The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri
History & Biography

Chautauqua History

The Library chautauqua, "Doing the Best They Could:  National and Local Voices From the 1930s," was made possible by a grant from the Missouri Humanities Council.  The Library chautauqua featured performances by historic figures, music from the 1930s and a program about Will Rogers' film career.

To learn about the historic figures and topics featured at the chautauqua, check out the following:

Woody Guthrie
This Land was Made for You and Me:  the Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie
Ramblin' Man:  the Life and Times of Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie:  Ain't Got No Home

Henry Ford
Henry and Edsel:  the Creation of the Ford Empire
The Story of Henry Ford

Radio during the Great Depression
Empire of the Air:  the Men Who Made Radio
Will Rogers' U.S.A.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Will Rogers
The Defining Moment:  FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope
For the Survival of Democracy:  Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the1930s  
Will Rogers:  a Biography
Will Rogers' World

Aimee Semple McPherson
100 Christian Women Who Changed the Twentieth Century
Sister Aimee:  the Life of Aimee Semple McPherson 

Will Rogers' film career
The Story of Will Rogers
Will Rogers:  a Photo-Biography

What is a chautauqua?

Chautauqua is a cultural movement that began in Chautauqua, New York, in 1874.  Beginning as a summer school for Sunday school teachers, the movement expanded to include schools of languages and theology and programs for public school teachers and young people. 

The idea for tent or circuit chautauquas grew out of these programs.  Often held in big tents, touring chautauquas could last a week or longer, featuring lectures, concerts and shows.

At the zenith of the movement in 1924, chautauquas were held in 12,000 towns and entertained 32,000,000 people.  Competition from radio, motion pictures and vaudeville led to a decrease in the popularity of chautauquas. A revival of chautauquas began in the 1980s, with portrayals of historic figures in full costume as the main events. 

To read more about the history of chautauqua, go to these Web sites:


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