Bismarck Best Seller
There was big news in Bismarck on this date in 1972. Authors George F. Bird and E. J. Taylor announced that their book about Bismarck was a best seller, at least in North Dakota. “History of the City of Bismarck, North Dakota: The First Hundred Years” was selling out, with over half of the first 2,000 copies sold.
Bird and Taylor said they wanted the book to be positive, and did not include anything that would hurt people who were still alive. Their biggest challenge was keeping the book to 300 pages. As a result, they had to leave out a number of anecdotes that readers would have enjoyed.
The book came about when John O. Hjelle, the editor of the Bismarck Tribune, wanted a book for Bismarck’s centennial. He approached Bird, who started work in 1968. But Bird noted that he was 79 years old and didn’t know if he would actually make it to the centennial, so he recruited Taylor as his co-author. Although two authors are listed on the cover of the book, others were also involved, many of them on the staff of the Tribune. R.C. Peterson is named as “coordinator.” He worked for the Tribune and had the necessary editorial skills. Vera Gronberg was a Tribune proofreader. Mary Glaser, the Tribune editorial librarian, worked on research.
One of the biggest problems for the authors was the lack of identification on pictures. Many interesting photos lacked dates, exact locations, or names of people. They urged residents to put proper identification on pictures, saying the images would be virtually worthless to future historians without proper documentation.
Bird and Taylor said they regretted the few errors that made their way into print. They stated it was bad enough that the First Presbyterian Church had been inadvertently relocated to Rosser Avenue instead of holding its proper place on Thayer Avenue. But the worst mistake was aging Mrs. John Homan by twenty years. They were quite sure she would not appreciate that, and hoped she had a sense of humor.
Everyone was invited to an autograph party at the Centennial Headquarters. The authors would be in attendance, and copies of the book would be available for sale. Refreshments would be provided by the Zonta Club. For anyone interested in Bismarck history, the book can still be found at online bookstores.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
The Bismarck Tribune. “City History Book Best Seller.” “Autograph Party Set.” 19 May, 1972.