Moments in Camp History

Celebrating 150 Years of Camp!

Throughout the 150-year history of camp, there have been moments of great innovation, groundbreaking policy implementation, and — yes — fun! This year, we will be celebrating the moments that have made camp what it is today.

Check back to this page every Wednesday, or follow ACA on Facebook and Twitter for bite-sized facts to feed your knowledge of camp history! Make sure to share this link with your camp friends and families!

September 7, 2011
white water rafting

Camp has brought 150 years of new experiences for children, youth, and adults — canoeing, hiking, woodworking, horseback riding, fishing, rafting, bicycling, and more. This fall, stay active with your new-found favorite activity! What’s yours?

August 31, 2011

How do you make an evening's camp fire activities even more fun? Add s'mores!

The first official record of the recipe is in a 1927 Girl Scouts manual, Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts.

The ooey gooey treat is said to have gotten it's name from eager requests for "some more," later becoming simply, "s'more."

What's your favorite camp treat?

Hungry for more? Find other bites about the history of camp foods in "Bug Juice and Other Culinary Delights," by Viki Kappel Spain, M. Ed., in the July/August 2011 issue of Camping Magazine.

Information from Vin Zant's The History of S'mores: Chocolate, Marshmallows and Graham Crackers. Read more.

August 24, 2011

In 2004, ACA launched, a family resource site that includes a Find A Camp search, camp planning advice, and expert advice about camp and child development. In an effort to reach more families, was published in both English and Spanish. Today, ACA’s parent resource continues to thrive and provide excellent information and assistance to families. Have you shared with your camp families? It's a great way for parents and families to stay connected with the camp experience . . . all year long!

August 17, 2011

Final campfires, candle ceremonies, talent shows, and saying goodbye. The end of camp is bittersweet, and each camp celebrates differently. Generations of campers have come to love the rituals, and hate the goodbyes associated with them. In her book, Children’s Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp, Leslie Paris writes:

No time was more nostalgic than the last night of camp, a moment when the community gathered to recall the summer that was coming to an end. Goodbyes, like the initiations that came before them, took place through ritual events designed to secure camp community while acknowledging it’s endpoint.

How do you celebrate the end of camp?

August 10, 2011
Camp Memories

For 150 years, campers have returned home from camp excited to share what they learned at camp, who they met, and the fun activities that filled their days. Camp nostalgia has long been a part of the fall season: "Camp continued to resonate in children's lives during the school year as they recalled happy moments, explained camp rituals to their family and friends, attended the occasional reunion, and prepared for the summer to come."

What's your favorite camp story or memory? Share it in the comments below! Also, be sure to check out ACA's resources on keeping alive not only the stories, but the life lessons and good habits learned at camp once the season is over.

Information from Leslie Paris' Children's Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp, p. 262.

August 3, 2011
Color Wars

Color wars have brought team unity and the thrill of competition to camp since the mid-1910s. These fun-spirited meta-games are thought to have started as elaborations of Capture the Flag, which was popular at northeastern boys' camps at the time. In these Capture the Flag games, boys would split into two color teams, "often blue and gray for the Union and Confederate armies of the American Civil War," and would try to sneak onto each other's "territory" without beeing seen.

Color wars allow every camper to shine — whether it's playing sports or checkers, creating the best camp cheer or just cheering the loudest. What's your favorite color war activity?

Information from Leslie Paris' Children's Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp, pp. 120–121.

July 27, 2011

"Goldie" . . . "Turtle" . . . "Chippy" . . . "Daisy" . . . "Lando." One of the oldest — and most fun! — camp traditions is doling out and receiving camp nicknames. Why do we love camp nicknames so much?

According to Leslie Paris, author of Children’s Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp, special camp names throughout history have “testified to new identities and experiences, asserting children’s disjunction from ordinary life while illustrating their active participation in making camps into special spaces of personal transformation. Nicknames also ritualized new ways of thinking about family and kinship outside traditional bounds” (p. 105).

July 20, 2011

In 1912, a group that would later become the National Association of Directors of Girls' Private Camps met to discuss the future of girls' camp. "The interest in girls' camp grew after higher education for women was no longer a rarity and the graduate degree became the goal of more college graduates. Women had a wider choice of careers, and women's suffrage was on the way."

Information from Eleanor Eells' History of Organized Camping: The First 100 Years, pp. 88–89.

July 13, 2011

In 1885, some of the first campers "slept on top of rubber ponchos to protect themselves against the damp and somewhat stony soil" and "slept side by side in tents of twelve by fourteen feet." Over the decades, sleeping quarters evolved — from sleeping on wooden boards to later sleeping on canvas double decker beds, beginning in 1911.

Information from Leslie Paris' Children's Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp, pp.165–166.

July 6, 2011

In 1917, Camp Fire Girls (now Camp Fire USA) "pledged to save on food consumption, eliminate waste, and become physically fit" in an effort to help during World War I. Camp Fire Girls even camped "by orchards where they could help harvest and can fruits that would otherwise go to waste."

Camp Fire Girls was the first national nonsectarian, interracial organization for girls in the United States.

Information from Eleanor Eells' History of Organized Camping: The First 100 Years, pp. 73–74.

June 29, 2011

The Boys' Club in Salem, Massachusetts, organized a seven-week summer camp and seventy-six boys attended. By 1930, more than sixty Boys' Clubs conducted summer camp with approximately 26,088 campers attending. In 1990, the organization changed its charter to include girls and its name to Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

June 22, 2011

In 1996, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and ACA made an agreement to let ACA-accredited camps pay a small fee for all ASCAP-licensed music. Today, ACA and ASCAP have an agreement that allows ACA-accredited camps to use ASCAP licensed music without paying any licensing fees. Learn more about this agreement and licensing requirements for motion pictures and stage productions at ACA's licensing resource page.

June 15, 2011

In 1885, Summer F. Dudley and seven boys from the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in Newburgh, New York, went on a camping trip. By 1891, there were eighty-three campers. The camp became known as Camp Dudley and is the longest continually operating camp in the United States.

What’s your favorite YMCA Camp?

June 8, 2011

In 1983, the first International Camping Congress was held in Toronto, Canada. Four years later, the second International Camping Congress was held in Washington, DC. There were more than 1,800 people from fifteen countries in attendance. First Lady, Nancy Reagan, addressed the Congress. In addition, the International Camping Fellowship (ICF) was formed, and its basic operating standards were announced. The ICF logo — a butterfly (above) — was born out of the “Our Fragile World” congress theme.

Learn more about the 9th International Camping Congress, taking place November 4–7, 2011 in Hong Kong.

June 1, 2011

In 1970, the first Hedley S. Dimock awards were given to to Julian W. Smith, Sigurd F. Olson, and Stewart L. Udall. Dr. Smith served as director of the Outdoor Education Project at Michigan State University. Olson was an American author, environmentalist, and advocate for the protection of wilderness. Udall was a representative from Arizona and secretary of the interior under Presidents John. F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Hedley S. Dimock Award was created to honor persons who had made significant contributions to the camp profession through related fields such as outdoor education, conservation, recreation medicine, education, architecture, or the social sciences through administrative, legislative, or professional contributions or by participation in local, state, or national program development. The award also required awardees to be ACA members, with at least ten years of membership.