Nebraska Chautauquas

Nebraska was a leader in the Chautauqua movement which brought culture and entertainment to rural America. Begun in 1874 at Lake Chautauqua, New York, where religious leaders met in summer educational sessions, the Chautauqua idea spread across the nation and provided music, debates, lectures, and sermons through the 1920's. Founded in 1883, the Crete Chautauqua acquired this site, and within a decade twenty buildings had been erected. For a time it was the largest such assembly in the country, and up to 5,000 persons camped here in family-sized tents during the ten-day summer meeting. Emphasis gradually shifted from religion to politics and entertainment, and William Jennings Bryan and the Negro Slayton Jubilee Singers were among its popular attractions. Financial losses caused backers to dissolve the Crete Assembly in 1898 after competing assemblies emerged in Lincoln, Beatrice, and Long Pine. Nearly twenty other Nebraska towns backed less pretentious programs. After 1900, traveling Chautauqua-circuit troupes played under large canvas tents in hundreds of Midwestern towns. World War I caused a slackening of interest, and vaudeville, movies, and radio gradually replaced Nebraska Chautauquas, which had once entertained, educated, and inspired thousands.



Tuxedo Park, Crete