Early in 1913 citizens of Manchester began preparing for the summer’s Chautauqua to be held for seven days in July. A well-known Chautauqua bureau, Redpath Vawter, was organizing the Manchester affair.
The annual event promised musical acts, lectures and plenty of fun for the kids as well as adults. Tirrill Park would be the setting for most of the activities. The local newspaper promised a week of “wholesome joy” with the best entertainers in the country and speakers whose messages would inspire and uplift.
Merchants offered specials for shoppers who came to the Chautauqua. At Madden’s department store women could purchase a pair of gun metal colored oxfords for $1.15 and infants’ slippers for 49 cents.
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When the opening day finally arrived on July 3, the town was abuzz. G.N. Merry, head of department of public speaking at the State University at Iowa City, was in charge of lectures at the Manchester event; and his lineup didn’t disappoint attendees. Ralph Parlette’s talk titled “The University of Hard Knocks” wove humor and stories of extreme hardships Parlette had encountered in his life.
Robert Glenn, a former governor of North Carolina, described life in the South after the Civil War. Dr. Frederick Poole delivered a delightful talk titled “The Land of the Dragon” about his travels in China. He covered military, commercial and educational conditions in the country, including the story of a young boy who worked for a few cents a day in a factory.
Dr. Harvey Wiley’s talk “Human Conservation” addressed the value of eating well. “You all want to live long. Then watch what you eat, for how can you expect to live long if you do not eat good, pure food?” Dr. Wiley asked the crowd.
On a lighter note, Shungopavi, an entertainer from the Southwest United States, told stories from the history and folklore of his native people, the Moqui. He also performed magic tricks for the kids. Violinist Jacob Reuter performed, as did baritone Frederick Kickbush. The Spanish Ladies Orchestra offered a concert that included classical and popular music. Their colorful costumes were a hit with Manchester residents.
Although promoters of the Chautauqua had promised that attendees would learn to laugh and that grouches and tightwads would learn to relax and stay in the game of life, ticket sales were down from the previous years. Organizers insisted their $2 per person season tickets were reasonable.
And although the week-long event had resulted in a deficit of $115, planners were already looking forward to the 1914 Chautauqua.
- “Chautauqua For Next Year,” Manchester Democrat-Radio, July 9, 1913.
- “Excellent Program for Chautauqua, Manchester Democrat-Radio, May 7, 1913.
- Display ad. Manchester Democrat-Radio, May 28, 1913.
- Display ad. Manchester Democrat-Radio, June 18, 1913.
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