Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

February 27: A Hint of Bribery

Ways To Subscribe

In 1883, Bismarck won out over Yankton as capital of Dakota Territory. When two states emerged from the territory in 1889, Bismarck was named the capital of North Dakota. Not everyone was happy with the decision. Residents of other cities thought their locations would be an improvement. When the capitol building burned in 1930, “removalists” as they were called, thought it was an ideal time to push for the relocation of the state government. It seemed like a good time to promote the move since a new capitol building had to be built.

On this date in 1932, readers of the Bismarck Tribune learned just how determined Jamestown was to bring the state government to that city. The Jamestown armory was packed for a meeting of the Capital Club, an organization formed to promote Jamestown becoming the new capitol. The prime mover behind the effort was P.M. Hansen, the publisher of the Jamestown Sun. Hansen asserted that the capital had been wrongly placed in the beginning, and Bismarck politicians were using nefarious tactics to keep it. Hansen essentially accused Bismarck leaders of resorting to bribes, saying “word was brought to him that Bismarck must spend a great deal of money in defending the capital.” Hansen said a go-between had approached him with an offer of $25,000 if he would back off of his efforts, but he offered no proof. The audience cheered when he said he had refused the offer. Another member of the organization said he, too, had been approached about a bribe, but in this case it was a state legislator who wanted to know how much Jamestown was prepared to pay him for his vote in favor of the change.

It comes as no surprise that the Bismarck Tribune took offense at the tone of the Jamestown meeting. An editorial said the arguments in favor of relocating the capital “are based on wild assertions and show no respect for facts,” instead relying on “gross misstatement, half truths, and downright untruths.” The newspaper urged citizens of Bismarck to write letters and “warn your friends against the malicious and untruthful propaganda from Jamestown.”

In the end, of course, Jamestown’s efforts were all for naught. The capital was securely located in Bismarck, and there it remains.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Carole Butcher.


  • Bismarck Tribune. “Hansen Charges He Was Offered Bribe to Drop Campaign.” Bismarck ND. 2/27/1932. Page 1.
  • Bismarck Tribune. “No Respect for Facts.” Bismarck ND. 2/27/1932. Page 1.

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.

Related Content