University Settlement.” From page 388 of The Kindergarten Teacher, vol. 13, 1900-1901. Sourced from the Wikimedia Commons where it is said to be in the public domain. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:University_of_Chicago_Settlement_Gymnasium.jpg

How to cite this article: Anderson, Linnea M. (2006). ‘“The playground of today is the republic of tomorrow”: Social reform and organized recreation in the USA, 1890-1930’s’ The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education, https://infed.org/mobi/social-reform-and-organized-recreation-in-the-usa/.

Linnea M. Anderson is Assistant Archivist, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota.

© 2007 Linnea M. Anderson