4) Expanding World View
Many Chautauqua audiences were eager to hear of developments outside of their own country. To fill this need, agency talent rosters were full of eyewitness lecturers and studied experts who offered opinions, stories, and advice regarding subjects ranging from The Russian Revolution to West Indian Voodoo.
Subject Index heading, Travel, yields 103 results including advertising materials for Captain Sirgurdur K. Gudmundson's "Personal Experiences in Arctic Siberia," James Caleb Sawders's "Interesting Stories of Mexico and Nicaragua," and a series of lectures by Jim Wilson entitled "Yes! Africans are People!"
- Why would travel be an alluring subject for early twentieth century audiences?
- Are travel stories as popular today?
- What types of professionals would present lectures on foreign experiences?
- What approaches does "Yes! Africans are People!" take towards its subject to make it appealing to the Chautauqua audience?
- What can we infer about the audience from this promotion?
While many speakers drew interest simply because of their travel experience, some speakers brought an international focus to already popular topics. A good example is Whiting Williams, whose promotional materials are accessible through the Subject Index headings, Working Class and Europe - Social Conditions. The material describes Mr. Williams as an educated steel executive who forsook a life of ease in order to study workers' conditions around the world. As such, he was purportedly able to offer an informed and realistic discussion on international labor.
The following text from the promotional biography illustrates not only the character the agency wished to present, but avails researchers of an opportunity to draw conclusions regarding Mr. Whiting's subject and audience:
In July, 1933 Whiting Williams packed two portmanteaux-one containing a tuxedo and patent leathers, the other overalls and denim shirts-and went over to learn what his fellow-laborers as well as government officials and "the man in the street" in Russia and Germany think of Communism, Hitlerism, the alleged ill-treatment of the German Jews, and other timely and vital questions. In all this he was able to see with eyes and listen with ears trained by long and unique experience.
- How does this description portray Mr. Williams?
- What international issues does the piece identify as "timely and vital"? What do these issues have to do with labor?
- Why would a typical midwest American Chautauqua audience be interested in European labor conditions?
In many cases, Chautauqua speakers addressed domestic developments relative to their international significance. The Subject Index heading, Atom Bomb, yields materials for a 1947 lecture by Lt. Col. Perry M. Thomas. The press materials quote Thomas as having said:
International control of the use of atomic energy is imperative if humanity is to survive, Lt. Col. Perry M. Thomas of the United States Army Air Forces told his audience last night. If nations persist in a race to provide still more powerful and still more deadly atomic weapons with a view of utilizing them in a war of conquest, civilization is doomed.
- What is the tone of the passage?
- Does the lecture purport to concern national or international affairs? Does the passage suggest that this distinction can be drawn? What affect does the nature of atomic warfare have upon this possibility?
- What safeguard does Thomas place upon the proliferation of atomic energy?
- What might a different observer say of atomic energy in 1948? A scientist? Journalist? Poet?