Respectable Holidays: The Archaeology of Capitalism and Identities at the Crosbyside Hotel (c. 1870-1902) and Wiawaka Holiday House (mid-1910s-1929), Lake George, New York
Shackel, Paul A
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The nineteenth century industrialization of America, the development of the middle class, anxiety about social belonging, and industrial capitalism are deeply intertwined. As America industrialized, people moved from rural communities, where people were known and support systems ran deep, to the cities to find work. Managers, who acted as proxies for owners, became so prevalent that they formed a new class. Middle class identity, rooted in a particular performance of respectability, whiteness, gender, distinguished its members from untrustworthy capitalist business owners and from the rough lives of the working classes. Middle class values became synonymous with American values. This essentialization of middle class respectability is a manifestation of capitalist ideology wielded to create new markets under consumer capitalism. Archaeological excavations at Wiawaka on Lake George, New York provided a material window on these processes. From 1857 to 1902, the Crosbyside Hotel served as a middle-class, mixed gender resort on the grounds of what is now Wiawaka. Vacationers performed middle class respectability and belonging while enjoying the benefits of nature. In 1903, Wiawaka moved in to the former Crosbyside, a single-gender, mixed-class moral reform vacation house for respectable working women and their middle-class benefactors. These women also performed middle class respectability and belonging while enjoying the benefits of nature. In both cases, people worked to make these vacations possible. This dissertation is one of a very few archaeological investigations of late nineteenth century hotels, and the first to examine women’s holiday houses. Using Third Space and performativity, artifacts from the Crosbyside and from the mid-1910s to 1929 associated with Wiawaka were used to explore interrelated facets of identity including gender, class, race, and respectability. Differences between how people negotiated identity in the era of industrial capitalism (Crosbyside) and consumer capitalism (Wiawaka) were identified, as were the ways that identities were shaped and confined by capitalism through powerful ideas of respectability. Also identified were material examples of the labor of leisure – of those who did the work that made vacations possible. Artifacts recovered make clear that it is, indeed, possible to see the labor of leisure in the archaeological record.