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Newspapers and Banks

8/29/2005:

On this date in 1919, the Hannah Moon ran the following, titled A Farewell Word: “This issue completes the twenty-third year of the Moon as a weekly newspaper of general circulation.... In addition to being our anniversary number this is also the last issue of the Moon.... By the printing law passed by the last legislature, our American rights as a legal newspaper were taken away, and the legal matter turned over to one favorite in each county. The Moon is the thirtieth to close its doors since July 1st...”

Historian Gerald Newborg explains: “The 1919 change in the law called for the election of an official county newspaper for legal notices, publication of county commissioners’ proceedings, etc. Only one newspaper would be the official county newspaper. Prior to that, proceedings of the board of county commissioners, etc. had to be published in three newspapers, which the board designated at the beginning of each year.”

In actuality, the number of newspapers in the state had already started to decline before that. In April of that year, there were 327 legal newspapers publishing in North Dakota – down by seventeen from the number of papers operating five years earlier.

Newborg says World War I was a big factor in the legislation. Also, immigration had essentially ended, and homesteaders had largely “proved up.” Advertising related to acquiring land had dried up, and now there were just too many newspapers for the population.

The choice of which newspaper would be chosen in each county was at first handled by a new political entitie: the state printing and publication commission. The Non-Partisan League was in power – in fact it was the NPL that instigated the reform.

Historian Elwyn B. Robinson writes, “It authorized a state printing commission, made up of League-elected officials, to select the one official newspaper for each county until the next election, when the voters would select it. (The law would subsidize League newspapers with a monopoly on legal printing and so force out of existence many small weeklies hostile to the League. In 1919, sixty-one weekly newspapers stopped publication.)”

Thus, many newspaper owners were angry not only about losing their livelihood, but also about losing it at the hands of political enemies.

Today also marks the anniversary of the first bank established in what is now North Dakota. The Bank of Grand Forks was organized on this date in 1879 and was the second to be chartered in Dakota Territory.

The very first financial institution in the Territory was in Yankton. Parmer’s Bank opened for business in 1869, but Parmer couldn’t get a national charter – not until Congressman Moses Armstrong pulled a few strings in Washington.

With an official charter in hand, Congressman Armstrong became the president of the First Dakota National Bank in December 1872. Apparently, young Parmer became his employee, because Parmer went to Washington to pick up newly printed money for the bank. In his memoirs, Parmer wrote: “...Mr. Armstrong, as president and cashier, signed the bills in the old National Hotel. The denominations were mostly five dollars each, with the exception of some one’s and two’s (sic). I distinctly remember one day in particular in which we signed 2,000 five-dollar bills. Mrs. Armstrong assisted in clipping the bills as they were printed, five on each sheet.”

Sources:

Newborg, Gerald G. 18 Nov 2004.

Sommerfeld Lorraine. “Pioneer bankers: First Dakota National Bank - first in the Dakotas.” Prairie Business Magazine. Vol 3 #10. October 2002.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm