Introduction| The Chautauqua Idea | The Chautauqua Experience | The Incorporation of Chautauqua | Resources

Conclusion: The Incorporation of Chautauqua


From Three Taps of the Gavel, Alfreda E. Irwin

As these charts illustrate, Chautauqua grew rapidly. This growth was due to the expansion of its educational and cultural programming. However, with growth came change--building and rebuilding, setting up new institutional frameworks, and expanding the scope of the movement. Chautauqua was no longer an old camp-meeting ground in the wilderness, but a city unto itself and a national phenomenon.


From Three Taps of the Gavel, Alfreda E. Irwin


As part of its new institutional framework, Chautauqua set up a press and began publishing a daily summer paper, a monthly C.L.S.C. magazine, and books such as John H. Vincent's history of the movement. These publications afforded an opportunity to spread the Chautauqua message. They also included ads, such as those to the left, for products that promoted Chautauqua or that Chautauquans might like.


Chautauqua did not remain within the confines of the upstate New York Assembly. By the early twentieth century "Chautauquas" were forming all over the country. Some were permanent institutions like the one in New York, but traveling Chautauqua circuits also formed that would move from town to town.


From Culture Under Canvas, Harry P.Harrison

"A local Chautauqua proper is widely different from any other thing that may be compared with it. It is not a country picnic, nor a prize exhibit of talent, nor a political convocation, nor a financial enterprise, nor a cheap imitation of a college, nor a camp meeting, nor a "select" and "exclusive" summer resort..."

--From "What a Chautauqua is Not," The Chautauquan, 1912.

The above quote, from a 1912 article in The Chautauquan entitled "What a Chautauqua is Not", betrays an anxiety on the part of those involved with the Chautauqua Institution over the rise of local Chautauquas. The article goes on to define, by negative example, what a "true Chautauqua" should be, and reads almost like a how-to guide for local and traveling Chautauquas.




The story of early Chautauqua is one of constant growth. Within the Institution new land was acquired and new buildings put up, summer educational and cultural programs were added, year round correspondence courses were made available, and the Chautauqua Press was established. As the Chautauqua message spread, local Chautauquas and traveling Chautauqua circuits were formed, and not all of them stayed true to the original idea the founders had of a "true Chautauqua."

These changes within and surrounding the Chautauqua Institution changed it from a spot in the wilderness where the growing middle-class could escape from the city and experience a utopian community based on religion, culture and education. This is not to say that the Chautauqua Institution ever abandoned these aims. However, the very nature of its growth caused it to be organized in a way that made it look more and more like the new corporate structures it was initially set up in opposition to.






Introduction| The Chautauqua Idea | The Chautauqua Experience | The Incorporation of Chautauqua | Resources