Delaware’s 23rd annual Chautauqua, Sept. 9–12, 2021
American enterprise and ingenuity will be brought to life in Delaware’s 23rd annual Chautauqua, “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 Lewes, and on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 11 and 12 from the Green located adjacent to the New Castle Court House Museum in New Castle, Del.
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. For a complete listing of activities, go to https://history.delaware.gov/23rd-annual-chautauqua/.
In addition to being livestreamed, the Lewes segment of Chautauqua will feature two live, in-person programs held in Stango Park, 114 Third St. in Lewes — a concert by the Smooth Sound Big Band at 6 p.m. on Sept. 9, and an Old-Time Radio Show presented by the Possum Point Players Radio Theatre at 6 p.m. on Sept. 10. (Note: the Smooth Sound Big Band concert on Sept. 9 has been cancelled due to inclement weather.) Visitors attending these programs must bring their own chairs.
All Chautauqua events in New Castle will be presented in a tent located on the Green adjacent to The New Castle Court House Museum at 211 Delaware St. In-person attendance will be allowed for all New Castle programs, but visitors must bring their own chairs.
Admission for all Chautauqua programs is free and open to the public. For additional information, contact the Zwaanendael Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 302-645-1148; or the New Castle Court House Museum at email@example.com or 302-323-4453.
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 grants from the New Castle Arts Council, New Castle Community Partnership and Delaware Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.