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Lyceums and Chautauquas: Scope, Content, & Inventory of the Collection

Scope & Content

The Lyceum collection includes serials generated by the Circuit Chautauqua movement, and encompasses the period 1891 through 1933. The BPCL's collection is unique in that it includes the entire life of one of the Lyceum's main organs. Out of an entire forty-year period, the collection lacks only eight issues.

The complex genealogy is summarized below:

  • Talent v. I, no. 1 (November, 1890 [?]) - v. XVII, no. 6 (December, 1906)
  • The Lyceumite v. I, no. 1 (November, 1902) - v. V, no. 7 (May, 1907)
  • The Lyceumite and Talent v. I, no. 1 (June, 1907) - v. VI, no. 12 (May, 1913)
    after running concurrently, Talent and The Lyceumite merged
  • The Lyceum Magazine v. XXIII, no. 1 (June, 1913) - v. XXXVIII, no. 11 (April, 1928)
    beginning June, 1913, The Lyceumite and Talent changed its name to The Lyceum Magazine, and continued sequentially from Talent's original numbering system
  • The Lyceum Magazine and Leadership v. XXXVII, no. 12 (May, 1928) - v. XXXVIII, no. 10 (March, 1929)
    The Lyceum Magazine merged with The Leadership to become The Lyceum Magazine and Leadership
  • The Platform World v. XXXVIII, no. 11 (April, 1929) - v. XVII, no. 1 (September/October, 1933)
    The Lyceum Magazine and Leadership changed its name to The Platform World, declaring itself "The Official Organ of the International Platform Association"

The numerous changes in the magazine reveal various publishing trends not practiced today by the larger publishing houses. As the nature of the circuit Lyceum changed, its representative magazine also changed to accomodate the rising variety of available circuit talent, the gegraphical expansion of available markets, and eventually, the vain mergers of the movement 's major operators who were trying to regain solidarity and strength in an increasingly disinterested market. These magazines differ from today's slick, glossy publications in many ways. As such, they are invaluable cultural artifacts. Their frequently changing mastheads, layouts, and content reflect a fluid organization not intent on merely creating and replicating its own image. There is a certain degree of casualness evinced by these publications which is also indicative of less sophisticated production methods and concerns than are present today: editorial errors (such as wrong volume numbers or dates), and the unabashed use of identical cover photographs and illustrations within the same year are two examples of this.

Through the BPCL's comprehensive collection of The Lyceum Magazine, one can witness the rise and fall of an American institution. This core part of the Library's collection is also supplemented with other serials. The Lyceum News reflects the Lyceum's once strong reputation. Published by the Redpath Lyceum Bureau "in the interests of the Lyceum and Chautauqua," it contains no advertisements other than those of self-promotion for the Redpath Bureau. The I.L.A. News, a newsletter published by the International Lyceum Association, records the dwindling Lyceum market and its eventual demise in the early 1930s.

The 14 issues of The International Lyceum and Chautauqua Association Year Book provide an alternate perspective of the movement than the market-oriented, regularly published serials. These issues are records of annual meetings of members of the various organized Lyceum bureaus and systems, and include by-laws, membership rosters, and goals of the movement.


Many of the periodicals listed here were part of a larger gift by the late Leo Rosencrans, a former Superintendent for the Redpath Chautauqua in the late 1920's. These periodicals serve as primary sources for the Lyceum and Chautauqua movements as well as expressing the cultural dynamics of education and leisure at the turn of the century, with middle and upper-middle class American views of World War I, politics, temperance, women's rights, and race relations. Additionally, they can be viewed as cultural artifacts with descriptive illustrations serving as visual evidence of major graphic arts, styles, dominant clothing trends, prevalent architectural motifs, and the overall physical environs of America at the time.

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