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Level Playing Fields: The Democratization of Amateur Sport in Pennsylvania

Miner, W. Curtis (2007) Level Playing Fields: The Democratization of Amateur Sport in Pennsylvania. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines how amateur sports once dominated and controlled by Pennsylvania's Leisure Class became accessible to non-elites over the course of the twentieth century. Rising standards of living and increased leisure time were pre-requisites for broader public participation. But this study argues that the democratization of amateur sport depended on the active intervention of the state and, to a lesser extent, the market, both of which broadened access to privately controlled playing fields. In hunting, state game management restored wild game populations, thus ensuring a bountiful supply of game for all Pennsylvanians, irrespective of social class. Likewise, the first municipally owned golf courses, often situated in public parks, offered the only alternative to the private courses which up to that point dominated the game and regulated participation. Finally, the market-driven demand for new sources of "football material" on college campuses opened opportunities for working-class student athletes, most of whom were recruited and subsidized by wealthy alumni.Many of these changes were set in motion by elites acting in their own self interest. Over time, though, the democratization of amateur sports became a goal in itself. During the 1910s, the state game commission shifted its emphasis from game propagation and game law enforcement to the acquisition of public game lands, a policy focus which benefited hunters without access to private property. In golf, a second wave of municipal courses, many billed as "people's country clubs" and fortified by federal money, were designed to be accessible to the greatest number of people, and without the membership restrictions which obtained at many early public courses. While the social composition of amateur sports continued to expand after World War II, the market played an increasingly more visible role in that process, as evinced by growth of semi-public golf courses and the increased prevalence of leased or privately owned hunting grounds. Elites frequently responded to the "crowding of the playing fields" by retreating or refortifying boundaries within these same sports.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Miner, W.
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMuller, Edward Kekmuller@pitt.eduEKMULLER
Committee MemberBlee, Kathleenkblee@pitt.eduKBLEE
Committee MemberGlasco, Laurencelag1@pitt.eduLAG1
Committee MemberHall, Van Beckvanbeck@pitt.eduVANBECK
Date: 30 January 2007
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 20 November 2006
Approval Date: 30 January 2007
Submission Date: 4 December 2006
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: college football; municipal golf; social class; leisure; state game commission
Other ID:, etd-12042006-164647
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:07
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:53


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