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NDAC Bjornstjerne Bjornson


The North Dakota Agricultural College dedicated a monument to Bjornstjerne Martinus Bjornson on this day in 1904. May 17th is the traditional Norwegian Constitution Day, similar to our Independence Day. The holiday is largely a children’s day, and was made so by Bjornson himself. The Norwegian writer and statesman created the tradition of involving parades of children into the holiday, a practice that is still observed. Visiting Norway on May 17th, one would see parades of children lining the streets, all waving flags of Norway. The celebration involves red, white, and blue ribbons, ice cream, music, and costumes, but the most notable events are the parades.

Bjornson was born on December 8, 1832 in Kvine, Norway. At the young age of eleven, Bjornson began composing pieces of poetry, and at seventeen he decided to pursue a career in writing. He entered the University of Oslo, and graduated in 1852. He began work as a journalist, but wrote several novels in his free-time. The majority of these works concerned the lives of peasants in Norway, and became popular bestsellers. Eventually, Bjornson began writing plays and musical lyrics. He became manager of the Theater at Bergen, and then of the Christiania Theater, in addition to his journalistic work. In 1870, he published his Poems and Songs. In his later years, Bjornson became very involved with Norwegian politics. He wrote Ja vi elsker dette landet, or “Yes, I Love This Land”, the Norwegian national anthem, but was also charged with treason for a time because of his radical political opinions. He wrote and published stories and dramas until his death in 1910. In 1903, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

At the Fargo ceremony dedicating the Bjornson monument in 1904, “the college and city was in holdiay attire...[and] the buildings were all tastily decorated with bunting and the flags of Norway and the United States. A large crowd...[of] three to five thousand was on the grounds...waiting for the program.” The monument, or bauta sten, was created by Norwegian sculptor Sigvold Asbornson out of Norwegian granite. It was originally placed in front of the agricultural college’s Old Main building.

--Jayme L Job