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January 5: The Mistress of the Seas

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North Dakotans took great pride when the United States Navy announced that a new dreadnought was to be christened as the USS North Dakota. It was a Delaware-class battleship, armed with a main battery of ten twelve-inch guns and was capable of a top speed of twenty-one knots. North Dakota newspapers declared her to be the “Mistress of the Seas.”

On this date in 1910, the Evening Times of Grand Forks reminded readers that the distinction of having a battleship named after the state came with responsibility and obligation. To properly honor the ship, the state would donate a magnificent silver service. Governor Burke appointed a committee to raise at least ten thousand dollars for a service that would match the grandeur of the ship. Each county was given an amount it was expected to raise. The committee was determined to outdo the silver services that other states had donated to their namesake ships. It was an ambitious goal. Minnesota’s service cost over twelve thousand dollars.

The committee held a contest to choose the final design. Winner Hans Klimmek of Fargo won fifty dollars. The large punch bowl had carved bison heads for handles, and the set was decorated with engravings of a covered wagon, Indian teepees, tractors, and sunflowers. It included the official state seal of North Dakota.

The cost of the silver service was sixteen thousand dollars. It took another five years to raise the full amount. On May 15, 1915, the battleship was docked in New York City. Governor L.B. Hanna led a delegation to New York and presented the forty-piece silver service to the captain of the ship.

The USS North Dakota served with the Atlantic fleet as a training ship during World War I. She was decommissioned in 1923 and used as a target ship. She was sold for scrap in 1931, but the silver service was kept by the Navy and finally entrusted to the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

In 2008 it was announced that a new USS North Dakota would once again sail. This time, it was a Virginia class nuclear powered submarine, which was christened in 2013.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher


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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