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Dakota Datebook: Archives Month

October is Archives Month, where archives around the country celebrate the records in their holdings and recognize the archivists who assess, collect, organize, preserve, and provide access to information of lasting value.

This special Dakota Datebook series focuses on stories from the North Dakota State Archives, which is part of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

  • Today is Halloween, a perfect time to talk about scary stories, ghosts, and old legends! The North Dakota State Archives holds many items that speak to such things. After all, history is rife with stories of the unexplained, and North Dakota is no different.
  • In early 1917, social news about the State Historical Society’s second librarian, Miss Georgia Carpenter, made the columns of the Bismarck Tribune. She was engaged to Charles Hageman of Bismarck. Charles was a travelling salesman for a Duluth hardware company. The two would be marrying in Randolph, New York, from where she hailed, although they planned to make their home in Bismarck.
  • In the early history of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, the offices were in the basement of the original Capitol. It wasn’t a lot of space, which soon became a problem. In 1913, Secretary Orin G. Libby of the State Historical Society, reported, “the crowded condition of the museum rooms… made it impossible for the Society to enter into any considerable collecting …”
  • In 1913, Orin G. Libby, secretary at the State Historical Society, reported that the curator of the society was anxious to secure representative collections illustrating the early life of the state’s various nationalities. Only one had proper representation, according to Libby; and while you might think that it was the German, Norwegian or indigenous populations, you would be incorrect. The only group reported as having good representation was the Icelandic population.
  • In 1916, Librarian Georgia Carpenter noted that in the past year, several visitors of national reputation had visited the library, including Miss Frances Densmore, known for documenting the music of indigenous peoples. She and Orin G. Libby had recorded Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan songs on wax cylinders.
  • In 1911, the State Historical Society of North Dakota had only one paid employee with an office in the capitol. In 1914, the first librarian was hired. And in November of 1915, Mrs. Katherine Jewell was hired as the first newspaper clerk.
  • Today, we recognize Georgia Carpenter, who came from out east in 1915 to become the second librarian for the North Dakota State Historical Society.
  • Herbert Fish was curator for the historical society from July 1907 until August 1915. He was a strong force, traveling the state to conduct field work, and collect documents and artifacts. When Fish resigned as curator, a number of applicants applied. One was Katherine Jewell, widow of the late Marshall Jewell, who was the second editor of the Bismarck Tribune, a position he held for more than thirty years.
  • In December of 1914, Miss Marie Simpson, who had recently been a substitute librarian at Mayville Normal School, started working for the society. According to newspapers at the time, Simpson had “a broad training in library work and also in history work, which makes her services invaluable to the society.”
  • In North Dakota, the state archives are managed by the State Historical Society. In early 1907, the society received welcome funding and some office space in the Capitol for the collections. However, by December, the Bismarck Tribune reported that the archives already needed more room and more funds, saying: “The [Society] has a good start, but we are far behind our sister states, and much of historical value that ought to be in our possession has already gone to enrich the treasures of other states.”

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, 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 Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.