Steam created Vacationland. Nineteenth century railroads networked to reach everywhere. Interstate and international lines brought tourists; local lines, eventually including those intended to carry timber or slate, took them to previously isolated regions.

Steamships and ferries plied coastal waters and lakes. Hotels, with steam heat and steam laundries, housed and fed and entertained the tourists. Unlike 20th century automobile tourists, earlier vacationers stayed put for weeks or months. (Many stayed on the islands in Casco Bay. An island hop via Portland ferries recreates an earlier era.)

The vacation was becoming a middle class necessity; the middle classes were growing. Scholars see complex motives. Dona Brown’s “Inventing New England” deals with status and the commodification of leisure. David Richards’ “Poland Spring” depicts a grand resort hotel as the home of conflicting desires for an imagined past and progressively improved modernity. Perhaps we should recall Sigmund Freud’s dictum: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Bar Harbor accommodated those for whom even the grandest hotel was too common. Rockefellers built a summer “cottage,” and helped to fund and design Acadia National Park. Morgans moored the nation’s largest yachts. Sailing, carriage drives, Wabenaki offering basketry and canoes.

Grand hotels and palatial cottages were one thing; lakes, streams, and forests another. (Though they did overlap. You could canoe, hunt, or fish from some hotels. Rangeley still shows that; there’s a wonderful museum of vacationing in nearby Oquossuc.)

Fishing lodges and camps, spartan or luxurious, became a signature form of Maine vacation. Julia Hunter and Earle Shettleworth’s “Fly Rod Crosby” tells that story through the biography of Maine’s most famous fisherwoman, who sold Maine to the wider world through her writing and star attendance at “sportsmen’s exhibitions” in New York City and elsewhere.

Increasingly the masses vacationed as well, if only on a few days off. Old Orchard Beach was the greatest, now the last, of the populist resorts. Urban workers arrive by trolley to stroll the pier, thrill to the rides, and eat chowder.

Many were Franco-Americans; increasingly their compatriots from Quebec took the train to Old Orchard. It’s still there, still fun. A day trip can include Ocean Park and Prouts Neck; Baptists vacationland on one side, elite “cottages” the other.

For the 20th century, try “Maine: A Guide ‘Down East,’” a volume of the incomparable Works Progress Administration collection of guides to America.

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