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October 4: Attorney General Langer's ‘Rest’

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One of the first people reported hospitalized during the terrible flu pandemic that struck North Dakota in 1918 was also one of the most well-known. “Wild Bill” Langer was the state attorney general during the early years of his tumultuous political career.

The Bismarck Tribune reported in early October of 1918 that he had entered a local hospital for a complete rest. Two days later, on this date, the Tribune reported that Langer was considered the state’s first victim of Spanish flu. He was isolated during his illness, though his bout was reportedly mild. Langer left the hospital after about three days. He apparently recovered quickly. A day after leaving the hospital, he argued one of the liveliest court cases in Mandan.

The Tribune downplayed the flu outbreak, but the pandemic would soon sweep the state, lasting into 1920.

Langer was only 32 years old when he got the flu. Earlier in 1918, he had married Lydia Cady in New York. She also took ill, about two weeks after her husband. Her recovery wasn’t as swift. A prominent Fargo doctor consulted on her case. Her condition became “so grave” that her parents were summoned to Bismarck from New York City. The Tribune reported “very slight” chances of her recovery, but she did “gradually improve.”

At the same time his wife was sick, Langer allowed shipments of whiskey and brandy to be brought into North Dakota for medicinal purposes to treat flu and pneumonia patients, but the liquor could only be obtained through registered pharmacists. The state’s so-called “bone-dry law” made exceptions for liquor for “medicinal, scientific, mechanical or sacramental purposes,” including the epidemic, according to Langer.

Bill and Lydia Langer were married for 41 years. They died months apart in 1959.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


  • The Chicago Daily Tribune. 1918, February 27. Page 15: Attorney general of North Dakota weds New York girl
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, October 2. Page 5: Langer taking rest
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, October 4. Page 1: Langer first flu victim in North Dakota
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, October 5. Page 1: Langer clamors for mercy when Sullivan probes way in which campaign was financed
  • Grand Forks Herald. 1918, October 23. Page 3: Langer’s wife ill
  • The Fargo Forum. 1918, October 23. Page 5: Mrs. Langer very ill
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, October 23. Page 5: Wife of attorney general very ill
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, October 26. Page 1: Langer tilts lid a trifle for flu cure
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, October 26. Page 2: Mrs. Langer better
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, November 1. Page 1: Whole Linton family dying from the flu
  • U.S. Senate. “Wild Bill.” Retrieved from:
  • William Langer (1886-1959):
  • Lydia Cady Langer (1890-1959):

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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