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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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As this c. 1910 postcard reveals from the sign in the middle of the picture, UNION PARK offered Chautauqua to Dubuque residents.
CHAUTAUQUA. Chautauqua, was an very popular adult education movement in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying that Chautauqua is "the most American thing in America." Popular speakers at these events included William Jennings Bryan and Maud Ballington Booth, the "Little Mother of the Prisons," whose descriptions of prison life moved her audiences to tears. (1)

In November 1895 an announcement in the Dubuque Daily Herald stated that despite earlier reports, there were still three hundred seats available in the Stout Auditorium of the YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION (Y.M.C.A.) for the famed Redpath Grand Concert Company. (2)

Independent Chautauquas (or "daughter Chautauquas") operated at permanent facilities, usually fashioned after the Chautauqua Institute in New York. Such a Chautauqua was generally built in an attractive semi-rural location a short distance outside an established town with good rail service. At the height of the Chautauqua movement in the 1920s, several hundred of these existed, but their numbers have since dwindled. "Circuit Chautauquas," sometimes referred to as "Tent Chautauquas," were an traveling form of the Chautauqua movement, founded originally by Keith Vawter and Roy Ellison in 1904. Although Vawter and Ellison were unsuccessful in their initial attempts to commercialize Chautauqua, by 1907 they had found a great amount of success. (3)



1. "Chautauqua," Wikipedia. Online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chautauqua

2. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Daily Herald, November 16, 1895, p. 5

3. "Chautauqua"