The Origins of Chautauqua
CHARLOTTE CANNING: Chautauqua was founded in 1874 by Methodists who wanted training for Sunday school teachers, but who didn't really want to engage in the kind of evangelical revivalism that was so popular at the time. So they created what was essentially a summer camp for adults that involved courses and lectures, discussions.
And really, within just a few years, it became much more like adult education and less sort of denominational training. And by the 1880s, there were smaller versions across the United States, because the original one was in western New York state on Lake Chautauqua, which was accessible, but not by many people.
One of the ways that Chautauqua spread across the United States was the founding of something called the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, which was a reading group that essentially became the first correspondence degrees in the United States. So it was a really important kind of national network around books and learning and thinking that existed long before there was any technological support for such a network.