Thomas Hiram Holding: Father of Modern Camping

Thomas Hiram HoldingThomas Hiram Holding was, in 1908, the worlds leading proponent and practitioner of camping. It seams strange to me now to think that there was a time when humans didn’t camp for enjoyment. But up until the late 1800s people camped out of necessity not sport.

Oh sure there were folks who camped while undertaking a sport, say hunting, but camping was a given for the long distance traveler and so not something one did for enjoyment.

Travel was in fact the reason for Holding’s first experiences camping. In 1853 the British tailor was only 9 years old and in the process of crossing the vast American plains with his parents. At the start of their 1,200 mile journey they camped along the banks of the Mississippi river for 5 weeks, the longest encampment of his life. Subsequently, they camped every night on their journey west upon finally leaving in the spring of 1853 until the end of their journey in August of that same year.

The following year, he took another wagon train East, from Salt Lake City, through the Rockies and back to civilization.

Jump forward another 24 years and the now 33 year old Holding found himself with a canoe. He wrote that the canoe led to camping, then to a multi-day canoe cruise and camping through the Highlands of Scotland.

He continued to camp, canoe and added in cycling as well. He was quote proud of the Cycle-Camping epidemic which spread through the British country side. In 1878 Holding, and others, formed the Bicycle Touring Club, and some few years later he and four friends managed a cycle-camping expedition through Ireland.

Cycle and Camp in  Connemara_smlAfter the Ireland adventure, Holding published the book, “Cycle and Camp in Connemara” in which he described his trek through the Irish country side and invited readers to contact him. There was enough interest in the endeavor that a new community formed as the Association of Cycle Campers in 1901. This organization later became the Camping a Caravaning Club, the largest camping enthusiast club in Briton today.

In 1906, he found himself declared the “greatest known authority on Camping” which started him down a path towards authoring the “Campers Handbook” which was published in 1908. You can still find a copy of the Campers’ Handbook for your own reading pleasure. Many of the tips and tricks still apply today, and the author’s humor make the read quite enjoyable.

Further Reading

Ryan Mueller

Ryan Mueller

Editor at Guys Go Camping
Ryan is a web developer who counters the sedentary nature of his profession with outdoor adventure.
Ryan Mueller

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