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New Free Read: The Chautauquans

22 Mar
Bishop John Heyl Vincent

Bishop John Heyl Vincent

John Heyl Vincent co-founded Chautauqua Institution based on one over-riding theory:

Life is one. Religion belongs everywhere. Our people, young and old, should consider educational advantages as religious opportunities.

With this in mind, he set out to prove that education was the right—and the responsibility—of all people, not just the privileged few. To Bishop Vincent, no man had the right to neglect his personal education “whether he be prince or ploughboy, broker or hod-carrier.”

He created the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (“C. L. S. C.”) as a means of bringing education to people, thereby eliminating geography or personal circumstance as barriers to learning. And he made it easy and inexpensive for people to form C. L. S. C. “circles” in their own towns. Circles popped up across the country in every possible venue: house, shop, farm and market; anyplace people could gather to exchange curriculum books and discuss what they’d read.

One of those C. L. S. C. members was author John Habberton. He was a popular writer in the late 1800s, most famous for his children’s book, Helen’s Babies. He was a frequent visitor to Chautauqua Institution and served as president of the C. L. S. C. class of 1894.

Helen's Babies by John Habberton (1899 edition)

Helen’s Babies by John Habberton (1899 edition)

Like Isabella Alden, he was inspired by the Chautauqua ideal; he knew from experience the good that resulted from the C. L. S. C. curriculum. And like Isabella, he wrote a book about his experiences.

Cover The ChautauquansHis novel The Chautauquans tells the story of the residents in a small town who come together to form their own C. L. S. C. chapter. It’s a charming story you can read for free. Just click on the book cover to start reading.

You can also find out more about Bishop John Vincent’s ideas that inspired the creation of Chautauqua Institution and the C. L. S. C. His book The Chautauqua Movement is available for free on Google Books. Click on this link to read it.

 

Good-bye to the Chautauqua Amphitheater

15 Mar

For over 130 years the Amphitheater has been the centerpiece of Chautauqua Institution.

The existing Amphitheater as it appeared about 1915

The existing Amphitheater as it appeared about 1915

From its humble beginnings as a simple speaker platform, the Amphitheater has evolved and expanded as Chautauqua Institution grew.

The original 1874 speaker's platform (ciweb.org).

The original 1874 speaker’s platform (ciweb.org).

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Black and white photograph of men and women seated in the Auditoriam amid the trees

An early gathering at the original Chautauqua Auditorium under the trees

When Chautauqua’s leaders built the current Amphitheater in 1893, they designed it to last 100 years. It certainly has done just that, but not without some trouble along the way.

In just the last twenty years alone, the Amphitheater has undergone major renovations to update the electrical capacity for lighting and sound, repairs to the foundation and roof, and the addition of accessible ramps for the disabled, all requirement which could not be envisioned when the original structure was built.

You can click on the illustration below to see a timeline of the Amphitheater’s history and changes over time:

Click on the image to view a timeline of the Amphitheater's history

Every repair and update was a challenge. Chautauqua Institution’s leadership has long tried to balance the needs of a modern age with a desire to preserve the much-loved character of the structure. But, section by section, the Amphitheater has been torn down and rebuilt again and again over the years.

Filled to capacity; a view of the stage from the back of the Amphitheater, 1913.

Filled to capacity; a view of the stage from the back of the Amphitheater, 1913.

Last year, Chautauqua Institution’s governing board at last cried “uncle” and determined that no amount of updates and renovations could prepare the existing Amphitheater for the needs of current and future generations of Chautauquans.

So in last December Chautauqua Institution announced a major remodel of the Amphitheater.

An artist's rendering of the new Amphitheater, looking toward the stage from the rear of the building

An artist’s rendering of how the new Amphitheater will look, viewing the stage from the rear of the structure. (www.ciweb.org)

Construction has already begun on the grounds surrounding the Amphitheater. This fall, after the 2016 season has closed, the existing Amphitheater will be thoroughly remodeled and updated. Essentially, a brand new structure will be built. If all goes according to plans, the new Amphitheater will be completed in time for the 2017 summer season.

An artist's rendering of the view from the stage toward the rear of the structure. (www.ciweb.org)

An artist’s rendering of the view from the stage toward the rear of the structure. (www.ciweb.org)

You can see all the artist’s renderings of the new Amphitheater design by clicking here.

If you’ve ever thought about visiting Chautauqua Institution to see the Amphitheater and the incredible Massey Memorial Organ as Isabella Alden once saw them, 2016 will be the last year you will be able to do so.

Some people are saddened by the change. It’s the end of an era, but the beginning of a beautiful future for Chautauqua Institution’s Amphitheater.

The Chautauqua Salute … Part 2

12 Aug

There’s no question that Chautauqua Institution had far-reaching influence over the people who attended the summer assemblies at the turn of the Twentieth Century. But one of Chautauqua’s traditions—the Chautauqua salute—transcended the Institution grounds and became popular across the country.

An 1880 drawing of the Chautauqua Salute by Joseph Becker.

An 1880 drawing of the Chautauqua Salute by Joseph Becker.

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You may have read in a previous post how the Chautauqua salute came to be, and how it was used as a gesture of respect and affection for special speakers and instructors at Chautauqua. In that venue, only Bishop John Vincent could initiate the Chautauqua salute.

But outside the Institution, in towns and villages across America, the Chautauqua salute caught on and became something of a sensation.

Francis Edward Clark

Francis Edward Clark

At the 1897 Society of Christian Endeavor convention in San Francisco there were so many attendees, the newspaper reported that Christian Endeavorers had “conquered the city.” And when Christian Endeavor President Francis Edward Clark tried to address the convention, the crowd gave him a Chautauqua salute that lasted several minutes.

When President Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Tacoma, Washington he was greeted by a crowd of 30,000 people waving their handkerchiefs in a Chautauqua salute.

Tacoma Times Oct 4 1913 headline

But American’s didn’t reserve the Chautauqua salute only for respected speakers and past U.S. Presidents. The Los Angeles Herald society page reported on a surprise birthday party for a man named Howard L. Lunt, where “the Chautauqua salute and congratulations” began the program, followed by “dainty refreshments.”

Another 1904 news article told of a group of Christian Scientists who gave the Chautauqua salute to Mary Baker Eddy … who didn’t seem to appreciate the gesture.

Spokane Press WA Jun 13 1904

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And a Colorado newspaper reported baseball fans used the Chautauqua salute to cheer for their team after neighbors near the playing field complained about the noise during Sunday games.

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Not everyone thought giving the Chautauqua salute was a good idea. By 1912 the U.S. Public Health Service (the precursor of today’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) began warning the public of increased health concerns caused by crowds of people waving handkerchiefs.

Fulton County News PA Jan 15 1912

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For the most part, Americans ignored the warnings and kept enthusiastically fluttering their handkerchiefs, sometimes with comic results:

Daily Arizona Silver Belt July 12 1902

Tacoma Times Oct 4 1913

Chautauqua’s Hall of Philosophy

7 Aug

Isabella Alden considered The Hall of Philosophy one of the most beloved locations at Chautauqua Institution.

The Hall of Philosophy, viewed from the side

The Hall of Philosophy, viewed from the side

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The Hall of Philosophy—sometimes called the Hall in the Grove because of its location in idyllic St. Paul’s Grove—was an open-air structure that sat under a canopy of trees that shaded and cooled the Hall during the hot summer months. It was a favorite gathering place for Chautauquans, even when no lectures were held there.

The view from the top of the steps of the Hall of Philosophy; photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.com

A modern view from the top of the steps of the Hall of Philosophy; photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.com

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If you were a Chautauqua visitor, you could stand at the edge of the Hall of Philosophy and look out upon different views of the grounds. From one vantage point, you’d see the Hall of Christ and the spires of the different denominational chapels.

Chapel-Episcopal

The Episcopal Chapel at Chautauqua Institution.

Presbyterian Headquarters building at Chautauqua Institution

Presbyterian Headquarters building at Chautauqua Institution

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From another direction you’d see gingerbread-trimmed cottages and inviting expanses of green lawns.

The Colonnade Cottages, 1908.

The Colonnade Cottages, 1908.

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The original Hall of Philosophy was designed by Bishop John Vincent for the Christian Literary and Scientific Circle (C.L.S.C.). Twenty years later, when it was discovered the building needed to be replaced in order to last for future generations, the C.L.S.C. lead a fund-raising campaign and raised the money needed to erect a new Hall of Philosophy in the same location.

 

When the new concrete floor was poured in 1905, it included 51 different mosaic tiles, each designed by a different C.L.S.C. class, beginning with the class of 1882 (the first class) and ending with the class of 1924. Each tile depicts the class year, name and logo.

The floor plan of the Hall of Philosophy showing the position of the individual CLSC class tiles.

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For instance, the first C.L.S.C. class of 1882 was called “The Pathfinders.” Their emblem was the nasturtium and their motto was “The truth shall make you free.”

The class of 1915 adopted the name “Jane Addams” and used the American laurel as their emblem. Their motto: “Life more abundant.”

The mosaic tile for the 1915 CLSC class; photo courtesy of TextileFusion.com

The mosaic tile for the 1915 CLSC class; photo courtesy of TextileFusion.com

Class Tile 1903 from The Chautauquan Vol 72

Class Tile 1908 from The Chautauquan Vol 72

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Isabella Alden was a member of the 1887 class; her fellow classmates honored her by naming their class the Pansy Class. They used the pansy flower as their emblem and “Neglect not the gift that is in thee” as their motto.

Cover of The Hall in the GroveIsabella paid tribute to the Hall of Philosophy and her own experience with the C.L.S.C. in her novel The Hall in the Grove. The story centers around a diverse group of people who each spend a summer at Chautauqua for different reasons—and each end the summer changed by their experience. The Hall of Philosophy is almost another character in Isabella’s story, for it plays a prominent role in the different characters’ spiritual journeys. (You can click on the book cover to learn more about the novel.)

Thanks to the determination and rallying spirit of the members of the C.L.S.C. the Hall of Philosophy was rebuilt, and is still in use today.

This short video by Chautauqua Institution gives a brief history of the Hall of Philosophy and shows some examples of the C.L.S.C. class tiles:

 

The Heroine of the Temperance Cause

31 Jul

Isabella Alden was a great campaigner for the temperance movement. She had seen for herself the consequences of an unregulated alcohol industry. Alcoholic drinks in her time were often far more potent than commercial beer, wine and distilled liquor we’re used to today, making them much more addictive. Sometimes alcoholic beverages were laced with other substances, like cocaine; and alcohol was openly marketed to children.

This short video by documentary film maker Ken Burns describes the influence of  liquor on America at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

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Isabella’s dear friend Theodosia Toll Foster (whose nom de plume was Faye Huntington) was another tireless worker for the cause of temperance. Many of her novels were written for publication by the National Temperance Society and described the impact of alcoholism on the lives of individuals and communities.

Cover_John Remington MartyrAnd in her own books, Isabella often wove stories around the impact alcoholism had on families. She and her sister Marcia Livingston co-authored the novel, John Remington, Martyr, which chronicled one man’s efforts to fight the power of the alcohol industry and its hold on society.

Isabella, Theodosia and Marcia, as well as Marcia’s daughter, Grace Livingston Hill, were active members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The W.C.T.U. began in 1874 as a “crusade” of 208 dedicated temperance workers.

The Baptist Church in Fredonia, NY. Here on December 15, 1873 208 crusaders met and organized the Women's Christian Temperance Union

The Baptist Church in Fredonia, NY. Here on December 15, 1873 208 crusaders met and organized the Women’s Christian Temperance Union

When Frances Willard was named the W.C.T.U.’s president in 1879, she inherited an organization comprised of several autonomous chapters with no unified action plan to achieve the group’s goal of reforming the distribution and sale of alcohol in America.

Up to that point, the organization was known for it crusades—bands of women visiting local saloons to pray and ask saloonkeepers to close their doors and stop selling spirits. For the most part, they were seen as teetotaling moral zealots.

An 1874 illustration of crusaders

An 1874 illustration of crusaders

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Frances Willard had a different vision for the organization. By profession she was a teacher. She was educated, dynamic, and persuasive; she used those talents to redefine the W.C.T.U. Knowing that America’s high rate of alcoholism was directly related to crime, sexual assault, poverty, and domestic violence, she redirected the organization to focus on social reform and political activism.

Frances Willard in an undated photo

Frances Willard in an undated photo

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She formed alliances with politicians, instilled a sense of sisterhood in W.C.T.U. members, and cultivated powerful and influential allies.

W.C.T.U. card from about 1912

W.C.T.U. card from about 1912

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Lewis Miller, co-founder of Chautauqua Institution and a multi-millionaire industrialist, was a staunch supporter of the W.C.T.U.; his wife Mary was one of the first members of the Ohio W.C.T.U., a well-organized and militant branch of the organization.

Mina Miller at about age 19

Mina Miller at about age 19

Their daughter Mina recalled how her mother, with other “dauntless women” visited saloons and pleaded with the male proprietors to close their doors. They were often subjected to insults and even had buckets of water thrown on them.

After Mina Miller married Thomas Edison, the great American inventor, she used her influence as “Mrs. Edison” to further the W.C.T.U.’s programs.

And what programs they were! W.C.T.U. members developed and taught temperance lessons to children in Sunday schools and visited drunkards in prison. They lobbied for free public kindergartens and prison reform. By 1889 W.C.T.U. chapters were operating nurseries, Sunday schools, homeless shelters, and homes for fallen women. Members supported labor reform, suffrage, disarmament, and the eight-hour work day.

The W.C.T.U. Marching Song

The W.C.T.U. Marching Song

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Isabella often wrote about the activities of the W.C.T.U. in her books. Most striking was her novel One Commonplace Day. In that story, a group of people come together on their own to help one family overcome the effects of alcoholism; and they employ many of the  W.C.T.U. methods to do so.

W.C.T.U. headquarters building at Chautauqua Institution, New York

W.C.T.U. headquarters building at Chautauqua Institution, New York

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Isabella and Frances Willard often lectured together, speaking before different chapters of the Sunday School Assembly and at regional Chautauqua locations.

Statue of Frances Willard in the United States Capital, Washington D.C.

Statue of Frances Willard in the United States Capital, Washington D.C.

By the time Frances Willard passed away in 1898 the W.C.T.U. was an acknowledged political and social force in the United States. Under her leadership the organization united women from varied backgrounds, educated them and empowered them to form one of the strongest and most influential women’s organizations in American history.

In 1905 a statue of Frances Willard was erected in National Statuary Hall at the United States Capital in Washington D.C. Her statue was the first honoring a woman to be chosen for the National Statuary Hall Collection.


Would you like to learn more about Frances Willard and the W.C.T.U.? Click here to visit the organization’s website.

Click on this link to read more about the statue of Frances Willard in Statuary Hall at the United States Capital.

Grace Livingston Hill wrote a short biography of Frances Willard’s early years. Click here to read her 1909 article.

You can watch the full 90-minute Ken Burns documentary “A Nation of Drunkards” here:

Chautauqua Advice from Bishop Vincent

13 Jul
John Heyl Vincent

John Heyl Vincent

By 1890 the Summer Assembly at Chautauqua Institution was in its seventeenth year. Its success inspired similar assembly locations on four continents. People who could not travel to the original New York location could attend an assembly in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri or forty other locations across the United States.

Bishop John Heyl Vincent (Chautauqua’s co-founder) believed everyone could benefit from even a few days at a Chautauqua assembly.

He wrote an article for an 1890 issue of The Chautauquan magazine in which he gave plenty of advice for anyone planning to undertake the trip for the first time.

Chautauqua camping in 1908

Chautauqua camping in 1908

Here’s the advice he gave about tent kife:

If you live in a tent, remember a little fact that some innocent and unconscious souls so easily forget, or which, perhaps, they never knew: tent lights cause most curious shadows on tent walls; and folks outside, if they happen to pass, see some ludicrous pantomimic shadow effects, which, if the lights were lower, might be lost. “Let the lower lights be burning,” or study the laws of light and abridge the unprogrammed entertainments of the Assembly.

Tent Shadows

Do You Know the Chautauqua Salute?

12 May

Joseph Rodefer DeCamp_Farewell detailThere were many beloved traditions at Chautauqua Institution, and Isabella Alden often described them in her books.

“Do you know the Chautauqua salute?”

Burnham Roberts asked the question of Hazel Harris in Four Mothers at Chautauqua.

“Then you understand what a strange effect is produced by the simultaneous flutter of countless white handkerchiefs. Can you imagine what it would be to see at least five thousand of them held aloft motionless for a single solemn minute, the only sound in the great assembly coming from the great organ softly tolling out a requiem? That is the way they paid tribute to the Bishop’s co-laborer, and to other great souls who put their shoulders to the wheel in the early days of the enterprise. I never saw a more impressive sight in my life.”

Victorian woman waving her handkerchief

And in The Hall in the Grove, Carolyn Raynor was enchanted upon seeing the Chautauqua salute for the first time:

“Oh, look!”

Well she might exclaim. To one like her who had never seen it before, the sight was simply glorious; and to one who has never seen it at all, the effect is indescribable; yet the cause was simple enough. A flutter of what looked like millions and millions of white handkerchiefs!

“The Chautauqua salute,” said Mr. Masters composedly, his eyes shining their satisfaction. “Isn’t it a singular scene?”

“A summer snow-storm down among the flowers and the grasses and the full-leaved forest trees,” said Caroline.

Woman waving handkerchiefIn The Story of Chautauqua, Jesse Lyman Hurlbut told how the salute came to be.

On the 1877 program was a speaker named Mr. S. L. Greene from Ontario, Canada. Mr. Green was deaf and mute. Reverend Hurlbut described how Mr. Greene addressed the great audience in pantomime in the Auditorium under the trees:

He spoke in the sign-language, telling several stories from the gospels; and so striking were his silent symbols that everyone could see the picture. We were especially struck with his vivid representation of Christ stilling the tempest.

Wave 1910 detail

When Mr. Greene finished, the audience of “at least two thousand” burst into enthusiastic applause; but Dr. Vincent stopped them.

“The speaker is unable to hear your applause. Let us wave our handkerchiefs instead of clapping our hands.”

In an instant the grove was transformed into a garden of white lilies dancing under the leaves of the trees. Then and there the Chautauqua salute of waving handkerchiefs was adopted as a token of special honor, used only when called for by Dr. Vincent in person.

And Dr. Vincent insisted that the salute—which was a distinct and rare honor—“should be of the whitest, purest, intensest kind.” He likened the salute to lilies, and soon the gesture came to be known as The Blooming of the Lilies.

White LiliesIn later years, as Chautauqua Institution grew, the size of the Amphitheatre audience grew as well. By 1884, it wasn’t unusual to have six thousand people gathered in the Amphitheatre to give the Chautauqua salute to some distinguished individual:

“Six thousand lily-white handkerchiefs waving a salute of honor, vigorously expressing the joy of the Chautauqua hearer, is a sight long to be remembered by those who participate therein,” wrote Reverend Hurlbut.

05 Theodore Roosevelt

A crowd of ten thousand greeted Theodore Roosevelt with the Chautauqua salute when he arrived on August 19, 1899 to “preach the gospel of intelligent work” in the vast Amphitheater.

Poet May M. Bisbee was so enthralled seeing the Chautauqua Salute for the first time, she wrote a lovely poem about the experience. Click on the image to see a larger version you can read and print.

Chautauqua Salute poem by May M Bisbee v2

 

 

 

 

Follow these links to learn more about Isabella’s books The Hall in the Grove and Four Mothers at Chautauqua.

 

A Tour of Chautauqua: The Teacher’s Retreat

23 Jan

Before there was a Chautauqua, there was a Teachers’ Retreat. The first meeting was formally named “The National Sunday School Assembly,” and it was held at Fair Point, New York on Lake Chautauqua in August, 1874. In years to come, people would refer to it as the first Chautauqua Assembly; but at the time, no one who attended the modest gathering of Sunday school workers could envision what it would eventually become.

John Vincent and Lewis Miller

John Vincent and Lewis Miller

That first assembly was a meeting to talk shop about Sunday schools. Attendees studied a “definitive” course of instruction, heard lectures on “subjects illustrative of the Bible,” and learned teaching skills. At the end of the three-week-long assembly, attendees took a written examination on Bible knowledge and Sunday school work.

In charge of it all was the Honorable Lewis Miller, a Sunday school superintendent from Akron, Ohio and Dr. John Vincent of the Methodist Church.

Dr. Vincent had long held the belief that Sunday school teachers must have appropriate training to be effective in leading their classes. As far back as 1864 he wrote a regular column in the Sunday School Journal, a monthly publication of the Methodist Church, advocating that ideal.

Banner for Sunday School Journal 1883

 

Together Dr. Vincent and Mr. Miller developed a plan to bring together a large group of Sunday school workers to study a proscribed course that included Bible lectures, ancient geography, and educational theory; and issue diplomas to those who passed a written exam based on the course work.

But it was Mr. Miller who is credited with the idea of holding the retreat in the woods, rather than in a city. He chose to convene the gathering in the Fair Point area on the shore of Lake Chautauqua in New York.

Old black-and-white photo of small boats on Lake Chautauqua off the shore of Fair Point with Point Chautauqua in the distance

Fair Point with Point Chautauqua in the background.

 

The main meeting place was out of doors where a platform had been set up in an open area that would eventually become Miller Park. Someone—maybe Mr. Miller himself—ironically called the gathering area the “auditorium” and the name stuck.

Blacdk and white photograph of several rows of flat plank wooden benches spaced outdoors among the trunks of tall trees.

The original Chautauqua meeting area

 

The Assembly opened on Tuesday evening, August 4, 1874, with a brief responsive service of Scripture and song, offered by Dr. Vincent. He later wrote about that memorable first meeting:

“The stars were out and looked down through trembling leaves upon a goodly well-wrapped company, who sat in the grove, filled with wonder and hope. No electric light brought platform and people face to face that night. The old-fashioned pine fires on rude four-legged stands covered with earth, burned with unsteady, flickering flame, now and then breaking into brilliancy by the contact of a resinous stick of the rustic fireman, who knew how to snuff candles and how to turn light on the crowd of campers-out. The white tents around the enclosure were very beautiful in that evening light.”

Old photo of of men and women in late 18th century dress, seated in Auditorium benches

An early photo of an audience gathered in the original Auditorium

 

The tents Dr. Vincent mentioned were erected at each of the four corners of the auditorium where the first Normal classes were held.

The Reverend Jesse Lyman Hurlbut described how the Normal Class was conducted with precision.

“At eight o’clock the teachers of the different section-classes were called together for a conversazione concerning the subjects to be presented to the class. At ten o’clock one session of the Normal class was held for an hour. At 1:30 was a report and review of the morning lessons; and at two o’clock another session of the classes. The classes—for while all studied the same lesson there were four sections—each met in a tent. . . . Students were expected to attend the same tent regularly, but the instructors were changed daily from tent to tent. But, in spite of the rules, students would watch to see where favorite teachers entered, and would follow them.”

Black and white photograph of men and women seated in the Auditoriam amid the trees

An early gathering at the original Chautauqua Auditorium

 

The examination was held on the last day of the two-week program. There were fifty written questions: twenty-five on the topics of Sunday school and teaching; and twenty-five on the Bible.

Black and white photo of the open-air Auditorium from the back. The audience benches have backs on and they face a raised platform stage.

A later photograph of the Auditorium on the Chautauqua Sunday School Assembly Grounds. Still in the open air, the bench seats now have backs on them.

 

Reverend Jesse Lyman Hurlbut wrote many times about the exam and how tough it was. Those “who passed the examination and received the diploma were not more than a tenth of those who attended the classes.”

The first year over 200 people sat down to take the fifty-question exam. After five hours of wrestling with the questions, 184 people completed the exam; but of those, only 142 actually passed the exam and received diplomas.

In 1875, the second year of the Assembly, 123 passed the exam; and two years later, more than 300 Sunday school workers received diplomas.

Each year the course-work expanded. By 1883 the teachers’ retreat offered lessons in languages, crayon sketching, paint, choir practice, clay modeling, sciences, as well as instruction in teaching different grades. A Ph.D. from Dickinson College delivered several lectures on psychology and taught practical ways teachers could use principles of psychology in their work. Almost every form of instruction for teaching was covered.

Black and white photograph of women standing at lab desks and shelves stocked with bottles and beakers

A Chautauqua chemistry class, 1885

 

The Teachers’ Retreat wasn’t just lectures and class work. Teachers attended concerts, competed in spelling bees, and compared notes while they mingled at receptions.

From year to year the subject matter expanded. By the time the Teachers Retreat celebrated its twentieth anniversary, the original premise of training Sunday school workers had become a small fraction of the Chautauqua University academic program.

In fact, the Teachers’ Retreat had evolved into a meeting of secular school teachers by 1885, as this ad in the Journal of Education shows.

1885 Advertisement from the Boston Journal of Education listing the program and benefits of attending the teachers' retreat.

Advertisement in an 1885 edition of the Boston Journal of Education

 

There was a practical reason for the Chautauqua Teachers’ Retreat to expand its offerings as it did. In the nineteenth century, Sunday schools were often the only education many American children received. Children who could not, for one reason or another, attend school, could regularly attend church; and it was there that many received their only instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic, in addition to training in the Bible.

As its catalog of academic classes expanded, so did the student body. Enrollment in the teachers’ retreat doubled, then tripled. By 1918 more than 3,000 students were enrolled and the faculty numbered ninety instructors.

Black and white photo of a building with aa large front porch and gingerbread trim, set among tall trees.

Chautauqua Normal Hall as it appeared in 1895. The building was erected ten years earlier by the Alumni of The Sunday School Normal Classes.

 

Every year thousands of men and women left the Teachers’ Retreat and returned home with a new ideal of Sunday school work and an inspired plan for influencing others. Very quickly, Bishop Vincent’s office was overwhelmed with requests for information about the program and for teachers.

Newspapers helped spread the fame of Chautauqua. Click here to read an article in the New York Times published August 10, 1875, about the second Chautauqua Assembly.

Soon, “daughter” Chautauqua Assemblies were established in different parts of the country so more people could attend. By 1890 there were over 30 active Chautauqua Summer Assemblies, ranging from Southern California to Maine, from Canada to  England.

At the heart of each Assembly was the Teachers’ Retreat, where the best teachers learned their craft from Chautauqua’s visionaries and leaders, John Vincent and Lewis Miller.

Frank Beard’s Chalk Talk

11 Jan

Chalk Talk

Frank Beard was one of the most popular lecturers at Chautauqua Institution. His Chalk Talk lectures drew standing-room-only crowds because of their pitch-perfect blend of humor, art and Biblical truths.

Black and white sketch of the artist Frank Beard.In an 1895 interview, Frank recalled how his Chalk Talks came to be:

“I was a young artist in New York, and had just been married. My wife was an enthusiastic churchgoer; and a great deal of our courtship was carried on in going to and from the Methodist church. The result was that I struck a revival and became converted. This occurred shortly after I was married, and like other enthusiastic young Christians, I wanted to do all I could for the church.”

Soon after he joined the church, the congregation put together an evening of entertainment. The ladies, knowing of his talent, suggested that Frank draw some pictures as part of the program. Frank agreed, but he felt that just standing in front of an audience and sketching without saying anything about the pictures “would be a very silly thing.”

He decided instead to make a short talk and draw sketches to illustrate his points. The talk was to be given as part of a Thanksgiving celebration, and Frank later joked that he rehearsed in front of his wife, his mother-in-law, and the turkey. “Well, my wife survived, my mother-in-law did not die while I was talking, and the turkey was not spoiled.”

Black and white sketch of Frank Beard drawing at an easel. Seated in chairs watching are a young woman, an older woman and a plucked, headless turkey strapped in the third chair.

When he gave his talk in front of the congregation, it was a great success. Soon, other churches asked him to repeat his talk, and in very short order he had more invitations to speak than he could ever hope to accept. His wife suggested charging a fee for each lecture, hoping that the cost would deter organizations from inviting him to talk at their functions. So Frank dutifully began charging $30 per talk. The requests continued to pour in. He increased his fee to $40, then $50, but his talks continued to be in great demand.

Newspaper announcement of a Freank Beard lecture from the 10 Mar 1890 edition of the Rock Island Argus

Announcement in the March 10, 1890 edition of the Illinois newspaper, The Rock Island Argus

That was the birth of the Chalk Talk, and Frank soon hit the lecture circuit. He was one of the first speakers at Chautauqua Institution in New York; and he lectured at many of the daughter Chautauquas. This 1899 clipping from the Los Angeles Herald recounts Frank’s Chalk Talk at the Long Beach Chautauqua (which named July 19, 1899 Frank Beard Day):

Announcement of Frank Beard Day at the Long Beach Chautauqua; from The Los Angeles Herald, 20 Jul 1899

Announcement of Frank Beard Day at the Long Beach Chautauqua; from The Los Angeles Herald, 20 Jul 1899

The topics of his Chalk Talks ranged from morality tales to stories from the Bible, each told in a casual, funny, but reverent, way. He knew that people who wouldn’t listen to a “sermon” would listen to his Chalk-Talk if the truths were presented in an entertaining fashion.

In Four Girls at Chautauqua, Eurie Mitchell proved that very point. Eurie was so opposed to listening to “sermons” at Chautauqua, she refused to go to any of the lectures; but when she heard about Frank Beard’s caricatures, she decided to go see him for herself.

If you have never seen Frank Beard make pictures, you know nothing about what a good time she had. They were such funny pictures! Just a few strokes of the magic crayon and the character described would seem to start into life before you, and you would feel that you could almost know what thoughts were passing in the heart of the creature made of chalk. Eurie looked and listened and laughed.

In Isabella’s book, Frank’s Chalk Talk was able to do what no other lecture at Chautauqua could: reach Eurie’s heart and lead her, ultimately, to salvation through Christ.

“Pictures can often tell stories quicker and better than words,” Frank once said, “and I believe that cartoons can be used in the service of religion, righteousness, truth, and justice.”

Black and white drawing of a man standing at a blackboard drawing a circle by moving his arm in a wide round motion

To prove his point, he once asked, “If you were commissioned to teach a child the nature of a circle, would you begin by stating that a circle is an area, having for its center a point, and bounded by a circumference in the nature of an endless imaginary line, which at all points is at an equal distance from the center? No! You would do nothing of the sort, but you would [show] its nature and properties [by drawing a circle] in black and white.”

Sometimes the subjects of his Chalk Talks were very simple. He told a story, for example, of how a blackboard and chalk could be used to teach a Sunday-school class of young children who had never before seen the Christian symbol of a cross inside the shape of a heart. He started by drawing the simple outline of a heart on the blackboard.

A simple sketch of a heart-shape in white chalk against a black background“What is this?”

“A heart!”

“Yes, a heart. Now, I mean this to represent a particular heart—I mean it for my heart. What is it now?”

“Your heart!”

“Don’t forget that. Now, see what else I will draw.” And he drew a child’s face within the heart.

“Now what have I made?”

Drawing in white chalk of a child's face inside the shape of a heart“A little boy!” “A little girl!” “A little child!” Variously cried the children.

“Yes, a little child; but where is the child?”

“In the heart.”

“In the heart?”

“In your heart.”

“That’s right. Now, what does it represent? When I tell you that I have a little child in my heart, what does it mean?”

A chalk sketch of a cross inside the shape of a heart against a black background“You mean you love the child.”

“Exactly. Now I will rub out the child and put a cross in the heart. What does that mean?”

“You love the cross.”

Then he went on to explain in a simple way what loving the cross meant.

He also shared an example of one of his lessons for older children and adolescents. He used this lesson to illustrate the concept of the narrow Christian path described in Matthew 7:13-14:

A young man is attracted by the appearance of beauty and the pleasure along the broad way. Timidly at first, for he is not bad and rather fears evil—but he loves play and pleasure—so he steps into it. He knows it is not the right way to take but he thinks to himself:

Chalk drawing of the head of a nicely-dressed young man wearing a hat.

“After a while, after I have had a good time, I will go over to the right path and come out all right after all.”

Chalk Drawing of the head of a frowning young man wearing a hat and smoking a cigarette

Frank went on to explain how the young man fell in with evil companions and was drawn further away from the good path.

Chalk drawing of the head of an old man with disheveled clothes and hat, smoking rumbled cigarette.

The young man learned to smoke and chew tobacco and read books “which mislead and give us wrong notions in life, that make heroes of scamps, thieves and liars.”

Chalk Ddawing of the head of an old man, hunched over, wearing disheveled clothes and hat.

As Frank continued the lesson, he amended and enhanced his original drawing to show the progressive results of the choices the young man made in his life.

Wherever he gave his Chalk Talks, he was well received, and his reputation grew. But not everyone was a fan of using a blackboard and chalk as teaching tools in the Sunday-school. Frank shared a story about one church that decided to use a man in their congregation—they assumed he had talent because he was a sign painter by profession—to illustrate Sunday-school lessons. The man decided to illustrate the story of Samuel as a child, entering the apartment of the high priest Eli in answer to his summons. His efforts were not well received.

Chalk drawing of Samuel running towards Eli who is in bed.

“Some objected to the bed-posts,” Frank said. “Some didn’t exactly know why, but the drawing didn’t conform to their idea of Samuel at all, and, more over, Eli’s nose was out of proportion.”

Chalk drawing of the Bible story of David and Goliath

The man’s next attempt didn’t fare any better, when he drew Goliath about thirty-five feet high in proportion to David. In fact, the congregation didn’t like anything at all about the poor sign-painter’s efforts at the blackboard.

Isabella Alden’s book Links in Rebecca’s Life featured a character who also disliked Chalk-Talk style lectures. She was a Sunday-school teacher who hated chalk and blackboards.

“They are such horrid dusty things. You get yourself all covered with chalk, and just ruin your clothes. I can hardly wear anything decent here as it is. If I had a blackboard, I should give up in despair.”

“I should think it would be a great help in teaching children,” Rebecca said.

“Well, I don’t know. What could I do with it? I don’t know how to draw, and as for making lines and marks and dots, I am not going to make an idiot of myself. What’s the use?”

But Frank Beard believed no special talent was required for a teacher to incorporate chalkboard drawings into Sunday-school lessons.

“Many are apt to think some extraordinary genius is necessary to fit a teacher to use the blackboard,” he said. “It is a mistake. You can teach better with a pencil than without. You can learn to draw far better than you ever imagined possible.”

Drawings of two different versions of a church and a cross; one version showing the wrong perspective and one version showing the correct perspective.

Illustrations from Frank’s book showing the right (Figures 43, 45) and wrong (Figures 42, 44) way to draw an image in perspective.

In 1896 Frank published a book for Sunday-school workers; in it he gave simple instructions for using the blackboard to illustrate Bible lessons.

Example of a simple but artistic way to write "The Lord is my shepherd" in chalk on the blackboard

Two examples of chalk talk methods for writing "what a friend we have in Jesus" on the chalkboard.

His book included how-to’s on perspective, lettering, and using easy-to-draw symbols as illustrations. Here are some of the symbols he illustrated:

Drawing of a crown with the word "Honor" written below. Drawing of a key with the word "Knowledge" written below. Drawing of a star with the word "Promise" written below. Drawing of a cross with the word "Salvation" written below. Drawing of an ancient oil lamp with the word "Wisdom" written below.

The purpose of writing the book, he said, “is to show how the blackboard can be used in the Sunday-school, and to furnish such instruction in drawing upon it” so it can be done in the most effective way.

drawing of a Victorian-era woman darwing with chalk on a blackboard in front of children seated on chairs in front of her

Illustration from Frank Beard’s book, Chalk Lessons

He was quick to say that he didn’t want the blackboard to monopolize the Sunday-school or supplant other useful forms of instruction. But, if used correctly, Frank Beard proved that the blackboard—and Chalk Talks—could be the “instrument which proves effective as a means of winning souls to Christ.”

 


 

"Taught by Pictures." "Frank Beard believes in the cartoon in religion." A Chat with the Artist." "How He Came to Invent the Chal Talk." "War-Time Caricatures"In 1895 Frank Beard gave an interview to the Washington D.C. newspaper The Evening Star. Click on this image to read the interview in which Frank tells how he invented the Chalk Talk:

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Cover_Links in Rebecca's LifeClick on the book cover to learn more about Links in Rebecca’s Life.

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Cover Box Set books 1-3 Click on the book cover to learn more about Four Girls at Chautauqua.

 

100 Years Ago at Chautauqua

31 Dec

For many reasons, 1914 was a banner year at Chautauqua Institution. Here are a few of the highlights:

Announcement in a 1914 edition of The Chautauquan

Announcement in a 1914 edition of The Chautauquan

Chautauqua Institution marked its 40th anniversary.

The anniversary was celebrated with a week-long music festival of exceptional entertainment, described in this announcement as the “greatest musical event in the history of Chautauqua.” You can click on the announcement to view a larger image.

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The Victor Herbert Orchestra gave two concerts a day during Music Festival Week.

Victor Herbert program 1904Celebrated composer/conductor Victor Herbert performed during the music festival. Famous for his operettas Babes in Toyland and Naughty Marietta, he was also the founder of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. When he came to Chautauqua, he came big, with a 50-member orchestra and a choir of 50 male voices. You can read more about it in the above announcement.

Victor Herbert conducting the Pittsburgh Orchestra in 1901

Victor Herbert conducting the Pittsburgh Orchestra in 1901

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The Chautauqua Players took the stage.
Caricatures of cast and characters in a 1907 production of You Never Can Tell

Caricatures of cast and characters in a 1907 production of You Never Can Tell

Theater productions came late to Chautauqua, due, in large part, to the Methodist Church’s ban on theater attendance that lasted into the 1920s. Chautauquans were content with illustrative lectures and pageants; but those entertainments gradually gave way to dramatic readings, then to pantomime performers. By the early 1900s, stage plays found a place at Chautauqua. To commemorate the anniversary, Chautauqua Institution’s very own Chautauqua Players presented two performances each of three different plays:

The Passing of the Third Floor Back
Ulysses by Stephen Phillips
You Never Can Tell by George Bernard Shaw

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Normal Hall was remodeled.

Built in 1885, Normal Hall is one of the oldest buildings on the Chautauqua grounds. It was originally designed as a recitation hall but in the anniversary year of 1914, it was remodeled for class rooms. Today, Normal Hall is known as the Bratton Theater, home to the Chautauqua Theater Company.

Click on the image to see how Normal Hall looks today.

Normal Hall Exterior in 1908

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The golf course opened.

Golfhere was no golf at Chautauqua in 1874 but forty years later, Chautauquans were hitting the links in addition to the traditional croquet balls. Click here to see period photos of the golf course and to read about the famous people who have played the course.

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Dean Percy H. Boynton became Principal of the Chautauqua Summer Schools.

Percy H BoyntonEducated at Amherst and Harvard universities, Percy Boynton became a Professor of English at the University of Chicago in 1903, the same year he became Secretary of Instruction at the Chautauqua Institution. He served as Chautauqua’s Principal of Summer Schools from 1914 to 1916.

He was also a noted writer and lecturer. After his retirement from teaching, he joined the Chautauqua circuit and toured the country presenting lectures on a variety of topics.

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A new highway and entrance gate opened for business.

In 1914 over 50,000 people attended the summer session at Chautauqua. With so many guests arriving—many over land from nearby Jamestown and Maywood—Chautauqua had to ensure those guests entered the grounds quickly and efficiently. The entire west border of the grounds—where guests entered from the road—was renovated. The highway was widened and paved with brick. Over time, that brick highway was extended to span the length of the grounds.

In addition, a “handsome new station for the Chautauqua Traction Company” was erected to accommodate a trolley line, along with a “suitable Chautauqua gateway.”

Chautauqua Entrance Gate original gateYou can determine for yourself whether the new entrance gate was “suitable.” Here’s an undated photo of the original entrance gate:

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Chautauqua Entrance GateAnd this photo shows the new entrance gate shortly after it opened. The new gate is still in use today.

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In 1914 Chautauqua Institution grew, adapted and expanded; and changed the entire physical front it presented to the world.

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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