Dakota Datebook

Uranium Fever

Monday, December 3, 2007

Gust Sjoblom of Bismarck wanted to strike it rich, but by 1954, oil and gold were old hat.
However, Gust, along with other North Dakotans, South Dakotans and people across the country developed a new, unexpected bug: Uranium fever.
A rock collector anyway, Gust enjoyed searching for Uranium among other rocks. Armed with his “Uranium Prospector’s Guide” handbook, which explained the intricacies of the most important tool these prospectors needed, a Geiger counter, and hoping to soon get an ultraviolet lamp to aid in his search, Sjoblom joined the throng of people heading to the badlands to locate his own claim of Uranium.
By the end of November, few Uranium hunters had found a higher percentage of uranium than did the company of J. H. Archer, head of the Dakota Oil Enterprises, Inc. When tested, the ratio of uranium they discovered near Medora was found to be 7/100 of one percent. To be sold commercially, the Atomic Energy Commission said it needed to be 10/100 of one percent, or about two pounds of uranium to a ton of rock. If they literally dug a little deeper, having found this ore closer to the surface, Archer felt they would find the right amounts of Uranium ore to sell it.
Excitement was running perhaps too high. Even the Northern Pacific Railroad told Archer that in next summer, they wanted their land in that area to be prospected. On this day, the Bismarck Tribune printed an article stating people from all over the state, from Canada, Minnesota and even as far away as California, were calling Dr. Alex Burr, director of the State Research Foundation, and George Easton, state mine inspector, about Uranium prospecting. Inquiries were more frequent from all the “success” reports in the paper. In the article, the men said the Atomic Energy Commission was on reconnaissance in North Dakota, but had no plans at that time to set up shop for buying uranium here, as of yet. In the meantime, Easton and Burr were looking through North Dakota’s mining codes, which did not refer at all to Uranium, and were drawing up “a statement of present law” as it applied to the situation.
However, nothing would stop those who wanted to start hunting, to do so. They did not need a permit. All they needed was as much information as possible.
This was good news for searchers like Gust Sjoblom, whose “eyes [shone] when he [told] about coming across a rock that made his Geiger counter kick over—but the land was already staked out.” He wasn’t afraid the big companies with their equipment would beat those like him in the guessing game. Surely for these men, the hunt was just as valuable as the ore itself.
WRITTEN BY SARAH WALKER
Nov. 29, 1954, Monday, Bismarck Tribune, p.1, 3
Nov. 23, 1954, Tuesday, Bismarck Tribune
Dec. 3, 1954, Bismarck Tribune p.1, 3

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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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