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June 9: Presidential Welcomes

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President Theodore Roosevelt speaks in Mandan, North Dakota, in 1903 in this stereoscope photo held by the Library of Congress.
Jack Dura
Prairie Public
President Theodore Roosevelt speaks in Mandan, North Dakota, in 1903 in this stereoscope photo held by the Library of Congress.

Presidential visits to North Dakota have inspired all sorts of welcomes and preparations, great and small. Here’s a sampling.

In 1903, Dickinson residents decorated Villard Street and installed “special electric illuminations” on the railroad depot platform for President Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to his old stomping ground. Roosevelt had given an Independence Day speech in Dickinson in 1886 during his Badlands cowboy days, so Dickinson residents hung a 40-foot-by-20-foot American flag identical to the one he spoke under in 1886. Rockets were fired east of town to signal Roosevelt’s arrival. He spoke from the platform of the train’s observation car, and he reminisced about old times in the Badlands.

In 1919, businessmen from Halliday, North Dakota, raised $1,040 to charter a special train “to bring the whole town to Bismarck to see and hear” President Woodrow Wilson. More than 500 Halliday residents came to Bismarck. Special trains from Minot and Oakes also brought hundreds of people to Bismarck. Shops closed in towns within a 200-mile radius as folks flocked to the capital city. Wilson arrived by train, escorted by an army biplane flying overhead. A parade carried Wilson to the City Auditorium where he gave a speech.

In 1934, North Dakotans greeted President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a highway sign near Devils Lake reading: “You gave us beer, now give us water.” FDR had come to inspect the lake’s drought conditions. He was driven around the lake with stops that included a dried-up bay at Minnewaukan. At Fort Totten, the Spirit Lake Tribe gave the president a peace pipe and wished him success. After his tour, he spoke to 35,000 people about the water issues.

On this date in 1953, the Bismarck Tribune reported that no air traffic would be allowed over the Garrison Dam for nearly two hours during President Dwight Eisenhower’s visit for the dam’s closure ceremony. At request of the Secret Service, pilots wishing to fly to the ceremony would have to land near Washburn. The nearby Riverdale airstrip also was closed to itinerant aircraft, except for the Air National Guard and other official flight services. The Bismarck Chamber of Commerce recommended businesses close for two hours so their employees could see the President during his visit to the city.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


  • The Dickinson Press. 1903, April 11. Page 2: President Roosevelt
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1919, September 10. Page 1: Halliday raises $1040 and comes to hear Wilson
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1919, September 10. Page 1: Peace or war the issue, declares Wilson
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1919, September 10. Page 8: Surrounding towns close shop for day
  • Mandan Pioneer. 1934, August 7. Pages 1, 7: Roosevelt visits Devils Lake
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1953, June 9. Page 1: Flights over damsite ‘out’ while Ike’s here
  • Dura, J. (2019, June 10.) Garrison Dam souvenir edition. Prairie Public, Dakota Datebook. Retrieved from: news.prairiepublic.org/main-street/2019-06-10/garrison-dam-souvenir-edition

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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