In the summer of 1899, Skidmore citizens decided to follow the lead of their neighbors in Maitland, Maryville, and other communities and create a lecture series to be held in their own town. In addition to a certain competitive spirit, there were practical reasons, as seen in this item from the July 28 edition of the Skidmore Standard:
Last winter several parties in town purchased season tickets to the Maitland lecture course, and either had to drive down through mud, slush and snow or stay at home. It was decided then that we could have a good course of our own this coming winter – and we can by taking hold of the project in the right manner. But now is the time for action! Our neighboring towns that had a course last year were successful in every instance and have already taken steps toward securing a course for next winter. If Skidmore is going to keep in the procession, now is the time to fall in line.
The work began in earnest in the fall, as the November 10 issue reported:
SKIDMORE LECTURE CLUB
An Organization Effected and a Good Course Secured for This Year.
W. H. Hawkins, secretary of the Maryville Lecture Association drove over to Skidmore last Friday evening with the purpose in view of organizing a lecture course here. A meeting was held in the Standard office, and our little shop was literally full up for a time. The exchange table, office stools, waste paper box and presses were converted into seats and even the galley rack was used as a foot rest. The “punkin” editor became so flurried at these liberties in the print shop that he forgot “where he was at” and mixed up with the ink keg to his own discomfort and the lowering of his soul’s welfare.
Everyone at the meeting was enthusiastic in the matter and it was only a short time until the course was an assured fact and the first step taken for securing it.
The course will consist of five numbers and will cost $350, which amount has been guaranteed by thirty-four persons – up to date – who have signed a paper agreeing to pay their pro-rata share of any deficit which may remain when the course is completed. However it is not anticipated that there will be any deficit. The first number will be
Dr. Sweeney, lecture – Dec. 14
E. P. Elliott – Jan.
Earle Wilfley – Feb.
Mozart Symphony Club – March
J. F. Nugent – March.
These men were specially recommended to us by Mr. Hawkins, and the musical number is an exceptionally good one. The Mozart Symphony Club is a splendid organization, rarely heard in towns the size of Skidmore.
Season tickets are $1.50 each, single admission tickets, 50 cents. One hundred and fifteen season tickets have been promised already and the number will probably reach two hundred before Dr. Sweeney comes. Tickets are now printed and can be secured of any member of the ticket selling committee – M. A. Sewell, Leslie Linville, E. A. Miller, Fred Barber, A. C. Dodds, Reuben Barrett, E. T. Duval and F. N. Campbell.
Monday, November 20, has been picked as a date for checking off seat, for parties who have purchased tickets. The plot of the hall will be at C. W. Yetter’s confectionery and promptly at 10 o’clock a.m. the work of checking off seats will begin. This method has been adopted that the country people may have an equal chance with the town folks in securing choice of seats. People wanting desirable seats should see the ticket selling committee at once – secure a ticket and remember to be on hand promptly at 10 o’clock a.m., November 20th. for the seat secured then will be held throughout the entire course.
Our organization has been named “The Skidmore Lecture Club.” Dr. J. E. Shepard, Dr. J. M. Hutt, E. T. Duval, W. J. Skidmore and J. F. Kellogg compose the Executive Committee with Dr. Shepard, chairman; W. J. Skidmore, Treasurer and E. T. Duval, Secretary.
The Standard did its best to promote the series in that issue:
Many of our people have long felt the need of a lecture course in Skidmore, and now that we have one every one with a literary taste should try to make the course a success by purchasing season tickets and inducing others to do likewise.
Newspaper advertising and community spirit clearly worked, as the paper reported on November 24:
ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY TWO SEASON TICKETS CHECKED OFF.
A Long Line and a Scramble for Choice of Seats.
Last Monday at 10 o’clock was the time appointed by the Executive Committee of the Skidmore Lecture Club for the checking off of season tickets, but so anxious were some to secure choice of seats that they were on hand at Yetter’s confectionery – the appointed place – just after the breakfast hour. Some of them were still chewing wood tooth-picks – others were not because they had not taken the time to secure one. It had been agreed that a man could purchase as many seats as he desired – and by the way, that is where the committee made a mistake as the ruling should have restricted each one to purchasing seats for his own family, only. James Lawson was the first one to arrive and take up his stand. He had a whole fist full of tickets, and was soon joined by others with all the way from two to ten tickets. At half past nine the store room was crowded until a stranger in town would have concluded that Yetter was doing all the business and when the door was thrown open at ten o’clock, the seats went like hot cakes. Ary Miller, the Standard foreman, “jockeyed” Lawson and secured the first seats and the others in line followed. One hundred and sixty-two seats were checked off. Nearly two hundred season tickets have been sold and many more will be taken before Mr. Sweeney comes to deliver the first lecture, December 14. The Skidmore Lecture Course is a winner!