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Contested WatersA Social History of Swimming Pools in America$
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Jeff Wiltse

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780807831007

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807888988_wiltse

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“A Means of Physical Culture” the Redefinition of Municipal Pools during the 1890s

“A Means of Physical Culture” the Redefinition of Municipal Pools during the 1890s

(p.31) Chapter 2 “A Means of Physical Culture” the Redefinition of Municipal Pools during the 1890s
Contested Waters

Jeff Wiltse

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines the transformation of municipal swimming pools in the United States during the mid- to late 1890s. It explains how popular acceptance of the germ theory of disease transmission rendered pools obsolete as public baths and renewed enthusiasm for athletics and physical exercise among the urban middle class, resulting in the redefinition of municipal pools as sport and fitness facilities. The chapter also considers the exclusion from the pools of working-class boys, who offended pool administrators, and middle-class swimmers, with their rowdy and boisterous behavior, when public officials started to charge entrance fees. It looks at the “natatorium” in Brookline, Massachusetts as an example of how municipal pools were reconceived as sport and exercise facilities and as a site of social and cultural tensions that accompanied their use at the end of the nineteenth century.

Keywords:   municipal swimming pools, United States, germ theory, disease transmission, public baths, athletics, physical exercise, middle class, natatorium, Massachusetts

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