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The Themes of North Dakota History
By Elwyn B. Robinson*

This essay was a revision of an address delivered by Elwyn B. Robinson on November 6, 1958, on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the University of North Dakota. This revised essay was published in North Dakota History (Winter 1959), while an abridged version appeared in North Dakota Teacher (February 1959). The version reproduced below was printed and distributed by the UND Department of History. The presence of several explanatory sentences in the footnotes, and minor differences in the footnote structure, are the only differences from the North Dakota History version.

As thoughtful people we are always seeking to understand the world about us. One way is the observation of patterns, of the recurrence of somewhat similar events. Recurrence may reveal fundamental relationships or truths. In science these are natural laws; in mathematics they are formulae; in studies like economics they may be called principles. Much of art is also pattern. In history, as in music, we may call the patterns themes. Historical themes are patterns of many events.

If we can tie the events of North Dakota history to a handful of broad themes, we shall be able to see its patterns. This is what I am attempting to do: to relate the events of North Dakota history to a handful of themes. Perhaps the attempt will give us a stronger grasp of the realities that we face in North Dakota, and help us adjust our institutions to the realities in a way that will give us a richer life.

I want to answer these questions: What are the great themes of North Dakota history? How are they related to each other? How are they tied to the fundamental facts about the state?

I need to begin with some preliminaries. The themes of North Dakota history are not, can not be, unique. The state is a part of the nation. The themes of our national history — nationalism, democracy, secularization, urbanization, industrialization, and emergence as a world power — are reflected in events in the state. North Dakota was once a frontier; Frederick Jackson Turner’s themes of frontier history are, of course, seen in the history of the Dakota frontier. North Dakota is a part of the Great Plains. The themes of the Great Plains, so brilliantly analyzed by Walter Prescott Webb and Carl Frederick Kraenzel, are also important in North Dakota. 1 All who think about the western country have been influenced by the writings of Turner, Webb, and Kraenzel.

What are the great themes of North Dakota history? Let me name them: first, remoteness; second, dependence; third, radicalism; fourth, a position of economic disadvantage; fifth, the Too-Much Mistake; and, sixth, adjustment to the imperatives of a cool, subhumid grassland.

By remoteness I mean the influence of the great distance between North Dakota and the chief centers of population, industry, finance, culture, and political decision in the nation and in the Western World. The word dependence stands for North Dakota’s status as a colonial hinterland. Radicalism is a term for the struggle against that status. The position of economic disadvantage refers both to the wide fluctuations in North Dakota’s income and to the lower-than-average per capita income that North Dakota as an agricultural state has generally received in good times and bad alike. The Too-Much Mistake is any name for too many farms, too many miles of railroads and roads, too many towns, banks, schools, colleges, churches, and governmental institutions, and more people than opportunities — numbers of all that history shows have been far beyond the ability of the state to maintain. Adjustment means both the painful cutting back of the oversupply of the Too-Much Mistake and the slow forging of more suitable ways of living in subhumid grassland.

All the themes are tied to the most fundamental facts about the state — its location at the center of the continent, its cool, subhumid climate, and the climatic differences between the eastern and western parts of the state. The influence of these facts is seen in every aspect of North Dakota history.

They are the base for its great themes. Location at the center of the continent accounts for the theme of remoteness. Though the reasons may not be readily apparent, I believe that the location of the state and its cool, subhumid climate made North Dakota a colony of the Twin Cities — the theme of dependence, gave the state its position of economic disadvantage, and created the conditions out of which radicalism and the Too-Much Mistake developed. The theme of adjustment means adaptation of institutions —that is, the ways of life — to the conditions imposed by the subhumid grassland.

Through every theme runs a most persistent pattern of difference between eastern and western North Dakota, based upon climate but seen everywhere — in plant and animal life, in farm size and income, in farm organizations, in the voting record, and in the temper and character of the people. With less rain, western North Dakota is more isolated, more sparsely settled, more dependent, and more radical than eastern North Dakota. In the west the Too-Much Mistake was more immediately serious and adjustments to the subhumid grassland were more imperative.2

Now I wish to trace each of the six themes, in turn, through the course of North Dakota history. Let us begin with remoteness. There are many illustrations of its influence. North Dakota Indians were late in getting the horses which spread slowly northward from Spanish sources in Mexico. The first white explorers came to North Dakota considerably later than they did to the lands to the north, east, and south. The fur traders opened the Indian trade in the state at a relatively late date. Farming settlement began late, in the 1870’s, and the greatest influx of settlers did not come until the first decade of this century. Remoteness has also long been a part of the unfavorable image of the state held by outsiders. More fundamental, remoteness has always meant high transportation costs for North Dakota, and so it is one of the chief reasons for the lack of manufacturing in the state.3 Remoteness, therefore, not only helped to make North Dakota a colonial hinterland, but also has kept it in that status.

As a hinterland North Dakota is, and always has been, dependent upon outside centers of finance, trade, and manufacturing and hence subject to a real degree to their control. This is the second great theme of its history.

Colonial status began with the Indian trade. The Indians quickly became dependent upon the products of a superior white technology — guns, knives, axes, kettles, and cloth. They welcomed the traders, sometimes bursting into tears of joy at their approach. The blacksmiths of the Lewis and Clark expedition, busily forging battleaxes for the Indians and mending their guns, became great favorites with them. Even when the Indians secretly felt hostility toward the traders, they professed friendship because the white man’s goods had become necessary to them.4

Need placed them under the control of the traders. Actually the Indians were sending their furs to distant markets across the Atlantic. But their access to the markets was in the hands of the traders. When Lewis and Clark, for example, wished to assert control over the Indians of the Upper Missouri, they told them that if they did not listen to the words of the Great Father in Washington, he would stop the traders from coming up the river to them. The Great Father would not let them “have any more good guns etc.”5

After the Indian trade died, the North Dakota prairies were settled by white pioneers through the efforts of the flour millers, traders, financiers, and railroad promoters of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The flourmills called for more and more hard spring wheat. The railroad builders threw the steel tracks westward and brought in the settlers: the spring wheat country was born a colonial hinterland to the Twin Cities.6

Its people were far more dependent than the Indians on the products of the factories of the eastern United States and western Europe. Their wheat, like the Indians’ furs, had to reach distant markets; access to the markets was controlled by middlemen — the owners and managers of the railroads, the flour mills, the lines of elevators, the grain exchanges, and the banks which furnished credit for the whole complex operation.

The railroads were the key. Organized by outsiders and built by outside capital, they boomed the new spring wheat country. They founded and named towns. They controlled the appointments of territorial officials, sent men to the territorial legislature, and, to retain their influence, delayed statehood.7 Martin N. Johnson, later to be a North Dakota Congressman, told the state constitutional convention in 1889 that the Great Northern “controls everything in our part of the country.”8

The Northern Pacific was also powerful. The federal government had given it over ten million acres (10,697,490) of land in North Dakota or 23.7 per cent, nearly a fourth, of the large state. No railroad owned so large a proportion of any other state.9 To look after its interests in North Dakota the Northern Pacific selected Alexander McKenzie, a young semi-literate Scotch-Irish railroad construction worker. A natural leader of men, McKenzie was to be for a generation the most influential political leader in North Dakota — both the symbol and reality of outside control. His first great success was the removal of the territorial capital from Yankton to Bismarck, on the Northern Pacific’s main line, in 1883. Until about 1909 he strongly influenced the selection of state officials and the course of legislation in North Dakota. Though the title exaggerated his influence, in common talk he was the “boss of North Dakota”; his suite in the Merchants’ Hotel in St. Paul was called the “throne room.” When he died in 1922, a millionaire, his funeral was held at the state capitol in Bismarck, the scene of his many triumphs.10

A striking example of Northern Pacific influence occurred in the state constitutional convention of 1889. Henry Villard, chairman of the Northern Pacific board of directors, had a constitution for North Dakota secretly prepared by Professor James Bradley Thayer of the Harvard Law School. The Thayer draft, its origin still a secret, was introduced in the convention; the constitution of the state as finally adopted is identical in many places with the Thayer draft. The fact that the Thayer draft was a model constitution providing for state control of railroads and other corporations does not change the significance of the incident — outside interference by a corporation owning nearly a fourth of the state.11

All states are influenced, even controlled, by governmental decisions made in Washington. If North Dakota differs in any way in this, it is because it has had a smaller voice in the decisions than the more populous and powerful states.

In the Louisiana Purchase (changing the sovereignty of the land), in the establishment of military posts upon its soil, and in its long years as a territory, North Dakota was the plaything of outside forces. More recently it, as well as the other states, has been greatly influenced by participation in two world wars, by the massive federal relief expenditures of the 1930’s, by federal highway construction funds, by Missouri Basin development, by federal rural electrification work, and by federal farm and conservation programs. These facts, of course, show interdependence as well as dependence. In North Dakota, as in the other states, much of the progress, as well as less desirable developments, is intimately related to the fact that it is a part of the United States. In the same way progress and decay in the United States is related to the fact that it is a part of Western civilization.

But North Dakota has long been and still is a colony in other ways. Outside corporations own many banks and some newspapers in the state.12 Thousands of North Dakotans read the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune. More fundamental, North Dakota produces raw materials — wheat, cattle, flaxseed and so on — for outside markets; North Dakota imports from other states most of the comforts and necessities of life. Like all raw-materials-producing regions, it cannot control either the market in which it sells or that in which it buys.13

It is true, of course, that the grain trade and the flour milling industry of the Twin Cities and the outside world needed, and still needs, North Dakota’s hard spring wheat, just as North Dakota needed, and still needs, the goods and services of the Twin Cities and the outside world. They were and are interdependent, as colony and metropolis have always and everywhere been interdependent. But perhaps the word “interdependent” implies an equality of status in the relationship that did not exist between North Dakota and the Twin Cities, any more than it did between other colonies and their metropolises. A metropolis is largely the central place of power and decision; a colony largely an outlying region of relative weakness and subordination. I believe, then, that “dependence” is a better word for the relationship than “interdependence.” For many years Minnesota law regulated the grain markets in which North Dakota’s wheat was sold; North Dakota was long a suppliant, begging for fair treatment in those markets. In 1905, for example, the North Dakota legislature asked the Minnesota legislature to pass a law requiring purchasers of grain to pay for dockage; the Minnesota legislature refused.14

With dependence and outside control — the central aspects of colonial status — went exploitation, and exploitation created radicalism — the third great theme of North Dakota history. North Dakota radicalism, proof itself of colonial status, was an attack upon the middlemen — or as they were commonly called, the “interests” — who stood between the farmer and his market. It was a revolt against exploitation, a struggle to change the status quo, or more simply, a determined effort to get a fair price for wheat.

Perhaps the very first expression of resentment against outside exploitation was seen in the attitude of some of the Indians toward their traders. Alexander Henry’s favorite adjective for his Indian customers was “insolent.”15 But the first organized expression of revolt against exploitation was the formation of the Dakota Farmers Alliance in the early 1880’s.16 The Alliance sought, according to its constitution, “protection against … the encroachments of concentrated capital.” Its slogan was a “free market.” It failed in its effort to build a terminal elevator in Minneapolis, tried co-operative purchasing and insurance with some success, and agitated against railroad and grain-elevator abuses. The Alliance went into politics, formed the Independent party, and elected many legislators and, in 1892, a governor. But its legislative efforts against exploitation were a failure; generally the laws it secured were defective; sometimes they were stolen after their passage but before the governor could sign them. This was a scandalous but common maneuver by the McKenzie machine — the unscrupulous minions of the “interests” exploiting the state.17

The Farmers Alliance and the Independent party died, but radicalism persisted. In 1906 a combination of Democrats and progressive Republicans overthrew the McKenzie machine by electing “Honest John” Burke as governor. They re-elected Burke twice, and in 1909 the legislature enacted a broad Progressive program.18

In 1915 the Nonpartisan League took up the battle against exploitation by the “interests,” or “Big Biz” as they were pictured in the League cartoons. In 1918 the League gained complete control of the state government. Its platform, enacted to bring a “New Day” to North Dakota, launched the state upon a program of state socialism with a state-owned bank with a farm mortgage department, a state mill and elevator, a state-owned home building association, and a state hail insurance plan.19 North Dakotans opposed entry into the First World largely because war seemed to mean profits for the hated “interests.”20

Since 1921, when the Nonpartisan League lost control of the state government, a series of organizations have led the fight against outside exploitation. Through most of the 1920’s the North Dakota Wheat Growers Association sought a fair price for the farmer through wheat pools. In the 1930’s the more militant North Dakota Farmers Union and the Farm Holiday Association became active, and William Langer revived the Nonpartisan League. Langer’s moratorium on farm debts was important, but probably the greatest successes were achieved by the Farmers Union with the passage of anti-corporation farming and anti-deficiency judgment laws and the growth of its co-operative elevator and oil companies. The Farmers Union was more successful in organizing the farmers in North Dakota than in any other state.

From 1941 to 1957 the number of stockholders in co-operatives in North Dakota increased three-fold and the amount of business transacted four-fold. In 1957 North Dakota co-operatives transacted over $283,000,000 worth of business, a sum equal to about half of the annual cash farm income of the state.21 The growth of co-operatives is the result of a determined effort by North Dakotans to control the markets in which they buy and sell. It is now the most important expression of the theme of radicalism.

Many North Dakota conservatives and businessmen believe that there is a threat to their own businesses and to free enterprise in general in the growth of Farmers Union co-operatives. But throughout the history of the state all classes have been influenced or infected, by the spirit of radicalism. In North Dakota even the conservatives have been liberal and progressive in their outlook. Rich and poor, businessmen, professional men, and farmers — all have taken part in movements against outside exploitation.

A roster of the active leaders in the battle illustrates the point. George Winship was the editor and owner of the Grand Forks Herald; John Burke was a welt-paid attorney of Devils Lake; Asle J. Gronna a wealthy businessman of Lakota; Eli Shortridge and John Miller successful farmers; Edwin F. Ladd a professor of chemistry at the Agricultural College; Charles Fremont Amidon a federal district judge. Winship long preached Robert M. La Follette’s reforms in the Herald; the progressives made Burke governor three times; Gronna, though first sent to Congress by the McKenzie machine, became a close associate of the radical La Follette in the Senate. The Alliance made Miller and Shortridge governors. Ladd crusaded tirelessly against exploitation through adulteration by manufacturers and fought for wheat grades based on protein content. Amidon powerfully aided Ladd and the radical cause in general by his court decisions.

For years the whole state seethed with anger at the cheating practices of the grain trade, at the extortionate interest rates charged by money lenders, at the high freight rates and ruthless tactics of the mighty railroad corporations. In 1887 the Right Reverend William D. Walker, Episcopal bishop of North Dakota, was so infected by the radical spirit of the time that he referred to bankers as “human vampires” in an address to a church convocation.22

In such an emotional climate of opinion persons usually thought of as conservatives made valuable contributions to the revolt against outside exploitation. James J. Hill, president of the Great Northern, liked to boast of his repeated voluntary railroad rate reductions. In 1906 the North Dakota Bankers Association began an investigation of the grain trade which led to the proposal for a state-controlled terminal elevator.23 Rangvold Nestos, elected governor by opponents of the League in 1921, completed the construction of the State Mill and Elevator. It was the conservative governors George Shafer, John Moses, and Fred Aandahl who made a financial success of that experiment in state socialism. George Duis, wealthy Grand Forks businessman, started the North Dakota Wheat Growers Association. The Fargo Chamber of Commerce led the fight for lower railroad rates in the famous Fargo Rate Case of 1925, and the Greater North Dakota Association, a union of conservative business interests, has also helped to secure very important rate reductions. 24 The North Dakota Bankers Association has repeatedly won national recognition for its members’work in promoting the well-being of the farmers.

Such efforts came from the universal recognition of the necessity of raising and stabilizing the income of North Dakota. Throughout its history the state has occupied a position of economic disadvantage. Economic disadvantage, the fourth great theme of North Dakota history, is the result of two facts: the subhumid nature of the country and the dominance of agriculture in the state’s economy. In common with most raw-materials-producing regions, it suffers from a relatively low income. The plain but disagreeable fact is that farmers are not so well compensated for their efforts as are men in other occupations.

In 1954, for example, about 55 per cent of North Dakota farm families had a net cash income of less than $2,500, or less than enough for a minimum satisfactory American standard of living. In 1950 40.5 per cent of all families and unrelated individuals in North Dakota had incomes of less than $2,000; a larger percentage of farm families than urban families were in this group. In 1955 the net farm income in North Dakota per farm, after the deduction of operation expenses, was $2706. 25 Since an average of two persons worked on each farm, the average net income per farm worker was only $1353. This was about what farm workers earned in other states but it was only a third of the average income received in the nation by workers in manufacturing, transportation, wholesale trade, finance, and public administration.26 The difference in income is a shocking fact of the greatest importance in the history of North Dakota—the most agricultural state in the nation.

Besides this constant economic disadvantage, North Dakota has suffered from wide fluctuations in crop yields (often caused by drought), wide fluctuations in farm income. The wheat yield has ranged from a low of 19,235,000 bushels in 1936 to a high of 156,321,000 bushels in 1944; wheat prices from a low of $0.36 a bushel in 1932 to a high of $2.53 in 1947; cash farm income from a low of $60,729,000 in 1932 to a high of $704,366,000 in 1948.27

As these statistics suggest, the theme of economic disadvantage runs through the North Dakota story. To a considerable extent the history of the state is the history of hard times. When the nation has suffered from depression, North Dakota has usually suffered more intensely. But when the nation has prospered, North Dakota has not always shared in the prosperity. The Indians and the fur traders lived a life in which feasting and starving alternated rapidly. When the agricultural settlers came in the early 1870’s, grasshoppers soon ate up the crops and a national depression stopped railroad construction and settlement. The Great Dakota Boom (1879-86) ended with drought, poor crops, poor prices, and the exodus of many discouraged people. The hard times lasted from 1886 to 1899 when the second boom began.

The golden 1920’s, prosperous in the nation, were in North Dakota a time of modest yields, poor wheat prices, wholesale bank failures, and the loss of many farms by foreclosure. In the terrible 1930’s North Dakota reeled from a one-two punch of drought and depression: a third to a half of the population was on relief; thousands lost their farms; in 1933 the per capita personal income was $190 or only slightly more than half the national average of $368. The greatest prosperity the state has ever known began in 1942, but only once in these prosperous years (1947) has the per capita income in the state been above the national average. Often it has been only about two-thirds of that level.28

Low and fluctuating income made the fifth great theme, the Too-Much Mistake, all the more serious. This theme, like the position of economic disadvantage, is tied to the fact that North Dakota is a cool, subhumid grassland - a natural spring wheat country. Light rainfall and frequent drought result in a low average yield per acre. Large farms, an extensive agriculture with a large use of machines, and consequently a sparse, thinly spread farm population are wise adjustments to the nature of the country.

A few facts will demonstrate how this has worked out in the state. In 1957 North Dakota was fourth among the states in acres of crops harvested but only ninth in farm income from crops.29 Iowa with 30 inches of rainfall a year has an average farm size of 176 acres; North Dakota with 17 inches of rainfall has an average farm size 676 acres, a round 500 acres larger than Iowa. Subhumid North Dakota produces on an average only half as many bushels of wheat per acre as humid Ohio. The North Dakota countryside, excluding the towns and villages, has a population of less than four persons per square mile.

These conditions are responses to the subhumid grassland. But pioneers whose whole experience had been in regions with plenty of rain settled North Dakota. They knew nothing of the imperatives of this strange new country. Rushing in with a heady optimism, the pioneers — investors, railroad builders, town founders, missionaries, and constitution makers as well as farmers-set about developing it as though it were the same sort of country as they were familiar with in the humid East — capable of producing as much per acre and of supporting as dense a population with all its accompanying paraphernalia of civilization.

Again and again they made the Too-Much Mistake—truly one of the great themes of North Dakota history. The pioneers, encouraged by the Homestead Act, cut the grassland into too many farms and too many people moved onto the land. The railroad promoters laid too many miles of track and started too many towns. The lawmakers organized too many local governmental units—townships, counties, school districts, and eventually a complex, overlapping maze of state agencies. They laid out too many miles of roads, set up too many schools, colleges, churches, and banks. 30 There were too many because, after many of the original settlers had left the subhumid grassland, there were too few people to be served and too few people to bear the costs. 31

The Too-Much Mistake was a compound of several things — developments that influenced farming in the whole nation, the subhumid nature of North Dakota, and the inevitable bewilderment of pioneers in a strange country. New farm machinery and the internal combustion engine in auto, truck, and tractor changed farming and reduced the farm population everywhere in the nation. So everywhere some of the rural roads, churches, schools, railroad branch lines, and villages that once had been essential were no longer so. But in North Dakota and in the Great Plains generally the problem was much more serious and the cutting back of the excess supply much more drastic.

The pioneers of North Dakota and the Great Plains made the Too-Much Mistake in part because they were not familiar with the subhumid country. Their whole experience in life had been in humid regions. The importance of this fact is one of the central ideas of the two outstanding books on the region: Walter P. Webb’s The Great Plains and Carl F. Kraenzel’s The Great Plains in Transition.

Moreover, the land laws of the United States that largely set the original size of farms were passed by a Congress which knew nothing of the western country. The Homestead Act of 1862, under which much of North Dakota passed into private ownership, provided for farms of only 160 acres—much too small for the subhumid region. In 1878 John Wesley Powell, the first man to see that the subhumid West needed different institutions than the humid East, recommended homesteads of four sections (2560 acres) but Congress turned down his recommendation.

The proof that the Too-Much Mistake was a real mistake lies simply in the evidence of too little use, of too heavy cost per capita — needs pressing too hard upon limited income, and, most irrefutably, in the record of retrenchment and abandonment. The basic mistake was too many small farms — farms too small for a family to make a living on in a subhumid country. This was in part the fault of the Homestead Act. But many pioneers did not take an additional 160 acres under the Timber Culture Act and another 160 acres under the Pre-emption Act which they could have had; their farms were often smaller than they needed to be. In 1920, after thousands of farms had already disappeared and thousands of families had left the farming country, there still were 77,690 farms in North Dakota with an average size of 466 acres and a farm population of 395,000. Then agriculture became more mechanized, farms were enlarged, and the farm population inevitably declined. In 1955 there were only 61,943 farms, with an average size of 676 acres, and a farm population of less than 250,000.32

With the advent of the automobile and the sharp decline in farm population, North Dakota had far more of many things than it needed. By 1915 the state had three times as many miles of railroads in proportion to its population as the United States as a whole had, creating a problem of small use and high cost; by the 1950’s North Dakota had almost six times as much railroad mileage in proportion to its population as the nation.33

There were also more small towns than could thrive. After 1930 half the towns were losing population; the smaller the town the more likely it was to decline.34 Many country churches closed. By 1945 the Methodists had abandoned 49 per cent of the 131 places where they were conducting religious services in 1897. By 1953 the Presbyterians had still open only 102 of the over 300 churches that they had organized in the state. In 1916 the Episcopal Church had parishes or organized missions with church buildings in 48 places; by 1958 it had abandoned 21 of these.35 The number of newspapers in the state declined from 357 in 1911 to 120 in 1958.36 In 1920 North Dakota had 898 banks, more in proportion to its population than any other state; in 1958 it had only 154 banks — 744 had disappeared. 37

Some that disappeared had doubtless once been justified, but many others had been founded in anticipation of needs which never developed. In 1942 the state government had over sixty agencies, many of them working in overlapping fields; Governor John Moses called it “a hodge-podge.”38 In 1958 government work (all kinds - federal, state, local, schools, health, highway, etc.) is the second largest class of nonagricultural employment in North Dakota, standing only below trade.39 About a fourth of the nonagricultural workers are employed by government or almost an eighth of all employed persons in the state.

Roads and schools, the most costly of government services, are absolute necessities, yet in a sparsely settled country the financial burden of maintaining them becomes very heavy and their use can be but small. North Dakota has about 114,000 miles of rural roads, or almost a mile per family or two miles per farm. Some 43,000 miles are unimproved prairie trails on which no money has ever been spent. In 1952 North Dakota had fewer persons and fewer automobiles per mile of rural road than any neighboring state. In 1941 Governor Moses, worrying about highway finance, told the legislature: “We are maintaining the largest highway system in point of mileage per car of any state in the union.” Yet in 1952 25,000 miles carried 85 per cent of all rural travel, and the remaining 89,000 miles only 15 per cent.

Though many roads are little used, they have cost much money. By 1957 North Dakota had spent about $320,000,000, a staggering sum, on rural highway construction. Yet the state had only 3,955 miles of hard-surfaced rural highways. The funds had been spread over a great mileage, mostly for grading and graveling. Proper maintenance of such a large mileage is very difficult; in 1957 almost half of the 6,484 miles in the state highway system, the best cared for in the state, was in poor condition.

Does the state need all its rural roads? In 1946 there were only 29,171 miles of rural postal routes in North Dakota, yet these routes presumably reached virtually every farm home. In 1952 a painstaking study of North Dakota highways, prepared for the Legislative Research Committee, recommended that the state highway system be reduced by more than one-third - from 6,844 to 4,200 miles of rural roads. The study also estimated that a third of the 46,000 miles of township roads only duplicated the service of other roads and so were little used and unnecessary.40

In the schools a similar situation prevails. There are, and long have been, too many schools with low enrollments and high costs per pupil. One result has been the disappearance of many of them. In 1920 there were 4,372 one-room schools in North Dakota; in 1957 there were 2,075. In 1956-57 North Dakota ranked fourth among the states in percentage of personal income payments spent on education; yet it was only 44th in salaries paid to teachers. In 1957-58 half of the 380 four-year high schools had less than fifty pupils. Education costs in these small high schools, considered the weakest point in the educational system by State Superintendent of Public Instruction M.F. Peterson, ran as high as $1050 per pupil per year. 41 Some sort of adjustment is needed in the matter of the small and hence expensive high schools, in the maintenance of expensive roads for the use of a few, and in many other problems created by the sparseness of the population.

Adjustment to conditions created by the cool, subhumid grassland is the sixth great theme in the history of the state. Retrenchment — the cutting back of the excess in farms, schools, banks, towns, newspapers, and churches — has been a necessary but painful and negative sort of adjustment. It has come more rapidly in private than in government areas: unsound banks soon closed but in North Dakota no county — however uneconomical because of its small population — has been consolidated with another. Private colleges have closed but none of the state colleges. It has taken nearly fifty years to make much progress in school district reorganization, but a measure for statewide redistricting was defeated on November 4, 1958.

Many adjustments, however, to life on the subhumid grassland have come. Long ago the native plant and animal life adapted itself to the necessities of the cold, dry, level plain; they became sparing in the use of water, great travelers (tumbleweed and buffalo alike); they gathered into flocks or herds or large plant communities; they went underground to escape cold and enemies.42 To counteract the remoteness and isolation of the vast grassland, the people have been quick to make use of horses (a great boon to the Plains Indians), keelboats, canoes, steamboats, railroads, and automobiles. All these means of conquering distance have played an unusually significant part in the history of the state. At an early date North Dakotans, along with the other people of the North Central states, had more automobiles in proportion to the population than the people in other sections. In 1956 North Dakotans were still 21 percent ahead, owning 467 motor vehicles per thousand persons to 385 per thousand in the United States.43

Farmers have adapted their practices to the nature of the country. They have concentrated on wheat, other small grains, and cattle—natural products for a cool, subhumid grassland. They have steadily enlarged their farms, from an average of 271 acres in 1880 to 676 in 1955. More and more they have adopted practices to conserve soil and water and to check the damage of wind and drought. In the good times since 1942 they have rapidly built up financial reserves to protect themselves against future reverses. By the end of 1945 North Dakotans owned $398,000,000 worth of government bonds and had bank deposits of $425,000,000. In 1958 they had bank deposits of $696,000,000 and the state itself holds reserves in various special funds of almost $140,000,000 in cash and securities.

In other ways North Dakotans have made great progress in the prosperous years since 1945. They have steadily earned a gross farm income per farm well above the national average. They have sharply reduced farm tenancy and farm mortgage indebtedness. They have created a more diversified agricultural economy. They have increased farm facilities, most notably in electrification. They have had a part, along with outsiders and outside capital, in creating an oil industry in the state and in the building of Garrison Dam. They have built many miles of hard-surfaced highways, many homes, many schools, many hospitals and other public buildings. They have greatly improved the treatment of the mentally ill. Through the Legislative Research Committee they are making real progress in dealing with many problems of the state government. They are sending their children to college in increasing numbers. They have increased pensions for the aged, given generous medical care to dependent persons, and in other ways made advances in creating a more decent and humane society. All these things are related to a better adjustment to the imperatives of the subhumid grassland; they are matters for pride and satisfaction on the part of all North Dakotans. It is significant, however, that much of the progress has been the result of federal programs and federal money. In 1957 the federal government returned to North Dakota in the form of grants 71 per cent of the federal tax collections in the state. This percentage was larger than for any other state except South Dakota.44

For all this recent progress and largely because of the subhumid character of the country, opportunities in North Dakota, both in agriculture and other pursuits, have been and still are limited. For many people the adjustment has been simply to leave the state. People began to leave in substantial numbers even before 1915 when the last free land was taken up. From then until 1930 the population grew at only about a third of the rate of natural increase. From 1930 to 1950 the population actually declined. In 1950 45.5 per cent of the people born in North Dakota were living outside state. Only two other states have a higher percentage who have left their native state.45

Over 360,000 native-born North Dakotans live in other states. They left to seek opportunities North Dakota could not offer. Many have made distinguished names for themselves. What Eric Severeid, the distinguished radio and television news commentator, has written of his native Velva is true for many another town in North Dakota: “Hungry young brains must have food to work on and Velva cannot provide it; it has not the industries, the laboratories, the law courts and colleges for young brains to flourish and ambitions come true...For Velva is small, the world calls, the gate is open and they are young; go they must and always will.”46

The heavy loss of population has stimulated efforts to give the state a more diversified economy. Diversification would create more opportunities and start the population rising again. Diversification would also modify North Dakota’s status as a colonial hinterland, help to raise it from its position of economic disadvantage, and possibly make it more conservative. Irrigation, long promoted but slow in coming, would further diversify agriculture and increase the farm population. For many years the hope, yet to be realized, has been that lignite, by furnishing cheap power, would bring industry to North Dakota. The development of the oil industry has been a step, and perhaps the St. Lawrence Seaway will hasten industrialization.

Remoteness, dependence, radicalism, economic disadvantage, the Too-Much Mistake, and adjustment: such, I believe, are the six great themes of the state’s most significant experiences. I have tried to show that they spring from the fundamentals — the cool, subhumid grassland at the center of the continent, that they are tied to one another, and that they run through the state’s history, virtually from the beginning to the present day. They represent my understanding of the North Dakota story — the story of a big spring wheat country. They are hard, disagreeable truths — hurting our self-esteem; yet, I believe, we must face them honestly if we would use the lessons of the past to make a better future.

One thing more, however, remains to be said. The themes, the fundamentals, and probably the winnowing process of pioneer settlement itself have placed a stamp upon the people, producing the North Dakota character. What is the typical North Dakotan? He is, I believe, friendly and warm-hearted — ready to lend a helping hand.47 He has a strong loyalty to the state. He is democratic, suspicious of the “interests,” and something of a radical. He has an independent, courageous, stubborn, and aggressive spirit; he admires a fighter. He can endure hardship and suffering, and these have often made him pessimistic and cautious. He is an energetic person, full of bustle, and takes pride in withstanding the rigors of the North Dakota weather. He is intelligent and alert. Perhaps none of us are exactly the typical North Dakotan, yet I believe that we all share many of his qualities and attitudes.

Indeed, we can scarcely help ourselves, for they spring from the North Dakota experience and environment. Remoteness with its inevitable isolation placed a premium on friendliness and courage — the great virtue of the wilderness with all its dangers. Dependence made the North Dakotan radical, suspicious of the “interests,” aggressive, independent, and a loyal member of a self-conscious minority group. The position of economic disadvantage accustomed him to hardship; retrenchment after the Too-Much Mistake made him pessimistic and cautious. The cool, dry climate is responsible for his unusual energy, and perhaps a combination of the original stock, the invigorating climate, and challenging conditions gave him a high level of intelligence.

There is much evidence that these qualities and attitudes are fairly typical of North Dakotans. In 1933 North Dakota ranked a proud fifteenth among the states on an index of cultural development prepared by Frederic Osburn of the American Museum of Natural History of New York City. Osburn used such things as intelligence test scores, illiteracy rates, teachers’ salaries, and magazine subscriptions to construct the index. By it North Dakota, for all its position of economic disadvantage, ranked ahead of, among others, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. 48 In 1956 only five states had a smaller percentage than North Dakota of selective service registrants disqualified by the mental test.49 The distinguished achievements of many University alumni and other native sons and daughters tell something of the capacity of the people from whom they sprang.

The character of a people may be reflected by the character of their leading men — if you will, their heroes. It is significant, I believe, that for many years tens of thousands of North Dakotans admired the courageous, crusading reformers Edwin F. Ladd, Theodore Roosevelt, “Fighting Bob” La Follette, and Bill Lemke.

Friendliness, courage, energy, loyalty, radicalism as it was in North Dakota — a militant fight for simple justice and a stubborn independence of spirit — these are good words; the North Dakotans whom they describe were and are a good people. You and I — native or adopted children — can well be proud of our heritage as we face the problems confronting us.


*Dr. Robinson is professor of history at the University of North Dakota. The article is a revision of an address read on November 6, 1958, at the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Conference of the University. Return to text

1 Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York, 1920); Walter Prescott, The Great Plains (Boston, l931); Carl Frederick Kraenzel, The Great Plains in Transition (Norman, Oklahoma, 1955); Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Frontier (Cambridge, Mass., 1952). These books are great landmarks in the thinking about the West; I am applying some of their ideas to the history of North Dakota. I also owe much to masters’ theses and doctoral dissertations and to my colleagues Professors Louis G. Geiger and Robert P. Wilkins. A recent stimulating article is Walter P. Webb, “The American West: Perpetual Mirage,” Harper’s Magazine, Vol. 214. (May, 1957), pp. 25-31. Return to text

2 Differences in land use are shown in Fred R. Taylor, C.J. Heltemes, and R.F. Engelking, North Dakota Agricultural Statistics, North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and U.S. Agricultural Marketing Service, Bulletin 408 (Fargo, June, 1957), pp. 10-13. This valuable booklet is hereafter cited as North Dakota Agricultural Statistics. There is much data by counties and divisions of the state in North Dakota Crop and Livestock Reporting Service, North Dakota Crop & Livestock Statistics, 1957 (Fargo, April, 1958); a map on p. 8 shows that April-September precipitation (40-year average) ranges from 10.75 inches in Williams County to 15.95 inches in Richland County. The counties in the eastern half of the state averaged 13 or more inches of rainfall in the growing season; the counties in the western half from 11 to nearly 13 inches. There is a wealth of valuable data in Frank J. Bavendick, Climate and Weather in North Dakota (Bismarck, 1952). A map in Harold V. Knight, Grass Roots: The Story of the North Dakota Farmers Union (Jamestown, 1947), p. 70, shows that the Farmers Union in 1947 was, with some exceptions, more strongly organized in the western counties than in the eastern counties. William E. Koenker, “Changes in North Dakota Agriculture, 1950-1954,” North Dakota Business (University of North Dakota), II, No. 5 (May, 1956), shows a substantial variation in income from farms among the different counties of the state. Return to text

3 Allan Filley, “Economic Impact of the St. Lawrence Seaway,” North Dakota Business, IV, No. 2 (Jan., 1958), p. 4. Return to text

4 Eliot Coues (ed.), New Light on the Early History of the Great Northwest (3 vols.; New York, 1897), I, 264. Return to text

5 Elwyn B. Robinson, “Lewis & Clark — the North Dakota Phase,” North Dakota Quarterly (University of North Dakota), XXIV (Winter, 1956), 8, 10-11. Return to text

6 A notable description of the fundamentals is given by Paul R. Fossum, The Agrarian Movement in North Dakota (“Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science,” Vol. XLIII, No. 1; Baltimore, 1925), pp. 28-31; see also Henrietta M. Larson, The Wheat Market and the Farmer in Minnesota (“Columbia University Studies in History, Economics, and Public Law,” Vol. CXXII, No. 2; New York, 1926). Return to text

7 Howard Roberts Lamar, Dakota Territory, 1861-1889: A Study of Frontier Politics (New Haven, 1956), pp. 190-93, 209-10, 241. Return to text

8 Official Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of North Dakota (Bismarck,1889), p. 425. Return to text

9 Robert S. Henry, “The Railroad Land Grant Legend in American History Texts,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XXXIII (Sept., 1945), p. 194. Return to text

10 Kenneth J. Carey, “Alexander McKenzie” (unpublished M. A. thesis, University of North Dakota, 1949), passim; Lamar, p. 216. Return to text

11 Clement A. Lounsberry, Early History of North Dakota (Washington, D.C., 1919), p. 398-99. In 1885 Theodore Roosevelt drew up in New York City the bylaws of the Little Missouri River Stockmen’s Association (Ray H. Mattison, “Roosevelt and the Stockmen’s Association,” North Dakota History, XVII (April, 1950), 89). Return to text

12 Country banks in North Dakota regularly borrowed from the Twin City banks. Later many of the larger banks in North Dakota became affiliated with the Northwest Bank Corporation, controlled by the Northwestern National Bank in Minneapolis, or the First Bank Stock Corporation, controlled by the stockholders of the First National Bank of St. Paul and the First National Bank of Minneapolis (William E. Koenker, “Banking Trends in North Dakota, 1922-1947” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, Columbus, 1949), pp. 111-l3; Charles S. Popple, Development of Two Bank Groups in the Central Northwest (Cambridge, Mass., 1944)). Return to text

13 James W. Beck, “The Post-War North Dakota Economy,” North Dakota Business, V, No. 1 (Oct., 1958), 1. Return to text

14 Robert H. Bahmer, “The Economic and Political Background of the Nonpartisan League” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, University of Minnesota, 1941), pp. 220-74, esp. 249. Duluth and Superior were also important to North Dakota but did not have nearly the importance of the Twin Cities. In occupying a colonial status North Dakota shares the experience of most regions. For centuries the Americas were colonies of Europe, subject to decisions in Madrid, Paris, or London. Within the United States the South was long subject to Northern centers of industry, trade, and finance; the Erie Canal and then the railroads made much of the region about the Great Lakes a hinterland of New York City; the Twin Cities themselves were, of course, subordinate to New York and Chicago. As North Dakotans went hat in hand to James J. Hill, so Hill went hat in hand to J. P. Morgan. Return to text

15 Coues, I, 105, 251. Return to text

16 Strong resentment at colonial status had been expressed earlier. In 1877 the Yankton Press and Dakotaian exclaimed: “We are so heartily disgusted with our dependent condition, with being snubbed at every turn in life, with having all our interest subjected to the whims and corrupt acts of persons in power that we feel very much as the thirteen colonies felt when they flung away their dependent condition and asserted their position among nations” (quoted in Lamar, p. 205). When a leader stirred up a revolt in Egypt, the Grand Forks Herald, Dec. 13, 1882, expressed its sympathy with a local twist: “Arabi Pasha feels like a Dakota patriot. He was oppressed by carpet-baggers, and assigns it as the principal cause of his rebellion. He howls, ... and there is a grand army of Dakota victims who can come in with ‘amens’” (Note from Dr. Robert P. Wilkins). Return to text

17 Glenn L. Brudvig, “The Farmers’ Alliance and Populist Movement in North Dakota (1884-1896)” (unpublished M. A. thesis, Department of History, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, 1956) covers the subject thoroughly. Return to text

18 Charles N. Glaab, “The Revolution of 1906-N.D. vs. McKenzie,” North Dakota Quarterly, XXIV (Fall, 1956), pp. 101-109; Charles N. Glaab, “John Burke and the North Dakota Progressive Movement: 1906-1912” (unpublished M. A. thesis, History Department, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, 1952). Return to text

19 Robert L. Morlan, Political Prairie Fire: The Nonpartisan League, 1915-1922 (Minneapolis, 1955). Return to text

20 Robert P. Wilkins, “North Dakota and the European War, 1914-1917” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, West Virginia University, Morgantown, 1954). Return to text

21 N.D. Department of Agriculture and Labor, Division of Cooperatives, Sixteenth Annual Statistical Report, 1957, p. 15. Return to text

22 Protestant Episcopal Church, Missionary District of North Dakota, Journal of Convocation, 1887, p. 31, in a note from Dr. Robert P. Wilkins who is writing a history of the Protestant Episcopal Church in North Dakota to be published in May, 1959. Bishop Walker said in part: “You and I know how thoroughly this whole territory is loaded with mortgage; how merchant, farmer, professional man, mechanic, politician, is at the mercy of shy-lock money-loaners who, by a pleasing fiction, are called bankers. You know how men are straining every nerve to pay ruinous interest and bonuses; how families are comfortless and homes are ragged and hearts are weary, because these human vampires have fastened themselves on the very hearth-stones.” Return to text

23 Bahmer, pp. 243-64. Return to text

24 North Dakotan (Greater North Dakota Association, Fargo) XV, No. 10 (Oct., 1940), p. 3, has a valuable summary of fourteen rate cases brought by business organizations since 1930. It stated that these reductions had saved North Dakota $125,946,226, and boasted that business men had saved the state these millions while the “professional saviors of the farmer” were only making promises. Return to text

25 William E. Koenker, “Changes in North Dakota Agriculture, 1950-1954”, North Dakota Business, II, No. 5 (May, 1956); U.S. Bureau of Census, United States Census of Population; 1950, Vol. II, General Characteristics, Part 34, North Dakota, p. 25; North Dakota Agricultural Statistics, p. 76. Return to text

26 U.S. Bureau of Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1957, p. 315. Return to text

27 North Dakota Agricultural Statistics, pp. 17, 71, 79. Return to text

28 James W. Beck, “The Post-War North Dakota Economy,” North Dakota Business, V, No. 1. (Oct., 1958); Statistical Abstract, 1948, p. 279, 1957, p. 303. In 1945 the per capita personal income in North Dakota was $1,009, in the U.S. $1234; in 1950 the per capita personal income in North Dakota was $1260, in the U.S. $1491; in 1953 $1228 in N.D., $1788 in U.S.; in 1954 $1195 in N.D., $1767 in U.S.; in 1955 $1372 in N.D., $1847 in U.S. Per capita personal income by North Dakota counties is shown in Glen A. Mumey, “Estimated Incomes of North Dakota Counties, 1955,” North Dakota Business, III, No. 3 (March, 1957 ). In 1955 the per capita personal income ranged from an average of $870 in Rolette County to $2000 in Cass County. Return to text

29 North Dakota Crop and Livestock Reporting Service, North Dakota Crop and Livestock Statistics, 1957, p. 48. Return to text

30 In 1895 Governor Eli C.D. Shortridge told the legislature that the state had more public institutions than it needed or could support (North Dakota Legislative Assembly, House Journal, 1895, pp. 18-22). C.A. Armstrong in his History of the Methodist Church in North Dakota (Fargo, 1946), pp. 20, 34-36, has told something of the process and results. The missionaries of the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists were, Armstrong wrote, in “a wild, scramble to hold the first service in as many towns as possible.” One Methodist missionary, Jabez G. Moore, helped to build seventy churches and seventy-two parsonages. The first services were held in stores, dance halls, pool rooms, barns, and tents. It was easy to establish churches even though a community held few church members. “The country was new, people optimistic in support of new things. Townsite companies gave free lots to all churches. The lumber yards were trusting and willing to sell lumber for a new church on a promise, or less, in many cases. The Mission Boards had funds from eastern donors to convert the Indians, the cowboys, and the outlaws of the new west. The result was that many churches were built on less than a ’shoe string,’and located where there were few members and no permanent constituency.” Armstrong concluded that the “extravagant waste of missionary funds was one of the major scandals of religion in our state. The petty proselyting, the heartaches of defeated ministers and church boards, the weakened and divided state of religion in the community, the rush to be first to call on the new family in the community, the accusations and counter accusations, were repeated in community after community.” It is difficult to read Armstrong’s account and not believe that the Too-Much Mistake was a reality. Return to text

31 The Too-Much Mistake theme is not an attack upon the pioneers. We shall long remember that with hardship and toil they brought the panoply of civilization to the vast, empty grassland. But no one can foresee the future clearly; few can adapt to strange, new conditions without some suffering. Unless we today see the Too-Much Mistake clearly, we will not understand one of the significant aspects of the state’s history. We are still making adjustments to correct the Too-Much Mistake and we are still constantly in danger of making it again. There is scarcely a message of a governor to the legislature from 1889 to the present that does not by its exhortations for economy, by implication if not directly, give warning of the danger. Return to text

32 North Dakota Agriculture Statistics, p. 9; Baldur H. Kristjanson and C.J. Heltemes, Handbook of Facts about North Dakota Agriculture, North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin 357 (Fargo, June, 1950), p. 90; U.S. Census of Population: 1950, Vol. II, Characteristics of the Population, Part 34, North Dakota, p. 25. In 1950 the rural farm population in North Dakota was 254,487. Return to text

33 Statistical Abstract, 1957, p. 563. Return to text

34 U. S. Census of Population: 1950, Vol. I, Number of Inhabitants, Part 34, North Dakota, pp. 18-19. Return to text

35 C.A. Armstrong, pp. 35-37, 77-86; Marian E. McKechnie, “Spiritual Pioneering: A History of the Synod of North Dakota, Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., 1885-1954” (unpublished M. A. thesis, History Department, University of North Dakota, 1955), pp. 67, 125, 126; note from Dr. Robert P. Wilkins. Apparently the Lutheran and Roman Catholics did not have to close nearly as large a proportion of their churches as did those mentioned which suffered as many pioneers of Canadian and older American stocks left the state. The Lutherans of the Missouri Synod had 171 congregations and preaching stations in 1917 and 136 in 1952 (Lambert J. Mehl, “Missouri Grows to Maturity in North Dakota: A Regional History of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod” (unpublished M. A. thesis, Department of History, University of North Dakota, 1953), 182-83). In 1926 there were 2,272 churches in North Dakota; in the next ten years 721 disappeared and 546 new ones were established, so in 1936 there were 2,097 churches (Donald G. Hay, Social Organizations and Agencies in North Dakota, North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin 288 (Fargo, 1937), p. 40). Return to text

36 N. W. Ayer and Son’s American Newspaper Annual and Directory. Published annually in Philadelphia with some variation in title. See volumes for 1911 and 1958 under North Dakota. Return to text

37 Koenker, pp. 70-100. In pioneer days banks were often established in advance of settlement; a village of 200 might have three banks competing fiercely for deposits and in the making of loans; by 1920 North Dakota had one bank for every 750 persons. For the number of banks in 1958 see Abstract of Report of State Bank Examiner. Return to text

38 Message to the Legislature by John Moses, 1943, pp. 20-22; 1945, p. 8; Public Service Administration, The Organization and Administration of the State Government of North Dakota (2 vols.; Chicago, 1942), I, i, 2, 5, 59-60. Return to text

39 North Dakota Labor Market Trends, November 1958. This is a monthly bulletin published by the Unemployment Compensation Division and the State Employment Service, Bismarck, North Dakota. The Statistical Abstract, 1957, pp. 206-07, shows that North Dakota has a higher percentage (22.8%) of its nonagricultural workers employed by government than most of the states. Return to text

40 Highway Planning Survey of the North Dakota State Highway Department, North Dakota Highway Statistics, 1957, pp. 1, 8, 23, 28; Report of the Highway Commissioner, 1940, p. 57; North Dakota Legislative Assembly, House Journal, 1941, pp. 37-38; Automotive Safety Foundation, An Engineering Study of North Dakota’s Roads and Streets, prepared for the North Dakota Legislative Research Committee (Bismarck, 1952), pp. 26, 57-70; Automotive Safety Foundation, Better Roads for North Dakota, prepared for the North Dakota Legislative Research Committee (Bismarck, 1952); James C. Nelson, Financing North Dakota Highways, Roads and Streets, prepared for the North Dakota Legislative Research Committee (Bismarck, 1952), p. 4; Statistical Abstract, 1948, p. 489. The rural postal routes amount to nearly one mile for each two farms. Farms now average over a square mile, so a mile of highway could serve two farms, or theoretically, 35,000 miles of highway could about connect each of the 70,054 square miles of land surface in the state with towns. At present 6,484 miles of rural roads are in the state system and 17,582 miles in the county system. The remainder are under the care of the townships or are uncared for prairie trails. In 1957 townships spent $4,212,100 for highway purposes, counties spent $12,220,777, and the state spent $30,327,319 (North Dakota Highway Statistics, 1957, pp. 8, 23, 28). Rural roads, the most costly public service in the state, cost much more than public education in North Dakota. In fiscal 1957 the public elementary and high schools cost $36,912,795; and half the biennial appropriation for higher education was $5,904,626. Department of Public Instruction, Summary of Facts, as of June 30, 1957; North Dakota Legislative Assembly, Session Laws, 1955, p. 73. Return to text

41 “Educational Statistics of Interest of North Dakota Teachers,” North Dakota Teacher, XXXVII, No. 7 (March, 1958), 18-20; Richard B. Klein, “The Future is Now,” ibid., pp. 24-25; John C. Brady and James Thornton, “A Review of Education in North Dakota,” College of Education Record (University of North Dakota), XLII, No. 4 (Jan., 1957). Return to text

42 Wallace Craig, “North Dakota Life; Plant, Animal and Human,” Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, XL (July, 1908), 321-415, is a brilliant account of biological adaptations. Return to text

43 Statistical Abstract, 1922, p. 291; 1957, p. 553. Return to text

44 William E. Koenker, “Federal Tax Collections from and Payments to North Dakota,” North Dakota Business, IV, No. 3 (April, 1958). Return to text

45 Statistical Abstract, 1957, pp. 10, 11, 37. The Census Bureau has estimated that 41,000 persons left North Dakota from 1950 to 1955, but that the population of the state rose 37,000. Return to text

46 “You Can Go Home Again,” Collier’s, May 11, 1956, p. 67. Return to text

47 Here is a statistic for doubters. A sociological study found, to the surprise of the investigator, that 96 per cent of the old residents of Williston thought that the newcomers brought in by the oil boom had been accepted into the community and 95 per cent of the newcomers thought that they had been accepted (Robert B. Campbell, Samuel C. Kelley, Jr., Ross B. Talbot, and Bernt L. Wills, The Williston Report: The Impact of Oil on the Williston Area of North Dakota (University of North Dakota, 1958), pp. 129-130). Return to text

48 Sidney F. Markham, Climate and the Energy of Nations (London, 1947), p. 188. Return to text

49 North Dakota Teacher, XXXVII, No. 7 (March, 1958), 18-20. Return to text

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