Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The History of Bemidji State College deals largely with the events of the years between 1907 and 1937• It is an attempt to utilize the available primary source material and from it to present a reasonably comprehensive history of the college from the time the school was first publicly discussed in 1907 through the years of the school's first president which ended in 1937* Although Bemidji College had its own unique problems and peculair qualities, it is the conclusion of the writer that the history of the college is essentially the history of most state colleges: it was a part of the general pattern of educational growth going on throughout the United States.

Minnesota became a state in 1858, and among the earliest acts of the legislature was one establishing teacher-training institutions, called normal schools, which offered two years of training beyond high school. With the coming of permanent settlers interested in lumbering and agriculture into northern Minnesota in the l890's, there soon developed a need of trained teachers for the public elementary schools in that area, and interested citizens sought to secure another normal school. A spirited campaign was made to interest the legislature in the establishment of an additional normal school in the northern part of the state; a contest was waged among the communities most interested, particularly Bemidji, Cass Lake and Thief River Falls, to determine the location of the school. The fight began as early as 1907 and continued through six years before favorable legislation passed in 1913> awarding the location to Bemidji. This struggle was followed by six more years of efforts to secure sufficient appropriations to make the school a reality. The Bemidji Normal School began on June 23> 1919> under the guidance of its first president, Manfred W. Deputy. Deputy remained as president until his retirement on December 31> 1937> and in his long tenure he stamped his views and personality on the institution. While he was president, Deputy had a physical plant of three buildings on a twenty-acre campus: the main building, where offices were located and classes held and which had one wing that housed a campus elementary school for grades kindergarten through nine, inclusive; a dormitory, Sanford Hall, housing approximately 50 women and providing eating facilities for 150 students; and a heating plant.

In the first decade of operation, the school attendance averaged about 200 students during the regular school year and nearly 400 students in its annual five-week summer session. In the 1930's, enrollments averaged about the same as the 1920’s for the regular school year although summer school enrollments were not as large.