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Former Presidential Rivals Tour North Dakota

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People all over North Dakota turned out for two former presidential rivals on separate speaking tours in 1920. Republican William Howard Taft had defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan in the 1908 presidential election, serving as president from 1909 to 1913. It’s unclear why the two came to North Dakota, but their speeches drew thousands of people.

Bryan spent about five days in North Dakota. His stops included Fargo, Grand Forks, Arvilla, Stump Lake, Spiritwood Lake, Valley City, Minot and Williston. About 7,000 people attended the picnic at Arvilla, where the theme of Bryan’s address was “the debt we as American citizens owe.” He also belittled the Republican Party and its platform.

At Stump Lake, 10,000 people turned out to hear Bryan speak. The Grand Forks Herald called the crowd the largest ever gathered in one place in Nelson County. Bryan spoke for nearly two hours.

In Minot, Bryan spoke at the local Rotary Club and urged attendees to hear Taft speak the following week, acknowledging his old rival as “a lovable man.” Bryan’s last stop was Williston, before leaving for the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.

About a week later, former President Taft began a nearly weeklong lecture tour in the state. He appeared in at least 10 communities, including some of the same venues as Bryan, such as the LaMoure County Memorial Park near Grand Rapids and Fadden’s Grove at Arvilla. An organizer of the Arvilla events charged 50 cents for admission to hear the men’s speeches; though children were admitted free.

In Minot, the 27th president appeared at a banquet with businessmen. In Griggs County, he appeared at the county fair. He also attended several Chautauqua gatherings in the state, and even appeared at a wedding in Edgeley.

At 2 p.m. on this date in 1920, Taft spoke in Crosby, at a community meet organized by the Divide County Farm Bureau. He spoke about the League of Nations, pondered “what is Americanism?” and denounced socialism and Bolshevism.

Taft’s last stop was in Walhalla on the Fourth of July. His speech about the League of Nations reportedly drew 10,000 people. He called it his largest crowd in the state. Later that day, he drove to Pembina and took a train to Winnipeg.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources:
The Weekly Times-Record. 1920, June 3. Page 5
Grand Forks Herald. 1920, June 7. Page 15
Grand Forks Herald. 1920, June 14. Page 16
Grand Forks Herald. 1920, June 16. Page 5
Grand Forks Herald. 1920, June 19. Page 10
The Ward County Independent. 1920, June 24. Page 1
The Weekly Times-Record. 1920, June 24. Page 1
The Hope Pioneer. 1920, June 24. Page 10
The Oakes Times. 1920, June 24. Page 7
Grand Forks Herald. 1920, June 25. Page 11
Grand Forks Herald. 1920, June 30. Page 6
The Weekly Times-Record. 1920, July 1. Page 1
Jamestown Weekly Alert. 1920, July 1. Page 5
The Weekly Times-Record. 1920, July 1. Page 4
The Ward County Independent. 1920, July 1. Page 9
The Divide County Journal. 1920, July 2. Page 1
The Bowbells Tribune. 1920, July 2. Page 6
Grand Forks Herald. 1920, July 2. Page 3
Grand Forks Herald. 1920, July 5. Pages 1, 10
The Bowbells Tribune. 1920, July 9. Page 2
Jamestown Weekly Alert. 1920, July 15. Page 3

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