North Dakota Newspapers
Thursday, October 3, 2013
On July 7, 1864, Robert Winegar and Ira Goodwin published the first newspaper in Dakota Territory from their military headquarters at Fort Union. The infantrymen had been ordered to Fort Union to guard supplies needed by General Sully during his campaign against the Sioux. Although the fort was small and quite “dilapidated,” the two men managed to pull together the necessary resources to write and print a newspaper, which they called the Frontier Scout. Although no copy of Winegar and Goodwin’s first edition has survived, every other issue of the paper has been preserved for posterity, and today those documents can even be read online.
Such historical preservation became easier after passage of the 1905 North Dakota preservation law, which required every newspaper in the state to send two copies of each issue to the State Historical Society in Bismarck, where the papers have been archived and preserved for use by researchers, historians, students, genealogists, and anyone else interested in the past. Additionally, the Society has made an ongoing effort to collect as many pre-1905 issues as possible. In fact, that’s how the surviving issues of the Frontier Scout were obtained – collected either through donation or by copying issues from other collections. The Historical Society received its first issue of the Scout through a donation in 1913.
Although most people today can see the benefits of newspaper preservation, this was not always the case. On this date in 1907, one Minot editor complained that the newspaper publishers were not compensated for sending two copies each week, and sought to charge two subscription fees to the Historical Society. The Bismarck Tribune, however, was quick to point out the benefits of such a program, despite the slight imposition, and it also noted that the papers were well-compensated for publishing official notices on behalf of the state.
The law did change in 2003, however, as the Legislature decided that only one copy of each issue needed to be submitted. Today, researchers are able to find newspapers from across the state spanning the last 150 years, right from the comfort of their own homes.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
Davis, Jim. 8/10/2013. Personal communication (e-mail).
Bismarck Daily Tribune. Thursday (Morning ed.), October 3, 1907: p. 3. (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042242/1907-10-03/ed-1/seq-3/