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The Lure of the North Woods

Cultivating Tourism in the Upper Midwest

2013
Author:

Aaron Shapiro

The Lure of the North Woods

The origins of the North Woods vacation across northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan

This book tells the story of how northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula became a tourist paradise, turning a scarred industrial countryside into the playground we know today. Aaron Shapiro describes how residents and visitors reshaped the region from a landscape of exploitation to a vacationland and reveals how leisure—and tourism in particular—has shaped modern America.

The Lure of the North Woods is likely to become the definitive history of tourism in the twentieth century Midwest, and a landmark in the history of modern tourism in the United States. Prodigiously researched and engagingly written, this book interweaves the stories of environmental pioneers, governmental officials, tourist promoters, and property owners whose efforts created a vacation playground in the North Woods.

Susan Sessions Rugh, author of Are We There Yet? The Golden Age of American Family Vacations

In the late nineteenth century, the North Woods offered people little in the way of a pleasant escape. Rather, it was a hub of production supplying industrial America with vast quantities of lumber and mineral ore. This book tells the story of how northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula became a tourist paradise, turning a scarred countryside into the playground we know today.

Stripped of much of its timber and ore by the early 1900s, the North Woods experienced deindustrialization earlier than the Rust Belt cities that consumed its resources. In The Lure of the North Woods, Aaron Shapiro describes how residents and visitors reshaped the region from a landscape of exploitation to a vacationland. The rejuvenating North Woods profited in new ways by drawing on emerging connections between the urban and the rural, including improved transportation, promotion, recreational land use, and conservation initiatives. Shapiro demonstrates how this transformation helps explain the interwar origins of modern American environmentalism, when both the consumption of nature for pleasure and the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the North Woods and elsewhere led many Americans to cultivate a fresh perspective on the outdoors. At a time when travel and recreation are considered major economic forces, The Lure of the North Woods reveals how leisure—and tourism in particular—has shaped modern America.

Awards

Jon Gjerde Prize from the Midwestern History Association

The Lure of the North Woods

Aaron Shapiro, a Chicago native and North Woods visitor since his youth, is assistant professor of history at Auburn University. He previously served as national historian for the USDA Forest Service in Washington, D.C., and as assistant director of the Scholl Center for Family and Community History at Chicago’s Newberry Library.

The Lure of the North Woods

The Lure of the North Woods is likely to become the definitive history of tourism in the twentieth century Midwest, and a landmark in the history of modern tourism in the United States. Prodigiously researched and engagingly written, this book interweaves the stories of environmental pioneers, governmental officials, tourist promoters, and property owners whose efforts created a vacation playground in the North Woods.

Susan Sessions Rugh, author of Are We There Yet? The Golden Age of American Family Vacations

When someone from the Midwest says they are going on vacation ‘Up North,’ they mean the North Woods—the forests and lakes of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. But as Aaron Shapiro shows in this insightful book, the region has not always been a tourists’ paradise. Shapiro demonstrates how the recreational needs of tourists, the economic needs of resort owners, and the organizational needs of experts converged to create one of the Midwest’s most cherished landscapes, exploring the intertwined roles of work and leisure, nature and culture, place and identity.

Jim Feldman, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh

Lure of the North Woods offers a comprehensive view of tourism’s development as a crucial element in the economy of the Upper Midwest. This complex debate, involving a variety of interested parties, actively helped to form the recreational landscape of the present day. Historians will find this study of the North Woods of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin a useful model for comparison to other reforested, or otherwise rehabilitated, landscapes.

Michigan Historical Review

Shapiro should be required reading for anyone interested in the Midwest, tourism, or landscapes of consumerism in twentieth-century America.

Environmental History

The Lure of the North Woods

Contents

Abbreviations

Introduction: A North Woods Transformation

1. A Crop Worth Cultivating: Creating the North Woods

2. Tourists Do Not Deplete Our Soil: Interwar Land Conservation

3. No Dull Days at Dunn’s: Labor and Leisure in the North Woods

4. Tell the World about Your Charms: The Promotional Appeal

5. You’ve Earned It—Now Enjoy It: Playing in the Postwar Era

6. The Not So Quiet Crisis: Tourism, Wilderness, and Regional Development


Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

The Lure of the North Woods

UMP blog - How the great North Woods became the tourist attraction it is today.

Spring is here (or so the calendar says), offering a time of renewal and dreams of warmer weather and summer vacations.

As someone who enjoys the cold, winter still lingers in my thoughts.

More than a decade ago, I traveled north from Chicago to spend several frigid December days along the Gunflint Trail and in the Boundary Waters. “Waters” is a slippery term, and at that time of year much of it involved the frozen kind.

Read the full article.