Tag Archives: Chautauqua Institution

Postcards from Chautauqua: Saturday in the Park with Pansy

8 Aug

A Sunset service at Palestine Park

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“Nevertheless, she suffered herself to be persuaded to go for a walk, provided Eurie would go to Palestine….Flossy explained to her that she had a consuming desire to wander along the banks of the Jordan and view those ancient cities, historic now.” (Four Girls at Chautauqua)

Sometimes, I really, really wish I could take the Way Back Machine and latch onto Pansy’s group as they enjoyed the apparently mesmerizing lectures by a flamboyant Middle Eastern-born tour guide named Augustus Oscar Van Lennep. Not content to introduce the lakeside miniature Holy Lands that are a relic of Chautauqua’s Sunday School Assembly days, this enterprising, creative fellow dolled up in “Oriental” costume to give his lectures. That’s our man below, lounging in Rajah-like style, while his indulgent friends retain their upright Victorian postures.

Courtesy of the Chautauqua Institution Archives.

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Gus must have had an equally fun set of folks who joined him—witness his jolly crew of costumed believers at Palestine Park in 1875/6-ish. Can you imagine??? Oh, how much fun must that have been!

Courtesy of the Chautauqua Institution Archives.

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Alas, today the Park is largely neglected and used more as a family playground than an instructional living map.

I’ve been studying a 1920’s Bible Atlas by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut (Chautauqua lecturer, founding father, and big-time booster) to gain a working knowledge of the Holy Lands. As Dr. Vincent believed, I think understanding the topography and layout, relative distances and terrain of Palestine environs is extremely helpful when reading Scripture. I mean, when you see how far Gideon and his 300 brave soldiers had to track the Philistines, you really do understand why he was so angered when the locals wouldn’t give them any foods to keep their strength up!

According the Pansy’s many charming references to the Palestine Park, students were treated to not only the basic layout, but tiny townscapes and identifying plaques dotted the carefully crafted map. Bible verses connecting each significant stop provided context—and reasserted the importance of the location for the Christ-following traveler.

Today, in an effort to keep the residual charm of the place, small cast iron plaques are embedded along the landscape—they’re kept painted and somewhat landscaped. I understand there’s a “tour” each Sunday night and I hope to attend it someday.

I paced off various Bible place names made familiar by my Old Testament studies and was genuinely surprised to see how concentrated a radius these events encompassed. Here’s Jerusalem in relation to the Mount of Olives, only a stone’s throw from Bethany.

Mount Hermon in the distance provides the perfect “king of the hill” locale for the resort’s kiddie population. The impressive crevasse made me wonder if erosion hadn’t made the Jordan Valley a bit too deep?

“Here we are, on ‘Jordan’s stormy banks…I suppose there was never a more perfect geographical representation than this.” (Four Girls at Chautauqua)

Compared to the vintage postcards you’ll find in this blog’s archived Chautauqua posts (see the links at the conclusion of this post), I’d say the accuracy factor might be off a bit these days.

I found it charming that Jericho was in “ruins”—the flat-topped ancient buildings crumbled and scattered, like those of Hebron (though I’m not certain these ruins were intentional.)

Is someone is tending Jacob’s Well? Even on the dry day I visited, it was filled with water.

My favorite? The truly little town of Bethlehem.

I read the plaque as I exited the park, wistful at the thought of those tent-dwelling Sunday School teachers, nestling eagerly beside the “Mediterranean Sea” and along the shores of the Jordan, to understand more about the lands their spiritual ancestors walked.

What would they make of this rarely visited, gently poignant reminder of the Park’s original purpose? Today, no Bible markers or tablets grace the small stony stand-ins, no tiny replica buildings remain to represent scenes from the life of Jesus as they did in Pansy’s time. I turned my gaze to Chautauqua Lake, imagining the steamer pulling up to the nearby dock and unloading four lively 19th century girls, eager for fun, not knowing they would never be the same, thanks to their time in this beautiful place.

“Now, the actual fact is, that those three people wandered around that far-away land until the morning vanished … They went from Bethany to Bethel, and from Bethel to Shechem, and they even climbed Mount Hermon’s snowy peak and looked about on the lovely plain below. In every place there was Bible reading …” (Four Girls at Chautauqua)

Thanks for allowing me to share these mementos with you of my all-too-brief Chautauqua visit. My hope and prayer is to return soon to follow further in Isabella’s footsteps.

My fascination has led me to launch a tribute Chautauqua Literary & Science Circle reading plan—I’m pairing 19th century texts with contemporary works and next August, I hope to carry the Pansy Year banner in the Recognition Day parade. Interested readers can follow along with my literary journey at my blog, The Hall in the Grove.

Dusting off my sandals,
Karen

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If you missed previous posts about Chautauqua Institution, you can read them by clicking on the links below:

Postcards from Chautauqua – Pansy-trod Pathways

Postcards from Chautauqua – On a Pilgrimage

Postcards from Chautauqua – Summer of 2017

A Tour of Chautauqua: Getting There

A Tour of Chautauqua: Strolling the Grounds

A Tour of Chautauqua: Where to Stay

A Tour of Chautauqua: Lectures and Classes

A Tour of Chautauqua: Having Fun

A Tour of Chautauqua: The Teachers’ Retreat

A Tour of Chautauqua: A Healthy Body

A Tour of Chautauqua: Palestine Park

100 Years Ago at Chautauqua

Postcards from Chautauqua: On a Pilgrimage

26 Jul

Karen Noske joins us again to share photos and descriptions of the Chautauqua landmarks she explored this summer, with Isabella Alden’s novels in mind. Welcome back, Karen!


My next objective was the Hall of Christ, as there was an archival lecture to be given momentarily on one of the most influential early religious leaders at Chautauqua, the renowned Shailer Mathews.

I imagined how Isabella might have felt, sitting in this arena, listening to contemporary reflections on the man whose influence changed the course of the Institute in so many ways.

The Hall of Christ, as it appears today.

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“The Hall of the Christ, is first of all, to stand in the center of Chautauqua to represent Christ as the center of all learning and all true living; the Key to the true and eternal wisdom…a Hall where Jesus Christ is enthroned; where only his story is allowed; told in print and picture and sculpture and the human voice. Isn’t it grand!”

(Four Mothers at Chautauqua)

The workmanlike interior of the unprepossessing Hall of Christ makes me wonder if there haven’t been many changes to it over the years.

The Hall of Christ as it appeared in 1909

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The general atmosphere is one of beneficent neglect and exhaustion. A magnificent organ dominates the stage—sadly, it was eclipsed by the speaker’s screen and I only got this tantalizing glimpse of it.

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Engrossing as the lecture was, I was glad to make my way out towards my next objective—the centerpiece of Chautauqua for Isabella and, as it turned out, for me.

The Hall in the Grove

Directly adjacent to the Hall of Christ is the cherished “Hall in the Grove.” I recognized it immediately by its prominence and its beauty:

“If you have up to this time been even a careless reader of this volume, you have doubtless discovered that the center of Chautauqua life was the ‘Hall in the Grove.’ A beautiful grove, with trees old enough and grand enough to be worthy of their baptismal name—”St Paul’s Grove.” White-pillared, simple, plain, yet suggestive of such a brilliant past and hinting of such a glorified future … this bit of green and white, with a glimmer of lake between.”

(The Hall in the Grove, page 286)

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The dedication plaque on the “Hall in the Grove” reads, “Erected in 1900 on the site of an earlier wooden hall placed here in 1879. This building was erected by the generous gifts of members of C.L.S.C. classes and other friends of Chautauqua.”

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A talk by the very popular Bill Moyers (of CBS News fame) was just finishing up, so I crept in around the edges and starting following the elaborate and beautiful mosaics that frame the lecture hall’s floor.

“All was quiet there. The sunset meeting which had been held in that white, still place was closed sometime since, and their feet, as they stepped on the floor, resounded throughout the vacant Hall.”

(The Hall in the Grove, page 240)

I was delighted to find the shield of Pansy’s Class of 1887 in a place of genuine honor—nestled around the corners of the lectern.

The lectern platform itself is still a modest affair, virtually unchanged since Pansy’s class approached to celebrate their graduation. Let’s join Paul Adams from The Hall in the Grove here:

“Arrived at the white, quiet building, he entered it with soft tread, and, under an impulse which he did not in the least understand, uncovered his head. He stepped softly onto the platform, drew the armchair, which was the seat of honor, forward a trifle, and settled himself in it. Then he brought up before him in review the many and varied and wonderful experiences which the weeks had brought him in connection with that spot … Then he got down from the professor’s chair and … after a silent last look at the Hall, he walked home with Joe, they two speaking words together that were better than marble columns or millions of money, for they represented manhood.”

(The Hall in the Grove, page 382)

In The Hall in the Grove, Isabella shares a peek into her heart:

“…the gleaming pillars of the Hall of Philosophy rose up before him; something in the purity and strength and quaintness seemed to have gotten possession of him. Whether it was a shadowy link between him and some ancient scholar or worshiper I cannot say … but treading the Chautauquan avenues for the first time … his young heart thrill[ed] with a hope and a determination, neither of which he understood, every time he saw those gleaming pillars.”

(The Hall in the Grove, page 198)

When Caroline Raynor (another character in The Hall in the Grove) objects to the Hall being made in the style of a Temple of Minerva, she is vigorously corrected by her soon-to-be suitor, Robert:

“I like it exceedingly. Let the beautiful white temple be rescued from its heathen desecration and dedicated to the service of the good and true God our Father, and his Son Jesus Christ.”

(page 204)

I passed an ancient oak near one of entrances that was garmented in ivy and wondered … if I parted the ivy, would I find a lichen-crusted carving in the tree reading “Vine, 22, 1887”? (EightySeven, page 12.)

I surely saw what Dr. Winter Kelland did when …

“he and Vine walked … around under the hill, and up the hill, and come out beside the white-pillared hall and stopped under one of the tallest trees, and looked about them, and were silent. Dr. Kelland took off his hat and looked up reverently to the very top of the tall tree, beyond the top, into the blue of heaven.”

(Eighty-Seven, page 318)

As I walked reluctantly away from the Hall, I looked up and felt sure I was seeing the same trees, the same sky, the same view Pansy enjoyed in Four Girls at Chautauqua:

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“None of all … who spent the day within the shadow of that sweet and leafy place have surely forgotten how the quaint and quiet beauty of the place and its surrounding fell upon them; they know just how the birds sang among those tall old trees; they know just how still and blue and clear the lake looked as they caught glimpses of it through the quivering green of myriad leaves …”

(Four Girls at Chautauqua, page 180)


Next time, Karen makes a little visit to the Chautauqua Post Office before trekking to the “Holy Land.”


If you missed previous posts about Chautauqua Institution, you can read them by clicking on the links below:

Postcards from Chautauqua – Summer of 2017

A Tour of Chautauqua: Getting There

A Tour of Chautauqua: Strolling the Grounds

A Tour of Chautauqua: Where to Stay

A Tour of Chautauqua: Lectures and Classes

A Tour of Chautauqua: Having Fun

A Tour of Chautauqua: The Teachers’ Retreat

A Tour of Chautauqua: A Healthy Body

A Tour of Chautauqua: Palestine Park

100 Years Ago at Chautauqua

Too Much of a Good Thing, and a New Free Read

19 Jul

Isabella Alden was very close to her sister Marcia, who married the Reverend Charles Livingston. For many years Isabella’s and Marcia’s families lived together under the same roof.

Isabella Alden (left) and her sister, Marcia Livingston in an undated photo.

Isabella Alden (left) and her sister, Marcia Livingston in an undated photo.

In the summer months the Aldens and the Livingstons traveled to Chautauqua, New York and shared a cottage on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution.

In the winter they made the pilgrimage to Florida, where the two families lived in a large house in Winter Park.

The Alden house in Winter Park. From Winter Park Public Library archives.

The Alden house in Winter Park. (From Winter Park Public Library archives.)

Isabella’s son Raymond and Marcia’s daughter Grace attended Rollins College in Winter Park, and Grace went on to teach physical education classes there.

Grace Livingston Hill in her early twenties.

Grace Livingston Hill in her early twenties.

Before Grace took up her pen to write some of America’s most beloved novels under the name Grace Livingston Hill, she was one of the first teachers at Rollins College. She was also a true advocate for the “physical culture” movement that was sweeping the country at the time. She recognized the freedom it gave women to pursue physical health in a way they hadn’t been able to before. At Rollins she taught ladies’ classes in calisthenics, basketball, gymnastics, and fencing.

Grace Livingston (front and center) with her Greek Posture Class, about 1889.

Grace Livingston (front and center) with her Greek Posture Class, about 1889. (From Rollins College Archives.)

She also taught men’s classes in physical culture, such as fencing and Greek Posture:

Grace teaching a fencing class in 1890. (From the Rollins College Archives.)

Grace teaching a fencing class in 1890. (From the Rollins College Archives.)

 

Men's Greek Posture Class, about 1890. From Rollins College Archives.

Men’s Greek Posture Class, about 1890. (From Rollins College Archives.)

And when she wasn’t teaching at the college, she taught physical culture classes at the Florida Chautauqua.

An 1889 announcement from the Florida Chautauqua.

An 1889 announcement from the Florida Chautauqua.

Like her niece, Isabella appreciated the physical culture movement. She even featured the craze in one of her short stories, “Agatha’s Uknown Way.”

Image of the cover for Agatha's Unknown Way

And she wrote “Too Much of a Good Thing,” a story about how one young girl got so caught up in the physical culture craze, that she made life difficult for her entire family. You can read “Too Much of a Good Thing” for free below.

Would you like to learn more about Grace Livingston’s teaching years at Rollins College? Click this link to read a fun story about one of her biggest challenges at the school, and how she convinced the faculty to see things her way.

You can read Isabella’s short story, “Agatha’s Unknown Way” for free. Just click this link.

You can also read a previous post about the birth of gymnastics at Chatuauqua Institution.

Enjoy Isabella’s story, “Too Much of a Good Thing”:


Too Much of a Good Thing

Downstairs everyone was busy. Uncle Morris and his entire family, just from Europe, were coming by an earlier train than it had been expected they could take, and many last preparations for making them comfortable had still to be attended to.

Mrs. Evans had been up since daylight, planning, directing, and helping to the utmost that her small strength would admit.

Indeed, her eldest daughter Laura had constantly to watch, to save her mother from lifting something heavy, or reaching for something high. Often her clear voice could be heard with a “Oh, mother, don’t! Please—I’ll take care of that.” And often the gentle answer was:

“Dear child, you cannot do everything, though your will is strong enough. Where is Millie?”

“Millie has gone to sweep and dust the hall room; you know we didn’t think we should need that, and I used it as a sort of store room; but since Arthur is coming with them, we shall have to get it ready; and he will need to go at once to his room, since he is an invalid, so I sent Millie to put it in order. I told her just what to do, and she will manage it nicely. She must be nearly through now, and I’ll have her finish dusting here, so I can help you with those books; they are too heavy for you to handle.”

No, Millie wasn’t nearly through. In fact, she could hardly have been said to have commenced. The truth is, she had been thrown off the track. It was an old print which fell out of an, unused portfolio that did it. The print showed the picture of a girl in fun Greek costume, and reminded Millie of what was not long out of her mind, that in the coming Physical Culture entertainment she was to chess in a costume which was supposed to be after the Greek order.

“Let me see,” she said, bending over the print, “this girl has short sleeves and low neck. Why, the dress is almost precisely like the one which Laura wears with her lace over-dress; I might wear that. It would be too long, of course, but it could be hemmed up. I am almost sure Laura would let me have it; and with her white sash ribbon tied around my waist it would be just lovely. Then that would save buying anything new, and save mother any trouble. I mean to go this minute and try on the dress, before I say anything about it.”

Away dashed the Greek maiden to one of the guest chambers which Laura had left in perfect order, dragged from a seldom used drawer the elegant white mull dress with its lace belongings, all of which saw the light only on state occasions, and rushed back to the hall room again, where she had left the print she was trying to copy. In her haste, she dragged out with the dress various articles of the toilet. Laura’s white kid gloves which she wore when she graduated, a quantity of laces, and a handkerchief or two, to say nothing of sprays of dried flowers. These she trailed over the carpet, seeing nothing of them. The important thing in life just now was to get herself into that dress.

It was accomplished at last, not without a tiny tear having been made in the delicate stuff, but which Millie’s fingers were too eager to notice. She tied the white sash high up about her waist, after the fashion of the picture, seized the dust brush in one hand as if it were a dumb bell, or an Indian club, and struck a graceful attitude with her arm on the corner of the mantel.

“There!” she said, “I would like to have my picture taken in this dress; I have a very nice position now for it. I wish the girls were here to see me. Laura must let me wear this; it fits exactly. I don’t believe it is much too long for a Greek maiden. I should like to wear my dresses long; it must be great fun. I wonder if we couldn’t have our pictures taken in costume? I think it would be real nice; and our folks would each want to buy one. Perhaps we could make some money.”

There were hurried steps in the hall, and the Greek maiden’s musings were cut short. Laura came forward rapidly, talking as she
came.

“Millie, aren’t you through here? You have had plenty of time, and mother needs your help right away. Hurry down just as quickly as you can; she is over-doing, and it is growing late; the carriage may come any minute now. Why, Millie Evans!”

She stopped in amazement, for the Greek maiden was still posing. She smiled graciously and said: “Don’t I look fine? I borrowed it a minute to see if it will do to wear to the entertainment. It is just the thing, isn’t it? You will lend it to me, won’t you? Just for one evening? I’ll be awfully careful of it.”

“And you have been to that drawer where all the nice things are packed, and dragged them out! There is one of my white gloves under your feet, and my only lace handkerchief keeping it company! I must say, Millie Evans, you deserve to be punished. Here we are trying our best to get ready for company, and keep mother from getting too tired, and you neglect your work to rig up like a circus girl; and go to a drawer which you have no right to open. I shall certainly tell father of this.”

The Greek maiden’s cheeks were in an unbecoming blaze. Laura was hurried and tired, and spoke with more severity than was her custom. It certainly was trying to find the room in disorder, and her best dress in danger.

“Take care,” she said, as Millie’s frantic efforts to get it off put it in greater danger. “Don’t quite ruin that dress. Indeed you shall not wear it. I am astonished at you for thinking of such a thing; when father hears what you have been doing, I doubt if you will need a dress for the entertainment.”

Then Millie lost all self control. “You are a hateful, selfish thing!” she burst forth. “Take your old dress; I don’t want to wear it; and I won’t be ordered about by you as though you were my grandmother. I’m nearly fourteen, and you have no right to manage me. I’ll just tell father myself that I—”

“What is all this?” Mr. Evans’ voice was sternness itself, and he looked at the girl with blazing cheeks, in a way that made her angry eyes droop.

“What does it mean, Millicent? I heard you using very unbecoming language to your sister, and to judge from your appearance you have been about some very inappropriate work.”

“Well, father, Laura burst in here and—”

“Never mind what Laura did, Millicent. Unfortunately for you, I know which daughter tries to care for and spare her sick mother in every possible way. I overheard enough to show me which one is to blame. Laura may tell me what is the trouble, and you may listen.”

But Laura was already sorry that she had spoken so sharply, and tried to soften the story as much as truth would permit.

“Her mind is so full of the Physical Culture entertainment, father, that she does not stop to think. I know she did not mean to hinder and make trouble.”

“I see,” said Mr. Evans, speaking grimly. “I have heard a good deal about this Physical Culture business. If everyone is as much carried out of common sense by it as our Millicent is, I should say it was high time to have some moral culture. Millicent, you may put yourself into a suitable dress for sweeping, and do the work you were sent to do, at once; and you will not need to think any more about a dress for the entertainment, for you are to be excused from attending it. You may tell your teacher that I said so.”

Poor Millie! The hall bedroom floor might almost have been washed, if that were desirable, with the tears she shed. No hope had she of any change of mind on her father’s part. He rarely interfered with his children, but when he did, his word was law.

And poor Laura! She went downstairs heavy-hearted and miserable. Why had Millie been so silly, and why had she allowed her vexation to make matters worse?

The poor frail mother actually cried when she heard of Millie’s disappointment. “Yet I really cannot ask her father not to notice it,” she said sorrowfully. “Millie has been so remiss in her duties for weeks, all on account of the hold which that Physical Culture craze has upon her. It is too much of a good thing. I am afraid her father is doing right.”

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The Edison Connection

5 Apr

In the summer of 1885 inventor Thomas Alva Edison was a rock star in American culture.

An 1899 advertising poster for Edison's Concert Phonograph.

An 1899 advertising poster for Edison’s Concert Phonograph.

Americans admired his intelligence and strong work ethic. They revered him for inventing products that made the average American’s life easier and more enjoyable.

Advertising trade card for the Edison phonograph ca. 1910

Advertising trade card for the Edison phonograph ca. 1910

He was affectionately called “The Wizard;” reporters and photographers followed him wherever he went; and authors wrote imaginative stories endowing Edison with cartoon-like super-hero powers (at the bottom of this post you can read an example).

Advertising card for Edison's Vitascope motion picture process, 1897.

Advertising card for Edison’s Vitascope motion picture process, 1897.

In the summer of 1885 Edison was 38 years old. He was touring Mount Washington, New Hampshire with a party of friends, when a reporter asked him for a quote for his newspaper.

Thomas Edison, ca. 1880.

Thomas Edison, ca. 1880.

This was not an unusual occurrence; reporters were used to Edison spontaneously offering up heady scientific thoughts or pithy quotes for them to print.

Edison Quote Abstinence

But on this particular day, Edison took the newspaper reporter’s pencil and pad and wrote on it:

Miss Mina Miller of Akron, the most beautiful woman in Ohio, is today a guest of Mount Washington.

It was a stunning revelation: The Wizard of Menlo Park—known for being so focused on his work that he usually slept in his laboratory rather than going home to his family—had a romantic streak! But who was Mina Miller?

Mina Miller about the time of her marriage to Thomas Edison in 1886 when she was 20 years old.

Mina Miller about the time of her marriage to Thomas Edison in 1886 when she was 20 years old.

Mina Miller was the 19 year old daughter of Lewis Miller, co-founder of the Chautauqua Institution and an inventor himself. He had made a fortune designing and manufacturing farm equipment.

Lewis Miller, inventor and co-founder of the Chautauqua Institution.

Lewis Miller, inventor and co-founder of the Chautauqua Institution.

That summer Mina was one of Edison’s party touring Mount Washington. She had just graduated from a ladies’ boarding school in Boston and was pursuing her music studies when she met Edison through an introduction in a mutual friend’s drawing room. Edison fell instantly in love.

Mina Miller Edison, about 1906

Mina Miller Edison, about 1906

A widower, Edison had been married before to Mary Stillwell, a young woman who worked in his laboratory. An 1896 article in a Louisiana newspaper described his courtship of Mary:

Opelousas Courier 1896

While Edison’s first marriage may have had a very practical beginning, his second marriage was undoubtedly a love match.

Edison himself joked that he was so distracted by thoughts of Mina, he was almost run over by a street car. When Mina and the rest of the Miller family removed to Chautauqua Institution for the summer, Edison followed, determined to win Mina’s heart and the good opinion of her parents.

He taught her Morse Code so they could converse privately when other people were around. It was while they were riding in a motor car with friends that Edison tapped out his marriage proposal on the palm of Mina’s hand. She tapped out her acceptance.

Mina and Thomas Edison in their locomobile

Mina and Thomas Edison in their locomobile

Six months later they were married in Mina’s home in Akron, Ohio. Newspapers of the time described every detail, from the cost of the floral decorations, to a description of the extravagant wedding gifts they received.

Headline wedding

America embraced the new Mrs. Edison with the same spirit in which they admired Thomas Edison. Newspapers described her as “young and fine looking,” “vivacious,” “brilliant,” and “sweet.”

Edison proved to be a thoughtful and attentive husband, even though he still worked long hours on his inventions and many business endeavors. He built Mina a new home, which they named Glenmont. Mina decorated the home with exquisite taste and filled the rooms with music and friends.

Glenmont, the Edison's home in West Orange, New Jersey.

Glenmont, the Edison’s home in West Orange, New Jersey.

Because her father was a noted inventor, Mina knew the peculiarities of living with someone who worked when inspiration struck. When her husband spent whole days and nights at a time in his laboratory, Mina didn’t complain; instead, she slept on a cot near his workbench so she could be with him.

Thomas Alva Edison in his laboratory.

Thomas Alva Edison in his laboratory.

She was active in the Temperance Movement, and served on committees, councils, and boards for charities and civic causes.

Eleanor Roosevelt (third from left) and Mina Miller (far right) in 1934. They worked together on charitable endeavors.

Eleanor Roosevelt (third from left) and Mina Miller Edison (far right) in 1934. They worked together on charitable endeavors.

Mina also succeeded in one area where many others failed: She got Thomas Edison to take time off from his work and relax. They were frequent visitors to Chautauqua, and often stayed at the Miller cottage. They invited friends to stay with them, and entertained Henry Ford and his wife on a number of occasions.

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison in the garden behind Miller Cottage, 1929.

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison in the garden behind Miller Cottage, 1929.

Edison, who never went to college, joined the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, and was a member of the “Edison Class” of 1930. No mention was made in the press about whether Mr. Edison walked with his class on Recognition Day.

C.L.S.C. banner for the Edison Class of 1930.

C.L.S.C. banner for the Edison Class of 1930.

The Edison’s happy marriage lasted 45 years until Thomas Edison’s death in 1931. Mina died in 1947.

Thomas Edison in 1913.

Thomas Edison in 1913.

 

Mina Miller Edison in her later years.

Mina Miller Edison in her later years.

They are buried side-by-side at Glenmont (now a property of the National Park Service), where thousands of people visit to pay their respects to the Wizard of Menlo Park and his brilliant wife.

Mina Miller Edison and Thomas Edison

Mina Miller Edison and Thomas Edison


Would you like to read more about Mina Miller Edison? Click here to visit EdisonMuckers.org. Be sure to scroll to the end of the post where you can see some of the Edison family recipes. You can also download a very nice biography of Mina Miller Edison by John D. Venable that contains several seldom-seen photographs.

You can also learn more about Glenmont, the Edison’s home in New Jersey by following these links:
EdisonMuckers.org
ThomasEdison.org

Here’s an example of some of the popular fiction written around the turn of the century featuring Thomas Edison in the story. Follow these links to read the 1898 serial, “Edison’s Conquest of Mars.”

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 through 5

Chapters 6 through 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Chapters 11 through 13

Chapters 14 through 16

Chapters 17 and 18

Chapters 19 and 21

Chapters 22 and 23

Chapters 24 and 25

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.

 

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:

 

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.

A Tour of Chautauqua: A Healthy Body

8 Nov

In the middle of the 19th Century a new craze began to take hold on American college campuses. The new fad was a revolutionary form of physical exercise called gymnastics.

Image of a Chautauqua ExerciseClass in Physical Education 1913

A Chautauqua exercise class in Physical Education, 1913

German in origin, gymnastics spread in popularity and were ultimately integrated into college sports programs. By the end of the century, gymnastics training—as well as the concept of regular exercise for overall health and well-being—made the leap into public consciousness and became a popular concept in the lives of everyday Americans.

The founders of Chautauqua Institution saw the rise of public interest in physical education and knew the concept had a place at Chautauqua. Bishop John Vincent strongly believed that a healthy body was essential to a healthy mind and soul.

Quote from Bishop John Vincent: "Self-Improvementin all our faculties, for all of us, through all time, for the greatest good of all people--this is the Chautauqua idea."

Chautauqua had always offered plenty of exercise for visitors who wanted to be active. There were athletic clubs for men, women and children. Classes were offered in hiking and riding bikes; wrestling and fencing; swimming, diving, hurdle-jumping and golf.

Image of swimmers in the lake at Chautauqua Institution, 1908

Bathing at Chautauqua, 1908

Even their courses on gardening and horticulture emphasized the mental and physical benefits of growing orchard and garden crops.

Image of beginning riders posing with their bikes in the Bicycle School circa 1896

Beginning riders in the Bicycle School, ca. 1896

Image of shuffleboard players at the Chautauqua Sports Club about 1920

A leisurely game of shuffleboard at the Chautauqua Sports Club, ca. 1920s

With the nation’s growing interest in fitness and outdoor sports came an increased demand for trained teachers of athletics. Chautauqua Institution answered the call by establishing the Chautauqua School of Physical Education. The school focused on preparing teachers for placement at schools, universities, Young Men’s Christian Associations, and athletic clubs; and they were the first to give certificates to teachers in physical education.

Image of physical education students at the Chautauqua in 1896

Students at the Chautauqua Gymnasium, 1896

As usual, Chautauqua Institution offered the best instruction that could be furnished in several lines of athletics.

And, as always, Chautauqua assembled the country’s premier instructors for each area of specialty. Here, for instance, is a roster of the faculty during the summer of 1903:

Image listing the 1903 Faculty of Chautauqua School of Physical Education

Between 1886 (when the school was founded) and 1904 the school trained an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 physical education teachers from across the United States. In addition to the Normal Course, the school offered classes “suited to the needs of men, women, misses, boys and children.”

Image of Chautauqua Class in Physical Culture dated 1896

Chautauqua Class in Physical Culture, 1896

In other words, summer visitors to Chautauqua had ample opportunity to learn track and field, gymnastics, and virtually every other athletic technique from the country’s best instructors, assembled in one place.

Quote by Carrica Le Favre: To each spiritual function responds a function of the body. To each grand function of the body corresponds a spiritual act."

A unique aspect of the physical education training offered at Chautauqua was the melding of three different physical education systems.

  • The German gymnastics system was based on strenuous exercise performed on equipment such as pommel horses, parallel bars, climbing walls and rope mechanisms.
  • The Swedish gymnastics system focused on calisthenics, stretching and breathing.
  • And the Delsartean system integrated lighted physical exercise with artistic movement and relaxation techniques. The system was named for Francois Delsarte, who devoted his life to studying the laws of human motion, gesture and expression.

Together these three systems formed the school of physical culture. As students learned to master the different techniques, they often exhibited their skills in the Chautauqua Amphitheater.

Image of a gymnastics Class exhibiting in the Amphitheatre circa 1895

A Gymnastics Class exhibits in the Amphitheatre, about 1895

Chautauqua Herald Article dated July 19 1901 about a Physical Education Class exhibition

Click on this image to read a 1901 article from the Chautauqua Herald about a Physical Education Class exhibition

The Physical Culture exhibitions were extremely popular as a form of entertainment for summer Chautauquans. At the time, most people had never before seen athletes displaying skills with light devices such as dumb-bells, rings, poles, and Indian Clubs. As a source of entertainment, these displays were something of a phenomenon.

Image of a Physical Culture Class displaying Gymnastic Compositions 1890

But athletes didn’t demonstrate strength and skill alone. The Delsartean system stressed beauty of movement. Under Delsartean teaching it wasn’t enough for students to simply lift a dumb-bell in front of an audience; they learned to lift dumb-bells in prescribed forms that created pleasing compositions, all accompanied to appropriate music.

Image of a physical culture class using dumb-bells, 1890

Physical Culture Class using dumb-bells, 1890

Image of a physical culture class using gymnastic rings, 1890

A Physical Culture Class using rings, 1890

Image of a Physical Culture Class using gymnastic poles, 1890

A Physical Culture Class using gymnastic poles, 1890

Image of a Physical Culture Class using Indian Clubs 1890

Physical Culture Class using Indian Clubs, 1890

Perhaps the most popular portion of the program was the display of mastery of Indian Clubs. Indian Clubs looked something like modern-day bowling pins. They were often hollow with removable tops so sand or other substances could be inserted to give them weight. By swinging the clubs according to Delsartean rhythms and movements, men, women and children got an effective upper body workout.

Image of a man demonstrating an Indian Club Exercise

Image of a man demonstrating an Indian Club Exercise

Isabella Alden wrote about a public performance of Indian Clubs in her short story “Agatha’s Unknown Way.” She described the exhibition as “fancy club-swinging.”

Image of a woman demonstrating an Indian Club exercise

Demonstrations like the one Isabella described were extremely popular and drew large audiences, which is exactly what happened in “Agatha’s Unknown Way.”

Image of a woman demonstrating an Indian Club Exercise

In the story, the solo performer was a woman, which would have been very unusual at the time, and she certainly would have drawn a crowd. She also probably stimulated audience members to try exercising with Indian Clubs themselves.

Quote by Carrica Le Favre: "Who can know that we are beautiful, good and true if we do not show it forth through the instrument that is given us for that purpose?"

It would have been easy enough to learn how. By the turn of the century over 20 different best-selling books had been published on Delsartean techniques. People bought the instruction books and used them to practice the system of movement and exercise in the privacy of their own homes.

Other exercise-at-home books sold well, too, such as this Ladies’ Home Calisthenics book published in 1890.

Image of frontispiece from the book, Ladies Home Calisthenics published in 1890

In this book, push-ups, weight lifting, and club swinging exercises were modified for women in consideration of the restrictions on their movements caused by their corsets.

Image of woman holding hand weights and flexing her wrists in 1890

Hand Exercise from Ladies’ Home Calisthenics, 1890

Image of woman doing push-ups against a table in 1890

How to do push-ups, from Ladies’ Home Calisthenics, 1890

Women were expected to wear their corsets at all times, even while exercising; but at least one corset manufacturer, spotting the new exercise trend, advertised that women wearing their corset could “perform in comfort any exercise of physical culture.”

. . . . . . . . . .Image of corset advertisement showing woman holding hand weights from 1890     Image of corset ad showing woman riding a bike from 1890

The physical culture movement wasn’t just about lifting weights and swinging clubs. The Delsartean system had at its core a principle of movement based on art, relaxation, balance and the natural flow of breath. Over time, the Delsartean system expanded to address areas of “self-expression.” For example, some public speaking classes at Chautauqua adopted the breathing and relaxation techniques designed by Delsarte, as did courses on deportment and “self-expression.”

Announcement in 1901 edition of Chautauqua Herald announcing class in self-expression

Announcement of a new class at Chautauqua

In Four Mothers at Chautauqua Isabella Alden wrote about a Chautauqua class on relaxation that was founded on Delsarte’s principles. Grumpy Mrs. Bradford learned about the relaxation techniques after her daughter Isabel showed her a brochure about the class.

“‘Exercise that rests.’ I wonder what kind it can be? I’m sure I have exercise enough, but I must say I don’t feel especially rested. Why in the world do you want me to go and look on at those idiots twisting their bodies into all sorts of shapes? Look at this one trying to reach her toes without tipping over! I must say I have no patience with women who make fools of themselves taking such exercises. It is bad enough for silly girls to waste their time and money in that way.”

However, she had turned from her doorway and was allowing the eager Isabel to pilot her down the avenue toward the “School of Expression.” She continued to read, as she walked, and to make comments. “‘It is not the work we do, but the energy we waste when not working that exhausts us.’ Humph, much she knows about it! I never waste any energy.”

Yet perhaps there was never a woman who wasted more than did Mrs. Bradford. The trouble with her, as with many another, was that she did not know herself.

She read on: “‘Learn to relax, to let go—physically and mentally—to untie the fuss and worry knots.’ Yes, I wonder how? It’s easy enough to talk!” But the tone was less scornful; there was even a touch of wistfulness in it.

Isabel caught at the wistful tone and answered it.

“You wait, Mother, she will tell you how. She says she has been doing it a good many years, and has rested more tired women than she can count.”

And it was a fact that as soon as the teacher began to talk, to explain, to answer with ready comprehension and sympathy the volley of questions poured at her, to move that supple body of hers that seemed to have no more weight in it than a cork, and did her instant bidding with an unfailing ease and grace, Mrs. Bradford discovered what every member of the large class had done: that here was one body that was a willing servant, instead of a tyrant demanding from the jaded spirit impossibilities.

“You want to learn how to get a good healthy ‘tired,’ that will make rest a joy, and work that follows it a pleasure;” she said brightly, as if that was a very ordinary lesson easily mastered.

Mrs. Bradford, from listening with an air of endurance as one who had been smuggled in against her will, grew interested, grew absorbed in the genial flow of talk that was not a lecture nor a lesson, and yet was distinctly both. When she came to herself, and found herself standing with the others trying to reach her toes without tipping over—the precise effort that she had so sharply criticized—she did not know whether to be ashamed, and indignant at somebody, or to laugh. But fun got the upper hand, and she joined in the hearty laugh that was going the rounds at the expense of them all. After that, she forgot that it was a class, and a lesson, and that she was a middle-aged woman with dignity to sustain. For a full half hour she did that excellent thing for such women as she:  forgot Mrs. Bradford entirely.

Mrs. Bradford laughed outright, a merry laugh such as she had not in years relaxed sufficiently to give. The comic side of this strange morning was getting possession of her.

Next stop of our tour of Chautauqua: The Teacher’s Retreat

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Click here to read more about Four Mothers at Chautauqua.

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Cover for Agatha's Unknown WayYou can read “Agatha’s Unknown Way”  for free! Click on the book cover to read Isabella Alden’s short story now.

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You can learn more about the Delsartean system of Physical Culture by following these links:

Read about “the Philosophy of Rest” in an article that appeared in the August 1895 edition of The Chautauquan

Delsartean Physical Culture, by Carrica Le Favre (1892), available on Google Books.

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Other sources from the period:

Physical Culture, by E. B. Houghton (1891)

Physical Culture, by Benjamin Franklin Johns (1900)

A Delsartean Scrapbook, by Frederic Sanburn (1890)

Gestures and Attitudes; an Exposition of the Delsarte Philosophy of Expression, by Edward Barrett Warman (1892)

 

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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