12. Chautauquas Educate Millions 2017-06-14T18:49:04+00:00

12. Lantern Venues–Traveling Chautauquas

Traveling Chautauquas Educate Millions

Magic lantern shows and illustrated lectures were produced in a bewildering range of venues. Among the most important were the Traveling Chautauquas, which were like circuses touring across the country by train.  But the Chautauquas did not bring clowns and elephants to small town America; they brought cultural enlightenment. Six trains of equipment and performers would leapfrog each other along a rail line, providing six-days of changing performances in town after town.

In this large (2 x 3’) poster, two of the performers present the lantern “illustrated lectures” which were a staple of the Chautauqua circuit.  Traveling Chautauquas reached over 9,000 towns—about a third of the people in the country every year. The height of lantern lectures was about 1906; after 1920 their popularity dropped rapidly.

Two postcards show a typical 1000-seat Chautauqua tent, and the train.

Archival Notes

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