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Centennial Monograph: Chautauqua Circuit


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Centennial Monograph: Chautauqua Circuit


Chautauqua was a traveling adult education and social movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It came to Maynard starting in 1917 and continued through 1929.


Birger Koski




Elizabeth Schnair



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An article of July 12, 1918 tells us that the idea of this Circuit originated in the mind of a Dr. J. H. Vincent, a patron of learning.

Originally this Association was chartered by the State of Pennsylvania but later moving to Chautauqua, New York. The purpose of this Association (January 19, 1917) was "to send speakers to communities to uplift family life which does not take enough interest in literature and social uplift of town. Ticket sellers, ushers, other male help, are mostly college boys getting their education from its lessons. Young girls are college women, their presence in the community helps it by their high standards".

It was the custom of Chautauqua to display banners of the towns on its route. It was discovered that Maynard did not have any colors so H. Linwood White, a member of the Grange, was delegated to request the Grange to sponsor an article for the next town meeting to obtain colors for Maynard.

A group of sponsors for each town had to guarantee a minimum amount of money for the Circuit and these sponsors signed a contract to that effect. A huge tent was erected ori the high school grounds on Summer Street approximately where the gymnasium is, and for five days, afternoon and evening, speakers, plays, singers would entertain.

The first group of sponsors were the following in January 19, 1917:

Kenneth Damren (Chairman), Rev. A.H. Osgood (Secretary), Bertha N. Osgood, E. J. Toop, H. Linwood White, Mrs. Howard Wilson, Mrs. Orrin Fowler, F. P. Flagg, William Millington, C.J. Lynch, C.H. Persons, M. B. Church, Arthur Walker, George Elson, G.H. Merrick, W.D. Priest, William Gutteridge, C.H. Stanley, Ralph Case, W.A. Haynes Co., W.F. Litchfield, Dan Goodenow, G.A. Theodore, Harry Bates, Edward J. Flaherty, Kenneth Damren, George F. Morse, C.J. Morse, Howard Case, William B. Case, J.S. Peterson, Frank E. Taylor, F.A, May, A.T. Haynes, Horace Bates, Arthur J. Sullivan, James Hilferty, 0.C. Drechsler, William Naylor, Howard Hamblin, Mrs. G.B. Hooper, Sidney McCleary, Samuel Lerer, George Gutteridge, Mrs. L.H. Maynard, James A. Coughlan, C.A. Stetson, Arthur Coughlan, Amory Maynard, Herbert Mallinson, John Ingham, W.R. Peterson.

At the next meeting, February 23, 1917, held at Co-op Hall to plan for the next summer's program, a quartet composed of Arthur Sullivan, Albert Goettler, Everett Toop, George Coggswell, Mrs. Harry Andrews, pianist, sang.

June 21, and July 12, 1918 meetings of the guarantors saw Kenneth Damren as President; Mrs. Carl Stockbridge, Secretary; Sidney McCleary, Treasurer; and close to a hundred guarantors.

May 30, 1919 - George Elson, President; Mrs. Joseph Schnair, Secretary; William Naylor, Treasurer.

From 1920 through 1929 when Chautauqua ended, possibly because of the depression, William Naylor continued as President.

July 16, 1920 saw the addition of Junior Chautauqua. This was the local school children who would put on a show or play the last day of the program. This was later called Junior Town. Up to a hundred children participated. Mrs. Adelaide Sims usually directed the doings for the children.

As an aside, may we mention that two of our Society Members in 1928 were in this group: Winifred Tobin Kearon and Elizabeth Schnair.

Admission was charged to the programs: 50¢ afternoon, 75¢ evening, season ticket (10 performances) $2.50, and junior ticket $1.00.

We do not know if the purposes of the Circuit were fulfilled in Maynard, but the motives were high-minded enough.

All dates are from the Maynard News.

We are indebted to Elizabeth Schnair for additional information.

Read at the Meeting of the Maynard Historical Society

B.R. Koski