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Red Cloud Business College

Red Cloud, Nebraska



The Red Cloud Chief had a weekly column called “Business College Notes,” giving news from the school.   The Webster County Historical Museum provided information about the building used by the college.



Founded by Paul S. Dietrick, Red Cloud Business College opened on January 2, 1906 for 20 students and four teachers.  By the end of the first year, the college had served 108 students.  Weekly “notes” suggest that enrollment fluctuated, with students entering and leaving as their circumstances dictated.  The year-end report showed that 12 had left the school to take teaching jobs and 20 to take jobs in business, 8 had begun their own businesses, and 8 had transferred to other schools.  Only one student actually graduated that year.


Red Cloud Business College advertised five courses of study.  For commercial students, there were classes in typing, shorthand, bookkeeping, penmanship, spelling, and “rapid calculations.”   In addition to spelling and arithmetic, the normal program offered classes in civics, art, composition, and agriculture.  In the first month, a regular period for physical culture exercises was added. Other classes mentioned in “Notes” include drawing, music, telegraphy, and business English.


Even with small numbers, students quickly developed co-curricular activities.  One of the first was a debating society that conducted a public debate each Friday evening.  Spelling bees and ciphering matches occurred regularly.  In addition to a literary society, R.C.B.C. had a glee club, a school band, and an orchestra.  Otherwise the school year included outings, socials, receptions, basket suppers, picnics, and a banquet. 


On September 3, 1907, Red Cloud Business College underwent an ownership change, with Lewis M. Steward becoming president. After a promising start in 1908, the school revealed on February 21 that President Steward had resigned.  On March 13 former president Dietrich was called in “to assist in straightening out the tangle in affairs of the business college.”  By May, references to Red Cloud Business College no longer appear in the Chief.

Bricks and Mortar

Dietrick leased a group of upstairs rooms in the 400 block of Webster Street.  The school’s address was “Demerell Block.”  A large room to the north served as the school’s chapel and assembly room.  Two small rooms in the southwest corner were used for stenography and typing classes; a south central room was used for lectures, and two rooms in the southeast corner rooms became the office and a reception room. 


As a part of the Willa Cather Historical District, the block of buildings was placed on the National Register in 1982.  Renovation of what is now called the "Moon Block" was completed in 2017 when the National Willa Cather Center opened.

Demerell Block (2).JPG

2017 Google image of the National Willa Cather Center, with the Opera House to the left.  College rooms were located on the second floor over the Center.


            Team name: Crescents

            School Colors: Buff and Blue


A September 1906 “note” shows that the boys “are planning a base ball team.”  On October 5 the Chief reported that the business college had played the high school, losing 8-4.  President Dietrick played for the college team.


On October 4, 1906 the Chief noted, “a football team has been chosen.”  This team lost the battle of the commercial colleges to Grand Island 16-0.  But it also defeated a semi-pro team from Bloomington 13-0 and played Smith Center (KS) High School.  A year later a better Crescent team played the high school to a scoreless draw, also losing to the Smith-Center High school 10-5, Concordia (KS) Normal 6-5 and Bloomington 16-0.  But the Crescents defeated Grand Island Business College 6-5, and so were declared Commercial College Champions of Nebraska.


The Chief reported that the college had a “pretty good” basket ball ream.  In 1906 there was also a “move” among the college girls to play basket ball. 

Red Cloud football (2)_edited.jpg

The 1908 Commercial College Champions of Nebraska.  Image from the Omaha Daily Bee.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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