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Potomac Area Council American Youth Hostels records

 Collection
Identifier: MS2196

Collection Scope and Content

This collection includes administrative files, correspondence, brochures, pamphlets, newsletters, newspaper clippings, photographs, slides, scrapbooks, audiotapes, and cloth materials. The material dates from 1943-2011. The material in the collection covers the history of the Potomac Area Council of American Youth Hostels, especially the activities of its former Executive Director and board president, Don Messersmith. He gathered much of the material for the celebration of the organization's fiftieth anniversary. There are also many slides from the late 1940s and early 1950s of hostel trips throughout the United States many local to Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. These slides appear to have been owned at one time by Edwinning Willmann. There are also annoted photograph albums that cover the same time period and appear to have images of the same or similar tripts. Many of these scrapbooks were owned by Donna Willmann.

The folders in boxes 4-7 are from a second accretion and are only partially processed. The material has been refoldered, but only organized in a general alphabetical sort by folder title. The materials in the folders and the folder titles are in the original order. There has been some photocopying of documents with mold damage and also the removal of rusty paperclips. The material in box 7 are from multiple series based on their material type.

Dates

  • 1943-2011
  • Majority of material found within 1946 - 2005

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Historical Note

Potomac Area Council American Youth Hostels (PAC-AYH) is an organization that promotes outdoor recreational activities and runs three youth hostels in Washington, Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, and Baltimore. It is affiliated with Hostelling International and Hostelling International USA (formerly American Youth Hostels (AYH)).

Justin Cline founded the Potomac Area Council in 1943 as an offshoot of the international hostelling movement. The organization's mission was to "develop healthy, self-reliant, well-informed, community-minded and world-minded citizens and to further good will among people of all lands." To accomplish this, the organization promoted inexpensive outdoor and social activities for people of all ages, such as dances, bicycling, and hiking. As a secondary function, it established low-cost accommodations for travelers engaged in these activities.

In its early years, the organization focused on providing recreational opportunities for the multitudes that swarmed to Washington during World War II. After the war ended, many of its members stayed in Washington and continued to organize recreational activities and establish hostels. In the early 1950s, it became active in promoting trails, including working with Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in the preservation of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal (see C&O Canal Association records, MS2027). PAC then established a now-defunct chain of hostels for hikers along the canal. It also ran a bicycle concession at Hains Point in East Potomac Park. During this time, the group was relatively small and centered on recreational activities for its members.

In the late 1960s, however, it began to reach out more to the surrounding community. Although PAC began bicycling programs for inner city youth in the early 1950s, it expanded them in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It would continue to promote bicycling through the 1980s, and continues to provide programs for inner city youth today.

An offshoot organization, the Boot & Sprocket Club, formed from some of the original hostellers after marriage and "settling down." The organization continues to hold reunions.

Today, running hostels is the main function of PAC. The organization has managed several hostels in the Washington area through its history. PAC's main hostel, as well as its headquarters, is currently located at 11th and K Streets, NW, in Washington.

PAC has published several newsletters and brochures, as well as hiking and bicycling guides.

Don Messersmith, a professor of Entomology and Ornithology at the University of Maryland, has been involved with PAC since 1950 and once served as its executive director and president of the board. As the donor, he is the most prominently featured individual in the collection.

Extent

16.25 Linear Feet

Language

English

Abstract

Collection includes correspondence, brochures, pamphlets, newsletters, newspaper clippings, photographs, slides, scrapbooks, audio and video tapes, and cloth materials. The material dates from 1943-2011. The material in the collection covers the history of the Potomac Area Council of American Youth Hostels, especially the activities of its former Executive Director and board president, Don Messersmith.

Collection Organization

Organized into seven series: Administrative files, Newsletters and pamphlets, Graphics, Scrapbooks and annotated photograph albums, Audiotapes, Ephemera, and 2011 donation.

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site, and may require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Donald Messersmith in three accretions. One in 2005, another in 2008 and another in 2011.
Title
Guide to the Potomac Area Council American Youth Hostels records, 1943-2011
Status
Completed
Author
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Date
2006
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America