Free Press Souvenirs
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Those residents of Fargo on the Winnipeg Free Press mailing list delighted in receiving their annual Christmas souvenirs on this date in 1909. The unusual and unique Christmas souvenirs from the newspaper had become an annual event in the area, and were eagerly looked forward to by many members of the community.
The Winnipeg Free Press, although located hundreds of miles north, had several followers in Fargo. This was partially due to the fact that the Press had been around longer than the city’s own paper, and covered the upper Midwest as well as southern Canada. Since 1872, the paper reported news from Dakota Territory, Minnesota, and Manitoba, and was for a time the only paper in the region. Winnipeg itself was not incorporated as a city until 1874, and the semi-weekly Republican, which would later become the Fargo Forum, was not started by Major A. W. Edwards and H. B. Hall until 1878. So, early settlers to the Red River Valley were forced to wait for their newspapers to arrive along the railroad line from Winnipeg, and many continued their subscriptions into the twentieth century.
As a reward for their patronage, the Free Press sent annual Christmas souvenirs to every reader on the subscription list. These small gifts were meant to not only commemorate the year, but also to say something about Manitoba as a province. Past souvenirs had included “…a sack of wheat, reindeer pemmican, gopher’s tails, pen[s] made of wild goose quills, a flint and steel [with which to strike a spark], a [peace-pipe], a little barrel of flour, and a package of caviar.”
The souvenirs of 1909 were no exception to this list of oddities, nor a disappointment, as residents of Fargo delighted in their new mounted beaver’s teeth. Each tooth was designed to connect to a pocket watch and be used as a charm in that way, and was also accompanied by a small pamphlet full of historical facts concerning the beaver, information on the habits of the animal, Native American legends that included beavers, and also some facts on the resources of Manitoba. The following year, the paper topped even this souvenir by sending out pieces of buffalo hide mounted on a bronze plaque.
Today, the University of Alberta library continues to house several of the original brochures that accompanied the Free Press souvenirs.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. Friday (Evening ed.), December 24, 1909: p. 3.