On this date in 1911, the city of Bismarck was bedecked in its finest as throngs of people attended the opening of North Dakota's first Industrial Exposition. The Bismarck Tribune noted, "It was with no blare of trumpets nor sound of cymbals that the first Industrial Exposition opened its doors this afternoon, but with a quiet and gracefulness, delightful to behold, the machinery was set in motion, which will continue for twenty days."
The exposition was to show North Dakotans and the rest of the world what the state had to offer, and everything possible was done to make it appealing and inviting. The grand opening began with a youth band from Monango playing patriotic tunes. Then the Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor delivered a speech about the work and planning that went into the event, and he presented the exposition building to Governor John Burke.
The building was an integral part of the affair. A large space was needed to showcase the breadth and variety of North Dakota products and industries. So, after they learned they would host the event, the Bismarck Commercial Club secured the old Northwest Hotel building. However, it had been abandoned, so it needed to be reworked and remodeled. Over a matter of months, it was re-arranged, polished, and made ready for the multitude of exhibits expected to "awaken the patriotic pride of every resident of the state."
In fact, it was said that the interior of the building looked like a marble palace, like a fairy tale – something from a different world. The main floor had decorated walls, large glass pillars, pedestals, glass cases and pyramids, all made by North Dakotans. Grains, seeds, and grasses were crafted into designs and shapes. All forms of agriculture and other technology and industries from all corners of the state were on display; and it was noted that "when the myriad of electric lights are turned on... the picture will resemble a scene from the Arabian Nights."
The building was donated to the city by the Northern Pacific Railroad. Railroads serving Bismarck also transported exhibits to the show for free, and they offered special excursion rates to people wishing to attend.
The exposition would prove to be a success, and afterward, some of the displays would be shipped to other parts of the state, Minneapolis, and even Chicago – examples of North Dakota’s finest and best.
Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, September 12, 1911, p6
The Bismarck Daily Tribune, July 9, 1911, p3
THe Bismarck Daily Tribune, June 6, 1911, p5
The Bismarck Daily Tribune, September 8, 1911, p4
The Bismarck Daily Tribune, OCtober 2, 1911, p6
The Bismarck Daily Tribune, November 9, 1911, p8
The Bismarck Daily Tribune, December 2, 1912, p4
The Bismarck Daily Tribune, September 25, 1911, p1
The Bismarck Daily Tribune, September 26, 1911, p1