1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chautauqua

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CHAUTAUQUA, a village on the west shore of Chautauqua Lake in the town of Chautauqua, Chautauqua county, New York, U.S.A. Pop. of the town (1900), 3590; (1905) 3505; (1910) 3515; of the village (1908) about 750. The lake is a beautiful body of water over 1300 ft. above sea-level, 20 m. long, and from a few hundred yards to 3 m. in width. The town of Chautauqua is situated near the north end and is within easy reach by steamboat and electric car connexions with the main railways between the east and the west. The town is known almost solely as being the permanent home of the Chautauqua Institution, a system of popular education founded in 1874 by Lewis Miller (1829–1899) of Akron, Ohio, and Bishop John H. Vincent (b. 1832). The village, covering about three hundred acres of land, is carefully laid out to provide for the work of the Institution.

The Chautauqua Institution began as a Sunday-School Normal Institute, and for nearly a quarter of a century the administration was in the hands of Mr Miller, who was responsible for the business management, and Bishop Vincent, who was head of the instruction department. Though founded by Methodists, in its earliest years it became non-sectarian and has furnished a meeting-ground for members of all sects and denominations. At the very outset the activities of the assembly were twofold: (1) the conducting of a summer school for Sunday-school teachers, and (2) the presentation of a series of correlated lectures and entertainments. Although the movement was and still is primarily religious, it has always been assumed that the best religious education must necessarily take advantage of the best that the educational world can afford in the literatures, arts and sciences. The scope of the plan rapidly broadened, and in 1879 a regular group of schools with graded courses of study was established. At about the same time, also, the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, providing a continuous home-reading system, was founded. The season lasts during June, July and August. In 1907 some 325 lectures, concerts, readings and entertainments were presented by a group of over 190 lecturers, readers and musicians, while at the same time 200 courses in the summer schools were offered by a faculty of instructors drawn from the leading colleges and normal schools of the country.

The Chautauqua movement has had an immense influence on education in the United States, an influence which is especially marked in three directions: (1) in the establishment of about 300 local assemblies or “Chautauquas” in the United States patterned after the mother Chautauqua; (2) in the promotion of the idea of summer education, which has been followed by the founding of summer schools or sessions at a large number of American universities, and of various special summer schools, such as the Catholic Summer School of America, with headquarters at Cliff Haven, Clinton county, New York, and the Jewish Chautauqua Society, with headquarters at Buffalo, N.Y.; and (3) in the establishment of numerous correspondence schools patterned in a general way after the system provided by the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle.

See John Heyl Vincent, The Chautauqua Movement (Boston, 1886), and Frank C. Bray, A Reading Journey through Chautauqua (Chicago, 1905).