Dakota Datebook

Old Settlers Day


Bismarck leaders and organizers of the 2nd Annual North Dakota Industrial Exposition celebrated Old Settlers Day on this date in 1912. Early pioneers of the state traveled to the capital city to visit old friends during a string of glad reunions. Events of the day celebrated the old-timers who arrived during the days of territorial government. Although a parade of the settlers had been scheduled, the day was cold and windy, and the pioneers instead decided to keep themselves warm indoors. Mr. J. M. Hannaford was in town to speak of the Northern Pacific ‘Old Pioneer Line,’ the earliest railroad line laid in the state. Now vice-president of the railroad, Hannaford had been involved in the earliest developments of the state during the 1870s and 80s.

Bismarck’s Industrial Exposition was a two-week long affair that celebrated industry and agriculture in North Dakota. The first exposition was held in 1911 and attracted thousands of visitors from across the country. At the time, many Americans were curious and impressed with North Dakota’s ability to produce such a wide variety of horticultural products. Educational exhibits, music, contests, and information booths were set up by different groups and cities, and even children’s entertainment was provided. Different counties from across the state set up exhibits displaying products and features of their respective locales, and an enormous exhibit on the part of the State Penitentiary stole the show. Prison inmates demonstrated how they had learned farming and industrial skills during their incarceration, growing their own food in the prison gardens and creating products such as twine and rope in the prison workrooms.

The exposition proved such a success, that another was planned the following year. The 1912 exposition ran from October 1st to the 12th. Old Settlers Day, on the 9th, featured lectures on the Canadian Rockies and early settlements, a cake walk, vaudeville theater acts, dances, concerts, and an afternoon circus for the children featuring monkeys and polar bears. Despite the success of succeeding shows, the exposition never attracted the huge crowds of the first 1911 event. The last Industrial Exhibition was held in 1915.


Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job



“North Dakota Industrial Exposition,” The Bismarck Daily Tribune. Tuesday, October 1, 1912: p. 8.

“Exposition Attendance Exceeds that of Last Year’s Big Show,” The Bismarck Daily Tribune. Tuesday, October 8, 1912: p. 1.

“Better Farming Congress at Exposition Tomorrow,” The Bismarck Daily Tribune. Wednesday, October 9, 1912: p. 1, 4.

“N.P. Railroad Officials Visit State Exposition,” The Bismarck Daily Tribune. Thursday, October 10, 1912: p. 1.




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