1974 10¢ Rural America: Chautauqua Tent
US #1505 was issued in Chautauqua, New York.

On August 6, 1974, the USPS issued the Chautauqua Institution stamp, the second in the Rural America Series, honoring the organization’s centennial.

Reverend John H. Vincent and Lewis Miller of Akron, Ohio, created the Chautauqua Institution in the summer of 1874.  Their initial goal was to train Protestant Sunday school teachers in an enjoyable setting.

1974 10¢ Chautauqua Tent Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover
US #1505 – Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover

The first meeting of the institution took place between August 4 and August 18, 1874, on the shores of western New York’s Lake Chautauqua.  At the time, it was called the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly.

2011 44¢ Mark Twain
US #4545 – from the Literary Arts Series

Over time, these assemblies drew the attention of many other people and were eventually opened to the general public.  The programs also expanded to include lectures, discussions, and home readings as well as language courses in Hebrew, Greek, French, and German.  This summer-school program quickly moved from its original religious orientation to include music, art, and secular education, and offering credit and non-credit courses for adults.

1974 10¢ Chautauqua Tent Classic First Day Cover
US #1505 – Classic First Day Cover

These events also began to draw big names, such as Mark Twain and William Jennings Bryan, who delivered lectures during the eight-week sessions.  And every president from Ulysses S. Grant to William McKinley would eventually visit the institute during their tenure.

1986 $2 Great Americans: William Jennings Bryan
US #2195 – from the Great Americans Series

Soon, the Chautauqua movement spread across the country, with local reading groups forming to discuss current issues.  The institute also offered a correspondence course as well as a publishing house and theological school.  By the early 1900s, “Chautauqua” became a term for commercial traveling companies who pitched tents and presented lecturers, orators, and performing artists to rural areas.

10¢ Chautauqua Tent Plate Block First Day Cover
US #1505 – Plate Block First Day Cover

Over time, these traveling Chautauquas waned in popularity as movies and television became popular forms of entertainment.  But the original Chautauqua Institution is still open and offering programs today.

1993 29¢ Legends of American Music: Elvis Presley
US #2724 – In The Trouble with Girls, Elvis played a Chautauqua manager.

In 1974, the USPS issued a commemorative stamp honoring the centennial of the Chautauqua Institute as part of its Rural America Series.  The stamp pictures a Chautauqua tent with horses and carriages out front.  Stamp designer John Falter had seen a Chautauqua tent in his hometown of Falls City, Nebraska, as a child, and pictured part of the town and its water tower in the stamp’s background.

Click here to visit the Chautauqua Institute’s website for more.

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