In 1874, Methodist minister, John Heyl Vincent and businessman Lewis Miller founded the Circuit Chautauqua, pronounced "shuh-TAW-kwa," in western New York state. It was held at Chautauqua Lake and was first designed for the study of the Bible, Sunday school methods and Sunday school teachers. Eventually, culture and entertainment was added.
The program comprised religious presentations, plays, lectures and musical performers such as soloists, opera singers, orchestras, bands, pianists, harpists, accordions, bagpipes and other musical performances.
Compliments of the Havre-Hill County Library
This story previewing Havre's first Chautauqua appeared in the July 24, 1915 edition of the Plaindealer.
By the early 1920s the Chautauqua preformed in over 10,000 communities in the United States. The bureaus would send out campaign directors a few days before the Chautauqua arrived for intensive advertising and advanced ticket sales. Many areas the Chautauqua circuit came to were rural, as the people in those communities would otherwise have to travel many miles to get culture and entertainment, and Chautauqua had it. President Theodore Roosevelt, who was president from 1901 to 1909, stated that the Chautauqua is "the most American thing in America." Farm and ranch families would come to town as a reason to socialize and for culture and entertainment.
In Havre, the Chautauqua started on Thursday, July 29, 1915. It was advertized in the paper that: "Leading talent of the country will appear here in a six day program." They featured a male quartet, lectures, plays, the Royal Hungarian Orchestra, Charlotte Berg, Lyric Soprano and the Buckner's Southern Singers. The paper said after the Chautauqua was over, that it was a huge success and attended by many. Some will remember their parents or grandparents talking about the Chautauqua in Havre. It was held in Havre through 1930.
In the late 1920s the Circuit Chautauqua dwindled; the coming of talking movies and radios took its place. Few lasted until WWII. In its heyday, though, it was great to hear the words "Chautauqua's coming!"