DATES: 1900-1945

SIZE: 7.5 linear feet


ACQUISITION: The John Moses Papers were deposited in the Orin G. Libby Manuscript Collection. The acquisition records are unavailable.

ACCESS: Available for inspection under the rules and regulations of the Department of Special Collections.


John Moses was born June 12, 1885 in Strand, Norway, the son of Reverend Henrik B. and Isabella (Eckersberg) Moses. He attended public school in Norway, and graduated from the high school at Kongsvinger in 1900 and from junior college in Oslo in 1903. He emigrated to the United States in 1905, settling first in Minnesota. He found work as a section hand for the Great Northern Railroad in Benson, Minnesota. In 1906, he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, to take a position in the accounting department of the railroad. He moved to North Dakota in 1911, when he became the secretary of the State Normal School at Valley City.

He entered the University of North Dakota in 1912, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1914. He entered the UND Law School and graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in 1915. During his time at UND, he was a member of Sigma Nu, a social fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta, a law fraternity, the Athletic Board of Control, the A.D.T. Literary Society, and the Civic Club. He was also involved with the student newspaper, the Dakota Student.

Moses was admitted to the bar in July 1915, and practiced for a short time in both Hope and Hebron, North Dakota. In 1917, he established a permanent home and law practice in Hazen, while farming on the side. Moses tried twice on enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War I, but was rejected each time due to poor vision.

He served as State's Attorney for Mercer County from 1919-1923, and again from 1926-1933. His first foray into statewide politics occurred in 1934, when he unsuccessfully campaigned for State Attorney General on the Democratic ticket. Undaunted by his defeat, he won the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1936. Moses proved to be tireless campaigner, speaking three to four times a day in three different languages: English, German and Norwegian. However, he finished third in the race, behind William Langer and Walter Welford.

Moses' second attempt at the governorship occurred in 1938. He won the election, partially due to an anti-Langer coalition. When Langer decided to run for the U.S. Senate as an Independent versus the incumbent Republican Gerald Nye, Nye and William Lemke struck a deal with Moses. Nye and Lemke would support Moses for Governor; in return Moses was to ensure that the Democratic candidate for Senator, Jess Nygaard, would not actively campaign for office. This move ensured that the anti-Langer vote would not be split. The result was that Moses was elected Governor, while Nye returned to the Senate.

Moses' first term in office was marked by cutting government expenditures and an attack on the influence of Langer. By January 1939, the state was facing a two and a half million dollar deficit. Moses responded by ordering his newly appointed officials to cut spending by 18 percent, and succeeded in gaining the support of those officials not directly appointed by him. He fought the influence of Langer in several ways. One of the most public was the reinstatement of seven staff members fired from the North Dakota Agricultural School in Fargo. Moses was re-elected Governor in both 1940 and 1942. During World War II, Moses actively sought to develop war industries in the state, although the portion of the state's income which came from agriculture increased. The war years were also marked by Moses' interests in reforming and modernizing state government.

In January 1944, Moses chose not to seek re-election, deciding instead to run for a seat in the United States Senate versus Gerald Nye. Health issues dogged Moses throughout the campaign, as he was forced to check into the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, on September 12, 1944, for an abdominal operation, followed by extensive X-ray treatments. As rumors of his health circulated throughout the state, Moses recovered enough to deliver several radio addresses in which he stressed that he would make a full recovery. Voters in North Dakota believed him, as he defeated Nye by over 25,000 votes. Moses' candidacy was significantly aided by the candidacy of Lynn Stambaugh, who was defeated for the Republican nomination. He filed and ran as an Independent, and attacked Nye for his isolationist views. Stambaugh succeeded in carrying enough Republican votes to swing the election in Moses' favor.

Moses only was able to serve two weeks in the Senate, before he checked himself back into the Mayo Clinic on January 18, 1945. An attack of pleurisy in late February further complicated his condition. John Moses died on March 3, 1945 at the Mayo Clinic, and is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in Bismarck. On March 12th, Governor Fred G. Aandahl appointed Milton R. Young to the vacant seat.

Outside of politics, Moses was active in the Masons, serving as Grand Master in North Dakota from 1941-42. He was also a member of the Elks, the North Dakota State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. During his time in Hazen, he was president of the Hazen Board of Education and the Hazen Community Club. He married Ethel Joslyn on June 29, 1918 in Hope, North Dakota. The couple had four children: John, James, Mary Jean and Robert.

Sources: History of North Dakota by Lewis Crawford, Volume II; History of North Dakota by Elwyn Robinson; Grand Forks Herald; the Dacotah (UND Annual)


The John Moses Papers are divided into six series, as follows:

SERIES I: Correspondence
About two-thirds of this series is in Norwegian and is between Moses and his relatives in Norway. The remaining correspondence centers upon his life in St. Paul from 1905-1911, as well as his university days from 1912-1915. The bulk of the university correspondence centers around three University coeds, Jessie Grassick, Alice Hunter, and Edna Rasmussen. From 1916- 1929 the correspondence gradually shifts to letters dealing with Moses' law practice, although there are many letters from his family in Norway and other people whose friendship he developed while at the University. Among the correspondents are B.J. Loss, a personal friend of Moses', who was in the tree nursery business. These letters discuss the common political issues of the day. There is also the correspondence of Ferdinand Froeschle and Percy Hansen, two friends who were in the Armed Forces. The series dates from 1900 through 1944. Box 1, Folder 1 - Box 2, Folder 9

SERIES II: Financial
This series contains general financial information, as well as some tax returns. Also included is a folder detailing Moses' holdings in the Beulah Amusement Company. 1934-1941 Box 2, Folder 10 - Box 2, Folder 12

SERIES III: Masonic Activities
Moses was a member of the Masonic Lodge, and this series outlines his activity within the group, from 1939-1944. He was the Grand Master of North Dakota from 1941-42, and was a member of the Masons for nearly all of his adult life. Box 2, Folder 13 - Box 3, Folder 9

SERIES IV: Political Materials
This series dates from 1936-1945. It consists of press releases, campaign financial information, Democratic party materials, correspondence, and subject files. Box 3, Folder 10 - Box 4, Folder 9

SERIES V: Speeches and Addresses
This series dates from 1934 until 1944, and contains general campaign speeches, addresses to the State Legislature, and his speeches as governor. The series is arranged chronologically, save for the last three folders, which consist of radio addresses, source material for his speeches, and copies of the remarks of other persons. Box 4, Folder 10 - Box 6, Folder 1

SERIES VI: Miscellaneous
This series contains information regarding Moses' fishing trips, as well as day books, scrapbooks and newspaper clippings. Moses' copy of the United States Senate Manual is also included. Box 6


Box 1
SERIES I: Correspondence

  1. Personal Correspondence: 1900-1903
  2. Personal Correspondence: 1904-1905
  3. Personal Correspondence: 1906
  4. Personal Correspondence: 1907
  5. Personal Correspondence: 1908
  6. Personal Correspondence: 1909
  7. Personal Correspondence: 1910
  8. Personal Correspondence: January - July 1911
  9. Personal Correspondence: August - December 1911
  10. Personal Correspondence: 1912
  11. Personal Correspondence: 1913
  12. Personal Correspondence: 1914
  13. Personal Correspondence: 1915
  14. Personal Correspondence: 1916
  15. Personal Correspondence: 1917
  16. Personal Correspondence: 1918-1920
  17. Personal Correspondence: 1921-1922
  18. Personal Correspondence: 1923
  19. Personal Correspondence: 1924-1925
  20. Personal Correspondence: 1926-1929
  21. Personal Correspondence: 1943

Box 2

  1. Correspondence: Ferdinand Froeschle, 1936-1938
  2. Correspondence: Percy Hansen, 1942-44
  3. Correspondence: B. J. Loss, 1910-1914
  4. Correspondence: B. J. Loss, 1936-1938
  5. Correspondence: B. J. Loss, 1939-1942
  6. Correspondence: Sigma Nu, 1935-1941
  7. Correspondence: UND Law Alumni, 1939-1941
  8. Correspondence: North Dakota Bar Association, 1937-1940
  9. Correspondence: Biographical, 1940-1944

SERIES II: Financial

  1. Personal and Business File: 1934-1939
  2. Beulah Amusement Company: 1936-1941
  3. Income Tax Returns and Miscellaneous Reports: 1938

SERIES III: Masonic Activities

  1. Correspondence with W. L. Stockwell: 1939-1941
  2. Correspondence with W. L. Stockwell: 1942-1944
  3. Correspondence with W. J. Hutchinson: 1940-1944
  4. General Correspondence: 1940-1941
  5. General Correspondence: 1942-1944
  6. Meridian Lodge Trusteeship: 1938-1943
  7. Invitations and Dates: 1941

Box 3

  1. Invitations and Dates: 1942
  2. Dispensations and Requests: 1941-1942
  3. Publications: 1940-1944
  4. Miscellaneous Programs and Clippings: 1940-1944
  5. Masonic Service Association: January 1, 1941 - April 30, 1942.
  6. Masonic Service Association: May 1, 1942 - July 31, 1942.
  7. Grand Masters Addresses and Reports: 1940-1944.
  8. Speeches: 1941-1942.
  9. Decorations and Honors: 1940-1944

SERIES IV: Political Materials

  1. Campaign Press Releases: 1936
  2. Campaign Expenses: 1938
  3. Langer Bond Deal: 1939-1940
  4. General File: 1939-1941
  5. General File: 1942
  6. General File: 1942
  7. Democratic Campaign: 1942

Box 4

  1. Correspondence: Congratulations: 1942 Election
  2. Victory Garden Program: 1942-1944
  3. Trips to Washington and Texas: 1943
  4. Water Conservation Commission, Trucker Reports: 1943
  5. Democratic National Convention: 1944
  6. Missouri River Development: 1944
  7. Correspondence: Congratulations: 1944
  8. Miscellaneous: 1944
  9. Correspondence: General, 1940-1945

SERIES V: Speeches and Addresses

  1. Speeches: 1934-1936
  2. Speeches: 1937
  3. Speaking Engagements: 1937-1938
  4. Speeches: 1938
  5. Speeches: 1938 (cont.)
  6. Speeches to 26th and 27th Legislative Assembly: 1939
  7. Speeches: 1939

Box 5

  1. Speeches: 1939 (cont.)
  2. Speeches: 1940
  3. Speeches: 1940 (cont.)
  4. Speeches: 1940 (cont.)
  5. Speeches: 1940 (cont.)
  6. Speeches: 1940 (cont.)
  7. Speeches: 1941
  8. Speeches: 1942
  9. Speeches: 1942 (cont.)
  10. Speeches: 1943-1944
  11. Radio Addresses KFYR and KSTP
  12. Material for Addresses: 1934-1943

Box 6

  1. Addresses of Others

SERIES VI: Miscellaneous

  1. Fishing Trips:1941-1943
    Seven Day Books (7)
    Two Scrapbooks (2)
    Miscellaneous Newspaper Clippings
    Moses' United States Senate Manual

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