Dakota Datebook

Visit to ND

Thursday, June 7, 2012


In 1939, the Crown Prince to the Norwegian throne, Olav, and his wife Martha, toured America – including a few memorable days as they crossed North Dakota. As they visited various locations, the Crown Prince and Princess made an impact on the royalty-struck North Dakotans, partly because they were so down-to-earth. While in Grand Forks, one man, Si Poppler, was able to visit one-on-one with Olav—and he didn’t even realize he was speaking to royalty! He later wrote to the Grand Forks Herald and expressed his surprise and delight:

“We talked—he and I, about a hundred-and-one things…He proffered—and I accepted, a Pall Mall cigarette and we smoked and talked just like you and I would. He was a swell fellow—this man I had met—a human being—folk like you are—like I am. There was nothing about him that would have set him apart—made him aloof—above me—we met on common ground—two fellows just chinning together.”

Poppler went on: “…To Prince Olav and that fine democratic wife of his—“Skall” Long may you both live… Prince Olav—you are greater than your title—for you are a MAN!”

Olav’s visit was very memorable for 251 graduates of UND on this date, as he spoke at their commencement ceremony. He emphasized the ties between Norway and America, and encouraged the students, saying, “The time of actual pioneering is practically over. But the spirit of pioneering has and always will have its place in all human affairs, and it was never more needed than it is today…The world has an urgent need of pioneers of many kinds on the various frontiers of human intellectual and spiritual endeavor.”

Governor John Moses, who was born in Norway and graduated from UND, also took part in the ceremony.

Then UND honored Crown Prince Olav himself as the 252nd graduate, awarding him an honorary doctor of laws degree, the highest degree they could offer. President West conferred the honor, then greeted Olav as an alumnus of the university.

The royal couple had more to tour afterward, and as the newspapers reported, “the athletic, ‘man’s man’ prince chatted about crops and farm machinery with Ole Stenmo, near Northwood, joked with youngsters, addressed thousands in towns between here and Hillsboro, and generally continued winning the esteem of North Dakotans.”

His manner alone made him a prince among men.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker



Grand Forks Herald, Thursday Morning, June 8, 1939

Grand Forks Herald, Friday Morning, June 9, 1939

The Killdeer Herald, Thursday, June 15, 1939


This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

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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