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Dakota Datebook
6:42 am, 8:42 am, 3:50 pm*, 5:44 pm, and 7:50 pm* CT

Sitting Bull to Phil Jackson, cattle to prairie dogs, knoefla to lefse.

In partnership with the Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by the North Dakota Humanities Council, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of the North Dakota Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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  • In the deep past, a bamboo cane pole was every kid’s “starter” rod, an introduction to the lifetime sport of fishing. Little line-tangling, lots of panfish nibbling, much bobber-watching – all the delights of angling. On this date, in 1903, an article in the Cooperstown Courier compared the qualities of a cane-pole made of bamboo, imported from Japan, to those of an old-fashioned wooden pole made of hickory, ash, hazel or willow.
  • By the early 1900s, amateur mechanics in North Dakota were building their own motor cars and whizzing down dirt roads at the mindboggling speed of eight miles an hour. The other rage of the time was aviation. North Dakotans were in on that, too. In 1910, Archie Hoxey was created a sensation with the first successful North Dakota flight at Grand Forks. And there was Frances Klingensmith, the first woman in the state to get a pilot’s license. She gained national fame as a stunt pilot and a racer. Even more famous, Carl Ben Eielson is known for flying over the arctic ice caps.
  • Medora was a thriving city in 1886, nestled in the Bad Lands of Dakota Territory, but a series of events including blizzards, market fluctuations and the loss of its main supporter, the Marquis DeMores, diminished its significance to all but a small number of businessmen and area ranchers.
  • Five prohibition agents raided the ‘largest still west of Chicago’ on this date in 1932. It was on a farm five miles north of Jamestown. Special agents had suspected a still in the Jamestown vicinity since the first of July, when a truckload of corn sugar, the main ingredient of homemade moonshine, was tracked from Valley City to near Jamestown, where they lost the trail. Soon after, agents followed a truckload of piping from Fargo. Again, they lost the trail near Jamestown.
  • Last month we heard about the triumph of the Salk polio vaccine. Polio was a dreaded disease that could paralyze and even kill, and children were the most vulnerable. Before a vaccine, little could be done.
  • North Dakota is small and sparsely populated, but it has drawn a range of music acts over the years, some of them multiple times, with memorable shows. Some of those concerts have had attendance larger than some of North Dakota’s major cities.
  • On this date in 1832, George Catlin wrote to the New York Commercial Advertiser from the mouth of the Yellowstone River, saying: “The health and amusements of this delightful country render it almost painful for me to leave it. The atmosphere is so light and pure that nothing like fevers and epidemics has ever been known to prevail here – indeed it is proverbial here that a man cannot die unless he is killed by the Indians. If the Cholera should ever cross the Atlantic, what a secure, and at the same time delightful refuge this country would be for those who would be able to reach it.”
  • “The Black Death,” as the bubonic plague was called, swept Europe in the mid-14th century and killed millions of people. Hundreds of years later, North Dakota also grappled with plague.
  • North Dakotans are no strangers to severe weather. On this date in 1912, the state was dealing with the aftermath of a devastating hailstorm. The Bismarck Daily Tribune reported, “The most disastrous hailstorm in years swept this section, destroying hundreds of acres of fine grain.”
  • In 1984 president Ronald Reagan announced NASA’s newest program, the Teacher in Space Project. The program’s goal was to promote student interest in math, science, and space. Almost 11,000 teachers from across the country applied in the hopes of going into space on the shuttle Challenger. The applicants were narrowed down to two teachers per state and territory, and eventually to ten finalists.