The materials in Traveling Culture: Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century, can be used for a variety of interesting projects involving research and analysis. Through a chronological examination of documents pertaining to foreign relations, researchers can better understand the connections between the foreign and domestic spheres of politics. The materials can also be used to better understand the role and debated value of Circuit Chautauqua in national culture. The collection also lends itself well to research into the history of advertising.
Chronological Thinking: Russo-American Relations
The advertising materials that form the bulk of the collection afford a unique perspective for examining change in a particular subject over time. Because promotional literature tends toward sensationalized rhetoric that reinforces an audience's expectations, researchers can use these documents to form impressions of popular tastes and culturally significant political trends. Of particular use are documents that deal with foreign relations and public opinion.
For example, the Subject Index heading, Communism and Russia, yields numerous documents from three decades that form a picture of the rise of the Soviet Union and evolving U.S. sentiments.
In 1912, Count Alexander M. Lochwitzsky offered to deliver his lecture "A Russian Nobleman's Story of Siberian Escape and Exile," which detailed the abuses in czarist Russia. By 1920, however, with the communists in power, audiences were offered an appearance by Princess Radziwell, an exiled member of the Russian royal family who could speak with authority on the deplorable political situation in her homeland as well as on the personalities and mannerisms of European royalty.
- What changes had taken place between the time of Lochwitzsky and Radziwell's experiences?
- How might Lochwitzsky's and Radziwell's opinions of Russian monarchy differ? How might the opinions of their audiences have differed with respect to the Russian Revolution and the rise of Bolshevism?
- Why would democracy-loving Americans be interested in Lochwitzsky's criticisms of monarchy? Why would the same audiences be interested in Princess Radziwell's intimate knowledge of European aristocrats?
In the 1930s, former Russian premier Alexander Kerensky was available to audiences to explain the disastrous ramifications of the pro-democracy position that he took while head of Russia's provisional, revolutionary government. In 1940, audiences could engage Freda Utley for her lecture "The Dream We Lost: Soviet Russia Then and Now." Utley offered to explain her early love of communism, her move to Russia, her marriage to a communist, and her life in that country for six years before her husband's arrest and her own disillusionment with Stalin's regime. And, in the 1950s, with the Cold War in full swing, Hede Massing the former Soviet spy and intelligence expert, was a featured speaker.
- What precipitated the establishment of a provisional, revolutionary government?
- What events might have caused Utley to equate Soviet Russia with a lost dream?
- How might the experiences of Kerensky, Utley, and Massing be similar?
- Would Chautauqua audiences expect certain types of programs durring certain political developments?
- Of what interest would an ex-communist speaker be to a pro-democracy audience? What about an ex-spy?
- What sorts of people deliver opinions of Russia in today's news programs? Does firsthand knowledge of that country have the same significance today as it did in 1912 or 1950?