Lyceums

From Ohio History Central

Dunbar, Paul Laurence Advertising.jpg
Broadside advertising a reading given by poet and author Paul Laurence Dunbar at the Lyceum Theater, ca. 1890-1906. Dunbar, a well known author, was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1872 to former slaves. He died in

Dayton on February 9, 1906.

Lyceums were a very popular form of adult education that spread across the United States between the 1830s and the Civil War. Josiah Holbrook established the first lyceum in Massachusetts in 1826, but by the 1830s a number of communities in Ohio had also created their own lyceums. In 1831, the National American Lyceum was founded.

Lyceums provided both education and entertainment for its audiences. Speakers gave lectures on a variety of topics, from history to literature to scientific theories. There were concerts and plays. A lyceum might schedule a public debate on a subject of interest to the community, and often members were divided into smaller groups who met to discuss assigned readings. Lyceums often fostered social reform movements, such as abolitionism or temperance.

After the Civil War, lyceums began to disappear. A new educational effort was created in the Chautauqua Movement in the decades after the war, but it never reached the level of popularity of the original lyceum movement.

See Also