In 1874, in northwest New York state, Lewis Miller and John Vincent
started a summer camp for Sunday school teachers in Chautauqua.
Chautauqua turned into a movement that still affects our educational
system today in the United States.

     Lewis Miller was a Akron, Ohio, industrialist and inventor.  He was
an active layman in his church, contributing his time and money freely. 
John Vincent was a Methodist minister responsible for coordinating
Methodist sunday schools throughout the U.S.  It is said that Miller had
the money and organization skills, and Vincent had the talent as a speaker
and educator.  When they founded Chautauqua in 1874, they wanted a
relaxing and fun training ground for Sunday school teachers.  They both
thought learning was a life long-process.  They saw Chautauqua as a
university for people of all ages and educational levels. 

     Exactly what was Chautauqua about?  Vincent and Miller wanted it to
be a recreational and learning experience for a wide variety of people.
They had simulated trips for the campers.  One was "The Ideal Summer trip
Beyond The Sea".  This 150 day trip was compressed into 15 days of
conversations, readings, walks, and photographs.  Guide books and tickets
were printed to make the trip seem more authentic.  There was also a
"Palestine Park", where a scale model of Palestine was carved out of the
land, so that classes could be taught on the geography and history
of Palestine.

     Chautauqua served as a platform for issues of the day.  Nine
different presidents of the U.S. have spoken at Chautauqua.  William Rainy
Harper, founder of the University of Chicago, used the Chautauqua concept
as a model for his new college.  Chautauqua had a lot to offer the camper:
operas, plays, art classes, famous speakers, classes on religion, and
classes in music, just to name a few.

     Chautauqua became so popular that other people started imitating the
concept.  People in the small towns of a relatively new developing country
wanted culture, knowledge, and new ideals, plus a means of escape with
music and entertainment from their isolation.  Some of the imitation was
done well and pleased the founders, others, such as the Ku Klux Klan's
"Klan Tauqua" were not very flattering to the founders.

     By 1886, there were Chautauqua's from Maine to Florida and across to
California, and up to Oregon.  Circuit Chautauqua sent out packaged
programs to towns.  At the height of its popularity, circuit Chautauqua
was journeying to nearly 10,000 communities each season.  In 1924, over a
million Americans attended circuit programs.  The depression of the 1930's
took its toll on the circuit programs.  Radios becoming common in many
American homes also stopped people from attending.  By 1932, circuit
Chautauqua had pretty much ended.

     Chautauqua is still in operation today in upper New York state.  Over
150,000 people participated in the camp programs in 1996.  President
Clinton used Chautauqua to practice for the debates against Dole in 1996. 
The 1997 summer season lecture platform has such topics as "Leadership in
America", "The Mystery of Good and Evil", and "The Politics of the
Environment".  Chautauqua's own symphony orchestra, formed in 1929, will
be performing along with the Chautauqua Ballet company.  There will be
theatre and opera.  More than 300 courses in subjects ranging from
symphony to sailing are being offered.  Chautauqua is a summer camp for
all ages, especially for those who believe learning is a life long

Morrison, Theodore, "CHAUTAUQUA" Chicago, University of Chicago, 1974

AND INTELLECTUAL HISTORY'  Quarterly Journal of Speech, v67 n2 p167-77


Erbland, Walter. "CHAUTAUQUA INSTITUTION", Conservationist, 32,5  14-8         

Prepared by Debbie Porter