Downtown 1958

Downtown 1958

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mystery Solved - Brighton Beach Chautauqua

In my blog post about last Thursday's group photo at Brighton Beach, I fancied that the figure in the center of the group was Teddy Roosevelt.  I was dreadfully wrong.  The man in uniform actually was Brigadier General Charles King, Adjutant General of the Wisconsin National Guard, West Point Graduate, and veteran of the Indian Wars.  He was in Menasha to take part in the summer chautauqua series in August of 1899.

Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the US, highly popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Named after Chautauqua Lake, NY where the first was held, Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day.  For some, it was like an educational summer camp, headquartered in some resort, not unlike the Brighton Beach Hotel.  In other locales, musicians, lecturers, and personalities on a regular chautauqua "circuit" would visit, much like a travelling circus going from town to town.  By the turn of the century, however, other entertainment and educational opportunities, such as radio and movies, began to arrive in American towns to compete with Chautauqua lectures. With the advent of the automobile after 1910, and the radio after 1920, middle class Americans could now listen to or attend cultural events previously available only in urban areas and the Chautauqua movement lost popularity.

King was the son of Civil War General Rufus King, grandson of Columbia University president Charles King, and great grandson of Rufus King, who was one of the signers of the United States Constitution. He graduated from West Point in 1866 and served in the Army during the Indian Wars. Wounded in the arm and head during the Battle of Sunset Pass, he was forced into retirement from the regular army. During this time he became acquainted with Buffalo Bill Cody. King would later write scripts for several of Cody's silent movies. He also served in the Wisconsin National Guard from 1882 until 1897, becoming Adjutant General in 1895.

In 1898, he was appointed Brigadier General of volunteers and sailed to the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. The fighting with Spain was over by the time he arrived, but he assisted in the surrender negotiations.

During the Philippine-American War that followed, King was placed in command of a brigade during the Battle of Manila and sailed for Santa Cruz. He was incapacitated by sickness during the Battle of Santa Cruz, but he returned to fight in the following Battle of Pagsanjan. He took part in the final major campaigns before the fighting turned primarily to guerilla warfare.
He returned to the US and was active in the Wisconsin National Guard and in training troops for World War I. He wrote and edited over 60 books and novels. Among his list of titles are Campaigning with Crook, Fort Frayne, Under Fire and Daughter of the Sioux.
General King and his wife lived in the Carlton Hotel in Milwaukee. Commuting daily by train to Saint John's Military Academy in Delafield, he routinely sat on the porch of the Holt house on campus and told the cadets, which included his grandson, tales of the old west.

July 31, 1899 Oshkosh Northwestern
 The suspect photo, with General King in the center

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