Dakota Datebook

Statehood Anniversary Berets

Friday, July 18, 2014

 

On this date in 1939, the people of North Dakota were planning for North Dakota’s 50th anniversary of statehood. A large celebration would be held in Bismarck near the end of August, on the 21st through the 25th. Included in the plans were parades, remembrances of early settlers, and the production of commemorative wooden quarters. The Jubilee’s novelty committee also designated an official headgear for the celebration.

Most were expecting that this official headgear would be 10-gallon hats. Some stores even ordered these hats ahead of time to have on hand for the celebration. However, the novelty committee surprised everyone by naming berets as the official headgear. To be specific, these would be gold berets, made locally and bearing a legend on the front, proclaiming the celebration.

Arvid Wiklund, chairman of the novelty committee, told reporters, “adoption of berets may come as something of a shock to a good many people accustomed to 10-gallon hats as the distinctive headgear worn in conjunction with western celebrations…but that is the principal reason why the committee has decided against 10-gallon hats. They are no longer distinctive. They are too much connected with the west. We wanted something totally different, something that has not been worn before in celebrations in this part of the country.”

He also added that berets would be cheaper, cool, easy to hang on the hat rack at home, and could be worn “equally well by both men and women”…which was good, as the committee expected to “fine” those who did not wear their berets throughout the festivities. The fine was in good fun to promote the hat-wearing, while also helping defray the costs of the celebration.

Wiklund was one of the first to don his official beret, long before the celebration began. By all accounts, he was very happy with the committee’s decision.

In the meantime, on this date in 1939, the stores who had purchased 10-gallon hats were now trying to decide what to do with their oversized inventory.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

Sources: The Bismarck Capitol, July 18, 1939

The Bismarck Capitol, July 13, 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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