Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

History

Advisor

Elliott West

Committee Member

Michael C. Pierce

Second Committee Member

Patrick G. Williams

Abstract

The industrialization of transportation, first with railroads, and then with automobiles, took Americans away from foot transport, changing how Americans interacted with one another and viewed their surroundings. The dissertation traces the walking trips of five central figures in this era of mechanized transport, the personal impact of their experiences while walking through a land they were accustomed to skimming across, and the ways in which these personal revelations led to changes in the national consciousness. Walking upright was central to the development of homo sapiens as a species, and shaped the way they interacted with their environment. Certain aspects of that earliest walking – creativity, connection, independence – have carried through walking throughout history. Walking was integrated into everyday life to the modern industrial age. At that point, while there was continuity with the past, long distance walking took on new meaning with different situation. By examining the walking of John Muir, Charles Fletcher Lummis, Edward Payson Weston, Vachel Lindsay, and Benton MacKaye, both the changes and continuity come to light. Walking was a way for Americans at the turn of the century to stay connected with their past while undergoing rapid modernization. It was a way to preserve individual while fostering community. It allowed them to connect with the natural world while increasingly being separated from it. It let them focus on the physical in the face of the mechanical. These notions have continued to shape the modern American culture and landscape to the present.

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