Circuit or "tent" Chautauqua had its beginning in the lyceum movement, which started in Massachusetts as early as 1826, and in the Chautauqua assemblies held at Lake Chautauqua, New York, beginning in 1874. The purpose of the lyceum movement was self-improvement through lectures and discussions on literary, scientific and moral topics.

After the Civil War, commercial lyceum bureaus were founded; among them was the Redpath Lyceum Bureau of James C. Redpath in 1868. In 1901, Keith Vawter purchased a one-third interest in the Redpath Lyceum Bureau and became the Redpath booking agent in Chicago, later moving his headquarters and operations to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the summer of 1904, Vawter launched the first Chautauqua circuit with the assistance of Charles Horner.

The Redpath Lyceum Bureau had offices in other American cities. Another Iowan and former Vawter employee, Harry P. Harrison, ran the Chicago office.
Under the name "Redpath-Chicago," Harrison launched a major Chautauqua circuit in 1912. His territory was Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and the Gulf States. Pulaski was on this circuit, and many events were staged at Antoinette Hall.

 Circuit or tent Chautauqua began to expand and became an even greater influence about 1913, but World War I interrupted the circuits somewhat. In the years after the War (1920-1924), Chautauqua reached its peak of attendance. In 1920 there were twenty-one companies operating ninety-three circuits in the United States and Canada. The Great Depression brought an end to the circuits. The final circuit folded its tents in 1932 and the splendor of tent Chautauqua was over.

Opera House built in 1868 on the historic square in Pulaski, Tennessee

Historic Photo – University of Iowa. Libraries. Special Collections Dept.

Durno the Mysterious performed in Pulaski as part of the Redpath. For additional information about more beautiful posters and prints he used to promote his shows, click here. To the right is a clip from the 1906 book, Who's Who in Lyceum, identifying the performer as J.H. Durno.

Her technic is brilliant and beautiful, her execution of remarkable scope. The sympathetic and soulful interpretation of her numbers was a constant delight.

– The Pulaski Citizen

What was Chautauqua?

"Robin Hood" – Valentine Opera Company

This traveling production of "Robin Hood" came to Pulaski on June 19, 1925, and was presented at Antoinette Hall. This was one of dozens of stops across the country. 

"And the night shall be filled with music, And the cares that infest the day Shall fold their tents like the Arabs, And as silently steal away." 

Historic Photo – University of Iowa. Libraries. Special Collections Dept.

Durno the Mysterious

Redpath Chatauqua –Expanding Cultural Opportunities in Giles County

Magdalen Massmann, Pianist


Magdalen Massmann, a young pianist from the Middle West received her entire musical education in America. Following recitals in Chicago which brought forth most favorable comments from the press and public enthusiasm, she has made several tours from coast to coast appearing in concerts in 35 states and adding to her success by the genuine recognition and approbation received from the country's music critics. She is acclaimed "an artist of first rank,'' "a rare pianist," "unusually interesting," and possesses "master tech-nic," "individuality of expression," "abundance of imagination" and "a delicacy of touch coupled with a virility that is rare in a woman pianist."

Frank Dixon gave this lecture May 27, 1915, at Pulaski, Tenn. To read the full text of Dixon's program, click here.

Center for the Arts

The Redpath Chautauqua Special was photographed at the Pulaski, Tenn., Depot during the 1910s. 

The Chautauqua's banners were strung around the Courthouse square in this photo taken after 1910. Antoinette Hall hosted a variety of the Chautauqua's performances over the years. 

Antoinette Hall​