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November 28: How a New York Lawyer got to Represent North Dakota

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After World War I, people across the country waited anxiously for the soldiers to make the long trip home. Towns from coast to coast jumped into action to prepare parades and events for the returning heroes. The Fifth Avenue Association in New York City was prepared to create the largest celebration of them all. Since the troops would be coming home via ships, soldiers from every state would arrive first in New York City. Thus, the Fifth Avenue Association decided it only made sense to dedicate a block of Fifth Avenue to each state and create “The Avenue of the States.” It reached out to every governor in the country, inviting them to appoint someone to take over decorating their Fifth Avenue block and host receptions for their state’s returning soldiers.

On this date in 1918 The Fargo Forum announced that Governor Lynn Frazier appointed Charles Wesley Dunn to chair the decorating committee for North Dakota’s block. At first it was assumed by the press that Mr. Dunn was from North Dakota and had moved to New York. However, it was soon discovered that Dunn was not from North Dakota. In fact, he had only visited North Dakota once.

Charles Wesley Dunn was a lawyer who specialized in food and drug laws. In 1917 the North Dakota legislature had passed a bill banning the use of trading stamps in merchandising, and Mr. Dunn had come to North Dakota to assist Attorney General Langer in defending the constitutionality of the bill in the state Supreme Court. Mr. Dunn cemented his goodwill with North Dakota when he hosted a group of North Dakota soldiers during Thanksgiving 1917. These men were in New York City waiting to depart for the war.

Unfortunately for Mr. Dunn and North Dakota, the “Avenue of the States” did not happen. New York City Mayor John Francis Hylan told the Fifth Avenue Association that the City of New York would be completely in charge of the decorations and events. He believed that the Fifth Avenue Association’s plans were impractical since soldiers would be returning to ports along the entire length of the east coast, and that governors should not be asked to fund decorations when the city could take care of it. Thus ended Charles Wesley Dunn’s association with North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa


  • Author Unknown. “Charles Wesley Dunn Discovered,” The Bismarck Tribune, November 27, 1918, pg. 3.
  • Author Unknown. “Hylan to Run Decorations,” The New York Times, December 1, 1918, pg. 11.
  • Author Unknown. “New York Man Receives Dakotans,” The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, November 29, 1918, pg. 2.
  • Author Unknown. “North Dakota to Have Block on 5th Avenue,” The Bismarck Tribune, November 26, 1918, pg. 1.
  • Author Unknown. “To Turn 5th Av. Into ‘Avenue of States’,” The New York Times, November 25, 1918, pg. 22.

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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