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Chautauqua Institution cofounder John Vincent said “Chautauqua is an idea, embracing the 'all things’ of life - art, science, society, religion, patriotism, education – whatsoever tends to enlarge, refine, and ennoble the individual.” He wrote that it was the aim of Chautauqua “to take people on all sides of their natures and make them new, more intelligent and thoughtful in a world of ideas.” (The Chautauquan, Fall 1999)
The Chautauqua movement began at Lake Chautauqua, New York in 1874 as a summer retreat for the training of Sunday School teachers. From the first year onward the Chautauqua idea was all-denominational and blended study and recreation in a pastoral setting. It broadened almost immediately to include academic subjects, music, art, humanities, and physical education. By 1880 the Chautauqua platform had established itself as a national forum for open discussion of public issues, international relations, literature, and science.
Soon after the founding of the original Chautauqua in New York, numerous independent Chautauqua assemblies were established throughout the country, based upon the ideals of the original. Additionally, in an effort to reach those who could not attend the established Chautauqua assemblies, travelling circuits or “tent Chautauquas” sprang up and continued until the early 1930s.
The Chautauqua idea currently thrives at Chautauqua Institution in New York and at its surviving “independents” around the country. In addition, some Chautauquas which became inactive in the 1930s are now being revived. Even a new Chautauqua circuit has recently started up which travels to cities across the country bringing historical re-enactors to lecture, teach, and entertain.
Chautauqua has grown to represent life-long learning in its fullest sense – educational and cultural opportunities for the total person. It has been one of the major influences in adult education in this country and remains true to its founders’ ideal of “embracing the ‘all things’ of life.”back to top
The Chautauqua Network is a group of organizations and individuals committed to the communication and implementation of the chautauqua concept of building community by supporting all persons in the development of their full potential intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically. The Chautauqua Network facilitates interaction and communication among its members to further their preservation, growth and development.back to top
The Chautauqua Trail is a cultural heritage trail linking remaining Chautauqua sites across the U.S. and Canada. It is part of a new initiative launched by the Chautauqua Network, a non-profit organization, to better promote the 21st century Chautauqua Movement. Chautauquas pioneered the concept of lifelong learning over a century ago. This collective experience combined with the explosive growth of cultural heritage tourism uniquely position Chautauquas as more and more North Americans seek to improve their lives through continued learning.back to top
The best way to support the mission of the Chautauqua Network is to become a member. From the home page, click "The Chautauqua Network" tab and then click "Join the Network". Individual memberships are $10 per year. Organizational memberships are $50 per year. As a member, you will receive the Chautauqua Network e-Newsletter and an invitation to attend the Chautauqua Network Annual Meeting. Additionally, in most cases, you can also support individual Chautauquas by making a tax-deductible gift to the institution. Please consult the appropriate independent Chautauqua website for more information.back to top
Thank you for your interest. Should you have additional questions after reviewing our website, please fill out the electronic form under the 'Contact Us' tab. We will respond as quickly as we can to each inquiry.back to top
No, not at all. Anyone can travel the Chautauqua Trail. However, individual and organizational Chautauqua Network memberships help support the 21st century Chautauqua Movement as well as the Chautauqua Trail website. Please click on "The Chautauqua Network" for membership information. Support this enduring movement; join the Chautauqua Network today!back to top
Yes. Individual memberships are available for a nominal fee. As a member of the Chautauqua Network, you will receive the e-Newsletter and an invitation to attend the annual meeting. Please click on "The Chautauqua Network" tab and join! You will be supporting one of the most important educational movements in North American history.back to top
This varies by Chautauqua. Some offer summer long programming (8 - 12 weeks) while others offer a multi-day assembly. Please consult individual Chautauqua websites for more information.back to top
Founded in 1878, the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle is the oldest continuous book club in the United States. Each summer, the CLSC’s task is to choose 10 influential books across genres. The authors of those books are then invited to visit Chautauqua Institution to present their work and discuss the craft of writing.back to top
More than a million people visited Chautauqua communities in the U.S. and Canada last year, taking advantage of educational, religious, cultural arts and recreational programming.back to top
Yes. Most Chautauqua communities offer accommodations and dining options on their grounds. Additionally, Chautauquas are generally located in or near tourist areas that offer a wider range of restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfast inns, campgrounds, cabins, as well as condo and cottage rentals. Summer is generally considered peak season. Please visit individual Chautauqua websites for more information.back to top
Yes, however, fees structures vary from one Chautauqua to another. There are some, like Chautuauqa Institution, Lakeside and Monteagle, that are gated and require guests to purchase a gate pass, entitling pass holders to attend most or all of the programs offered at no additional fee. Others require fees to attend individual programs. Additionally, parking fees may also apply.
Please use the Chautauqua Trail website to link to individual Chautauqua websites to learn more about applicable fees. Regardless of fee structure, the value of the Chautauqua Experience greatly outweighs the cost of admission.back to top
All Chautauquas share a common heritage and have many similar qualities. However, each Chautauqua is also unique. Exploring the traditions of each is part of the joy of discovery on the Chautauqua Trail.back to top
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson described Chautauqua during World War I as an "integral part of the national defense."
True to its namesake, “Chautauqua!,” by the National Theater of the United States of America, brings the Chautauqua concept into the 21st century with a 75-minute show that incorporates speeches, monologues, musical numbers, history lessons and sing-alongs.
Lewis Miller, co-founder of Chautauqua Insitution, received 92 U.S. patents during his lifetime, including the highly successful Buckeye Mower & Reaper (1855) on permanent display in the Smithsonian Institution.
John Heyl Vincent, co-founder of Chautauqua Institution, often visited his brother, Bishop B.T. Vincent, in Lakeside. Bishop Vincent was one of Lakeside's early leaders.
"He who does not know Chautauqua," wrote the journalist Frank Bohn in 1926, "does not know America."
Susan B. Anthony fainted during a visit to Lakeside and the wires falsely spread that she had passed away there.
At its peak in the mid-1920s, circuit Chautauqua performers and lecturers appeared in more than 10,000 communities in 45 states to audiences totaling 45 million people.
William Jennings Bryan deemed Chautauqua a "potent human factor in molding the mind of the nation."
Chautauqua Literary and Scientifc Circle is the oldest book club in America.
Beginning with touring “war films” in 1897 and continuing for at least the next decade, moving pictures were a mainstay of many independent Chautauqua assemblies. Regardless of the deep-seated anxiety among Protestant churchgoers concerning “cheap amusements,” moving pictures gained a measure of legitimacy when presented under the auspices of a Chautauqua assembly, where they were deemed suitable for children as well as adults.
In 1969, Elvis Presley starred as a circuit chautauqua manager named Walter Hale in the movie, "The Trouble with Girls."
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) produced a movie in 1984 entitled Chautauqua Girl. Set in Alberta, circa 1921, the movie is about a woman who finds a new job as an agent for a troupe of traveling Chautauqua performers made more difficult by financial hard times.
Franklin D. Roosevelt's historic "I hate war" speech was delivered from the podium in the Chautauqua Amphitheater (1936).
Thomas Alva Edison married his second wife, Mina Miller, in 1886. Mina was the daughter of Lewis Miller, co-founder of Chautauqua Institution. Thomas Edison's middle name, Alva, was given in honor of Captain Alva Bradley, a Great Lakes shipping magnate. After he passed away, Captain Bradley's widow honored her husband's life with the construction of Bradley Temple in Lakeside. Built in 1881, Bradley Temple is still used today for children's ministry and music.
William Rainy Harper, founder of the University of Chicago, used the Chautauqua concept as a model for his new college.