Advice to Readers on Learning to Cook

For many years Isabella had an advice column in a popular Christian magazine. In the column she answered readers’ questions—from a Christian perspective—on a variety of topics.

In 1910 she received this letter from a young woman:

Can you tell some of us girls—who never had a chance to learn much about real, practical, beautiful housekeeping—some way of learning? Are there not schools in cities for this purpose? Or are there not books from which we can learn what we need to know?

We want to understand all kinds or planning and arranging and beautifying and economizing.

We want to be excellent cooks, and to learn much that people whose time is largely spent in school or shop know very little about.

Can you help us with this practical need of ours?”

Illustration of different desserts: A sundae in a tall glass, cupcakes, a merangue, and a cake.

Here is Isabella’s reply:

It shall be my delight to do so.

Let me first express what a pleasure it is to find that one who can write so charming a letter as accompanied these questions is able to turn her thoughts to this practical subject, and to feel the “need” of knowledge.

Also, I rejoice in the thought that a large number of the letters awaiting attention deal with the same subject. Our lovely, cultured girls, who have had “advantages,” are beginning to feel the importance of understanding the art of home-making.

Newspaper clipping:
HOUSEKEEPERS HAVE TROUBLES.
Have Miss Peet help you in them at cooking school.
The school opens next Monday.
Ask her any questions any time - Wants Fort Scott women to feel it is their school.
From The Fort Scott Daily Tribune, October 31, 1913

Schools? Certainly there are. Every city of rea­sonable size now sends out its circulars announcing a “cooking-school” in regular session through the school year, or in extra session during vacation, or for the winter months.

Photo of about a dozen young women gathered around a table where they are preparing peaches to make into peach rolls.
A cooking school at the Indiana State Fair, about 1917

Better than these opportunities, especially for school­girls and those employed in regular work of any kind during the winter, are the cooking-schools that have sprung up in connection with the larger summer “as­semblies.”

I am told that every well-established summer resort organized under the peculiar rules that belong to the word “assembly” now has its own fairly well-appointed cooking class or classes. I am, however, most familiar with the one at Chautauqua, N. Y., which is, of course, the mother of all the Chautauquas, and is and must always be the first in all ways.

Photo from the early 1900s of a large classroom full of cooking students and teachers. The students are wearing caps and full aprons. The teachers wear caps and are dressed in white. Some students are preparing vegetables, others are setting a table, while others are at different stages of the cooking process.
A cooking school at the Battle Creek, Michigan resort and sanitarium.

Mrs. Emma P. Ewing, who, as everyone knows, has no superior in her department, conducts regularly at Chau­tauqua, N. Y., during the eight weeks’ season, a thor­oughly equipped cooking-school, with its normal depart­ment, its “practice class,” its lecture course, and its final examination.

Black and white head-and-shoulders photograph of Emma P. Ewing. She is wearing spectacles. She is wearing a bodice with a high neck and sleeves that puff at the shoulder.
Emma P. Ewing, from Wikipedia.org

Nothing more fascinating than the way in which Mrs. Ewing manages the entire matter can well be imagined. It has been my pleasure to be often in her classroom, to admire the white table set out with all the belongings for the day, sometimes arranged for the pur­pose of making delicious soups and white sauces and delicate desserts, sometimes planned for the purpose of showing what a study in refinement and beauty and excellence a breakfast of lamb chop and creamed pota­toes and corn puffs may become.

Newspaper article:
FREE LESSON
Mrs. Emma P. Ewing, dean of Chautauqua cooking school, will give a free lesson on breadmaking in the Woman's club class room, 306 south High street, Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock. All interested in preparing wholesome bread will be welcome.
The Muncie Daily Times, October 5, 1896.

Every conceivable branch of the culinary art is taught here. Pies, pud­dings, cakes, sauces, gravies, roasts, fries, stews, each come in for a full share of careful consideration.

Illustration from about 1912. A woman is in her kitchen looking down on a turkey in a roasting pas she has just taken from the oven.

Let me confess just here that a very fascinating part of the daily class exercise is the careful “tasting” of whatever article of food has been prepared before our eyes. For this purpose scholars go to the class armed each with a silver spoon, or fork, as occasion may require, and a napkin.

Illustration of a young woman about 1918. She is holding a bowl on a saucer just below her nose as if she is enjoying the smell of the contents.

Delicious beyond description are the spoonfuls of broth or “white soup” or bouillon that one thus enjoys, to say nothing of the marvellous concoctions made with a spoonful or two of cream, a cup of fruit-juice, a dash of sugar, and a little gelatine; to say nothing, moreover, of the delicious creams and ices and “foams” and innumerable other forms to delight the palate.

Illustration of different desserts, including a cake, a plum pudding, a molded gelatine, a cake decorated with gelatine, and a mousse.

Not only can the making and cooking of all these dishes be thoroughly learned at this summer school, but there are classes formed for the special purpose of train­ing the pupils in the art of setting the table neatly and gracefully, of clearing away skillfully, of selecting dishes that harmonize with others, of explaining the difference between a refined abundance and a sinful waste.

Illustration of a dining room with a table for 12. The table is covered with a white tablecloth. Each place is set with plate, silverware, glasses and napkins. In the center are large bowls of fruits, a cruet, and a coffee service.
A proper Victorian-era table set for dinner.

There are bills of fare arranged for summer, for winter, for the trying springs and falls. There is careful attention paid to the novice who does not know whether to buy steak “by the yard” or piece, or whether to try to have strawberries and green peas in February, or to wait until they are less flavored with money.

Illustration of a woman reading a cookbook in her kitchen about 1920. On the table before her is a colander full of berries, a large empty bowl, a can of Crisco and a rolling pin.

In short, anything that one needs to learn about housekeeping, as connected with the kitchen and storeroom, may be acquired at this summer cooking-school. Moreover, the teacher is so gentle voiced and sympathetic, and so thoroughly ladylike, that it is simply a pleasure to watch her and listen to her. It would be difficult to imagine anyone farther removed from the “fussy” or the hurried and nervous stage of housekeeping than Mrs. Ewing.

Illustration from about 1918. A mother and daughter are in the kitchen standing side-by-side at the stove. The mother is reading from a cookbook while the daughter adds ingredients to a pot on the stove.

No matter how much it may sound like it, my dear girls, this is not an advertisement of the Chautauqua cooking-school. The truth is, that favored spot needs no advertising; its classes are always full, and application has to be made some time in advance. It is simply an honest effort to answer an honest and often repeated question about learning how.

Illustration of a woman from about 1910. She is in a kitchen, wearing an apron, stirring the contents of a large bowl. On the table before her are a variety of pans and cooking utensils.

Meantime, do you know, dear girls, what delightful institutions home cooking-clubs are? Why not organize one in your own circle?

Black and white photo of five ladies standing arm-in-arm in a row. Each is wearing an apron.
Members of a cooking club in their aprons.

Select one evening or afternoon a week out of your busy lives. Meet around at one another’s homes; find out the specialty of each mother or grandma or auntie; and petition for a lesson in her line—a “normal” lesson, where you can have the privilege of furnishing your own materials, and doing exactly what the teacher does, and carry home the result in triumph. Some of the most fascinating evenings I have ever known were spent in this way.

Newspaper article:
AFTERNOON TEA
The Muffin Cooking Club Entertains the Young Ladies' Cooking Club.
Yesterday afternoon the members of Muffin Cooking Club entertained the members of the Young Ladies' Cooking Club with an afternoon tea at the beautiful home of Miss Mayne Sprankle, South Liberty street. The spacious rooms of the house were beautifully decorated and presented a unique appearance, especially the dining room and table, over which flowers and candles were artistically arranged. Dainty refreshments were served and all were delightfully entertained.
From The Muncie Morning News, September 22, 1892.

Try it, and see how much, at the end of a year, you will have added to your stock of practical knowledge.

What do you think of Isabella’s advice?

Where and when did you learn to cook? Have you ever taken a cooking class or joined a cooking club?

You can read some of Emma P. Ewing’s cookbooks for free! Just click on any of the titles below to view them on Archive.org.

The Art of Cookery; a Manual for Homes and Schools

A Textbook of Cookery for Use in Schools

Cooking and Castle-building

Soup and Soup Making

Vegetables and Vegetable Cooking

A Letter from Chautauqua

Isabella’s novels about Chautauqua Institution inspired adults from across the country (and around the world) to attend the summer assembly in New York.

But children also dreamed of going. In 1883 Isabella received a letter from a twelve-year-old girl named Faith who made an unexpected trip to Chautauqua. Faith’s letter to Isabella was reprinted in an 1883 issue of The Pansy magazine. You can read Faith’s enthusiastic account of her summer below:

Chautauqua, Aug. 1, 1883.

DEAR READERS: A wonderful thing has happened to me! It will do to put in that long list of modern events that I had so much trouble remembering in my history lesson. I am quite sure I shall remember this one, though, as long as I live.

I wanted to go to Chautauqua, and here I am!

I talked about it, and dreamed about it, but all the time I thought it was of no use, for mamma said she didn’t know as we could ever afford to go. I put it among the things, though, that I meant to do some time, when I grew up. I thought it would be years and years first, but don’t you think, that very night, Uncle John and Auntie May came. They were on their way to Chautauqua. Almost the first thing Uncle John said to me was, “Come, Faithie, pack your trunk, we are going to carry you off with us.”

I thought it was only some of his jokes, but after tea, when we all sat on the piazza together, Uncle John began to coax mamma in real earnest to let me go. Mamma said that a little girl only twelve years old was too young to go away from her mother, but Auntie May said she would take the best possible care of me, and Uncle John said I would have a real good time, and it shouldn’t cost me a cent, and it was a pity if they couldn’t borrow a child once in a while, when they had none of their own.

Papa hadn’t spoken yet. He looked at me and he saw that my eyes were saying, “Please, please, do let me go!” Then he said to mamma, “Suppose we let her go. It will do the child good.”

Mamma said then that she would think about it, and decide by morning.

I almost knew before I went to bed that I was going, for mamma said two or three times, “If you go, you will do so and so.” Then she came into my room and looked my clothes over, and said, “If you go, you can take the smallest trunk. Let me see, there is your white dress, and your gingham, and your black and white check. The one you have on, with your brown hat and sack, will do nicely for travelling. You can put your best hat in the trunk.”

I had on my brown cashmere skirt, and white waist, and I thought myself I would look nice, with my brown sacque and hat, with a clean linen collar. I was glad I happened to have a brown hair ribbon, too.

I couldn’t get asleep very soon that night, and when I did I dreamed that Chautauqua was at the top of a high, steep hill, and I was trying to climb up, but every step I took I fell back two or three. It wasn’t true at all, though. Chautauqua is not on such a very high hill, and I did not have a hard time getting here.

Mamma said “yes” in the morning, without any ifs and ands, except that I had to promise to wear my rubbers when it was damp, and carry my umbrella when it looked like rain, and not go out on the lake, and do just as Auntie May told me.

The only bad thing about getting here was saying good-by. I didn’t think I would feel bad, going away for just a little while, but the minute I kissed mamma, I felt as if I were going to choke. I was determined not to cry, so I never said good-by at all. I was afraid after I got started mamma would think I did not care anything at all about leaving her.

Where shall I begin to tell you about this wonderful, beautiful place?

Chautauqua is just ten years old. Yes, ten years ago this was just like any other piece of woods on the shore of a lake. Now, it is a large, beautiful grove, the underbrush is all cleared away, and streets and avenues wind in and out among the tall old trees. There are pretty cottages—whole streets of them—and there are white tents sprinkled about, fixed out with red curtains, and lace curtains, and hanging-baskets, too pretty for anything.

A row of four tents set up in a clearing, with small houses in the background. A woman stands in the opening of the first tent; a wooden chair is beside her. Families pose at the openings of the other tents.
Chautauqua tents and cottages, 1910

A great, handsome hotel stands not far from the lake, and the lawn, sloping down to the water, looks as if it were covered with green velvet.

Hotel Athenaeum, 1908

The pretty blue lake is smuggled into green woodsey shores, and steamboats are coming and going all the time; then there are row boats and sail boats flitting about.

Row boats for rent on the shore of Lake Chautauqua, as a steamer docks at Chautauqua.

Whichever way you look you see people dodging here and there behind the trees. It looks as if all the grown folks were playing live. I like it. I wish they would do so always, and I don’t see why they can’t go on doing these pretty things when they get home. Life wouldn’t be half so dull if we could always get up, and go to bed, and go to dinner, at the sound of a chime of bells, and hear the grand organ every morning rolling through the air, and great burst of song coming through the trees. Why, it seems half the time as if I was one of the people in a lovely poem. Then, don’t you think the robins hop right about the door, great, lovely robins, and cunning little squirrels chase each other up and down the tree trunks.

A group of small children play in the grace near the lake shore. A couple sits on a wooden bench, looking about upon the lake, where there are sail boats, row boats and a steamer.

To think of my seeing robins and squirrels so near by! But I suppose you have met those delightful people scampering and flying about at your own house this summer, so I needn’t take up room telling you about them.

The people are not all playing, though it might look so. Almost everybody is studying something. There are classes in French, and German, and Latin, English literature, music, clay modeling, drawing, and ever so many other things.

A group of about thirty girls sit on the grass. Each girl weaves a holds a length of straw or small
A girl’s class in basket making at Chautauqua.

Uncle John says I may take drawing lessons.

Lectures and concerts are going on in the great amphitheatre nearly all the time. The amphitheatre is such a place as you never saw in your life. Let me see if I can make you understand just how it is. It is just as if the water was all dipped out of Simmon’s pond, a floor laid in the bottom, making a room as large is three or four churches, in one. Then imagine the sides of the pond, made hard and smooth, sloping down to this floor and filled with seats beginning low and going, one above another, up, up to the very top. There are aisles every little way from top to bottom (it’s the greatest fun to scud down them when all the people are away.)

Photo of the inside of the amphitheatre, a large wood structure with a stage at one end with about 12 rows of raised seating behind. The floor and 3 remaining sides of the theatre are filled with rows of wooden benches.

At one end of the great room is a high platform for speakers, and back of it and higher up still, is the orchestra with a beautiful organ.

Photo of the amphitheatre stage. In the middle is an elevated platform for the organist and three large banks of organ pipes.
The Massey Memorial Organ, 1908.

This alone is large enough to hold a thousand people. It is a great sight to sit up there evenings, when the electric light makes it all as light as day and lighter, too—and see the audience. Every seat filled; six or seven thousand people making a huge half circle about the platform; then the red and blue and pink and green and white and black dresses, and shawls and ribbons and feathers and fans is just wonderful; it all looks like a very big bouquet—at least, that is the way it looked to me; but I am beginning to think that people see everything with different eyes. I heard Auntie May ask Uncle John if it did not make him think of that verse in Revelations, xx. “So a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds and people, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb.” And Uncle John said he wondered if God saw the seal in the foreheads of all this company.

A view of the Amphitheatre from the stage in 1937.

It certainly seems as if we had got somewhere away from this world, at night, when the electric light streams far out and lights up the trees and cottages so beautifully.

I saw a lovely picture when I came home last night, only it was not painted and hung up, it was a live picture. It was a cunning little white tent with a light like sunshine on it. The red curtain was parted in front, the shadows of the leaves danced over it, and on the porch sat two pretty ladies, leaning back in their rocking-chairs resting.

It’s queer about things, isn’t it? If a great artist were to paint that and put it in a gallery how all the people would run to see it. Why don’t they gather round and wonder over pretty pictures before they are made up is what I would like to know.

Here I have written a long letter, and I have not told you yet how Chautauqua came to be. The man who thought it out and got it up, is Dr. Vincent. He and some of his friends came here one summer to study the Bible together in quiet. They thought it was a nice place, so they decided to hold a Sabbath-school assembly here the next year; from that it grew and grew to this great grand Chautauqua, where for six weeks in summer you can study anything, I think, from cooking up to all the ‘ologies and philosophies and dead languages and live languages that ever were heard of in the world, though the Bible is the chief book studied, by some of the people at least. Such grand lectures as I have been to!— not dry a bit. All the great orators speak in Chautauqua. Then the concerts, with all sorts of instruments and beautiful choruses and lovely solos. Oh, I tell you,  I’m having a good time!

The Chautauqua Regional Chorus performs at the Amphitheatre.

Uncle John says Dr. Vincent is a genius, and that the day will come when this will be a great university open the year round.

If you have any patience left after you read this, write to me, and if you want to hear more about Chautauqua I will write it, for there are whole books-full left.

Your loving friend,

Faith.

Pansy Approved Bicycles

Did you know Chautauqua Institution had its own commercial printing office? It produced brochures, maps of the grounds, programmes, daily schedules, and a newspaper called The Chautauqua Assembly Herald.

Published six days a week, The Chautauqua Assembly Herald filled eight to ten pages of every issue with news about Chautauqua, including the comings and goings of some of its residents and visitors.

On July 24, 1895 one of the newspaper’s reporters spotted Isabella’s familiar face at a concert in Chautauqua’s amphitheater:

Pansy’s placid, pleasant face was seen in the veritable sea of faces at the concert in Chautauqua’s amphitheater Wednesday. From her very looks one would judge Mrs. Alden as a woman who loves little people, even if one had never heard of the famous Pansy books.

Naturally, the reporter sought Isabella out as soon as the concert was over, and asked about her summer plans and whether she was writing anything special. Isabella confirmed she was indeed working on a story, and added:

“All of my stories, you know, are published in serial form in my magazine before they are put out in book form. My magazine work occupies most of my time.”

“For the past 19 years we have spent every summer at Chautauqua. We have our summer home here, but for many years past I have had to give up my Assembly work. I am much interested, however, in the Woman’s Club here.”

Knowing the Woman’s Club was to meet the next day, the reporter asked Isabella if she was going to read a new, unpublished story to club members.

“It is a story which not only has not been published, but which is not yet all written,” replied Pansy smiling.

Their conversation drifted into other topics, including an observation about the new phenomenon of women using bicycles as a means of getting around Chautauqua.

Studio photograph from late 1890s of young woman posed beside her bicycle. She is wearing a long dark dress with long sleeves and a high collar, and a bonnet.

Progressive-thinking Isabella had no problem with the new “wheelwomen” (as lady cyclists were called in 1895):

“I think the bicycle must offer a pleasant, healthful form of recreation to women, but I do like to see them dress inconspicuously and neatly when riding, and I do not like to see them wear bloomers.”

Photograph dated 1912 of woman standing beside her bicycle. She is wearing a long skirt, long-sleeved shirt with high collar, and a bonnet.

Any guesses which story Isabella was writing and publishing as a serial in The Pansy magazine during the summer of 1895?

It was Reuben’s Hindrances! Chapter eight of Reuben’s Hindrances appeared in the July 1895 issue of The Pansy; monthly installments continued into 1896 until all twenty-four chapters appeared in the magazine.

Grace’s Chautauqua Delights, Part 5

This is the fifth and final installment of Grace Livingston Hill’s 1894 article about Chautauqua. If you missed them, you can read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here. Read Part 3 here. Read Part 4 here.

Recreations at Chautauqua

The Chautauqua Christian Endeavour Society should not be forgotten as a helpful influence in bringing not only the young, but all classes of people together, and making them acquainted. This society not only includes all members of the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavour who visit at Chautauqua, but also members of any denominational societies doing similar work.

A Christian Endeavor group, 1905

Here, in the white-pillared Hall of Philosophy, they meet for an hour just at early evening, every week, and hold their prayer-meeting; and the voice of prayer and song or words of cheer, of comfort, of consecration, come from many. One other hour each week is also given to a conference, where the members compare notes on the best ways of working in various lines.

In 1892 Grace was president of the Chautauqua Endeavor Society.

Last summer the plan was enlarged and a Working Committee formed. The grounds were divided into districts, and each Member of the Executive Committee became responsible for the work in one district; putting a topic card and notices in every cottage on the grounds, and giving to all strangers invitations to Meetings and Socials of the Society. Much good work was accomplished, and many strange young people made to feel at home.

The banner on the wall reads, “You are invited to attend the Y.P.S.C.E. meeting this evening.”

There was also a room used as Headquarters, where were books and other literature relative to young people’s Christian work, and where could be found stationery and a quiet place to write or read. The registry book showed that a goodly number of young people availed themselves of this privilege.

A quiet place to read.

This Society held an Autograph Social during the season in the parlours of the hotel, which was a great success.

The Athenaeum Hotel, about 1915

Here and there you might have seen some favourite professor backed up against the wall with a double semicircle of his devoted students about him, eagerly holding their cards up, and he writing as if for dear life. But it was everywhere noticeable with what heartiness each one entered into the spirit of the hour, and demanded a name on his own card in return for every one he gave.

A collection of autographs from the early 1900s.

From this gathering it was difficult to send the people home, even after the solemn night-bell had rung; and the small boy who collected the pencils was very sleepy when the last couples left the parlour, smiling and chatting of the pleasant evening spent.

And the chimes make a beautiful ending to a day at Chautauqua. Whether you are wandering by the lake shore, or through the lovely avenues, it matters not; they are sweet. Sweeter, perhaps, just a little, as they ring out over the water, calling you in from a moonlight row or yacht ride. “Bonnie Doon,” “Blue Bells of Scotland,” “Robin Adair,” “Long, Long Ago,” all the old airs, and by-and-bye growing more serious— “Softly Now the Light of Day,” “Silently the Shades of Evening,” “Glory to Thee, my God, this Night,” and the “Vesper” hymn for good-night.

The Miller Bell Tower.

In 1894, when Grace wrote this article, collecting autographs was a popular way to preserve memories of an event. It wasn’t until 1900 when Kodak introduced their Brownie box camera that the average American could commemorate travels, celebrations, and other events with photos they took themselves.

Did you enjoy this tour of Chautauqua through Grace’s eyes?

Hopefully, her words gave you a sense of what it must have been like to visit Chautauqua 127 years ago!

Grace’s Chautauqua Delights, Part 4

This post is Part 4 of an article Grace Livingston Hill wrote about the delightful offerings for young women at Chautauqua Institution. The article was published in an 1894 issue of the YWCA newspaper.

If you missed them, you can read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here. Read Part 3 here.

Recreations at Chautauqua

Chautauqua has attractions and social possibilities all her own. There are innumerable receptions and class gatherings, where one meets not only one’s own associates, teachers and leaders, but also many distinguished men and women from all parts of the land.

The gymnasium holds its annual reception generally with some entertainment.

The choir, under Dr. Palmer, has a reception.

Occasionally a class in botany or geology takes a day off and goes in a body to Panama, or some other interesting place, for a good time with a little study mixed in.

A Natural Science class trip, 1906.

There are receptions of all sorts and descriptions. Two years ago, one was given in honour of several returned missionaries.

To the members of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle—and there are many—there is no more interesting night on the whole programme than the one given up to their class receptions.

CLSC Class of 1913 and grads of earlier years in the Hall of Philosophy, 1913.

One of the latest developments of this place of many new ideas is the Girls’ Outlook Club.

Five mornings in a week last summer, the girls and young women gathered in a pleasant room and discussed things useful, ornamental, or nonsensical, about “Ourselves, Our Homes, and Our Neighbours.” There they compared notes on all sorts of hobbies, and carried away many helpful hints for life, the gaining of which had been but the pleasant passing of an hour together; their talk interspersed with music by some of their number, or bright, interesting speeches of a few minutes from different notable men and women.

This club filled a long-felt need in the heart of every girl who attended it. But this was not all. The entire membership was divided into small circles, with a leader at the head of each, and with some certain work for each to do. These circles were named from well-known women.

A girls’ club in 1911.

And this charming company did not keep all their good times to themselves. Once a week they had a social; a Colonial Tea, or a Cap and Gown Tea, or a Musical Tea, or a Tennis Tea, to which they invited all their friends, men and women. These were most delightful occasions. At the Cap and Gown Tea a number of college girls were attired in their caps and gowns, and were ranged in a row and called a library. The volumes were all named, and anyone in the room was allowed to draw a book and talk with her for five minutes, provided the theme of conversation was her college. Each girl had bits of ribbon in her college colours to give as souvenirs to the friends with whom she had conversed. Tiny paper caps were given as badges to all college people. The tea was voted a success.

None the less so were the entertainments which followed in the next few weeks. The Colonial Tea, where all the girls were transformed into ladies of that old-time period, with high powdered hair and short-waisted dresses, and where one circle had some mysterious symbolic puzzles arranged, was most charming.

A 1906 Colonial Tea, with guests dressed in period costume.

Indeed, both the young women and young men of Chautauqua were delighted with the Girls’ Club.

wasn’t it a clever idea to arrange college grads in a row like a library? what’s the most clever party idea you’ve ever encountered?
join us tomorrow for the final post in the series when Grace focuses on a subject dear to her heart: the young people’s society of Christian endeavor.

Grace’s Chautauqua Delights, Part 3

In 1894 Grace Livingston Hill wrote an article for the YWCA newspaper, in which she described Chautauqua’s many offerings for young women.

Today we present Part 3 of the article. If you missed them, you can read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here.

Recreations at Chautauqua

Chautauqua has her Field Day now, when you can see wonders in high jumping, hurdling, sprinting and the like, owing to the fact that many of the college athletes spend much time here, some as teachers, some as pupils and one thing or another, and many as pleasure-seekers.

Watching a foot race on Field Day at Chautauqua

Then there is the baseball ground, and many an exciting game may be watched; for Chautauqua’s team is a good one and seldom beaten, partly because the players are picked college men, and partly because of the excellent training they have undergone.

A baseball game at Chautauqua, 1910.

Bicycles are numerous at Chautauqua now. There is a bicycle club, which makes long and short excursions around the country. Sometimes you see two or three wheelmen or wheelwomen taking their machines on board the steamers. They ride from one point to another, and when tired, or their time has given out, they take the next steamboat back home again.

There are horses on the grounds, and there is not a little horseback-riding, and driving also.

One of the pleasures which must be had as a matter of course every year is a trip to Panama Rocks, ten miles from the Assembly Grounds.

The people go in parties, large or small for the day. The drive is a most enjoyable one, with a good, hard road all the way. The village of Panama, not far from the Rocks, is a dainty, clean little place dropped down among the green hills, away from any railroad, and bearing that mark of restfulness and almost Sabbath peace which one reads about occasionally in ancient books, but seldom sees. There are some white houses set amid its green, with tiny window panes, green blinds, porches with straight benches on either side, and a high door knocker, where one expects to see ruffled dimity curtains at the windows, and a dear little old lady appearing at the door with white bordered cap and snowy kerchief crossed over her bosom; and surely there must be a spinning-wheel or two stowed away in those attics.

Buses transport visitors to nearby towns and attractions.

The rocks are intensely interesting to a geologist, and many go there to study their formation; but they are also attractive to the mere pleasure seeker, for there are lovely places to scramble up and down, or sit and talk; and many broad, flat rocks for dining-tables, with the trees and birds and squirrels for company.

“The Sinking Ship” formation at Panama Rocks.

It is also a pleasant drive to Hogsback Gulf, and further on to Westfield, and about the shore of Lake Erie, where one of the old lighthouses still stands.

Hogsback Gulf, near Chautauqua.

But the loveliest ride of all is to the brow of the hill beyond Mayville, just at early evening, when the sky is flushed with those soft sleepy tones, and the “night is wide and furnished scant, with but a single star.” There you can see both Lake Chautauqua and Lake Erie, held in the arms of the sky, with delicate etchings of farmhouses and haystacks standing in clear relief against it all.

Sunrise on Chautauqua Lake.

After all, such things can be had at almost any summer resort, though you ought to know that Chautauqua is as rich in them as is any other place in our beautiful land. But she has attractions and social possibilities all her own. There are innumerable receptions and class gatherings, where one meets not only one’s own associates, teachers and leaders, but also many distinguished men and women from all parts of the land.

in tomorrow’s post Grace talks about Chautauqua’s girls’ clubs and the different entertainments each club hosts.
what do you think of Grace’s descriptions so far of the many things to do in and around Chautauqua?

Grace’s Chautauqua Delights, Part 2

In 1894 (at the age of twenty-nine) Grace Livingston Hill wrote an article for the YWCA newspaper, in which she described Chautauqua’s many offerings for young women.

Today we present Part 2 of the article. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

Recreations at Chautauqua

Quite near the bath-houses on the shore stands the gymnasium. You have heard all about that. That is where physical culture teachers go to be taught how to teach, and wear themselves out with listening to lectures on physiology, anatomy and orthopedics.

Coaches, athletes and teachers at the Chautauqua Gymnasium

But you have “come to rest, and want nothing of this kind”? Have you not learned that even the children take rest and pleasure here? If you do not know the delight of exercise in unison with others, in time to music, enter a class “just for fun,” and try it. You will surely gain health and strength, and probably be perfectly fascinated by the club-swinging or fencing, or the hoop drill, or the slow, graceful movements of the Delsarte. It is real pleasure to those initiated.

There are the inviting tennis courts, a goodly number, and in fine condition. By the lake or on the hill you may play to your heart’s content.

Tired of tennis? Would you like to walk? The new grove is a cool, delightful place in which to walk or sit and rest and talk a little. There are no houses there, and few people to interrupt the loveliness of nature. Even the tall trees bend and whisper when they wish to talk, and the birds and the breezes have it all to themselves.

Under the rustic bridge, 1907.

Off at one side you see the Hall of Philosophy, with its company of eager listeners at almost any hour in the day; on the other side a quiet ravine with the tiniest of brooks for picturesqueness; and beyond the high boundary fence and white road rise the blue and purple wooded hills.

The Hall of Philosophy

There are lovely walks outside the gates, too, when you care to take a long walk, with the most bewildering and charmingly old-fashioned, cool, dark woods, filled with ferns and mosses of all descriptions.

Among the beeches at Chautauqua. (From the New York Public Library)

A pleasant company one summer started out in the morning with lunch baskets and the usual picnic trappings, and spent the day in this beautiful retreat. They blazed the way with red and white strips of cloth embellished with poetry written by the entire company, for some of their party who were to follow later.

“Picnic” by Harold Slott-Moller

In sight of Chautauqua’s towers they were, with a good view of her lovely blue lake, and in sound of her hourly bells, but as utterly shut away from all the busy working place as if they had been in the heart of the North Woods.

The Miller Bell Tower at Chautauqua.

The day was one to be remembered by all, but they nevertheless were, every one, glad to get back to the grounds as evening drew on.

A walk by the lake, 1906.

There are walks by the lakes, up hill and down dale; by pleasant cottages, where you catch glimpses of the restful, or busy life, as the case may be, going on within.

A row of Chautauqua cottages, 1912.

Some groves and parks are hung thick with hammocks from the surrounding cottages. Oh, people have a good time at Chautauqua!

Fun at Chautauqua, 1906.

Occasionally, as you walk, you come upon a little group of photographers from the School of Photography, taking their first lessons in the art, perhaps; or here and there one more advanced in its mysteries is able to go by himself and pose with a black cloth over his head, trying to take a better view of the Amphitheatre than anyone else has yet succeeded in doing.

From a 1913 Kodak Camera print ad.
Grace was an excellent athlete and even taught sports and physical culture in her days at Rollins college. In tomorrow’s post, Grace describes the “wonders in high jumping, hurdling, sprinting and the like” at Chautauqua.
You can read more about Grace and the athletic classes she taught at Rollins College by clicking here.

Grace’s Chautauqua Delights, Part 1

We most often associate Chautauqua Institution with Isabella Alden because of the vivid way she brought the place to life in many of her novels.

But her niece, author Grace Livingston Hill, also loved Chautauqua. She famously wrote her novella A Chautauqua Idyl at the age of twenty-two to earn the money to go to Chautauqua when her family’s already tight budget could not stand the expense.

Like her aunt Isabella, Grace was an excellent ambassador for Chautauqua. In 1894 (at the age of twenty-nine) she wrote an article for the YWCA newspaper, in which she explained Chautauqua’s many offerings for young women.

Throughout the article you get a sense of Grace’s love for Chautauqua, as well as her thorough knowledge of the place.

It’s a rather lengthy article, so we’re going to break it down and share a portion of it every day this week. So, without further ado, here’s Part 1 of “Recreations at Chautauqua” by Grace Livingston Hill:

Recreations at Chautauqua

“Did you do nothing but study all last summer at Chautauqua?” asked one young woman of another a few days ago.

“I did nothing but have a good time this year. I was all tired out, and needed a frolic, so I had one,” was the reply.

“But,” said the first in a puzzled tone, “you always go there to study something. I thought Chautauqua was just a big school. You did not call it a frolic to attend lectures and classes all the time, surely?”

“Nothing of the kind,” said the other girl; and then she launched into such a glowing account of the attractions of the place as every true Chautauquan knows how, and well loves to give.

There is a side to Chautauqua about which very little has been spoken or written. In that charmed spot, as nowhere else, can a summer of varied delights be spent. It is by no means all lectures and study and “deep” talk.

The crowd at an open air lecture.

In the first place, of course, there is the lake.  The waves that roll about this fair point are not so thoroughly impregnated with wisdom that the sunlight does not glance from them as merrily, or they do not carry the many boats as daintily, as the waters about many other points on the lake. Neither are the fish thereabouts too intellectual to bite, occasionally at least, for the benefit of an amateur.

There are some shy water lilies not too far away, which can be found if diligent search be made. And there is the cool, quiet inlet for days when the water is a little rough, or the sun warmer than is pleasant.

A still, quiet inlet on Chautauqua Lake.

Occasionally there is a bit of excitement in the way of a race between a ladies’ crew and a men’s crew which have been drilling under the eye of a skilled oarsman. Then, if you do not care for the rowboat or a sail, there are those delightful trips on the great steamers. Why, one may spend the whole day—in fact, the whole summer—on the lake if one chooses, and then not go to the end of its beauties.

You must see it early in the morning, when the white mist the night has spread over it is being removed, and the distant banks look like a pictured fairy land; or later, when the sun has kissed the waves into dancing brightness. See it when the day is drawing to its close, and perhaps you will hear the voices of Chautauqua’s great chorus in the distance.

Chautauqua Lake at Sunset

You must not forget to get in the lake some day, and join the merry bathers.

Bathing at Chautauqua.
In tomorrow’s post, Grace describes the “health and strength” to be gained by visiting Chautauqua.
If you haven’t yet read Grace’s charming book A Chautauqua Idyl, you can click on the excerpt below to read it for free.

Reverend Alden Opens Chautauqua

Since it first opened in 1874 Chautauqua Institution has been an important part of people’s lives, and that was true of the Alden family. We can’t know exactly when Isabella and Reverend Alden first became involved with Chautauqua, but we do know that within one year of the assembly’s opening, the Aldens owned a cottage on the grounds.

1875 photo of Isabella, her husband and son seated on a wooden porch of a house. Behind them are seated Isabella's mother, her sister Julia, and an unidentied woman.
Isabella, Ross, Raymond, and family on the steps of their Chautauqua cottage (1875).

For the next twenty years, Isabella and her husband dedicated their summers to Chautauqua, teaching classes, organizing events, and working to promote Chautauqua’s ideals.

Just two years after Chautauqua first opened, Isabella published Four Girls at Chautauqua. That popular novel inspired generations of readers to experience Chautauqua for themselves, and attendance numbers bloomed.

An early cloth binding book cover for Isabella's novel Four Girls at Chautauqua. the title and author name are stamped in gold on a green background.

Reverend Alden was also an active ambassador for Chautauqua. He was a member of the Minister’s Council and conducted training classes for his fellow ministers.

He worked where he was needed, which meant he sometimes taught classes or led Chautauquans in prayer at opening day ceremonies, as he did in 1894:

1876 Newspaper article titled The Chautauqua Assembly reads: The opening exercises of the Chautauqua Assembly season for 1894 were held in the Amphitheatre. The Rev. G. R. Alden, of Washington, read the Scripture lesson and announced the hymn. The annual address of welcome was delivered by Bishop John H. Vincent, Chancellor.

He also traveled with Rev. Jesse Hurlbut, one of Chautauqua’s founders. Together they visited smaller Chautauquas throughout the eastern United States to address attendees and reinforce Chautauqua’s guiding principles.

Today Chautauqua Institution is still thriving! The assembly will reopen on June 26 with a generous slate of classes, lectures, and events to fill summer days and evenings. You can click on the image below to learn more about his year’s schedule.

Reverend Alden and the Jubilee Singers

In 1883 Isabella was living in the small town of Carbondale, Pennsylvania.

Illustration of an aerial view of the city showing layout of streets, and a river that flows past one end of the town.
A bird’s eye view of Carbondale, Pennsylvania in 1875.

Her husband had become pastor of Carbondale’s Presbyterian Church the year before, and he was already making his imprint upon the congregation.

Illustration showing two churches side by side. The Presbyterian church is constructed in a Gothic style with a square bell tower.
The Presbyterian Church of Carbondale on the left (the Methodist church on the right), as it appeared in 1911. When the Alden’s attended, the church was smaller and had a “beautifully proportioned spire, tall, slender and tapering.”

Reverend Alden was pastor of the Carbondale church for only three years, but decades after his departure, members of his congregation still remembered him as a leader who encouraged his flock to immerse themselves in the Lord’s work.

One member of the church said:

“He brought the church up to a high state of activity.”

In 1883 Reverend Alden brought the great American evangelist Reverend A. B. Earle to Carbondale for a two-week-long revival meeting.

Illustration of A. B. Earle from about 1870.
American evangelist A. B. Earle.

It was a resounding success. Thousands of people attended and hundreds committed their lives to Christ.

The religious revival meetings, held day and night for the two weeks past, close today. There has been no abatement of the interest, and each of the meetings have been largely attended, some of those in the evening crowded to the utmost capacity of the Presbyterian church. About three hundred persons, many of them adults and heads of families, have professed their faith in Christ and given satisfactory evidence of a change of heart.
From The Carbondale Leader, March 16, 1883.

The following year Reverend Alden organized a temperance rally, where the featured speaker was evangelist and temperance advocate P. A. Burdick.

Black and white photograph of P. A. Burdick.
Temperance advocate and evangelist P. A. Burdick.

He, too, drew large crowds and had a profound effect on the community

We are pleased to state that Mr. Burdick will reach here tomorrow and commence his labors on Sabbath evening. The first meeting will be held in one of the churches, and it is hoped that all classes of temperance people will join in the good work. All circumstances promise to be favorable, and we shall be greatly disappointed if a great reformation in this line is not effected in our city.
From The Carbondale Leader, March 21, 1884.

Also in 1883 Reverend Alden organized an event of which he was extremely proud. The previous year, while at Chautauqua Institution, he had heard the Fisk Jubilee Singers perform; and he was so impressed by their performance, he immediately went to work to convince them to perform at his church in Carbondale.

Photo of the Fisk Singers, five women and four men.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1870.

The members of Fisk Jubilee Singers were all students at Fisk University in Nashville, a liberal arts university that opened in 1866. Some of the first students were newly freed or had family members that were freed slaves. To raise funds for the university, music professor George White organized a nine-member chorus to perform in concerts.

They introduced to the world the slave songs that “were sacred to our parents” and had never before been sung in public. The Jubilee Singers’ beautiful performances soon gained a following. They began to receive critical praise, and in 1872 they sang for President Ulysses S. Grant at the White House.

A year later a second company embarked on a tour of England, where they performed before Queen Victoria and Prime Minister William Gladstone.

Photo of the Fisk Singers, six women and three men.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1875.

At home they performed at Carnegie Hall, where Mark Twain was a member of the audience and remarked:

“It’s something I never heard before. I’d walk seven miles to hear them again.”

By 1883 there were different Jubilee troupes touring different parts of the country. One of those troupes performed at Chautauqua, where Reverend Alden heard them, and resolved to bring them to Carbondale.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers performed at the Presbyterian Church of Carbondale on June 12, 1883. You can feel Reverend Alden’s enthusiasm in the press release he wrote (co-authored with Isabella and her brother-in-law, Reverend Charles Livingstone) for the local newspaper:

“Carbondale may now make ready for one of the most enjoyable entertainments ever prepared for mortal ears. The Fisk Jubilee Singers are coming!”

Here’s the full text of that press release:

Carbondale may now make ready for one of the most enjoyable entertainments ever prepared for mortal ears. The Fisk Jubilee Singers are coming! That one sentence should set this city on fire of expectancy. These twelve sons and daughters of former bondsmen render the rarest, most touching, most inspiring most wonderful music, to which we have ever listened. They made a world-wide reputation years ago, and still before Kings and Queens and Presidents, and critics of the highest order, they "hold their high carnival of song," while the immense audience is bound by the strange spell of their voices, or become wild in rapturous applause. If you have read in all the leading papers the seemingly extravagant praise of these wonderful singers, you have only to come to Nealon's Opera House on the evening of June 12th, 1883, to learn that "the half was never told." [signed] Mr. and Mrs. G. R. Alden, Rev. C. N. Livingston
From The Carbondale Leader, June 1, 1883.

Would you like to hear The Fisk Jubilee Singers? Click here to listen to their 1909 recording of “Golden Slippers,” part of a Fisk Jubilee Singers collection at the Library of Congress.

You can learn more about the Fisk University and the history of the Jubilee Singers by clicking here to visit their website.