Living History Days - A Chautauqua With Mark Twain and Friends
Madison County Historical Society
On Saturday, Sept. 21, area residents will have the opportunity to step back in time to 1898 and experience a Chautauqua at Living History Days from 3-7 p.m. at Edwardsville City Park in Edwardsville, Illinois.
Chautauquas were popular entertainments across the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were typically travelling “shows” that emphasized entertainment and education by presenting a program of musical performances, humorists and speakers. This recreation of a Chautauqua event will last only four hours, although in the past these popular entertainments typically lasted for two to three weeks. Famous personalities who travelled the Chautauqua circuit included Mark Twain, William Jennings Bryon, Booker T. Washington and Jane Addams. The events were so popular that Teddy Roosevelt called them “the most American thing in America.”
The 21st Century Chautauqua on September 21 will include living history performances by re-enactors portraying Mark Twain, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, William Jennings Bryan, Booker T. Washington and Mother Jones. In addition to these performances, there will be musical entertainments, audience participation, food and beverages available on-site as well as selected vendors offering books and other appropriate products for an 1898 venue. There will also be children’s activities making this a family-friendly event.
Music will be provided by the St. Louis Brass Band under the direction of SIU Professor John Bell, three Edwardsville High School singing groups, Bel Canto, Acafellaz and the EHS Chamber Singers, all under the direction of Ms. Emily Ottwein, and the Lewis and Clark Gospel Singers under direction of Ms. Brenda Lancaster of Lewis and Clark Community College.
This event is a made possible through the cooperative efforts of the Madison County Historical Society, The Benjamin Stephenson House, and the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Department of Historical Studies. Funding is provided through grants from the City of Edwardsville and the SIUE Meridian Society.
The Chautauqu is a free event and everyone is invited to join in this one-of-a kind cultural experience.
For additional information, visit the Madison County Historical Society’s website at www.madcohistory.org or call, 618-656-1294.
The Living History Cast
Reverend D.D. Fry
D.D. Fry was a pastor from the Elsah area and was one of two men responsible for organizing the first Chautauqua Association in this area.
Reverend D.D. Fry is portrayed by Jason Stacy, a professor of history at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Stacey is the author of numerous publications and is a scholar of 19th century American life and culture. His character will be master of ceremonies for the afternoon.
Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was born in Hannibal, Missouri in 1835. He worked as a printer, typesetter, journalist and riverboat pilot before heading west to trying his hand at gold mining. In 1861, he began publishing stories in a California newspaper. His story about The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, brought him fame in 1865. He wrote a number of critically acclaimed stories and books including The Innocents Abroad, Old Times on the Mississippi, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Clemens spoke widely on the Chautauqua circuit before his death in 1910.
Mark Twain is portrayed by Richard Geary, a resident of Hannibal, MO. Geary is the owner of Planters Barn, a theater group that provides programs on Mark Twain.
William Jennings Bryan
William Jennings Bryan was born in Salem, Illinois and attended Illinois College in Jacksonville. After graduating he practiced law in Jacksonville before moving to Lincoln Nebraska in 1887. Bryan was elected to Congress in 1890 as a candidate of the Populist Party. A strong supporter of farmers and working men, Mr. Bryan quickly became known as the “Boy Orator of the Platte” and “The Great Commoner.” He was a Democratic presidential candidate three times, but lost in 1896, 1900 and 1908. He joined the Woodrow Wilson administration as Secretary of State in 1912. Bryan died in 1925 soon after the conclusion of Scopes Trial in Tennessee where he assisted in the prosecution of a local teacher for teaching evolution.
William Jennings Bryan is portrayed by John Harvey. A native of Wood River, Harvey has lived in Edwardsville for nearly 40 years. He was a founder of the Arts League Players, a local community theater group and has performed in regional theater productions for over 40 years. He is mostly retired from a career in funding development for non-profit social services.
Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones)
Born in Ireland around 1837, Mary Harris immigrated to the Canada during the Great Potato Famine and by 1859 was teaching school in Michigan. She married George Jones, a foundry worker in 1861 and moved to Chicago where she became a dressmaker. Her husband and four children died in an 1867 Yellow Fever epidemic and her dressmaking shop burned in the Chicago Fire in 1871. Soon after, Mary Jones became active in the Knights of Labor and an organizer for the United Mine Workers and the International Workers of the World. She fought against child labor and organized strikes to protect the rights of mine workers for which she was often arrested. She was called the “Miners’ Angel” but later would become known simply as “Mother Jones.” Mother Jones died in 1930 and is buried in Mount Olive, Illinois.
Mother Jones is portrayed by Loretta Williams, a historical re-enactor who portrays Irish immigrants and labor activist, Mother Jones. Past performances include the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in County Cork, Ireland and Vintage Voices in Alton, Illinois. Loretta performs regularly at the Mother Jones Museum and Union Miners Cemetery in Mt. Olive, Illinois.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady studied law with her father, a New York State Supreme Court Justice, and married her husband, Henry Brewster Stanton in 1840. She was an active abolitionist, and a strong supporter of temperance and women’s suffrage, working with Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony. In 1848, Stanton along with others met in a convention in Seneca Falls, New York calling for equal rights for women. This meeting at Seneca Falls has been called the birth of the women’s rights movement. Stanton, a leader in rights for women and for women’s suffrage, drafted an amendment to the Constitution. Stanton died in 1902.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton is portrayed by Barbara Kay of Glen Carbon, Il. Originally from St. Louis, Kay is a retired history teacher, having taught for 34 years. She now portrays famous women from history for community groups and schools in the area.
Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington was born a slave in 1854 in Virginia. After emancipation, his family moved to West Virginia where Washington beginning at age 9, worked in a salt furnace and then a coal mine. In 1872, he enrolled at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute and after graduating in 1875, returned home to teach African-American children and adults. While teaching, Washington attended seminary school in Washington D.C. In 1881, Washington was selected to head a newly established normal school for African-American children in Tuskegee, Alabama. He transformed the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute into a large college of over 100 buildings, 200 faculty, and 1500 students. Booker T. Washington was a popular speaker on the Chautauqua circuit speaking on the importance of education and democracy.
Booker T. Washington is portrayed by Jared Hennings who has local experience performing with Alton Little Theatre in Fences (2005), To Kill A Mockingbird (2009), and Driving Miss Daisy(2017). He has also assumed the role of various character portrayals with Vintage Voices at Alton Cemetery. He has theater background as a touring company member with the St. Louis Black Rep and HistoryOnics Theater Co. (Missouri Historical Society).
Edwardsville City Park
101 S Buchanan Street
Edwardsville, Illinois (Map)