Signatures of commerce in small-town hotel guest registers

David A. Fyfe, Deryck W. Holdsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Guest registers for six commercial hotels are analyzed to reveal everyday, nonmigratory travel patterns associated with small towns and villages in the upper Susquehanna valleys of New York and Pennsylvania at the turn of the twentieth century. The residences of guests are mapped using geographic information system (GIS) software and reveal two broad patterns of connectivity, a translocal cluster of visitors from places within the immediate vicinity and a set of visitors from more distant places up the urban system. Census and directory data identify many repeat visitors, such as hucksters and peddlers extending the reach of rural stores and merchants traveling circuits as agents of metropolitan manufacturing centers. In addition to commercial travelers, the presence of traveling entertainments, such as vaudeville acts and circuses, in hotel guest registers reveals shifts in American popular culture and entertainments on small-town Main Streets. These registers offer a fixed window onto a mobile world, and the signatures hint at the types of connections between these settlements and the outside world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-45
Number of pages29
JournalSocial Science History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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