Chautauqua Movement

Chautauqua movement, development in adult education somewhat similar to the lyceum movement. It derived from an institution at Chautauqua, N.Y. There, in 1873, John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller proposed to a Methodist Episcopal camp meeting that secular as well as religious instruction be included in the summer Sunday-school institute. Established on that basis in 1874, the institute evolved into an eight-week summer program, offering adult courses in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Thousands attended each year; for those who could not, there were courses for home study groups, and lecturers were sent out to supplement the material furnished from the organization's publishing house. Local reading circles flourished around the country.

Other communities were inspired to form local Chautauquas, and possibly 200–300 were organized, though few were so successful as the original. These local groups brought authors, explorers, musicians, and political leaders to lecture and furnished a variety of entertainment. The Chautauquas had something of the spirit of the revival meeting and something of the county fair. In 1912 the movement was organized commercially; lecturers and entertainers were furnished to local groups on a contract basis. This commercial endeavor was extremely successful, persisting until c.1924, after which automobile travel, motion pictures, and other forces rapidly diminished Chautauqua's appeal. The original Chautauqua site continues to draw summer visitors who attend varied programs.


See J. H. Vincent, The Chautauqua Movement (1886, repr. 1971); A. E. Bestor, Chautauqua Publications (1934); R. Richmond, Chautauqua: an American Place (1934); G. MacLaren, Morally We Roll Along (1938); V. Case and R. O. Case, We Called It Culture: The Story of Chautauqua (1948, repr. 1970); J. E. Gould, The Chautauqua Movement (1961).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Chautauqua Movement: Selected full-text books and articles

"Dancing Mothers" the Chautauqua Movement in Twentieth-Century American Popular Culture By Johnson, Russell L American Studies International, Vol. 39, No. 2, June 2001
The Chautauqua Movement: Revolution in Popular Higher Education By Scott, John C Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 70, No. 4, July-August 1999
Lewis Miller: A Biographical Essay By Ellwood Hendrick G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1925
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XXII "The Beginnings of Chautauqua" and Chap. XXIII "Chautauqua Launched"
William Jennings Bryan: Orator of Small-Town America By Donald K. Springen Greenwood Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Success on the Chautauqua Circuit"
Oratorical Culture in Nineteenth-Century America: Transformations in the Theory and Practice of Rhetoric By Gregory Clark; S. Michael Halloran Southern Illinois University Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "The Divergence of Purpose and Practice on the Chautauqua: Keith Vawter's Self-Defense"
History of Religion in the United States By Clifton E. Olmstead Prentice-Hall, 1960
Librarian’s tip: "The Chautauqua Movement" begins on p. 459
The Romance of Small-Town Chautauquas By James R. Schultz University of Missouri Press, 2002
Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States By Cindy S. Aron Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of chautauquas begins on p. 113
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