In 1914 a Centennial Exposition was held in Kristiana, Norway to recognize the passage of the Norwegian Constitution in 1814. The exhibition was seven years in the planning and was a wild success. Among the 1.5 million visitors was Governor L.B. Hanna of North Dakota. The state has long had close ties to Norway. In fact, two North Dakota governors were native Norwegians. It was said that being born in Norway was as politically advantageous as being a native North Dakotan.
There were some opponents of Governor Hanna who criticized his jaunt to Norway. They said it was an unnecessary expense and questioned the value of the trip. It seemed to them to be a taxpayer-funded vacation.
But there were also supporters. According to the Hope Pioneer, “To us it seems that cultivating friendly relations with a country that has sent us our choicest citizenship was an act of great service to our state.” Since North Dakota needed more settlers, the newspaper wondered where a better quality of citizen could possibly be found.
Hanna was warmly welcomed in Norway. At the exposition, he experienced Machinery Hall, Industry Hall, two new locomotives, restaurants, and a soap bubble fountain. The American Club sponsored a lavish banquet attended by over 2,000 people. Another touching sight was a bullet-ridden banner of the 15th Wisconsin Civil War regiment, which was composed primarily of Norwegian immigrants.
King Haakon the Seventh personally welcomed American visitors. He inducted Governor Hanna into the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav as a Knight Grand Cross of the First Order. This was the highest honor that the King could bestow. In turn, Hanna formally presented a bust of Abraham Lincoln. Norway still holds an annual celebration in honor of the bust that represents the country’s special bond with North Dakota.
On this date in 1915, the Hope Pioneer reported on a letter it received from a Norwegian official. The letter noted that North Dakota “is more typically Norwegian than any other state in the Union.” This was brought home to Norwegians during the Centennial Exposition, where North Dakota was the only state with an official delegation. Norwegians were especially pleased that the Governor himself was the state’s representative.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Hope Pioneer. “Governor Hanna’s Political Enemies.” Hope ND. 30 September 1915, Page 2.
New York Times. “Norway Exposition Open.” New York, NY. 16 May 1914. Page 5.
Bismarck Tribune. “ND Gave Norway a Lincoln Statue 100 Years Ago.” https://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/n-d-gave-norway-a-lincoln-statue-years-ago/article_d2759a10-1a8a-11e4-b16c-001a4bcf887a.html Accessed 8/22/2019.
Norwegian-American Historical Association. “Archive Highlights: A Centennial Celebration.” Newsletter. Spring 2014.