The Most American Thing About America

Sep 27, 2012


Singers perform selections from the Bull Moose campaign at the Chautauqua Revue.

One of the highlights from this year's Theodore Roosevelt Symposium was a Chautauqua Revue, which was presented by Dickinson State University on September 21, 2012. Theodore Roosevelt named traveling Chautauquas "the most American thing about America." Chautauquas began as training seminars for Methodist Sunday School teachers in Chautauqua, New York, in 1874. They quickly evolved into secular events with institutes springing up across the nation. After 1904, these institutes began to send out traveling Chautauquas. The popularity of the traveling Chautauqua rivaled that of the circus as people would come from miles around to hear the speakers, bands, singers and more perform.

Chautauqua Chautauqua Chautauqua

Theodore Roosevelt, portrayed by Clay Jenkinson, presided over this event, which included appearances by some of the foremost speakers of the Progressive Era. Suffragist Jane Addams, portrayed by Margaret Barnhart, delivered a speech on social reform. William Jennings Bryan, portrayed by Eric Grabowsky, also spoke. He was considered the most popular orator of the Chautauqua circuit. David Solheim read some of the poetry of Edwin Arlington Robinson, who had been discovered by Kermit Roosevelt.

Chautauqua Chautauqua Chautauqua

Other performances included songs from the Progressive Era, some of which were heart-rending and some of which were comical. A mixed quartet performed some selections of songs from the Bull Moose campaign, including "That Red Bandanna" by Guy Doud and Myrtle Lee and "We are with T. R." by A. W. Loudon and John Shirley. Other period songs were presented by a barbershop quartet.


DSU Form and Fusion dancers

The Dickinson State University Form and Fusion Dance Company presented modern dances that were choreographed by Isadora Duncan, whose controversial style was defended by Theodore Roosevelt. The Dickinson State University band also gave wonderful performances at the introduction and conclusion of the program, offering excellent examples of pieces from the Progressive Era. Some of these pieces were masterfully arranged by the conductor, James D. Thornton, for this event.

It is not difficult to speculate as to the reason for the popularity of the traveling Chautauquas in the early part of the twentieth century. The performance held at Dickinson State University as part of the seventh annual Theodore Roosevelt Symposium was a fantastic form of entertainment.


Posted by Keri Youngstrand on Sep 27, 2012 in Current Events  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

Add A Comment

Required Fields