North Dakota Industrial Exposition | Prairie Public Broadcasting

North Dakota Industrial Exposition

Oct 1, 2019

As we heard last week, the first North Dakota Industrial Exposition was held in Bismarck in 1911. It was a smashing success, and plans were immediately made to repeat it the following year, and it was on this date in 1912 that the Second North Dakota Industrial Exposition opened in Bismarck. The expositions were designed to bring in out-of-state visitors and encourage investment in North Dakota. The state hoped for thousands of new settlers.

While they were called industrial expositions, the focus was not on factories. They were designed to highlight North Dakota’s agriculture industry. Vegetables, for example, took up a full ten pages in the premium book. Businesses offered prizes in various categories. The Goodridge-Call Lumber Company offered a prize of $50 for the best ten ears of dent corn.

The entire state eagerly awaited the opening of the second exposition. The Northern Pacific Railway was once again offering a special rate for North Dakotans heading to Bismarck, charging just four cents per mile from anywhere in North Dakota. The organizers also hoped the second fair would equal the first in attracting out-of-state visitors. Special days were planned to recognize other states including Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. Special trains were scheduled for those days.

The exposition was financed by the railroads, boards of trade, and other businesses that hoped to benefit. The railroads calculated that an increase in passengers would offset the lower fares. They also hoped that a favorable visit to North Dakota would encourage people to return. The presidents of all the railroad lines were in attendance, including James J. Hill, who gave the keynote address.

Some of the exhibits were unexpected. Nathan Wheatland of Ransom proudly displayed six bushels of peanuts he had grown; and George Leimbacher, also of Ransom, showed off his crop of tobacco! While neither crop promised to figure large in North Dakota agriculture, they were touted as proof that the state’s climate was not as harsh as many assumed.

Visitors also enjoyed a dairy show, a circus, and free vaudeville acts. The Regimental Band of the 14th US Infantry presented two concerts.

It was estimated that the opening day attendance was triple that of the previous year. In the end, the second exposition proved to be as wildly successful as the first.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Bismarck Historical Society. “It Happened in Bismarck.”  Accessed 8/25/2019.

North Dakota State Historical Society. “County, State, and Indian Fairs.”  Accessed 8/25/2019.

Bismarck Daily Tribune. “Goodridge-Call Lumber Ad.” Bismarck ND. 10/28/1912. Page 7.

Fargo Forum. “Sheyenne, One of Eddy County’s Thriving and Fastest Growing Cities.” Fargo ND. 1/5/12. Page 5.

Dickinson Press. “Typical Scenes of North Dakota.” Dickinson ND. 9/28/1912. Page 6.

Bismarck Daily Tribune. “Rates Reduced for Exposition.” Bismarck ND. 9/7/1912. Page 1.

Weekly Times. “Peanuts Grown in North Dakota.” Valley City ND. 10/3/1912. Page 1.

Weekly Times. “ND Second Industrial Exposition Opens to the Public.” Valley City ND. 10/3/1912. Page 1.