Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Tourism requires a population with money and leisure, means of transportation, attractive destination sites and a general feeling of excitement prompting an urge to go somewhere. Eighteenth century America was busy fighting the British and the Indians and clearing the "howling wilderness." In the early Nineteenth century, before the country was polarized by the Civil War, the first spurts of domestic tourism are enabled by a lessening of the hardships of conquest, improvements in transportation, relaxation of religious observance and an increasing sense of America's capacity for attraction.
The European Grand Tour was already an established itinerary popular with the upper classes. The American Grand Tour would have a slightly different face, but its encompassment of mineral springs, natural wonders and mountainous scenery appeals to those in search of health, relaxation, new knowledge, thrills and adventure.
The word tourist appears in print as early as 1800. Writers of guidebooks may refer with varying intent to the traveller and the tourist. Generally a tourist is understood to be more of a pleasure seeker, someone who wants to be hard at play rather than hard at work on their journey. While explorers venture to the undiscovered and travellers set out with intent to explain, tourists prefer to stick to a program which ensures maximum amusement with minimum effort. Yet there is a sense in which tourists are pilgrims seeking refuge from the anxiety of industrial life and freedom from the social realm of hierarchies and restraints. Tourist attractions must provide a space for play and liberation as well as for spiritual renewal and physical regeneration.
Tourism engenders its own desperation: that the tourist is not having enough fun or doing everything to the height of fashion. James Kirke Paulding satirizes this mania, and Tocqueville articulates an American tendency to "clutch everything but hold nothing fast." The restlessness of the newly Democratic cannot be solved by a vacation; travel is not a remedy for those whose "impatient longings" lead them already out of the "real world." Nineteenth century tourists bought in to the institution of tourism, however, and today the American tourist is feared and catered to, enticed and resented the world over.
To navigate this site, proceed on to the Grand Tour page, from which you may visit locales in any order. A Glossary, accessible throughout the site, is provided for people and terms; a Bibliography is included as well. For information about European travellers, visit Let's Go America, also part of Tocqueville's America.