Chautauqua Institution and Movement
In the late 1800s to early 1900s, there was a great interest in America in learning and improvement, particularly in the areas of music, literature, philosophy, art, religion, and theater. The Chautauqua Institution supported that trend and became a national movement.
- The Chautauqua Institution opened in 1874 at Chautauqua in southwestern New York. It sits on 2,700 acres next to Chautauqua Lake.
- It was started by inventor Lewis Miller and Methodist Bishop John Heyl Vincent. Their goal was to provide a teaching camp for Sunday School teachers.
- The first classes were primarily about Bible studies and the geography of the Holy Land as it was during Christ’s life.
- Each year, the organization added new classes. Soon programs included philosophy, music, literature, and theater. People could attend ballets, symphonies, theater, and concerts, as well as daily lectures on religion, literature, philosophy, and politics.
- The first attendees stayed in tents. Later cottages were built and then hotels and inns.
- In time, the Chautauqua ideals spread to other communities to become a movement serving more than 10,000 communities and 450,000 people.
- After World War II, the movement lost traction and most locations closed.
- The Chautauqua Institution still offers a 9-week summer program for children and adults. In addition to activities related to literature and arts, attendants can play golf and tennis, stroll on the beach, or go sailing on the lake.
- The Chautauqua Prize is given annually to a writer producing an exceptional literary work. The prize is $7,500 and a week’s stay at the retreat.
- The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle is a book club that was started in 1878 by Vincent and continues today.
- Traction: movement, force
- Literary: about literature or books
Questions and Answers
Question: Are there still locations elsewhere in the country?
Answer: At least 18 Chautauqua locations still exist from Maine to Tennessee to Illinois to Colorado.
Visit the Chautauqua Institution’s website.
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APA Style Citation
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