"Lecturers were the backbone of Chautauqua. Every topic from current events to travel to human interest to comic storytelling could be heard on the Circuits.

Founded in 1874 (...) Chautauqua's initial incarnation was in western New York state on Lake Chautauqua. The programming first focused on training Sunday school teachers but quickly expanded its range and was the first to offer correspondence degrees in the United States. (...) In less than a decade independent Chautauquas, often called assemblies, sprang up across the country beside lakes and in groves of trees. As with the early lyceum movements and Chautauqua assemblies, the goal of the Circuit Chautauquas was to offer challenging, informational, and inspirational stimulation to rural and small-town America.

(...) Circuit Chautauqua begun in 1904 and by the 1910s could be found almost everywhere, presenting its message of self and civic improvement to millions of Americans. At its peak in the mid-1920s, circuit Chautauqua performers and lecturers appeared in more than 10,000 communities in 45 states to audiences totaling 45 million people."

(from University of Iowa site)

Green Mountain from Chautauqua Grounds, Boulder, Col., 1919
(American Environmental Photographs Collection, [AEP-COS19]
Department of Special Collections, University of Chicago Library)

This is the queerest place - the Colorado Chautauqua - and today there's a great picnic of all the Colorado farmers from miles around addressed by the Governor and the Senator. Really it's rather like Club Day and I have got to find out that there's a tremendous difference between American farmers and those terrible businessmen in the towns.
    Certainly we foreigners miss out some of the most attractive aspects of America when we only know the cities. (Boulder, Colorado, 24 July 1925 - Letters to His Brother Llewelyn)

For the megalopolitans might mock me as they pleased as a bastard Chautauqua-chatterer, and I did really speak once at the original Chautauqua in a great open-air tent on the "Idylls of the King" and made that touching crowd listen to, "So all day long the noise of battle rolled, upon the mountains by the winter sea," ...(Autobiography)