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HISTORY LIVES

Doylestown Chautauqua

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Chautauqua was an adult education and social movement in the United States which began in 1874 at Lake Chautauqua, N.Y, as an annual summer meeting for the training of Sunday school teachers. The movement became highly popular as these assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural North America until the mid-1920s.
The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with educators, preachers, explorers, travelers, scientists, politicians and statesmen, singers, violinists, pianists, bands and orchestras, long before the advent of modern media.
Doylestown was on the Chautauqua circuit; and in August 1913, and again in the 1920s, orator and politician William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) spoke at the Doylestown Chautauqua. Bryan was a frequent speaker at such gatherings around the country and a great draw, with his impassioned and dramatic speaking style that could mesmerize his listeners.

Meetings often were held under circus tents in towns that did not have permanent pavilions, and it is said that the site of Doylestown’s Chautauqua tent was at the foot of Harvey Avenue. A Rural America U.S. commemorative stamp, honoring the centenary of the Chautauqua Institute in 1974, depicts such a Chautauqua tent.
Note: The Chautauqua Rural America stamp was designed by John Philip Falter (1910-1982) an illustrator who painted Doylestown’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for the cover of Saturday Evening Post in 1951.


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