Banners, postcards, mosaics, cartoons de rigueur at Archives

George Cooper | Staff Writer

The Chautauqua Oliver Archives Center can be a quiet place — all those dusty documents. But not today, when it hosts an absolute plethora of people and purposes: a banner tour with information on how those relics are restored and cared for; Jon Schmitz and Bill Flanders, signing and selling their book in the Postcard History Series: Chautauqua Institution; and Ed Harmon, signing and selling his most recent compilation of “Well, That’s Chautauqua,” cartoons, satires and spoofs of life on the grounds.

The activities, titled “Some Banners, Mosaics, Postcards and Cartoons at Chautauqua,” begin at 3:30 p.m. today in the Archives building.

Charlotte Crittenden, banner committee member and year-round resident, will command the banner room in the Archives, answering questions about banners’ upkeep and restoration. Of the 162 Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle banners, 54 have arrived in their resting place in the Archives. The others reside in Alumni Hall.

But images of all the banners are up to date and available in the banner book, The Banners and Mosaics of Chautauqua (also available for sale today), originally compiled in 1992 by Ish Pedersen and recently updated by Mary Lee Talbot, vice president for history and tradition for the CLSC. In addition to the banners, the book includes images of the mosaics in the Hall of Philosophy, CLSC class symbols that speak to the educational concerns of each class.

In addition to activities at the Archives, Pioneer Hall will be open.

“Pioneer Hall is really the closest thing to a museum on the grounds,” Talbot said.

Mike Sullivan, former director for institution relations, requested the book of postcards. Flanders selected most of the cards to be included.

“Bill knew them better,” Schmitz said. “He selected and grouped them. He did the preliminary research and wrote draft captions.”

The postcards provide a history of Chautauqua, and the book conveys the flavor of Chautauqua vacation: the learning, the leisure, the recreation.

For his part of the project, Schmitz dealt with the publisher, wrote the introductions to the book and chapters and together with Flanders, did further research on the postcards, corrections and rewrites.

Schmitz said he “never would have done the book if Bill hadn’t agreed to help.”

“Well, that’s Chautauqua,” has become a phrase associated with Ed Harmon, longtime Chautauquan and unofficial cartoonist for the Institution. His work regularly appears in The Chautauquan Daily.

Daily editor Matt Ewalt wrote in an email, “Ed brings a healthy dose of humor to the pages of the Daily each summer. His cartoons offer insight into life here on the grounds, and the passion he has for his work is an inspiration for our newsroom full of college students.”

Harmon’s cartoons represent and sometimes satirize Chautauqua traditions the community takes for granted — Old First Night, for example, a nostalgic staple for Chautauquans. One cartoon depicts a bearded castaway on a desert island. A note tacked to the lone palm tree says: “All Passes/Art Alone Endures.”

Posed on his knees, his hands folded, the supplicant says, “Please, please get me back to Chautauqua in time for the Old First Night program.” And then, as an afterthought, “Oh yes, and tell my wife that I miss her.”

Harmon said, “I don’t look at things the same way everyone else does. Ellie doesn’t see things the way I do. I see the restrictions of Chautauqua and the humor.”

Ellie, Harmon’s wife, sat beside him, smiling.

Well, that’s Chautauqua.