Welcome to South Carolina: race, sex and the rise of tourism in Myrtle Beach, 1900-1975

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University of Alabama Libraries

Though scholars have long focused on the impact traditional industries had on the development of the South, few have looked at the role tourism played in the economic and cultural transformation of the region. Even in South Carolina, tourism, not textiles or agriculture, is the state's number one industry. This work discovers how Myrtle Beach, the Palmetto State's biggest attraction, developed and adapted to the nation's changing cultural mores, all the while trying not to deviate too far from southern values. The study examines the impact of the tourism industry on the development of the city during a period of immense social and cultural turmoil in the United States, 1954 to 1973. Myrtle Beach leaders, concerned with keeping and expanding the tourism industry, contended with the ramifications of the civil rights and women's liberation movements, along with the opening of the interstate highway system. All the while, boosters tried never to waiver from their support of the town's family beach image. What they created though, was a white middle-class men's vacation paradise complete with golf courses and strip clubs. The city became a place to get away from the racial unrest and growing women's liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Myrtle Beach was caught between a mythic pre-1960s South of racial harmony and innocence and a modern, racially and sexually open society. Finally, this project discovers how South Carolina leaders used city boosters' tourism promotional strategies in marketing the state. Between 1945 and 1970, Southerners began to realize that tourism was an economic force. Southern governors meticulously crafted strategies to attract tourists to their states, working like their predecessors had before them to obtain northern smokestack industries. South Carolina was no exception. Governors McNair and West treated tourism in much the same fashion. The two leaders hired the most experienced people in the Palmetto State to head up the promotion. Many of these people came from Myrtle Beach. They helped impose the city's promotional strategies upon the state's efforts.

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History, United States