The icon indicates free access to the linked research on JSTOR.

Summertime and the livin’ is… deadly? This note from an 1889 issue of the British Medical Journal warns of the “Dangers of the Summer Vacation.” The commentary uses the example of the unexpected death of the prominent Liberal Member of Parliament, J.B. Firth, which excited much interest at the time; he died while walking “one of the easiest of all ascents in Switzerland” at the age of 45.

JSTOR Daily Membership AdJSTOR Daily Membership Ad

The “precise pathological character of the illness to which he was subject is not recorded,” but this doesn’t stop the writer. Those over 40 are urged to get a lot of rest on vacation and not do anything foolhardy, like taking a walk on their own. “Solitude is a powerful agent in hastening fatigue and in increasing all the dangers of fatigue during a long walk.”

Summertime and the livin’ is… boring! Do students still dread the return to school after summer vacation and the “What I Did On my Summer Vacation” essay assignment? They certainly did when Dean R. Baldwin asked what was wrong with this perennial class assignment. While he jokes that the only writing assignments to be greeted with cheers from students are “The Day The School Burned Down” and “How to Murder an English Teacher,” he does offer a simple way of presenting essay writing for “audience and purpose.” (None of my teachers ever seem to have got this memo, however.)

Summertime and the livin’ isn’t… because you’re in summer school. Or, as they called it in at the tail end of the 19th century, “vacation school.” As Kenneth M. Gold shows, the idea of the vacation school, founded by private reformers and philanthropists, was adopted by municipal public school systems. But they didn’t just copy. Vacation schools were venues of play to keep working class immigrant children, much less likely to be in the labor market by the 1890s because of other reforms, off the street. Public summer schools quickly became places of remediation and enrichment, catching up on the previous school year and, ideally, preparing for the next.

Sort of like you, delving into the literature and boning on up on the archives from the safety of your beach umbrella.


JSTOR is a digital library for scholars, researchers, and students. JSTOR Daily readers can access the original research behind our articles for free on JSTOR.

The British Medical Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1498 (Sep. 14, 1889) , pp. 609-610
Published by: BMJ
The English Journal, Vol. 73, No. 2 (Feb., 1984), pp. 61-62
National Council of Teachers of English
History of Education Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Spring, 2002), pp. 18-49
Cambridge University Press