Martin provides an excellent view of leisure in one small geographic area over a 50-year period, but he draws on larger works to reinforce that this pattern is reflective of the larger pattern of leisure development in the United States at that time. The book is easy to read and impressive in its scholarship. It will appeal to sport and cultural historians alike.
Winner of the 1996 Phi Alpha Theta First Book Award
Scott C. Martin examines leisure as a “contested cultural space” in which nineteenth-century Americans articulated and developed ideas about ethnicity, class, gender, and community. This new perspective demonstrates how leisure and sociability mediated the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society. Martin argues persuasively that southwestern Pennsylvanians used leisure activities to create identities and define values in a society being transformed by market expansion. The transportation revolution brought new commercial entertainments and recreational opportunities but also fragmented and privatized customary patterns of communal leisure.
By using leisure as a window on the rapid changes sweeping through the region, Martin shows how southwestern Pennsylvanians used voluntary associations, private parties, and public gatherings to construct social identities better suited to their altered circumstances. The prosperous middle class devised amusements to distinguish them from workers who, in turn, resisted reformersÆ attempts to constrain their use of free time. Ethnic and racial minorities used holiday observances and traditional celebrations to define their place in American society, while women tested the boundaries of the domestic sphere through participation in church fairs, commercial recreation, and other leisure activities.
This study illuminates the cultural history of the region and offers broader insights into perceptions of free time, leisure, and community in antebellum America.
Martin has added greatly to our knowledge of leisure activities for Pennsylvania in particular and the United States in general, and he has left much for us to ponder as we think through the meaning of leisure in society.
The author presents a fine analysis of leisure activities in this regional history of Pittsburgh [but] this work . . . is more than a local history. It deserves a wide audience of scholars and students seeking to understand the importance of leisure activities and the legacies of class, gender, and community.
A welcome contribution to the growing number of works that explore the transformation of leisure by market capitalism. Killing Time addresses a number of historical issues, ranging from the gendering of the middle-class home to what Martin titles 'The Buoyant Vitality of Disreputable Leisure.' Martin's thorough research and careful exposition will make Killing Time useful for readers with widely different interests.
Martin's breadth of scope allows him to make valuable comparisons among the leisure forms of social classes, ethnicities, genders, etc. The work should be of interest to social historians of leisure and of industrialization more generally.