Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Committee Chair

Miller, R. H.


Chautauquas; Lectures and lecturing--Kentucky


The Chautauqua movement has been called "culture under canvas" and "the university of the people." What began as a training camp for Sunday School teachers on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in western New York State in the 1870's, grew and spread over the midwest for the next fifty years. There were some other permanent Chautauqua establishments, but none seemed to last as long as the original. What did last were traveling tent shows called Chautauquas that brought enlightenment, education, and entertainment to thousands of people over the summer months until the movement died because of technological advancements such as talking movies, radio, and the automobile. The circuit Chautauquas were quite well known in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, but newspaper accounts show that they also spread into many states of the Ohio Valley and the South. Although there was a standard Chautauqua pattern that evolved over the years, each state and even each town added its own particular flavor to the pattern. Chautauqua in Kentucky was similar to Chautauqua in other states, and while it was not a major cultural phenomenon, it did have an impact on people who lived in rural and mountainous regions and thus were isolated from metropolitan areas and all that they had to offer. As the various circuits traveled throughout Kentucky from June through September, lecturers brought ideas, world news, and culture to those who might not otherwise have been exposed to such informative refinement. The Chautauquas faded away and as a cultural influence had little lasting impact on Kentuckians, except in individual memories. However, one cannot say that the Chautauquas were, therefore, unimportant; they were significant but primarily only during the times they were popular.