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December 1998


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A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 9 Dec 1998 01:41:35 EST
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Tom Perrin of East Windsor, NJ, notes his "gg aunt is said to have completed a
four-year Chautauqua Course, either before or after or during her stay at the
State Normal and
Training School at Potsdam, NY."         '

He asks, "Can anyone enlighten me as to what the Chautauqua Course was?"

I am sure that many can "enlighten" him. In doing so, they will be keeping
with the spirit of an educational/cultural/religious movement that took its
name from the lake in northwestern New York where it started in 1873/4 as a
lake shore summer training camp program for Sunday school teachers. A year
later a West Coast branch began along the shore of the Monterey peninsula,
California. Soon the Chautauqua Movement -- instructional programs in
religious and secular subjects in settings and at times conductive and
convenient to people who could not become full-time students -- was sweeping
the country. What today we commonly call adult continuing education, extension
courses, correspondence or distance learning --all of which we take very much
for granted -- can trace some ancestry back to Chautauqua.

First proposed in 1873 by John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller, it began as a
Methodist Episcopal program camp meeting in Chautauqua, N.Y. Eight-week summer
program offered participant secular and religious instruction, and lectures by
authors, explorers, musicians, and political leaders. Half revival meetings
and half recreation camp, Chautauquas drew thousands each year. They were
organized commercially in 1912.

Akron industrialist Lewis Miller's daughter, Mina, became the second wife of
Thomas A. Edison. A chalet-type cottage Miller designed became the first
permanent cottage in Chautauqua. It was among the earliest examples of pre-
fabrication. John Heyl Vincent later became a Methodist bishop.

President Grant was the first of nine presidents to visit the Chautauqua
Bill Clinton was the most recent.

Chautauqua (a Native American name related to fresh water fishing) is western
New York, on Chautauqua Lake, near Lake Erie and the Pa. state line. While the
original Chautauqua began for the training of Sunday school teachers and
church workers the program was gradually broadened into secular subject.

While Potsdam is nearer the opposite northern end of the state away from
Chautauqua proper, the movement that evolved into a lyceum-type program put
her in the neighborhood time-wise.

I first encountered the Chautauqua Institution while researching the life of
the first woman to head a NYC municipal agency, Katharine Bement Davis.
 <A HREF="http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/boldest/html/kbd_1.html">KBD Bio Chapter 1

I believe the  Chautauqua C of C can put you in touch with the people who run
the program now. Yes, it's still going strong.

Thomas McCarthy
director of editorial/communication services
NYC Dept. of Correction
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