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April 18: Norman B. Black and the Fargo Forum

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Fargo and Moorhead were first settled in 1871, and by 1874, the area’s first newspaper debuted: the Fargo Weekly Express. Over the following decades a plethora of newspapers went in and out of publication.

The Fargo Forum was founded by Major Alanson Edwards on November 17th, 1891. Another local newspaper, The Republican, published since 1878, was purchased by the Forum in 1894. The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican went through many owners and some financial hard times over the following decades.

On this date in 1917, only a few weeks after the United States entered World War I, The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican made a startling announcement. Norman B. Black, the publisher of the Grand Forks Herald had purchased The Forum.

Norman B. Black was born in Ontario, Canada in 1865 and moved to Wisconsin in the 1880s. As a young man, Black went back to Ontario to work for a newspaper. He soon returned to Wisconsin and became a publisher for various newspapers. He also became involved in politics, serving as the state factory inspector in Milwaukee. Black eventually made his way to Minnesota to work for the Minneapolis Paper company. In 1906, Black moved to Grand Forks, where he eventually consolidated two newspapers into the Grand Forks Herald.

Perhaps ready for a new challenge, Black, along with his son and two associates, offered the current owner of the Forum $100,000 for the paper. Black handed over $100 to the owner at a meeting at the Gardner Hotel, then rushed to New York to borrow the rest from a bank. This risky move proved to be worth it.

Black was an astute businessman. When he purchased the Forum, it was an evening paper published six days a week. So, in 1924 he purchased The Fargo Tribune, which became the morning and Sunday edition of The Forum. In 1926 Black constructed a new building to house The Forum, which remains the paper’s headquarters.

Norman B. Black contributed generously to the Fargo community. He was a charter member of the Rotary Club, gave to many charities, and donated a pipe organ to the First Presbyterian Church and Concordia College. He was also well known for his singing voice and enjoyed curling. He died in 1931. His descendants still own The Fargo Forum.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa


  • Associated Press. “Heart Attack Fatal Shortly After Midnite,” Morning Pioneer, January 8, 1931, pgs. 1-2.
  • Author Unknown. “Family Observes 100 Years of Forum Ownership,” The Fargo Forum, April 17, 1917.
  • Author Unknown. “Forum Sold to N.B. Black and Associates,” The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, April 18 ,1917, pg. 1.
  • Fargo Forum. “From the Publisher: We Rededicate Ourselves After 125 Years of Service,” The Fargo Forum, September 26, 2003.
  • Fargo-Moorhead Centennial Corporation. A Century Together: A History of Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota, 1975.
  • State Historical Society of North Dakota. “About the Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Fargo, N.D.) 1894-1957,” Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/item/sn85042224/ accessed March 20, 2024.

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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