Chautauqua Course
Tom Perrin of East Windsor, NJ, notes his "gg aunt is said to have completed a four-year Chautauqua Course, either before or after or during her stay at the State Normal and Training School at Potsdam, NY."

He asks, "Can anyone enlighten me as to what the Chautauqua Course was?"

I am sure that many can "enlighten" him. In doing so, they will be keeping with the spirit of an educational/cultural/religious movement that took its name from the lake in northwestern New York where it started in 1873/4 as a lake shore summer training camp program for Sunday school teachers. A year later a West Coast branch began along the shore of the Monterey peninsula, California. Soon the Chautauqua Movement -- instructional programs in religious and secular subjects in settings and at times conductive and convenient to people who could not become full-time students -- was sweeping the country. What today we commonly call adult continuing education, extension courses, correspondence or distance learning --all of which we take very much for granted -- can trace some ancestry back to Chautauqua.

First proposed in 1873 by John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller, it began as a Methodist Episcopal program camp meeting in Chautauqua, N.Y. Eight-week summer program offered participant secular and religious instruction, and lectures by authors, explorers, musicians, and political leaders. Half revival meetings and half recreation camp, Chautauquas drew thousands each year. They were organized commercially in 1912.

Akron industrialist Lewis Miller's daughter, Mina, became the second wife of Thomas A. Edison. A chalet-type cottage Miller designed became the first permanent cottage in Chautauqua. It was among the earliest examples of pre-fabrication. John Heyl Vincent later became a Methodist bishop.

President Grant was the first of nine presidents to visit the Chautauqua Institution. Bill Clinton was the most recent.

Chautauqua (a Native American name related to fresh water fishing) is western New York, on Chautauqua Lake, near Lake Erie and the Pa. state line. While the original Chautauqua began for the training of Sunday school teachers and church workers the program was gradually broadened into secular subject.

While Potsdam is nearer the opposite northern end of the state away from Chautauqua proper, the movement that evolved into a lyceum-type program put her in the neighborhood time-wise.

I believe the  Chautauqua C of C can put you in touch with the people who run the program now. Yes, it's still going strong.

SOURCE: Thomas McCarthy
director of editorial/communication services
NYC Dept. of Correction