Because humans can imbue political aspects into many of their activities, public events have combine leisure with the political needs of the organizers and supporters. In the case of national expositions and other fairs, local and state boosters used these events to portray their regions in a positive manner to attract settlers and business. Moreover, other events have caused reactions intentionally or unintentionally. In the case of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, the social nature of the meetings of the organization led to Klan picnics and vacations while at the same time engendering criticism for the Klan's racist, Anglocentric values and aims.

Leisure is part of the American populist impulse. The leisure industries of the nineteenth century sought to provide entertainment to Americans of all classes. Workers who had spent long days in factories and other arduous labors looked forward to Sundays, when they could attend sporting events, parks, and amusement parks and indulge in games or rest. At the same time, many of the middle and upper classes were using their leisure time for the benefit of improvement, especially during the Progressive Era. In the twentieth century, leisure time became known as private time. This rhetorical shift did not so much remove leisure from the public sphere as change the emphasis of leisure toward being an individual right, such as the pursuit of happiness. The original nineteenth-century concept of leisure as a populist, public good thus reflected the shift of populism from a left-wing, communal ideal to a right-wing, individualized right.

Patrice Natalie Delevante

See also: Baseball and Populism ; Farmers’ Clubs ; Film ; Granger Movement ; Ku Klux Klan (KKK) ; National Parks ; Pop Music ; Popular Culture ; Progressivism ; Punk Music ; Sutro, Adolph (1830–1898) ; Trans-Mississippi Exposition (1898) ; Urbanization ; Vaudeville ; World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition (1884–1885) ; Zoot Suit Riots (1943)


Kasson, John F. Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century. American Century. New York: Hill and Wang, 1978.

“The Making of Modern America: Commercialized Leisure, 1880–1920.” http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook_print.cfm?smtid=2&psid=3316. Accessed January 7, 2013.