William H. H. Murray wrote his celebrated book in the spring of 1869 to introduce city-dwellers to the rewards of camping in the wilderness. Thousands of tourists streamed to the Adirondacks that summer in what was known as "Murray's Rush." Unfortunately, most had not read the book carefully, and that summer was unusually wet and cold. The result was an enormous outcry against Murray and his "lies," to which he responded with vigor in an article published in the
New-York Daily Tribune, October 23, 1869, and included here.
William Henry Harrison Murray (1840–1904), also known as Adirondack Murray, was a clergyman and author of an influential series of articles and books which popularized the Adirondacks; he became known as the father of the Outdoor Movement.
Born in Guilford, Connecticut, he graduated from Yale in 1862 and served as a minister in Greenwich, Connecticut and Meriden, Connecticut from 1869 through 1873. He also delivered Sunday evening lectures about the Adirondacks in a Boston music-hall that proved highly popular, and he published a series of articles based on the lectures in a Meriden newspaper. In 1869, they were published as a book, Adventures in the Wilderness; or, Camp-Life in the Adirondacks.
The literary tone of the book made it extremely successful; it went through eight printings in its first year. Murray promoted New York's north woods as health-giving and spirit-enhancing, claiming that the rustic nobility typical of Adirondack woodsmen came from their intimacy with wilderness. A subsequent printing, subtitled Tourist's Edition, included maps of the region and train schedules from various Eastern cities to the Adirondacks.
Although the book was to become one of the most influential books in the conservation movement of the 19th century, paradoxically, within five years it led to the building of over 200 "Great Camps" in the Adirondacks; "Murray’s Fools" poured into the wilderness each weekend, packing specially scheduled railroad trains.
This book is clearly of significant historical value. William H.H. Murray was one of the early proponents of the mental and physical good that outdoor recreation brings. It contains an amusing anecdote or two. The description of shops, hotels, and the style of prose are all quaint and interesting. But I can see why it's hard to locate a copy. It's just not that fun to read.
In addition to bringing outdoor recreation to the masses, Murray brought them the humblebrag. He has the best flies, is one of the best shots, the most genteel to his guides, etc. etc. And his descriptions become repetitive. One or two of the stories are interesting, if not believable.
Murray is to be credited for his enthusiastic promotion of the outdoor life to the citizens of the United States. But there are far better books out there describing outdoor adventures.
A fantastic biographical sketch of Murray followed by his classic collection of stories. Loon Shooting in a Thunderstorm is one of my favorite stories, but there was so much to love in this book. The imagery is absolutely breathtaking, especially to imagine what it must have evoked for his readership at the time it was written. His story about the ghost woman in the canoe was also phenomenal. I lament that I never had a chance to bump into Adirondack Murray paddling through the ‘Dacks