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Busted for Booze

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North Dakota history includes decades of controversy and division over restrictions on Sunday shopping. The state began its existence with these so-called “Blue Laws” that included a ban on the sale of alcohol.

This week in 1909, The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican newspaper reported an account of an illegal event involving alcohol being sold in Medora, the dusty western town famously tied to the exploits of Theodore Roosevelt who spent time there before becoming president.

The story, printed under the banner of North Dakota State News, slipped in in a bit of editorial comment. It began with the headline: “Rough Rider Hotel is Raided: Enforcement League Gets Busy at Medora and Sadness Reigns.”

The article goes on to say, “The enforcement league got in its work at the Rough Rider Hotel here yesterday when the place was searched and cases of beer discovered. An injunction is now in place for the front part of the house. The Rough Rider Hotel was erected in the winter of 1884 – 85 by George Fitzgerald, and was operated as a hotel by him until the fall of the curtain in 1887.

“’Fitz’ lost it on a mortgage when it became the property of the deMores company, and remained idle for over ten years, when it was sold to one Tom Crozier, and has, in the past twelve years passed through the hands of over half a dozen parties.

“The joy of life [referring to alcohol] has always been dispensed and no one ever thought that the enforcement people would trouble this little town in the hills.

“The hotel was formally known as the Metropolitan, but after Colonel Roosevelt fought the Spanish American war, the name was changed to Rough Riders.”

The story ended with one final sentence: “It’s terribly sad.”

Dakota Datebook by Steve Stark

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, Saturday Evening, November 20, 1909.

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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