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Chatauqua comes to Concordia

 
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roger.pape
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Joined: 17 Mar 2009
Posts: 383
Location: Liverpool, NY

PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 7:57 pm    Post subject: Chatauqua comes to Concordia Reply with quote

(Originally posted February 17, 2009)

An interesting cultural phenomenon of the early 1900s was the circuit (or tent) Chatauqua show. It consisted of various lectures, plays, and musical acts. The program would be presented in tents pitched "on a well-drained field near town." After several days, the Chautauqua would fold its tents and move on. It had its roots on Lake Chatauqua, NY (just a few Finger Lakes west of us) where it still survives today. The traveling circuits died out during the depression but there are revivals of these shows at various locations throughout the U.S.

Several accounts of the Chatauqua movement can be found at the following web sites: What Was Chautauqua? and Chautauqua Memories.

Are there any oldtimers who remember the Chatauqua coming to Concordia? My parents spoke of them often. For some strange reason, I have a faint memory of a big tent set up on the old athletic field at St. Paul's College, inside the track where the baseball field was. According to historical records, the last tour of a circuit group ended in 1932 (before my time). Am I just imagining this based on descriptions I heard or did I see some old picture?

Another related memory is a large piece of canvas material. I can't quite remember where or when I saw it, but I was told that it came from a Chatauqua show. It seems like we used it to cover up material, possibly at the lumber yard. I don't think it was a tent. More likely it was the screen around the tent. (See the pictures in the links above.) Could it be that Concordia was one of the last places on the final tour and the material was sold afterwards? Just wondering.
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roger.pape
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Joined: 17 Mar 2009
Posts: 383
Location: Liverpool, NY

PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 9:25 am    Post subject: Chautauqua Revisited Reply with quote

The Chautauqua Institute has a long and storied history. While the Chautauqua lecture circuit died out in the 1930s, it continues to live in Western New York State. You can find a number of articles about it posted on the Web, including an interesting PBS video at Chautauqua: An American Narrative. It had a significant impact across the US, providing entertainment and culture to many communities, including Concordia. While their last visit to Concordia was before my time, my parents talked about them a number of times.

As I noted above, when they arrived in Concordia, they would set up their large tent on the old athletic field at St. Paul's College in the bowl just north of Biltz Hall and Kaeppel Gymnasium. I recently found the old broken glass plate photo shown below in the Rekhop Collection that could possibly be the audience at one of those performances. Compare that to the second and third photo from Chautauqua Memories.

The crash of 1929 and the rise of motion pictures spelled the end of the traveling circuits and they were discontinued. Note the screening around the tent in the third photo. I was told that the canvas we used to cover material at the lumber yard was part of that screen, sold off after their last performance in Concordia.



tent(D1186)a.jpg
 Description:
Tent audience [From the Rekhop Photograph Collection, SHSMO]
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tent(D1186)a.jpg



chautauqua1.jpg
 Description:
Chautauqua audience [From Chautauqua Memories, University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections.]
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chautauqua1.jpg



chautauqua3.jpg
 Description:
Chautauqua tent [From Chautauqua Memories, University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections.]
 Filesize:  105.91 KB
 Viewed:  475 Time(s)

chautauqua3.jpg


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