Poland Spring: A Tale of the Gilded Age, 1860-1900
Between 1860 and 1900 the Ricker family's rustic frontier farm became the world-renowned summer community of Poland Spring, Maine, a middle landscape where upper-middle-class patrons and their urban values of status, leisure, and consumption confronted, flirted with, embraced and ultimately subsumed traditional, rural New England. First and foremost a cultural study, Poland Spring chronicles the rise of a nineteenth-century tourist mecca. By successfully linking its fortunes to the railroad and tourism, Poland Spring became home to both a classic manifestation of the magnificent Victorian summer hotel culture of the Northeast, the Poland Spring House, and to the legendary business that originated one of the most popular and enduring brands in the mineral water marketplace, the eponymous Poland Spring.
This complex story represents a fascinating microcosm of the blossoming of the vacation trade and tourism in nineteenth-century New England, the emergence of the "springs" phenomenon, the development of entrepreneurialism into corporate capitalism, and the extension into the rural Northeast of the modern values that still predominantly shape the American cultural landscape. Scholars interested in regional, business, and tourism history as well as modernist studies will find much to admire in this progressive cultural history of the Gilded Age, to which historian David Richards brings impeccable scholarship and an energetic narrative style.
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