The Brief History of Spring Break

For some American college students spring break is a time to relax and travel. Florida remains the top destination for spring break, and during the 2014 ‘spring break season’ Florida had 26. 3 million out of state visitors.  The term ‘spring break’ has become synonymous in popular culture with partying and travel; this is partly because every year since 1986 MTV has aired a spring break special, with coverage of parties and concerts. But how did this tradition start?

It was Sam Ingram who quite accidently began the tradition of going to Ft. Lauderdale Florida for spring break.

Sam Ingram was the swimming coach for Colgate University, and in 1936 Ingram took his team to Ft. Lauderdale to train in Florida’s first Olympic sized swimming pool.  Two years later in 1938 Ft. Lauderdale hosted the College Coaches’ Swim Forum, where more than 300 college swimmers competed.

1938 College Coaches' Swim Forum source:

1938 College Coaches’ Swim Forum

TIME Magazine published its first spring break article, entitled “Beer & the Beach”, in 1959.

Spring Break first appeared in popular culture in the 1960 movie Where the Boys Are. The film is set in Ft. Lauderdale and tells the story of college students looking for fun and love on the beach. Within a year of the film’s release more than 50,000 college students flocked to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break. While this film was spring break’s first appearance in popular culture, it certainly was not the last. The movie Spring Break starring Tom Cruise was released in 1983 and MTV began its Spring Break coverage in Ft. Lauderdale in 1986. By the mid-1980s more than 370,000 students traveled to Ft. Lauderdale yearly for Spring Break parties.

There are of course other ways for students to spend spring break. Many schools, including Fordham University, host ‘alternative spring break’ programs which allows students to spend their volunteering domestically or internationally.

Whether you choose to catch-up on academic work, party in Florida, or volunteer—be safe this spring break.

For more information about the history of spring break read Lauren Bohn’s 2009 TIME article and Bryan Dugan’s 2014 Mental Floss article.

You can also read TIME’s full “Beer & the Beach” article by going to their archive.

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