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Archives Month, Part 3

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October is American 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. The North Dakota State Archives is part of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

In March 1907, Jesse A. Tanner took “temporary charge of the museum and library of the State Historical Society” which the Tribune reported had “quarters in the new wing of the Capitol.” The acting Curator was a graduate from the Valley City normal school and the University of North Dakota, and he delved into his work, which at that time was soliciting historical documents and artifacts, travelling to sites, and working with the museum and library housed in the Capitol building. He operated under a salary of $100 a month.

Tanner, like many others, had already been involved with the Historical Society. He had researched ethnicity around the state, mainly by writing letters asking people for information.* In 1905, Abbot Vincent Wehrle from St. Mary’s Abbey in Richardton responded, estimating population numbers and dates of immigration, mainly for German-Russian and Hungarian populations. He wrote: “I cannot find any great peculiarities or customs in these people. Many Americans are inclined to look upon them as a curiosity. I have the conviction that they, as a whole, are an excellent class of citizens. …. There are some peculiarities: they build mud-houses; poverty compelled them to do so; but theirs are a great deal more substantial and comfortable than the sod-houses of other people. They may have large crowds at their weddings; there they may sing and dance and perhaps drink some beer. Other people do the same without being commented on. These people are under great disadvantages; when they reach this country; they come very poor; for the rich are not in need of a new home. But it is really astonishing, how most of them have worked themselves up within a few years. … Before many years from now, the most skeptical will have to confess, that they have proved themselves a true acquisition and a blessing for our state.” [unquote]

And where can you see that letter? Why the North Dakota State Archives, of course.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

* Some of this material was to be used for the first publication done by the State Historical Society: that is the “Collections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota,” which Volume I was published June 30, 1906. Tanner’s papers were saved with those of other curators, superintendents, and directors, although some of these pre-date his brief time as temporary Curator.

State Historical Society Curator’s Correspondence Series 30205, box 1, folder 1
Bismarck Daily Tribune, April 21, 1907, p3
Bismarck Daily Tribune, March 26, 1907, p5

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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