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Harold Schafer, Gold Seal and Medora

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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.

After a hiatus of nearly 60 years, it would take another man’s dream, plus some wax, to bring new life to the town. Harold Schafer was selling linoleum for Fargo Paint and Glass when he noticed that the commercial grade floor waxes were superior to the products sold to “housewives.” He bought a 55-gallon drum of the better wax, then went to the “dump grounds” where he picked up discarded cans. He cleaned the cans and typed up some labels. He named the product “Gold Seal Floor Wax.”

He began by selling the wax door-to-door, but his fledgling company soon expanded, and in 1948, on this date, the first annual convention of the Gold Seal Company took place. Salesmen arrived in Bismarck from around the country including Chicago, New York, Los Angles and even Delray Beach, Florida. These were the top salesmen, and they were in Bismarck to take back some pointers, but they also took back some fond memories.

Harold Schafer had grown up in North Dakota and had come to love the Medora area. He wanted to share this affection with his salesmen as a token of his appreciation for their hard work. He contacted some rancher friends and arranged for the salesmen to experience a western-style weekend in Medora. There were few amenities as they camped out. Most had never seen a horse, let alone a cow or experienced eating from a chuck wagon and cooking over an open fire. It was hardly comparable to a fine city restaurant, but they loved it.

Some marveled at the quiet of a dark prairie night or were thrilled by the call of a coyote. And when it was over, they returned home with the incentive to excel, so they could return again. The Medora trip became a plum reward for the top Gold Seal achievers – and in turn, the town of Medora would also benefit.

The Gold Seal Company became a huge success, which allowed Harold Schafer to invest in his dream to reawaken the slumbering town.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


Interview with Former Governor Edward I Schafer June 2008.

The Bismarck Capital July 20, 1948

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.

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