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.