The Evolving Muskoka Vacation Experience 1860-1945
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This dissertation examines the development of tourism in Muskoka in the Canadian Shield region from 1860 to 1945. Three key themes are examined: the tourists, the resorts and projected image of the area. When taken together, they provide insight into the origin and evolution of the meanings attached to tourist destinations in the Canadian Shield. The Muskoka Lakes region provides the venue in which continuity and change in each of these elements of the tourism landscape are explored. This dissertation uses previously underutilized primary source materials ranging from hotel ledgers, financial reports, personal correspondence, period brochures, guidebooks, and contemporary newspaper articles to reconstruct the Muskoka tourist experience over an extended period of time. The volume of literature pertaining to American tourism history significantly outweighs similar work conducted on Canadian destinations. This dissertation, therefore, begins with an overview of key works related to the historical development of tourism in the United States followed by a survey of corresponding Canadian literature. The lack of an analytical structure in many tourist historical works is identified as a methodological gap in the literature. A framework is developed to guide data acquisition. Utilizing this framework, the tourists, resorts and images that were projected of Muskoka are examined through five stages of development, from the opening of the region to tourists to the immediate postwar era. The findings from this analysis are used to build an understanding of the changes and continuities in the meanings, or essence, of the Canadian Shield tourist experience. While significant changes are observed in the nature of the tourists, the form and function of tourist lodgings, and the content of projected images, the meaning of the Canadian Shield tourist experience exhibits substantial continuity. From the beginning of tourist development, two opposing perspectives emerge: those of the insider and the outsider. Insiders were thought to be more unpretentious, cognizant of tradition, with a greater sense of belonging in the landscape than the outsiders who were perceived to be pretentious, conscious of societal norms, and a threat to the established traditions of the resort region. The meanings of the destination are informed by the dialogue and tensions between these two perspectives on what a Canadian Shield vacation experience should entail. These meanings, which reflect perceptions of a lifestyle that has been and is continuously under threat from outside forces, persists throughout the stages of tourism development in Muskoka and can be observed in the contemporary period.