Chautauqua was a travelling institution begun at Chautauqua Lake, NY with roots in Canadian Methodist Temperance rallies. Chautauquas carried education, inspiration and entertainment across North America.
John M. Erickson brought the idea from the US to Alberta in 1917. He established Dominion Chautauquas (Canadian Chautauquas after 1926) with headquarters in Calgary. With the help of his wife, Nola, Erickson spread a network of tent circuits across Canada from the Pacific to Quebec to the northern fringes of prairie settlement until 1935.
Chautauqua programs consisted of 4 to 6 days of musical numbers, lectures, dramatic productions and magic or puppet shows. Chautauqua was good family entertainment and the people loved it. To many it provided their only opportunity for a cultural experience. Its end in 1935 can be attributed to changes in popular taste, the increasing availability of movies and the spread of radio, as well as to an easing of Depression conditions.