Chautauqua History

According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Chautauqua is defined as a cultural program for adults combining lectures with music and theatre, popular in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The original Chautauqua

Founded in New York state by two Methodists, Lewis Miller and John Heyl Vincent in 1874 as an ecumenical summer school for Sunday School teachers, the Chautauqua quickly grew to encompass more than Sunday School teaching; it became a place for cultural and idea exchange and an adult education summer camp. This Chautauqua became a model for “daughter Chautauquas”. The Chautauqua movement came to mean both permanently placed and traveling Chautauquas. Through the use of these circuit camps, the Chautauquas of the late 1800s and early 1900s became avenues for spreading academic lectures, culture through arts and music, and religion through small towns.

Current Chautauquas

The Chautauqua spirit and experience continues today with Chautauquas in Port Carling, Ontario, Lakeside, Ohio, Ocean Grove, New Jersey, the initial one, Chautauqua, New York, and many other traveling and permanent locations.


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