CHAUTAUQUA TENT WILL RISE TODAY
During the early decades of the twentieth century, the arrival of the big brown tent was the highlight of a town’s summer. Under the canvas roof, large crowds would gather for a week’s worth of entertainment and education. The Redpath Circuit Chautauqua was part vaudeville show, part educational lecture series, and at its height in the 1920s the performers and lecturers appeared in over 10,000 communities in 45 states. Crowds, far from the cultural benefits of metropolitan areas, were thus able to hear Broadway hits, watch classic plays, and learn about the social and political ideas of the day. For many Americans the Circuit Chautauqua was an important factor in molding the very character of the nation.
CHAUTAUQUA TO HAVE JUNIOR TOWN
The chautauqua wasn’t only for adults. Thousands of children had their cultural horizons expanded through programming just for them, and for hundreds of young women, the job of supervising the children’s programs offered an opportunity to work and travel. One such lucky lady was my grandmother, Kerma Pauline Bradford. In the summers of 1928 and 1929, Kerma left her hometown, Coshocton, Ohio, to set up Junior Town in a circuit that included Canton and Masillon, Ohio, and Greene County, Pennsylvania. In each community, Kerma met with the youngsters, ticket holders all, at nine o’clock the first day of chautauqua.
From among the assembled kids, ten boys and girls were elected to the Junior Town Council, which was then charged with assisting Miss Bradford. Every day the Junior Chautauqua would meet from nine until noon, to play games, listen to stories, take hikes, and, most importantly, prepare the week’s project–a minstrel show or pageant–which was performed during the last day, for the entire chautauqua.
In 1929, Kerma Bradford traveled to Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, where she reported to the Big Brown Tent each morning from her room in the Wisecarver House. Beyond her duties to Junior Town, Kerma had time for friendships, and time for romance. When the Junior Town supervisor returned to Coshocton that fall, she had many stories to recall to her kindergarten students, including the memory of a certain young man, future husband, Donald Minor.
Photographs from the Marilyn Minor Collection, archived with the author.
For more interesting chautauqua tidbits:
The Evening Repository (Canton), “Chautauqua To Have Junior Town,” July 31, 1928. http://www.genealogybank.com (accessed January 12, 2014).
Canning Charlotte, The Most American Thing in America: Circuit Chautauqua as Performance. University of Iowa Press: Iowa City. 2005.
The Redpath Chautauqua Collection, University of Iowa digital collection: http://www.sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/traveling-culture/inventory/msc150.html.
My grandfather’s postcard collection dates from 1906-1910, a wonderful glimpse into the life of small, turn-of-the-century boy. But Donald C. Minor’s cards also offer the simple pleasure of Christmas artwork, which I never tire of admiring.
Two red-breasted songsters perch on a sprig of holly, which is decorated with a sprig of mistletoe and a golden horseshoe. This brightly colored card is meant to bring the recipient great cheer, that is for certain. Published by the New York-based Samuel Langdorf and Company*, number 841 was one of several designs the company printed in Saxony, Germany in 1910.
Donald C. Minor received this card from Ralph on December 20, 1910.
“Hello Donal. How are you? What do you want Santa to bring you? I want a gun but mama says i can not have it so I will haft (sic) to take what ever I get. Your friend, Ralph”
There are other postcards from Ralph and his younger brother, Blair, in my grandfather’s postcard collection. Using the search engine of Ancestry.com I entered Ralph as living in South Connellsville, PA in 1910 with a sibling, Blair. The return included a interesting match: Ralph Younkin, 10, son of Milton R and May Waychoff Younkin, living with Blair, 8, and grandmother, Jennie Waychoff, in Connellsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. I have researched the Minor family fairly well, and the Younkin surname is unfamiliar. However, recently collected cousin memories suggest that Donald’s parents were friends with the Waychoff family; perhaps May Stephenson Minor and May Waychoff Younkin were exchanging Christmas cards, too!
Interesting how a fascination with Christmas postcards intertwines with a family history. Merry Christmas, indeed!
*The winged orb on the back of the card is identified by the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City as the trademark for Samuel Langford and Company, publishers from 1906-1918. Accessed on December 16, 2011.
Dapple Gray with Unknown Rider
This photograph was found between pieces of sheet music, collected by my grandfather, Donald C. Minor, in the first half of the 20th century. It appears to be a poor copy of either a Carte De Visite or an early Cabinet card. The hat, sideburns and shirt will likely provide clues for dating. At this point, however, I am only able to surmise that this portrait is of a Minor, proudly showing off a favorite horse.
Hello, Donald, Come on over and we will sled ride. What is Santa Claus going to bring you. ~Carl
This toy-bearing gent is more St. Nicholas than Santa Claus. Influenced by the artist’s Saxon* roots, this illustration depicts a St. Nick clad in heavy black boots and a long, hooded red robe tromping through the snow, his waist-length beard catching the wind. A mittened left hand clasps the fir tree which is big enough that it must stand on the floor in some fortunate home! Under its branches St. Nick will leave dolls and drums pulled from his basket and sack.
Carl Corbly Minor extended his sledding invitation to his five year old cousin, Donald Minor, in December of 1907. The 28 year old son of Alfred (1859-1886) and Anna Minor lived down the road from Robert, May, Helen and Donald, running his family’s farm with his mother and younger brother, Frank M. Imagine these rolling hills of southwestern Pennsylvania covered with a good snowfall. I am certain Donald had a fast trip down!
*Saxony is a southeastern state of current day Germany and is home to Dresden, Leipzig and Seiffen. It is also the home of many Christmas customs, like the Christmas tree.