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Baseball Sells Coal in North Dakota

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Baseball, America’s sport, was everywhere in earlier years, dotting local newspapers as professional and amateur teams played throughout the year.

On this date in 1876, the National League was established at a meeting in New York, and it remains the oldest major-league professional baseball organization in the United States. The original members of the National League were the Boston Red Stockings (now the Atlanta Braves), the Chicago White Stockings (now the Chicago Cubs), the Cincinnati Red Stockings (also the first professional baseball club in the United States), the Hartford Dark Blues, the Louisville Grays, the Mutual of New York, the Philadelphia Athletics, and the St. Louis Brown Stockings.

This was all big news in the world of baseball. And in early 1916, the Bismarck Tribune published an ad that made use of the historic 40th birthday of the league -- to sell coal! The ad read:

“…[On] February 2, the National League was organized, and baseball became the national game of the United States of America. This fact recalls to mind those men who baseball made famous—Spalding, Anson, Cy Young, Chance and the mighty Casey.” This referred to the poem, “Casey at the Bat,” where fictional ballplayer Casey, fan favorite of his town, let two balls fly by the plate and then, when he actually tried on the third ball, “mighty Casey” struck out.

The ad continued, “We’ll never forget Casey…nor the day when the jinx got him—the fatal day of the three strikes and out. With Wilton lignite, the guaranteed lignite coal, in your bin, you’ll never fear the jinx. It will be a home run for you—not a strike-out like poor old Casey. Wilton lignite costs no more than the jinx kind, the strike-out kind, and is delivered anywhere, any time, blizzard, rain, or shine.”

Just like baseball, Wilton’s lignite coal burned hot!


Chicago Daily Tribune, February 4, 1876, p4; February 13, 1876, p12




Bismarck Daily Tribune, January 23, 1916, p2

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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