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Crusade for Cleanliness


Today we share another Datebook chapter on the life of Professor E.F. Ladd of the North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo. He was a major proponent of purity in consumer goods. The Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials at North Dakota State University grew out of Ladd’s interest in the purity and effectiveness of paint. He also promoted the wholesomeness of drugs and medications, but his primary interest was the wholesomeness of food.

In addition to his work with the college, Ladd served as North Dakota Food Commissioner. On this date in 1913, Ladd sent an open letter to Fargo merchants. He noted that there were many complaints regarding businesses in Fargo that were not maintained properly and were not sanitary. He noted that the public, and in particular the housewives, were becoming more concerned about the sanitary condition of food products. He said that Fargo did not meet standards that had been met by other cities in the state.

One of the complaints regarded a bakery that did not provide protection from flies or properly handle food. The bakery also failed to insist that workers practice proper personal hygiene.

Another complaint asserted that a dairy was not sanitary. The milk containers were not clean, the floor was not mopped, and there were flies in the milk and cream. There were also complaints lodged about grocers, saying their food was contaminated by flies.

Ladd said the number and nature of the complaints were serious. Inspectors were told to take note of conditions and advise merchants how to make improvements. These might be as simple as installing window screens to keep out flies or making sure trash was not kept near food. If merchants did not make the necessary changes, Ladd said the next step was to invoke provisions of the sanitary inspection law that allowed for fines.

According to Ladd, North Dakota was far ahead of other states when it came to food purity, but since consumers in the state were educated about the topic, they were not shy about demanding sanitary conditions and proper food handling. Ladd urged “a general cleaning up in and about the stores, bakeries, and dairies of the city.” He said Fargo could be not only the “biggest little city,” but the cleanest one as well.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. “Food Commissioner Starts Urgent Crusade for Cleanliness.” 20 October, 1913.