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North Dakota at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933


During the economically difficult times of the Great Depression, the city of Chicago ambitiously staged the Century of Progress Exhibition in 1933 to celebrate the city's centennial. The exhibition, also known as the Chicago World's Fair, was dedicated to honoring progress through science. With nearly 50 buildings and many more attractions, the Chicago World's Fair was full of wonders from around the country and around the globe. Visitors to the Fair were greeted with awesome sights, from the nation's first planetarium to a life-size replica of the Golden Pavilion in China. Among these many wonders could be found North Dakota's own exhibit, which highlighted the progress, culture, and achievements of the state.

On this date in 1933, North Dakota's exhibit was opened for viewing - one of thirty-six displays in the Hall of States, and although the exhibit was smaller than most of the other states', it was no less impressive. Every square inch of space was filled with important items that demonstrated what the great state of North Dakota had to offer. Visitors were beckoned into the exhibit by a striking mural that stretched across the twenty-eight foot high walls of the room. The mural, which was painted by students from the Agricultural College in Fargo, artistically depicted the farmlands of North Dakota from the Red River Valley to the Badlands. It was considered one of the finest murals of the Fair.

To represent the state's major agricultural product, glass bottles full of grain were arranged in a display case. Among the grain exhibits were special farm scene illustrations that were hand-tinted on of sheets of glass and backlit to display spectacular landscapes. In yet another corner of the room, visitors could watch a live demonstration in ceramics featuring the works of famous North Dakotan potter, Margaret Cable.

But the real marvel of the exhibit was a scale model of the state's new capitol building, which was near completion at the time. The revolutionary design for the Capitol was a true testament to the progress of North Dakota. It was the model of efficiency in a time when money could not be wasted on unnecessary ornamentation. Yet the grandeur of the towering eighteen storey structure did not reflect its meager $2 million budget. The new state capitol building embodied the Fair's theme of progress and innovation, proving that North Dakota could do what no other state of the time had done: build an impressive and efficient Capitol at a fraction the price.

Dakota Datebook written by Carol Wilson


McKenzie County Chronicle, August 3, 1933.

A Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago 1933: Official Book of the Fair. A Century of Progress, Inc. The Cuneo Press, Inc., 1933.

Simmons, Kenneth W. North Dakota's State Capitol. Bismarck: Bismarck Tribune Company, 1934.