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Archives Month, Part 7

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Today we continue our series on American Archives Month. In North Dakota, the state archives are part of the State Historical Society, and while the curator of the State Historical Society was initially the only permanent member of the staff, he did end up with more assistance as librarians were hired to aid with the collections.

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.”

The need for help came in part from the massive amounts of historical information coming in. With all the classifying and copying of documents and diaries, the need of competent help was imperative. A news account from the time reported: “The society feels the need of good, strong work among the pioneers before they pass away and the sympathetic work of Miss Simpson will be of intrinsic worth to the citizens of the state in preserving the old history.”

Simpson began a catalog of the library collections and shelving those materials. Prior to this, much of the inventory had been unboxed and unavailable for viewing.

Simpson happened to be friends with Mrs. E. A. Borough, the sister of former Territorial Governor Fancher. Through this connection, the State Historical Society received a donation of the chair and gavel he had used while acting as president of the constitutional convention held in Bismarck in July 1889. This donation included a volume of the constitutional convention debates.

Simpson’s tenure turned out to be a short one. She resigned after about seven months to take a job as librarian at a newly-established state normal school in Bowling Green, Ohio, an opportunity too good to turn down. The Bismarck Tribune noted, “its prospects are wonderfully bright. Miss Simpson’s position there is considerably better than the one she has resigned. … She has demonstrated that she is a thoroughly efficient library worker … and she leaves many friends in Bismarck who wish her well in her new work.”

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


Bismarck Daily Tribune, January 8, 1911, p3

Bismarck Daily Tribune, December 3, 1914, p1

Grand Forks Daily Herald, December 2, 1914, p10

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, March 5, 1915, p2 / Jamestown Weekly Alert, March 11, 1915, p1


The Weekly Times-Record, May 13, 1915, p8

Bismarck Daily Tribune, June 15, 1915, p3

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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