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Bismarck Business College


Today, North Dakota students looking for a career in business have several options. Colleges and technical schools offering business, accounting, and office management degrees can be found in all of the state’s major cities, plus there’s the plethora of online options that can be accessed from anywhere. In the early 1900s, however, demand was high for an education in business, while schools were few and far between.

The earliest business school in the state was Dakota Business College, which was opened in Fargo in 1890 by F. Leland Watkins. In 1902, Hans Aaker also opened Aaker’s Business College in downtown Fargo. And not far behind, was Bismarck Business College, which opened in 1905, offering courses in preparatory, business, and shorthand.

Seven years later, on this date in 1912, the Bismarck Tribune pronounced the college a huge success, as it issued its course catalogue for the coming school year. Students of business could take classes in bookkeeping, office practices, penmanship, spelling, typewriting, business law and arithmetic, at a tuition rate of only $12.00 per month. Students of shorthand were offered courses in correspondence, stenography, penmanship, typewriting, and, of course, shorthand. For only $5.00 a month, the college also offered night classes. Emphasizing practical and applied learning, the school placed students in office environments and situations in which they were given real-life business dilemmas to solve. Mrs. C. M. Dahl, the school’s superintendent, believed that Bismarck was a city full of “good features…for both education and residence.” Dahl offered a discount of three dollars on the first semester’s tuition to any student that entered during the first week of classes. That same year, the school was facing new competition from the newly-opened Interstate Business College in Fargo.

Three years later, in 1915, the growing Bismarck college necessitated a larger building, and the school moved into the three-story Lamborn Hotel building on Main Avenue. For seven decades, the school served as Bismarck’s premiere business college, until finally closing its doors. Fargo’s Interstate Business College, its long-time rival, took over, establishing a second campus on Bismarck’s Main Avenue in 1983. In 1998, Interstate Business College also closed its doors, however, filing for bankruptcy amid student charges of fraud.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job


Langemo, Cathy. 2002 Bismarck, North Dakota: p. 39. Arcadia Publishing: Chicago, IL.

“Business College is Successful,” The Bismarck Daily Tribune. Tuesday, August 20, 1912: p. 6.

Peterson, Bonita K. and T. Buckhoff. November 2004. “Interstate Business College: A Case Study in Fraud Examination,” Issues in Accounting Education 19(4): pp. 505-527. (August 23, 1912)