Dakota Datebook

6:42 am, 8:42 am, 3:50 pm*, 5:44 pm, and 7:50 pm* CT
  • Hosted by Prairie Public

Sitting Bull to Phil Jackson, cattle to prairie dogs, knoefla to lefse. Dakota Datebook radio features air weekdays at 6:42 am, 8:42 am, 3:50 pm*, 5:44 pm, and 7:50 pm* CT on Prairie Public. Find the 2003-2017 archives here.

*These airtimes during Main Street may vary.

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Dakota Datebook is is generously funded by the North Dakota Humanities Council, 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 the North Dakota Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Unsung Hero

Aug 31, 2018

On this date in 1906, the Grand Forks Evening Times highlighted the exploits of an unsung hero: the railroad detective. Railroad detectives have a long history in the United States. As the railroads expanded across the west, there were not enough US Marshals to protect passengers and freight. The passengers were vulnerable to banditry and conmen, and the freight was a tempting target for theft.

The Dining Car

Aug 30, 2018

Until the late 19th Century, railroad trains did not have dining cars. Train stations had restaurants or food stands, but the food was often of poor quality. When the train stopped for water or fuel, passengers had to get off to get a bite to eat. It could be a hurried affair as passengers raced to get their food and get back on the train before it left without them.

As the railroads began to stretch across the vast western landscapes, with few stops offering food, the railroads realized that good food would help keep their passengers happy. Consequently, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe built Harvey Houses along the Chicago to Los Angeles main line. The Harvey House restaurants catered primarily to the railroad passengers.

Edison in Fargo

Aug 29, 2018

Thomas Alva Edison was an inventive genius.  Edison once said that he and his workers tried to make “a minor invention every 10 days and a big thing every six months or so.” Averaging one patent every week, Edison accumulated a total of 1,093 patents, making him the number-one inventor in American history.

It was on this date in 1908 that the Grand Forks Herald reported on Thomas Edison’s first visit to North Dakota. The 61-year-old inventor stopped in Fargo while en route to the Pacific Coast, traveling with his wife and family on the North Coast Limited. He talked to a reporter and observed that Fargo was a “busy little city,” and he was pleased that North Dakotans would likely vote for William Howard Taft in the upcoming presidential election.

Newspaper Printing

Aug 28, 2018

Weekly or daily, depending upon the local publisher, North Dakotans counted on newspapers to publish the minutes of county and city meetings, land proofs, and other official documents. So, as Western lands were settled, publishers were soon to follow, making much of their income by publishing homestead proofs.

By 1918, North Dakota had approximately 350 newspapers. When the United States entered the War in 1917, the papers became an essential tool for coordinating the war effort. Meeting notices, war bond sales, food restrictions, and draft notices were all carried in local newspapers. Pro-German sympathizers were exposed. Red Cross and Y.M.C.A efforts were chronicled. The smash-up of the North Dakota Smashing Second Regiment was proclaimed, and Herbert Hoover’s meatless and wheatless days were announced.

The word museum comes from the Greek word, “mouseion,” which translates to “seat of the muses.” In classical Greece and Rome, a museum was not a building, but a meeting place to discuss and share ideas. Contemporary museums are also a place to share ideas, yet by different means. By housing and interpreting material objects, museums preserve cultural heritage.  

On this date in 1919, The Devil’s Lake World and Inter-ocean reported that Melvin R. Gilmore, curator for the State Historical Society of North Dakota, had returned to Bismarck with a unique and rare collection of artifacts: seven clay cuneiform tablets from ancient Babylonia. Dating from 2350 to 2100 BC, they are mostly business records from the Ur Dynasty, covering the region of present-day Iraq and Syria. Among the tablets was a tax list from the ancient city of Umma, obtained by the University of Chicago’s archeology department between 1903 and 1906. It was purchased by the State Historical Society for the sum of $4 from Edgar J. Banks.

Shopping by Mail

Aug 24, 2018

Today most people think nothing of shopping online. After a quick trip to the store’s website and a few clicks of the mouse, a package quickly appears in the mailbox. It is a convenient way to shop without ever leaving home. But before the days of the internet, there was the magic of the mail order catalog.

Benjamin Franklin is credited as the first catalog seller in the British colonies for printing a catalog of books for sale. But mail order shopping didn’t catch on until the mid-nineteenth century. Montgomery Ward printed a single-page catalog in 1872. By the 1890s, it was 540 pages, and offered some 20,000 items. The company utilized the expanding railroads to deliver goods efficiently. It was a benefit to farmers who could avoid a trip to town by having products delivered to their door.

Over the Top

Aug 23, 2018

“Keep a stiff upper lip, Boy!” Merwin Silverthorn grimaced, remembering his father’s words as he lay wounded in a clover field with machine gun bullets cutting the tops of the grass only inches above his head.  Of the forty men who raced one hundred yards across No Man’s Land, he was one of four that reached the other side.  

The railroad arrived in what is now Slope County in the fall of 1907. A tent city sprang up on the bank of the Little Missouri River. Permanent structures quickly followed. The town of Marmarth was named for Margaret Martha Fitch. She was the granddaughter of Albert J. Erling, president of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad. The town grew quickly and by 1911 it was the fifth largest North Dakota town west of the Missouri River. 

Most people spend their summers swimming, grilling, and enjoying the sunshine. However, in the summer of 1987, the Mandan police spent their time investigating a petty crime that went to the North Dakota Supreme Court.

There was a time when taking a chance and “rollin’ the bones” meant literally rolling bones. The “bones” in this case are playing dice. Evidence of dice games dates back over 8,000 years, with various cultures making the die from shells, fruit pits, and animal bones. In particular, the ankle bones of sheep and cattle made good die because they are naturally cube-like in shape.