Bismarck | Prairie Public Broadcasting



Not everybody went along with mandates meant to curb the 1918 flu pandemic. Bismarck had a mask mandate for waitresses and others handling food. The city health officer announced the order would be “strictly enforced.” Waitresses of at least one dining establishment declined, leading authorities to “take steps to see that they comply or are prevented from serving food.”

Cleaning Up Bismarck

Dec 31, 2020


Although North Dakota entered the United States as a dry state in 1889, that didn't stop the flow of alcohol.  In Bismarck, blind pigs, saloons, and other salacious businesses still were thriving as the years ticked by, even as the Bismarck Tribune worked to advertise exactly what was going on and comment on the need to clean up the capital city. This perspective was in line with a judgment expressed by President Theodore Roosevelt, summarized in the Tribune, that "publicity is the best cure for most of the evils which oppress the people of this age."


On this date in 1923, it was not exactly looking a lot like Christmas in North Dakota. In fact, the Bismarck Tribune noted that it would NOT be a white Christmas – although "the spirit was there." In other words, the weather was nice. Communities around the state boasted temperatures in the 20s to 30s with just a trace of snow. So, with the weather cooperating, what else was there to do, but play multiple types of outdoor sports? 


The 1918 influenza pandemic emerged in North Dakota weeks before the holiday season. Communities locked down, closing schools, churches, theaters and prohibiting public gatherings. One of the longest flu bans was in Grand Forks, lasting seven weeks.

By one estimate, 5,100 people died in the state as a result of the pandemic, which lingered into 1920.

Splitting Dakota

Nov 12, 2020


As what would become North and South Dakota moved towards statehood, regional differences became more apparent. The south had a population of over 98,000 in 1880 when the northern population was only 37,000. The two regions also had different commercial transportation routes. The north was tied to Minneapolis-St. Paul; the south to Omaha and Chicago. There was also something of a personality difference. The south tended to view itself as more civilized and cosmopolitan, while the north was seen as populated by cowboys and fur traders.

Roy Rogers

Nov 11, 2020


On this date in 1950, the results of the Sears-Roebuck safety slogan contest in Bismarck were in. The winner was a 10-year-old from Ft. Lincoln, for his slogan, “Go Slow or You’ll Go – Fast.” His award was a gold-colored statue of Roy Rogers’ horse, Trigger.


The U.S. census is conducted every ten years, in every year ending in zero. But demographers are always gathering data on residence and migration. A similar effort was just beginning more than a century ago in Bismarck. A committee was organizing a religious census of North Dakota’s capital city on this date in 1912.


North Dakota’s Capitol grounds reflect events of the state’s past. A statue of Sakakawea was dedicated in 1910 to honor the Shoshone woman who helped the Corps of Discovery journey west. A memorial honors military veterans, and there’s also a memorial for peace officers who fell in the line of duty.

Dakota Zoo

Jun 3, 2020


The Dakota Zoo in Bismarck opened its gates for the first time on this date in 1961. The attraction grew out of a private business known as the Christianson Farm. On the north edge of the city, Marc and Betty Christianson had kennels to board domesticated animals like cats, dogs and horses. At a certain point, they also began to raise mink.


North Dakota has had more than a few visits from presidents over the years, but first ladies have come here, too. Laura Bush visited Sims Scandinavian Lutheran Church in Morton County in 2008. Michelle Obama accompanied President Obama to Cannon Ball in 2014. And Edith Roosevelt, years before she became first lady, visited Theodore’s Elkhorn Ranch north of Medora during one of his last substantial visits to the Badlands.