ELWYN B. ROBINSON DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
CHESTER FRITZ LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA
GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA 58202
COLLECTION: OGL# 1220
SIZE: 205 linear feet
ACQUISITION: The E.J. Lander & Co. Records were deposited in the Orin G. Libby Manuscript Collection by Robert Lander and Barbara Lander, Grand Forks, North Dakota, over a period of sixteen months, from December 1990 through March 1992.
ACCESS: Available for inspection under the Rules and Regulations of the Department of Special Collections.
The E.J. Lander & Co. was founded by Edward John Lander in Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1883, six years before statehood. Lander & Co. originated as a lending institution in the settlement period, expanded into real estate and land development by 1890, and into farm management in the 1920s. First mortgage farm loans and real estate bonds formed the cornerstone of the business. The company acted as the middle-man between western farmers in the northern half of North Dakota and Montana who had little capital and eastern investors from Minneapolis to the east coast with excess funds to invest in sound, time-tested securities.
E.J. Lander & Co. operated differently from others in the business, as it did not accept cash commissions, but secured loan investments with a second mortgage. In a publicity brochure entitled "We're Right on the Ground," published in the 1910s, Lander & Co. advertised conservative company methods. The brochure stressed that the company was located right in the territory of the loaning field. Company field examiners conducted thorough investigations of all farms advertised for investment. The brochure emphasized that "In times of war, industrial depression, and other calamities, the Real Estate Mortgage is never affected. The failure of the earth to respond to nature's laws is the only thing that can eventually affect the soundness of these investments."
Beginning in 1923, deflationary economic times after World War I and "failure of the earth" affected the value of Lander & Co. investments. By 1925, the company suffered three disastrous years of losses. Its accumulated earnings declined from a high point in 1922 of $550,000 to a deficit position of $115,000 in the late 1930s. It was not until 1941 that Lander & Co. again showed a profit. During the depression decades of the 1920s and 1930s, many second mortgages were foreclosed and the company claimed title. These investment properties were eventually sold and eastern investors were repaid.
The E.J. Lander & Co. Records, consisting of 161 boxes, are case files, that is, company loan files, Eastern Client files, and real estate files dating from 1902 to 1953 with the bulk of the material dating from 1916 to 1942. The files document the economic and agricultural climate primarily of northern North Dakota, except for Sheridan and Towner counties, and northern Montana west to Glacier and Lewis and Clark counties, but do not include Blaine, Dawson, and Garfield counties. The records include correspondence, land and property descriptions and inventories, legal documents, and paper on bondholders. The records describe land values, condition of crops and the income derived from their sale, besides income derived from New Deal programs designed to aid the farmer. They also contain personal, often poignant statements, explaining why a farmer was unable to meet a mortgage payment, or why an interest payment was vital to an eastern client.
The processing of Lander & Co. records included surface cleaning of a majority of the records, which were stored in the company's basement in a full size bank vault, or in metal file cabinets. The files were removed from the basement according to directions from the company's long-time secretary. Original order was maintained within the files, which were intellectually analyzed and described on worksheets and control logs. The latter provided the basis for the searchable database that accompanies the finding aid. The database contains 1534 searchable loan records and 2039 client records. Lander & Co. provided land investments to approximately 650 eastern clients, some of whom had multiple investments with the company and are associated with many loans. Twenty-eight percent of these clients were from North Dakota, sixteen percent from Minnesota, and twenty-eight percent from Illinois, New York, and Wisconsin.
The individual client files for E.J. Lander & Co. are available in a searchable name and location database.
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