Traveling Culture: Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century

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In American Memory

Other Collections Featuring Twentieth Century Entertainment

The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920
The American Variety Stage is a multimedia anthology selected from various Library of Congress holdings. This collection illustrates the vibrant and diverse forms of popular entertainment, especially vaudeville, that thrived from 1870-1920. Included are 334 English- and Yiddish-language playscripts, 146 theater playbills and programs, 61 motion pictures, 10 sound recordings and 143 photographs and 29 memorabilia items documenting the life and career of Harry Houdini.

Origins of American Animation
The development of early American animation is represented by this collection of 21 animated films and 2 fragments, which spans the years 1900 to 1921. The films include clay, puppet, and cut-out animation, as well as pen drawings. They point to a connection between newspaper comic strips and early animated films, as represented by Keeping Up With the Joneses, Krazy Kat, and The Katzenjammer Kids. As well as showing the development of animation, these films also reveal the social attitudes of early twentieth-century America.

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The initial selection from the Printed Ephemera Collection of the Library of Congress presents more than 7,000 items, including a variety of posters, notices, advertisements, proclamations, leaflets, propaganda, manifestos, and business cards. They capture the experience of the American Revolution, slavery, the western land rush, the American Civil War, woman suffrage, and the Industrial Revolution from the viewpoint of those who lived through those events.

Other Online Resources at the Library of Congress


Bob Hope and American Variety
Bob Hope was among the 20,000 vaudeville performers working in the 1920s. Many of these performers were, like Hope, recent emigrants to America who saw a vaudeville career as one of the few ways to succeed as a "foreigner" in America. Throughout his extraordinary professional career of nearly seventy years, Bob Hope practiced the arts he learned in vaudeville and perpetuated variety entertainment traditions in stage musical comedy, motion pictures, radio, television, and the live appearances he made around the world in support of American armed forces. Today, the stage variety show is mostly a memory but its influence is pervasive thanks to the long and rich careers of vaudeville veterans like Bob Hope.


In Print

Selected Bibliography of Major Works on Circuit Chautauqua, compiled by Charlotte Canning, University of Texas at Austin

Canning, Charlotte. "The Most American Thing in America: Producing National Identities in Chautauqua." Performing America: Cultural Nationalism in American Theater. Eds. J. Ellen Gainor and Jeffery D. Mason. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999. pgs. 91-105.

Case, Victoria and Robert Ormond Case. We Called It Culture: The Story of Chautauqua. New York: Doubleday, 1948.

Harrison, Harry P. (as told to Karl Detzer) Culture Under Canvas: The Story of Tent Chautauqua. New York: Hastings House, 1958.

Horner, Charles F. Strike the Tents: The Story of Chautauqua. Philadelphia: Dorrance, 1954.

Hurlbut, Jesse Lyman. The Story of Chautauqua. New York: GP Putnam and Sons, 1921.

MacLaren, Gay. Morally We Roll Along. Boston: Little, Brown, 1938.

McCown, Robert A. "Records of the Redpath Chautauqua (external link)." Books at Iowa 19 (November 1973):8-23.

Orchard, Hugh A. Fifty Years of Chautauqua: Its Beginnings, Its Development, Its Message and Its Life. Cedar Rapids, IA: Torch Press, 1923.

Schultz, James R. The Romance of Small-Town Chautauquas. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2002

Scott, Marian A. Chautauqua Caravan. New York: D. Appleton Century, 1939.

Slout, William L. Theater in a Tent: The Development of a Provincial Entertainment. Bowling Green: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1972.

Tapia, John Edward. Circuit Chautauqua: From Rural Education to Popular Entertainment in Early Twentieth Century America. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 1997.

A more comprehensive bibliography, also compiled by Charlotte Canning, is available from the University of Iowa Libraries at Circuit Chautauqua: A Selected Bibliography (external link)