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U.S.S. North Dakota

The keel of an American battleship to be named after the state of North Dakota was laid on this date in 1907. The ship was the largest ever launched in American waters at the time, measuring 510 feet in length and having a displacement of 20,000 tons. The ship was christened the U.S.S. North Dakota at her launching on November 10th the following year. Her sister ship, the U.S.S. Delaware, was being built at the same time, but was not launched until the following spring. This made the North Dakota a record-breaker in battleship construction, and the pride of North Dakota.

The christening of the ship became an occasion to celebrate, and was highly publicized. Miss Mary Benton, daughter of Colonel John Benton of Fargo, was selected by Governor John Burke to be the sponsor of the ship during the christening in Massachusetts. Miss Benton was accompanied by her chaperone, Mrs. Alice Page Nelson of Grand Forks, along with Governor Burke and a party of prominent North Dakotans. As Society Editor of the Grand Forks Herald, Mrs. Nelson was selected as a suitable chaperone by Governor Burke.

Being as publicized as it was, the christening of the battleship elicited some controversy. Under prohibition at the time, many North Dakotans felt the use of champagne for the christening to be rather inappropriate. Because of this, Elizabeth Preston, president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, wrote to Senator Hansbrough, urging him to request an alternative to the alcoholic beverage. Secretary Jackson of the Williston Commercial Club offered some water from the new Missouri irrigation plant. In the end, the ship company chose the traditional wine, but no hard feelings lingered during the joyous occasion.

President Roosevelt himself attended the christening, along with the Secretary of the Navy and a bevy of admirals and public officials. Although only 60% percent complete at the time, the launch was considered a great success, and her completion was accomplished by the following June.

Dakota Datebook by Jayme L. Job

Sources:
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. Monday (Evening ed.), October 12, 1908:p. 3.
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. Friday (Evening ed.), November 6, 1908:p. 2.

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