Anti-Spitting Law in Grand Fork
In bygone days in North Dakota, people were free to spit outdoors wherever they pleased, as long as they did not hit others; and indoors – if they used spittoons.
The liberty to freely spit ended in Grand Forks in 1901, when the city council passed an ordinance “prohibiting spitting on sidewalks, in the entrances to public buildings . . . and in any public place or building.” The main purpose of the anti-spitting law was to limit the spread of tuberculosis germs, but it was also intended to discourage the spitting of tobacco juice in public.
On this date in 1908, Dr. G.F. Ruediger delivered a lecture entitled “Tuberculosis and Its Prevention” at the University of North Dakota; and he told his audience practical ways to limit the spread of this terrible lung disease, known then as “consumption.” Dr. Ruediger, a UND instructor, spoke of the hazards posed by TB germs in saliva. When a consumptive coughed or sneezed or spit out saliva, other people could catch TB germs by breathing the air – or by breathing in dust from spittle that had dried on a sidewalk and then was lifted by the wind. Dr. Ruediger urged all to beware of consumptives who would “expectorate whenever and wherever the desire comes upon them.”
The 1901 anti-spitting law in Grand Forks could help prevent TB, but the law was not strictly enforced. However, in July, 1908, a man by the name of Hans Evenson was spitting tobacco juice – “snoose” – on the sidewalk at the corner of Third Street and DeMers Avenue. A policeman told Evenson to stop; and Evenson answered by telling the officer “that he figured he could spit where he pleased.” Whereupon the policeman placed Mr. Evenson under arrest.
In court, the policeman said to the judge: “Your honor, this man is accused of spitting on the sidewalk.” The judge looked in his city lawbook and found the anti-spitting ordinance called for a “fine of not less than $5 or more than $25.” Mr. Evenson paid the five-dollar fine, and his arrest was noted by the Grand Forks Herald as the first arrest “to be made under the ordinance.”
Thus the anti-spitting law made an example of Mr. Evenson to make citizens more aware of germs, spitting and spittoons – and prevention of the terrible disease called tuberculosis.
Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.
“Able Paper On Tuberculosis,” Grand Forks Herald, April 18, 1908, p. 5.
“The Council In Session,” Grand Forks Herald, December 7, 1901, p. 6.
“Don’t Expectorate On The Streets,” Grand Forks Herald, October 13, 1906, p. 1.
“Progress Is Being Made,” Grand Forks Herald, May 2, 1909, p. 5.
“Consumptives: Anti-Spitting Law Is Not Enforced,” May 4, 1910, p. 1.