Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Theatre Arts


Chautauqua, a totally American institution which impacted nearly forty million people in its approximately fifty-year existence from 1874 to 1930, was a place to enrich lives through education, inspiration, and recreation. Devils Lake, North Dakota, a small, isolated town on the Midwestern plains, located on the shores of a large, salt-water lake, became the site of the nation's third largest independent Chautauqua in the nation, operating from 1893 to 1929.

This thesis is a study of the history of the Devils Lake Chautauqua, its organization, and development. Included in the research is a study of the national Chautauqua and Lyceum Movements, how those movements became intertwined, and how the two movements impacted the Chautauqua in Devils Lake.

The history of the Chautauqua includes a discussion of the facilities and activities at the Devils Lake site, includ ing the Chautauqua Railroad and Captain S. E. Heerman and his steamship, the Minnie H, two activities that made the Devils Lake Chautauqua unique.

An analysis of the programming, the themes and quality, is also provided. The demise of the Devils Lake Chautauqua and the subsequent revival in 1976 are also discussed. Two tables list and categorize the programs by type: religious, political, educational/inspirational, musical, elocution and drama, and other miscellaneous types. One of the two tables covers the first five years of programming; the second covers the last four years for which complete programming information is available. Maps of the Chautauqua grounds are included, as is a copy of the speech given by William Jennings Bryan on July 6, 1918, the most famous speaker ever booked at the Devils Lake Chautauqua. Two typical stories used by teachers at the Kindergarten are also provided, as well as several illustrations of the facilities and typical activities.