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Chautauqua: The Nature Study Movement in Pacific Grove, California

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The following account of the Pacific Coast Assembly of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC) introduces the reader to California's first summer school of science.  Positioned along the shoreline of southern Monterey Bay, the Chautauqua Assembly program placed a particular emphasis on the study of natural history; offering courses in terrestrial and marine botany, marine zoology and conchology for over twenty five years. Along with the teaching of natural history, the Pacific Coast Chautauqua Assembly offered daily lectures and courses of instruction in normal school training, the humanities and the arts.

John Muir
John Muir Photo by Francis Fritz Courtesy UC Berkeley

Weaved within the history of the Pacific Coast Assembly of the CLSC are new details related to the life of John Muir.  Within this account one learns of Muir's participation in a Yosemite Sunday School Assembly in 1879, led by Reverend John Heyl Vincent, founder of the Chautauqua program. In addition to Muir’s participation one learns how the Yosemite Sunday School Assembly served as an opportunity for the construction of the Yosemite chapel.

Beyond his participation in the Yosemite Assembly, there is the telling of Muir's close friendship with Charles Herman Allen, Principal and Professor of California State Normal School in San Jose. In addition to CH Allen, there is recognition of the numerous friends of John Muir who contributed to the Pacific Coast Assembly of the CLSC, including California botanists Volney Rattan, Charles Christopher Parry, John and Sarah Lemmon, Stanford University’s President David Starr Jordan; University of California's Professors Joseph Le Conte and Cornelius B. Bradley, and many others.

Accompanying this acknowledgement of John Muir’s many friends, and their involvement with Pacific Grove’s Chautauqua Assembly, one is presented with a chronological summary of the few occasions Muir spoke in public. This outline of Muir’s lectures, intertwined with letters of correspondence, provide an appreciation for the eminent naturalists’ immense fear of speaking to large public audiences.

The above elements are just a few illuminating bits of history presented in this book, with the overall context of the monograph imparting a possible explanation for a nations’ extreme reverence for nature. 

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Book Chapters

  • A Summer School of Science
  • Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz (1807-1873)
  • Louis Agassiz as Mentor
  • The Museum of Comparative Zoology
  • Louis Agassiz's Aspirations
  • The Anderson School of Natural History, 1873

Chapter 2 (pdf)

  • Higher Education in Mid 19th and Early 20th Century America
  • The Elementary Education Of Children In Mid 19th And Early 20th Century America
  • Louis Agassiz's Method of Study
  • The Influence of Penikese on American Education

Chapter 3 (pdf)

  • Chautauqua
  • The Pacific Institute Excursion
  • Yosemite Assembly of 1879
  • Pacific Grove Retreat
  • Pacific Grove Assembly of 1879
  • The Southern Pacific Railroad, Livery Teams, Accommodations and Supplies
  • The Pacific Coast Branch Of Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (est. 1880)
  • An Emphasis on the Study of Natural History

Chapter 4 (pdf)

  • Methodism in America
  • Pacific Grove Methodist Retreat
  • A Summer School of Science
  • A Summer School for Teachers
  • Courses of Marine Botany and Marine Zoology
  • A Variety of Natural History Courses

Chapter 5 (pdf)

  • Five College Institutions Located in the SF Bay Area
  • California State Normal School at San Jose
  • College of the Pacific
  • Mills College of Oakland
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Leland Stanford Junior University
  • Other Distinguished Teachers

Chapter 6 (pdf)

  • Early Lectures By John Muir
  • Connections to John Muir
  • Muir Clan and Pacific Grove
  • David Muir
  • Sarah Muir Galloway

Chapter 7 (pdf)

  • The Humanities
  • The Romantics
  • Progressive Pedagogical Philosophies
  • Department of Art

Chapter 8 (pdf)

  • California’s Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circles
  • From Chautauqua Circles to Women’s Clubs to the Protection of Nature
  • Attendance at the Pacific Coast Assembly
  • Membership in the Pacific Coast Branch of the CSLC
  • Recognition Day

Chapter 9 (pdf)

  • Methodist Retreat Location and Design of the Open-Air Temple
  • Hall In The Grove
  • The Pacific Grove Museum
  • Methodist Episcopal Church and Assembly Hall

Chapter 10 (pdf)

  • The Pacific Grove Retreat: A Conference Headquarters
  • Puritan Blue Laws
  • The Final Years
  • The Scheduled Appearance of John Muir at a Yosemite Chautauqua Assembly 



Feast of Lanterns 

Point Alones (Abalone Point) Chinese Fishing Village

Assembly Reports: 1879  1880   1881   1882   1883   1884   1885   1886

Contact, Don Kohrs, the author of Chautauqua: The Nature Study Movement in Pacific Grove, California, if you have questions, comments or would like to inquire about the possibility of a talk on the subject.

Don Kohrs
Harold A. Miller Library
Hopkins Marine Station
of Stanford University
Pacific Grove, CA 93950-3094
(831) 655-6229