Camp Menotomy, Meredith, NH
The modern summer camp movement has been contributed to
by many, but the organized camp is essentially an educational
institution. As such it was originated and has been developed
by educators, those who were concerned with the lives of
the young and their training for adulthood.
The first organized summer camp that presented practically
all the best features of what summer camping is today was
that of Ernest Balch, opened in 1881 and continued until
1889. But there were unknown to Balch others before his
time who took boys into the open wilderness during the summer
Ernest Balch started his camp as a result of deliberate
planning to meet a particular need. All the essential features
of the organized camp were worked out by him at Camp Chocorua.
Moreover, his camp was maintained continuously on the same
site for nine years, and as a result of its influence, other
camps were established that followed his practices and many
of his old campers later established camps of their own.
That is, Balch not only put into execution a carefully thought-out
educational plan, but he established a school of imitators
and disciples who followed his practices and out of which
has come the organized summer camp as the lake knows it
Regarding Camp Chocorua, Balch wrote the following:
I first thought of the boys' camp as an institution in
1880. The miserable condition of boys belonging to well-to-do
families in summer hotels, considered from the point of
view of their right development, set me to looking for
a substitute. That year and 1881, I had thought out the
main lines of a boys' camp. That year, also, with two
boys, I made a short camping trip to Big Squam. In 1881
I occupied and bought Chocorua Island.
It is hard now to distinguish invented ideas from those
acquired by experience. Certainly we began with several
important ones which persisted in the structure of the
camp during the nine years of its active life.
The first theory was that there should be no servants
in the camp; that the camp work must all be done by the
boys and faculty. Another was that the boys must be trained
to master the lake. So a systematic and complex plan was
thought out to provide safety for the boys and teach them
swimming, diving, boat work, canoeing and sailing.
Minor activities were singing, the choir, acylyte [sic]
work, the library, carpentry, chiefly building, law court,
contracting companies, baseball, "The Golden Rod,"
camp paper, correspondence with home, pillow fights, water
fights, liberty day without rules, stories, charity, fishing,
cooking, examinations, races, land sports, cruises. The
division of work in a crew, the management of a crew by the boy "Stroke,"
was always amusing to watch.