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Mark your calendars ! American enterprise and ingenuity will be brought to life in Delaware’s 23rd annual Chautauqua tent show — “The I’s Have It: Industry, Innovation, and Invention” that will be livestreamed on the Internet on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 9 and 10 from Zwaanendael Park located next to the Zwaanendael Museum at 102 Kings Highway, in Lewes, Del.; and on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 11 and 12 from the Green located adjacent to the New Castle Court House Museum at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, Del.
Note: In addition to being livestreamed, several of the Lewes programs will allow visitors to attend in-person. In-person attendance will be allowed for all programs in New Castle. Admission is free and open to the public. For information, call the Zwaanendael Museum at 302-645-1148 or the New Castle Court House Museum at 302-323-4453. Additional information will be published on the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs website as it becomes available.
Each day of activities will be capped off with evening performances by actor-historians from the American Historical Theatre portraying, respectively, George Washington Carver, Thomas Edison, Madame C.J. Walker and Alexander Graham Bell. A complete schedule of Chautauqua activities will be published in August.
Chautauqua takes its name from a series of adult education programs that were first held at a campsite on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in upstate New York during the late 19th century. Chautauquas spread throughout America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries bringing speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day to a wide cross-section of the nation’s rural and small-town population. Circuit Chautauquas (also known as Tent Chautauquas) were an itinerant manifestation of the movement. Programs would be presented in tents pitched in a field near town. After several days, the Chautauqua would fold its tents and move on to the next community. The popularity of Chautauquas peaked in the mid-1920s, after which radio, movies and automobiles brought about the gradual disappearance of the movement by the 1940s.
Reborn in the 1970s as a vehicle for humanities education, modern Chautauquas are organized around a core program in which re-enactors take on the personas of celebrated historical figures, educating and entertaining audiences as they bring the past to life. Modern Chautauquas have been presented annually in Delaware since 1999 featuring a wide variety of historical figures including Lucretia Mott; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Mark Twain; Woodrow Wilson; Teddy Roosevelt; Abraham Lincoln; Amelia Earhart; Dolley Madison; Eleanor Roosevelt; Edgar Allan Poe; the Lone Ranger; John Philip Sousa; and Delaware’s own Pvt. James Elbert, Maj. Allen McLane, F.O.C. Darley and Clifford Brown.
“The I’s Have It: Industry, Innovation, and Invention” is co-sponsored by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Zwaanendael and New Castle Court House museums, and the New Castle Historical Society. Partial funding is provided by a grant from Delaware Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.