The Charles in Canoeing’s Golden Age

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Canoeing on the Charles at Norumbega Park, Newton (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.)

Canoeing on the Charles at Norumbega Park, Newton (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.)

In the years between the turn of the 20th century and World War I, recreational canoeing enjoyed a level of popularity not seen before or since.  In a time when cars were not yet widely available to the public, canoes provided an increasingly urbanized population with a measure of autonomy, solitude, and a chance toenjoy a bit of nature.  Despite the canoe’s roots in North America, the canoe craze began in Britain, then spread back to the US shortly thereafter.

Around Boston, the epicenter of the canoe craze was the Charles River’s Lakes District, located in Waltham, Newton, Wellesley, and Weston.  Numerous commercial boathouses were available to rent http://healthsavy.com/product/kamagra/ canoes from, and several of them were accessible by streetcar for the urban masses.  During the peak season, commentators said that you could cross the river easily without getting your feet wet, simply by stepping from canoe to canoe.

This popularity can be seen in the rare video, above, taken on the Charles in 1904 by Thomas Edison, and in the photos below from the 1900s to the 1930s.  (All photos courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)

 

 

In a future post we’ll explore some of the Charles River boathouses of that era, including the few that remain, and we’ll take a look at the scandalous behavior that arises when young men and women are allowed to be alone together on the water.

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