Norwegian Press in North Dakota *
by Odd Sverre Løvoll (Volume 24: Page 78)
* In preparing this article, a digest of a master’s thesis
in 1969 at the University of North Dakota, the author made
use of numerous interviews with persons involved in the editorial
and political policies and events described. He also found
useful information in many secondary sources, especially the
following: Johs. B. Wist, “Pressen efter borgerkrigen,” in
Jobs. B. Wist, ed., Norsk-amerikanernes festskrift 1914, 41-203
(Decorah, Iowa, 1914); Juul Dieserud, “Den norske presse i
Amerika: En historisk oversigt,” in Nordmands-Forbundet, 5:
153182 (April, 1912); Olaf M. Norlie, Norwegian-American Papers,
1847-1946 (Northfield, Minnesota, 1946); and Elwyn B. Robinson,
History of North Dakota (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1966). The title
of Mr. Løvoll’s thesis is “History of Norwegian-Language
Publications in North Dakota.”
NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN journalism in North Dakota showed a remarkable
vitality and endurance in the face of keen competition from
the established Norwegian-language newspapers and periodicals
published farther east. At a time when North Dakota was still
years away from permanent settlement, the immigrant press
flourished in the close-knit Norwegian colonies in Minnesota,
Iowa, and Wisconsin. Migration to the Red River Valley of
northern Dakota Territory was largely from these regions,
and the frontiersmen who moved westward continued to subscribe
to the papers with which they were familiar. For this reason
papers published in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and other cities
in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin were widely distributed
in the Norwegian settlements in northern Dakota.
Although settlement in the upper Red River Valley was a part
of the northwestward advance of the frontier, the  immediate
cause of Norwegian migration into the region was the work
of the lawyer and pioneer journalist, Paul Hjelm-Hansen. He
visited the valley in 1869 as an agent of the newly created
Minnesota board of immigration. His enthusiastic reports describing
the excellent opportunities offered by the Red River region,
with its fertile and tillable land free under the Homestead
Act, attracted the attention of his countrymen, both in older
settlements and in Norway itself. The same year marked the
beginning of permanent Norwegian colonies in northern Dakota.
A large number of the immigrant frontiersmen were already
American citizens and acquainted with the institutions and
political life of the New World. Their potential strength
in territorial politics, on both a local and a regional basis,
was therefore realized at an early date - by themselves as
well as by groups of native Americans. This fact largely explains
the early appearance of a local Norwegian press. The eastern
papers circulating in the settlements of the area could not
adequately serve the population, although they were to compete
for subscribers with local papers during the whole span of
In 1878, the year marking the beginning of immigrant journalism
in North Dakota, the Norwegians were only about 8,000 strong.
The next year saw the beginning of the “great Dakota land
boom,” and from then on Norwegian settlement in northern Dakota
took on the proportions of a large-scale folk migration. Settlers
rushed into the Red River country and later westward along
the main line of the Great Northern Railway in the northern
part of what became North Dakota in 1889. By 1900, there were
almost 75,000 Norwegians in the state - a little over 23 per
cent of the total population. In 1910, about 125,000 of the
residents were of Norwegian stock, constituting the largest
single ethnic group. The immigrant press more than kept pace
with the increase in population. In all, Norwegian-language
papers persisted for 77 years, from 1878 to 1955. During this
period,  more than 50 publishing ventures were attempted.
Many of them, to be sure, were short-lived, but their very
numbers reveal that the Norwegians in North Dakota were a
highly articulate group.
Native American politicians were the first to approach the
immigrant voter in his own language for a specific objective.
Thus Red River Posten (The Red River Post, 1878-1884) in Fargo
and Nordstjernen (The North Star, 1879-1883), first in Grand
Forks and later in Fargo, were, for most of their years of
publication, owned by conservative groups outside the Norwegian
community. Both papers were founded by Michal Wesenberg as
independent Republican organs; as such, they spoke for the
liberal, progressive views of the majority of the Norwegians.
Shortly after their appearance, however, Red River Posten
was purchased by Major Alanson Edwards, publisher of the conservative
Argus in Fargo, and Nordstjernen became the property of a
corporation which likewise represented conservative Republicanism.
In the eyes of the settlers, the two papers were spokesmen
for the Twin City interests that regarded the region as a
colony. In territorial and later state politics, these elements
came to be identified with the powerful political machine
created by Alexander McKenzie.
The specific reason that these groups had for acquiring a
Norwegian-language organ was to support Charles F. Kindred
against Norwegian-born Knute Nelson for election to the United
States house of representatives from the fifth congressional
district of Minnesota in 1882. During a fierce campaign, which
earned the district the sensational name of “the bloody Fifth,”
both papers directed their attention to the Norwegians on
the Minnesota side of the Red River.
Alliance with political combinations - that for most Norwegians
stood as the embodiment of the interests obstructing their
progress and prosperity - reduced the popularity of the two
pioneer papers, a condition that also explains their limited
success. The most significant part of the Norwegian  press
in North Dakota expressed majority opinion - with some important
exceptions - and was largely loyal to the Republican party.
It did, however, persistently remain in the left wing of the
party and made violent attacks on the conservatives. For a
generation or more, the ideas of these reactionaries were
synonomous with McKenzieism, and their promoters were referred
to as “the old gang.” Some immigrant papers even left the
party to participate in radical movements designed to loosen
the hold of the McKenzie machine and to redress grievances,
real and imagined, being inflicted on the farmers. The press
thus helped to generate the agrarian revolt in the Northwest,
but at the same time it enjoyed a relatively independent position.
In the 1880’s, a number of Norwegian-language publications
emerged that protested exploitation of the farmers by the
railroads, the grain interests, and the moneylenders. They
vigorously attacked the corrupt territorial government and
the local political rings for protecting the exploiters, thereby
prolonging the colonial status of the region. In all, 13 newspaper
ventures were attempted in the decade.
The period also saw the appearance of Normanden (The Norseman,
1887-1954), the most important Norwegian paper in North Dakota.
This organ spanned a period of 67 years, from 1887 to 1954.
Hans A. Foss, a popular immigrant writer, edited and for a
time owned Normanden in the five-year period from 1888 to
1893. He made it a champion of the agrarian crusade. The North
Dakota Alliance, formed in 1889, sent copies of it to its
members, along with other Alliance newspapers. Foss participated
eagerly in the fight to curb the railroads, to regulate the
wheat market, and to control the operation of credit. The
voice of Normanden was heard and heeded by many Norwegian
farmers, who were eager to create a better life for themselves
and their families on the Dakota prairies.
Several Alliance papers in Norwegian had preceded Normanden.
Fargo-Posten (The Fargo Post, 1885-1889), edited  and
published by P. T. Julseth, engaged in both county and territorial
politics, taking much of the credit for the Alliance victory
in Cass County in the 1886 election. This triumph broke the
power of a political clique in control of county politics.
One of the alleged ringleaders was Major Edwards, publisher
of the Argus. His paper had the support of James J. Hill,
the railroad king. In the opinion of Fargo-Posten, these elements
represented a union of the very forces exploiting the farmers
and keeping farm income down. Clearly the agrarian revolt
was economic rather than political in nature, and in 1888
Vesten (The West, 1888-1889), also published in Fargo, appeared
as a proponent of the Farmers’ Alliance program. At this time,
the paper was edited by Jørgen Jensen, who had one
of the keenest minds in Norwegian-American journalism. Vesten,
however, was not long allowed to voice the discontent of the
farmers; soon it was purchased by a corporation, which made
it a straight Republican organ.
Hans A. Foss had himself joined the Farmers’ Alliance movement
before coming to Normanden. His small Dakota-Bladet (The Dakota
Newspaper, 1886-1887), published first in Portland then in
Hillsboro, became involved in county politics in Traill County
before the election of 1886. The paper made a great effort
to discredit incumbent county officials, its main indictment
being that they did not favor prohibition under the local
option system. Dakota-Bladet had complete confidence that
Alliance candidates would keep Traill County dry. Temperance
reform became an all-consuming interest of a large portion
of the Norwegian press; Dakota-Bladet’s advocacy was only
a phase of a movement that was gaining momentum in the 1880’s.
In Traill County, however, the victory of the farmers did
not produce the desired result of prohibiting the sale of
liquor. Foss then made rash charges against the new county
officials, and the ensuing conflict killed his paper.
Foss continued his fight for prohibition through the columns
of Normanden in Grand Forks. L. K. Hassel had  established
this paper in 1887 as an organ for promoting the temperance
movement, and the paper remained faithful to its first commitment
until its demise in 1954. The goal of the prohibitionists
in the 1880’s was to have their program written into the constitution
when the territory gained statehood. The crusade against liquor,
coinciding with a similar one in Norway, manifested itself
in the organization of temperance societies, in the advocacy
of abstinence by fervent speakers, and in an effort to limit
the legal sale of liquor.
Immigrants evidently brought with them from Norway considerable
enthusiasm for the temperance movement. But conditions in
the regions in which they settled produced the urgency and
persistence with which it was pursued in the New World. The
absence on the frontier of old-country restraints encouraged
the abuse of liquor; besides, in North Dakota saloon keepers
exerted an evil influence in politics. The prohibition crusade
of the Norwegian press therefore reflected a sense of responsibility
for the immigrant community in Dakota and a desire to break
the power of the entrenched saloon element.
Folkets Røst (The Voice of the People, 1886) and its
successor, Afholds-Basunen (The Temperance Trumpet, 1887-1896),
both published in Hillsboro, were established to promote temperance
reform. The latter was the official organ of the Prohibition
party during its first year of publication. In 1889, before
the drafting of a constitution for the newly created state
of North Dakota, Afholds-Basunen and Normanden entered thousands
of homes, agitating for an article in the state constitution
providing for prohibition. On October 1, the voters approved
inclusion of such an article in the constitution, in the form
in which it had been drafted. This favorable outcome for the
prohibitionist group was in large part due to the zealous
agitation of the two papers. The temperance article gained
approval by a narrow margin of 1,159; the rest of the constitution
was ratified by a vote of 27,441 to 8,107. The momentous victory
over the saloon interests  proved a strong incentive to
promote enforcement of liquor laws and to stand firm against
all later attempts to repeal prohibition.
The papers concurred in the principle of prohibition, but
they were not of one mind about how to promote the reform.
The dominant person associated with Afholds-Basunen, the Reverend
Jens T. Lønne, wanted to achieve prohibition through
the agency of the Republican party, whereas Normanden, during
Foss’s editorship, favored the program of the agrarian movement.
In 1890, when the Populist party was organized, Normanden
became its official voice. During the election campaign of
1892, Dakota (The Dakota, 1889-1897) in Fargo switched its
support from the Republicans to the Populists. Its editor,
Lauritz L. Stavnheim, was a firm convert to socialism and
a vigorous spokesman for its plans for reform.
Populism had only a brief career in North Dakota, but for
a time it gained a large following and in 1892 actually won
control of the state. With the onset of national depression
in the next year, Populism declined locally, although it was
still increasing in power in the rest of the country. Not
all the Norwegian papers were willing to accept the defeat
of the Populist movement. Den Fjerde Juli (The Fourth of July,
1896-1897), edited and published in Fargo by a Unitarian minister,
Amandus E. Norman, assured its opponents as late as 1897 that
agrarian revolt was not dead in state politics.
Normanden abandoned the Populist cause in 1893, when a corporation
close to the Republican interests bought the publication;
the new owners continued to publish the paper until 1925.
This group hired P. O. Thorson as manager. He soon became
the major stockholder, and retained control of Normanden until
his death in 1924. During this time, he made it one of the
most profitable Norwegian publications of its kind in the
country. Under his management the newspaper, although Republican,
adopted an independent political stance. It continued to champion
prohibition and made  renewed attempts to break the hold
of machine politicians. Earlier its editorials had joined
in the virulent attack then being made against Statstidende
(The State Times, 1890), which was published in Devils Lake
for about a year during the election campaign. Statstidende
was established specifically to win the Norwegian vote for
McKenzie’s henchman, Henry C. Hansbrough, who was seeking
the Republican nomination for Congress against Martin N. Johnson,
the Farmers’ Alliance leader.
Statstidende was only one of numerous attempts made by right-wing
Republicans, mainly men with no Norwegian background, to woo
the immigrant voter in his own language. The Norwegian press
seemed to live in constant fear of having to yield unwillingly
to conservative groups eager to control the policies of the
Norwegian-language journals. One of the most common charges
against a rival paper was that, under cover of a liberal façade,
it was actually in league with or was controlled by reactionary
forces. Such charges were often without any foundation, but
they demonstrate a firm commitment by the independent Norwegian
press to progressive political movements.
The main immigrant newspaper supporting politicians, Norwegian
as well as native American, closely identified with the McKenzie
machine was the second Statstidende (The State Times, 1897-1909)
published in Hillsboro. C. F. Bahnsen, a Danish printer, edited
Statstidende for the conservative politicians who owned it.
When Kjetil Knutsson owned the paper in 1904-1905, he decided
to turn the tables on the machine politicians and sided with
the insurgent faction in the Republican party. His paper lacked
a sound economic basis, however, and Knutsson lost control
because in 1904 he chose to oppose the conservative gubernatorial
candidate, Elmore Y. Sarles. Men close to the governor’s political
convictions made it necessary for Knutsson to sell, and Bahnsen
came back to edit the paper, accommodating himself to its
traditionally conservative outlook. 
The extremists among those who opposed a boss-controlled
government and outside dominance became converts to socialism.
Leftist views were clearly prevalent among groups of Norwegians,
although only one paper, Enderlin Folkeblad (The Enderlin
People’s Newspaper, 1898), was established to promote socialism.
This publication was a failure, chiefly because of its rash
advocacy of left-wing ideas which involved its owner, the
Danish pharmacist, E. Egeberg, in a lawsuit and a term in
a Fargo jail. Capable men on other Norwegian journals - like
Lauritz L. Stavnheim on Dakota and K. P. Wiig, who made the
only attempt in the state to publish a foreign-language daily,
Dagen (The Day, 1897-1899) in Fargo - expressed their confidence
in the doctrine of state ownership. Several papers contained
letters from their readers favoring the idea that this plan
could solve the problems confronting North Dakota grain producers.
The second major Norwegian paper in North Dakota, Fram (Forward,
1898-1917), printed in Fargo, was strongly colored by socialistic
ideas during its first few years. At this time Stavnheim was
on the editorial staff. Fram, established through mergers
of several papers in 1898, dated its own beginning to the
original issue of Red River Posten, and thus could claim to
be the first Norwegian-language paper in the state. Fram joined
Normanden in that journal’s effort to compel enforcement of
the prohibition laws. The two papers had the support of Folkets
Avis (The People’s Newspaper, 1898-1904) in Hillsboro, one
of several newspaper ventures by Axel P. Trockstad. It was
a successor to Afholds-Basunen.
Fargo-Posten (The Fargo Post, 1897-1903), the second paper
of that name, was the only Norwegian publication that directly
opposed the prohibition article in the state constitution.
Many other representative editors spared no expense in their
attack against the illegal sale of liquor and the numerous
attempts to legalize it. Prohibition itself was made a farce
in many parts of North Dakota because of the indifference
of local officials. In many places, “blind pigs” sold liquor
 illegally, and bootleggers carried on their sordid business
without interference. One of the favorite pastimes of temperance
papers like Normanden and Fram was what they termed “pig butchering.”
They sent representatives throughout the state, and, when
unlawful sale of liquor was uncovered, they acted swiftly
to secure a conviction. Andreas Lindelie, on the editorial
staff of Normanden in 1895-1898, traveled for the Enforcement
League - a group established by the Canadian-born businessman,
Robert B. Griffith of Grand Forks. Lindelie’s dramatic confrontations
with infuriated saloon keepers and their clientele became
Crusading Norwegian newspapers, enlisting in the reform movements
of the 1880’s and the 1890’s, had sprung up like mushrooms
in the small commercial centers of the Red River Valley. Many
of the attempts at publishing immigrant papers had been abortive,
and most of them stayed in business only a short time. Only
four of more than thirty publishing ventures survived into
the twentieth century. Considerably fewer papers were established
in the next two decades, but the period up to World War I
saw the press attain its greatest circulation. In 1910, the
Norwegian newspapers in North Dakota, taken together, had
an approximate circulation of 30,000. In addition, the large
journals published farther east had thousands of immigrant
subscribers in the state. It may therefore be safely assumed
that there was at least one copy of a Norwegian-language paper
in every home.
Many factors contributed to the growth of the press. The
most apparent was the renewal of mass Norwegian migration
into the state following the depression of the 1890’s. The
struggle against political bosses and outside dominance became
more intense after 1900, as the progressive movement swept
over the United States and became a vigorous force in North
Dakota - as it did in many other states. Accordingly, the
representative Norwegian-language press in the state became
an instrument of progressivism. Around 1904 the Scandinavian
Republican League emerged,  adopting in its platform all
the liberal proposals for reform. The Norwegian papers worked
closely with the League. A. A. Trovaten, who gained control
of Fram in 1903, served as the League’s president for many
years; P. O. Thorson, business manager of Normanden, was its
secretary. Grafton-Posten (The Grafton Post, 1905-1909) also
expressed adherence to the League platform, although Fram
questioned the political sincerity of Grafton-Posten’s publisher
and its editor, Axel P. Trockstad. The League’s objective
was to destroy Alexander McKenzie’s control of the state government
and of the established Republican party. To this end, Norwegian
politicians united the Scandinavians in a political group
within the Republican organization, hoping to replace the
old gang with liberal, progressive leaders.
Men from both the Republican and the Democratic parties co-operated
in the progressive movement. In the 1906 election, Normanden
urged its readers to cast their votes for John Burke, the
Democratic candidate for governor, in order to defeat Elmore
Y. Sarles, the McKenzie candidate. Burke was elected the first
Democratic governor of North Dakota, an indication of the
reduction of machine influence. The successive elections of
1908 and 1910 were also progressive victories. In 1910, the
progressives and the Democrats controlled the state legislature.
The triumph of the liberal forces increased the popularity
and influence of both Fram and Normanden, and in 1909 very
likely forced the conservative Statstidende out of business.
The growth of Norwegian settlement in the western part of
the state produced Mouse River Tidende (The Mouse River Times,
1902-1903). This was the first Norwegian-language paper in
Minot. It was succeeded by Minot-Posten (The Minot Post, 1905-1909).
These publications were closely related to the established
press in the Red River Valley. Minot-Posten was actually an
offshoot of Fram; as such it expressed the same zealous eagerness
for progressive reform. Jon Norstog, a controversial writer
of literature in  dialect, served as editor of the Minot
paper for a time. Another dominant person on its staff was
Paul Baukol. During his tenure, attacks on the machine politicians
were especially virulent; his disgust was boundless when these
men happened to be of Norwegian background. All such individuals
belonged to what the paper sarcastically called the “Norwegian-hater
club.” In Minot-Posten’s view, this label must have been considered
the ultimate insult.
Appreciation of their national culture was never stronger
among Norwegian Americans than in these years. The organization
of the Scandinavian Republican League demonstrated both a
greater consciousness of their own significance in the political
life of the state and a greater pride in their heritage. Besides
its political objectives, the League had a distinct cultural
program - the preservation of the best aspects of old-world
traditions. Developments in Norway were creating nationalistic
fervor among immigrants living in America. A prolonged dispute
between Norway and Sweden - that reached a climax when Norway
established itself as a completely independent kingdom in
1905 -resulted in an upsurge of feeling for things Norwegian
in the Middle West.
In 1905, Normanden and other papers in North Dakota were
instrumental in arranging a “Scandinavians’ Day” at Devils
Lake. The purpose of the occasion was to draft a resolution
to President Theodore Roosevelt asking him to recognize the
new Norwegian regime. Normanden, mindful of its temperance
advocacy, noted with satisfaction that at this solemn gathering
there was not a single drunken Norwegian among the hundreds
present. Elation over Norway’s independence helped to bring
about the flowering of Norwegian-American culture between
1900 and World War I. During this time, the solidly immigrant
communities in North Dakota, as well as in other states, demonstrated
a renewed fervor in cultivating and preserving their national
Interest in the home country was of course at all times 
evident in the press. Difficulties and hardships encountered
in Norway caused immediate repercussions among Norwegian immigrants
in America. When the need arose, drives for relief donations
were set in motion without delay. Norwegians in the New World
planned a grand gift to be presented to Norway in 1914, when
that country celebrated the centennial anniversary of its
national independence from Denmark. This development produced
the first literary magazine in the Norwegian language in the
state. Kjetil Knutsson began publishing Eidsvold in Grand
Forks in 1909. As a suitable gift, this magazine began to
work for a college at Eidsvoll, Norway, where the Norwegian
constitution had been drafted in 1814. Eidsvold, a literary
magazine of high caliber, contained a sizable amount of original
Knutsson also worked for some time on the editorial staff
of Normanden, together with the colorful and versatile Peer
Strømme. For several years after 1909, Strømme
roamed the world for the paper, and his wit and wide-ranging
observations contributed greatly to its popularity. At the
same time, his activities indicate the prosperity enjoyed
by the paper during the peak period of Norwegian-American
Eidsvold discontinued publication in 1910, but in 1912 it
was revived as a new enterprise in Fargo by Hans A. Jervell,
a well-known authority on the Norwegian people in America.
Obstacles to the success of a Norwegian-language literary
magazine proved insurmountable, however, and the second Eidsvold
had to cease publication in 1914. Magazines attempted in North
Dakota had to face keen competition from similar popular and
widely distributed Norwegian-language publications from other
immigrant centers. They also had to compete with the readily
available and colorful American periodicals. And, finally,
numerous Norwegian - language weeklies, both those published
locally and elsewhere, served as literary journals as well
In spite of these obstacles, another courageous attempt at
publishing a magazine was made in Fargo before World War 
J. Peer E. Storeygard, supported by Jon Norstog, established
a magazine Norrøna (The Norse, 19141915), in Fargo.
He bad been encouraged in this effort by the unveiling in
nearby Moorhead, Minnesota, the year before of a bust of Ivar
Aasen, the creator of landsmaal, a new language formed from
Norwegian dialects and popularized by some prominent writers.
Norrøna was written in the new medium.
Norrøna attained a circulation of about a thousand,
a considerable accomplishment in view of the limited interest
most immigrants had for the language controversy raging in
Norway. Both Fram and Normanden did, however, contain emotion-filled
letters for or against the new Norwegian language movement
at home. In the main, however, the press was taken up with
more immediate problems, such as the survival of any kind
of spoken or written Norwegian.
The preservation of an old-world language and culture in
an American environment was a constant concern of immigrant
papers. Their own survival depended on preserving it, even
if they should have no more exalted motivation. Nevertheless,
they directed most of their attention to promoting the welfare
of their fellow countrymen in North Dakota. They consistently
distrusted outside financial interests, voicing a suspicion
of reactionary political groups and a strong faith in the
virtues of legislative reform. Normanden spoke for the Progressive
party in 1912 and expressed great confidence in Theodore Roosevelt
as a presidential candidate. Fram also endorsed other Progressives,
but at this time the paper was primarily concerned with the
record of the different men on the temperance issue. In 1911,
Fram became the official organ of the prohibition movement
in North Dakota; this alignment affected the paper’s circulation
adversely, because some of the antiliquor fervor, so evident
before the turn of the century, had cooled off. Many readers
tired of Fram’s endless preoccupation with people’s drinking
habits. The chief personality on its staff after the sale
to the  prohibitionists was Peter Myrvold. He was considered
a capable editor and an eager and effective temperance speaker.
There was no disagreement on the issue of prohibition in
the Norwegian press, only in the intensity with which it was
pursued. Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, however,
a serious split developed between the two leading Norwegian-language
journals, Fram and Normanden. The breach resulted from the
formation of the Republican Nonpartisan League and the divergent
attitudes of the papers. Arthur C. Townley founded the League
in 1915. The new organization adopted the socialistic platform
of state ownership, but remained within the Republican party
to benefit from the longstanding loyalty of the North Dakota
The League appealed strongly to many Norwegians. A large
number of them had leftist sympathies, and even more of them
had few misgivings about pursuing a radical solution to the
problems that faced them. Normanden, edited by Lars Siljan,
violently opposed the League. He had grave doubts about the
integrity of its leaders and could not support state socialism
on a broad front. Normanden thus acted against the convictions
of many of its subscribers, and hundreds of infuriated Norwegian
farmers terminated their subscriptions in protest. They arranged
public burnings of the paper and voiced their disgust with
its policy. They made the familiar charge that the owners
had sold out to reactionary forces bent on keeping the farmers
in their place, although no substantial evidence to back the
accusation could be produced.
The prohibitionists sold Fram to Ingvald H. Ulsaker in January,
1916, and the paper became the Norwegian voice of the Nonpartisan
League, thus building a substantial circulation. Nordvesten
(The Northwest, 1916-1930), the second paper of that name
in Minot, edited and published by J. C. Hoff, claimed to be
progressive Republican. It did not, however, participate in
the fierce political debate between Fram and Normanden. The
League made progress in spite  of growing opposition its
success was aided by the long history of revolt against the
dependent and exploited status of North Dakota. It became
a large, powerful organization, engaging in many activities.
After the 1918 election, it controlled the state legislature
and was able to enact a number of reform laws in the progressive
tradition. However, far-reaching plans for socialistic enterprises
Normanden joined the intense campaign against the League
in March, 1916, a crusade that employed a variety of tactics
to defeat the program of the organization. Opponents of the
League even tried to turn the prevailing war hysteria against
it, attacking the patriotism of its members. The accusation
of disloyalty embittered the controversy between the League
and its detractors. To its Norwegian members the disloyalty
charge was especially painful, as it became for them a vital
necessity to prove themselves loyal Americans after the United
States became directly involved in the fighting. By September,
1917, Normanden was willing to concede that Fram had finally
come around to the American cause; it accepted the supposed
conversion of its rival as evidence of the loyalty of Norwegian
members of the League. Only two months later, however, Fram
merged with Normanden, thereby silencing the Norwegian voice
of the Nonpartisans.
While the Leaguers lacked an organ in the Norwegian language,
Normanden persisted in attempting to convince the immigrants
that there was no salvation in the League program. It still
asserted its allegiance to progressive Republicanism and its
concern for the welfare of North Dakota farmers; it even accepted
the principle of using the state government to bring about
better conditions for the wheat farmers. The paper was not
ready, however, to endorse a group of self-appointed leaders
and a wide range of socialistic reforms. Normanden therefore
resented charges of having sold out to big business and instigated
libel suits against its detractors. At the same time, it worked
with the Independent Voters  Association, which was set
up before the 1918 election with the express purpose of defeating
the League program.
In 1919, another paper emerged to represent the Nonpartisan
League’s Norwegian members. A stock company owned by farmers
in the Red River Valley established Nord Dakota Tidende (The
North Dakota Times, 1919-1923) in Grand Forks, with J. L.
Rindal as editor. The political campaign of 1920 produced
a bitter quarrel between Normanden and Tidende. In the election,
the League lost control of the state government, but retained
the governor, Lynn J. Frazier. The two papers clashed again
in the recall election of 1921, which displaced Frazier and
elected Ragnvald A. Nestos governor. The outcome of the voting,
the first recall of a state official in the nation, was disastrous
for the League organization, which thereafter entered into
a period of rapid decline.
The disintegration of League power caused difficulties for
its Norwegian-language organ as well. In 1922, Nord Dakota
Tidende moved to Fargo, where it was discontinued the next
year. Normanden, edited from 1920 to 1924 by the prairie writer
Simon Johnson, now encountered financial difficulties. These
resulted less from a reduction of political significance than
because Normanden’s facilities could not compete for job printing
with more up-to-date businesses. In 1925, the paper had to
Normanden was acquired by the reactionary forces that it
had previously opposed. Conservative Republicans, Louis B.
Hanna and Porter J. McCumber, set up J. G. Halland as owner
for the purpose of backing Hanna’s candidacy to the United
States senate in 1926. His opponents were the young Gerald
P. Nye, backed by the Nonpartisan League, and the progressive
Republican, Ragnvald A. Nestos, who had been supported by
Normanden in 1921.
The new ownership brought about Normanden’s move to Fargo.
The remaining period of its publishing life was a constant
struggle against the tides of change, which were gradually
destroying the basis for its existence. The immigrants 
were moving toward complete integration in American society,
and there was almost no new supply of subscribers feeling
the need for the services of a Norwegian-language paper. As
late as the 1930’s, however, advertisers in the foreign-language
press stressed their ability to speak Norwegian. In addition
to the problem caused by the adoption of the American language
by the immigrants, the straitened circumstances of the late
1920’s and the 1930’s were an impediment to the success of
any kind of business. After Normanden’s move to Fargo, it
became increasingly dependent for survival on the good will
and support of the political groups that it represented.
In 1927, the life of the paper again hung in the balance;
neither Hanna nor McCumber cared to finance a Norwegian-language
newspaper after Nye’s victory in 1926. At that time Osmund
Gunvaldsen, who had just been appointed United States marshal
for North Dakota, assumed ownership and aligned the paper
with the politicians of the Nonpartisan League. Gustav Amlund,
the famous founder of Visergutten (The Errand Boy) in Canton,
South Dakota, edited Normanden the first year and was succeeded
by the Norwegian-born Minnesota politician, Knut Wefald. The
leading personality working for Normanden from 1930 on was
Ingvald H. Ulsaker, editor for many years and later both publisher
Affiliation with the Nonpartisan League involved Normanden
in a factional conflict within that organization. Much of
the strife centered around the outstanding, but also controversial,
politician, William Langer. He deserved much of the credit
for the resurgence of the League in state politics, and in
1932 he was elected governor of North Dakota. Langer adopted
a number of bold measures to meet the crisis of the depression,
and in so doing he exhibited exceptional qualities of leadership.
Only two years after his election, however, his political
tactics and financial manipulations brought an indictment
against him by a federal grand jury. He was found  guilty
and removed from office; this action put an end to his political
career until a new trial found him innocent of the original
charges in December, 1935. There followed a split in the League
- for and against Langer, the governor. Normanden, even though
Gunvaldsen claimed to be a personal friend, joined forces
with Langer’s adversaries. With the former governor’s re-entry
into politics in 1936, following his vindication, Normanden
outdid itself in discrediting him and the radical segment
of the League which was working with him. Many of the anti-Langer
editorials were in English.
The famous League cartoonist and politician, John M. Baer,
also wrote some of the editorials, and his cartoons ridiculing
“Big Biz” appeared regularly. Outside political influences
had many aspects, and for a large number of North Dakotans
the massive New Deal program of federal aid, instigated by
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, was in some respects
just another kind of out-of-state interference resulting in
a loss of freedom. Normanden saw no advantages in the president’s
efforts to improve the economic well-being of the people of
the state and expressed direct hostility to the huge outpouring
of government funds.
On another count, Normanden saw the president oppose its
basic principle concerning prohibition. The repeal of the
eighteenth amendment in 1933 and the prohibition article in
the state constitution in 1936 caused the paper to propose
county-operated liquor stores as a restraint against what
it called “the greed of the liquor interests.”
Evidently, a Norwegian-language paper still had some significance
in state politics. Normanden retained a circulation of about
6,000, much of it due to the endeavors of Oscar O. Ødegaard,
who traveled as subscription solicitor for the paper. He accepted
farm produce in lieu of cash, and even sold the paper to people
who knew no Norwegian. Another immigrant paper survived the
hardships of the 1930’s. Grand Forks Skandinav (The Grand
Forks Scandinavian, 19261941), established in 1926 by the
Fuhr Publishing Company  of Duluth, was owned after 1935
by Einar E. Fekjar. For a time it was published in partnership
with Normanden. It continued to come out until 1941.
Still, it was only a question of time before the Norwegian
press would outlive its usefulness, and the papers themselves
were busy finding a solution to their dilemma and probing
the reasons for their own decline. Some even accused the church
of accelerating the process of immigrant amalgamation in its
eagerness to adapt to an American setting. The nostalgic attachment
to Norway, however, which at times had grown to a patriotic
fervor, was not dead. Official visits by members of the Norwegian
royal house brought enthusiasm to a new pitch, as was evidenced
when the heir to the throne visited the state in 1939.
The tragic plight of Norway in World War II found the immigrant
newspapers heavily involved in relief programs to alleviate
the sufferings of their countrymen at home. The war years
also saw a change in the political affiliation of Normanden,
which at that time was the sole representative of the Norwegian-language
press in North Dakota.
In 1941, the Democratic politician, Henry Holt, who had worked
on Normanden shortly after World War I, decided to go into
partnership with Ingvald H. Ulsaker and to buy Normanden from
Gunvaldsen. Holt had also supported Grand Forks Skandinav,
which endorsed his election as lieutenant-governor of North
Dakota that same year.
Normanden moved toward the Democratic party, supported President
Roosevelt’s war aims and his fourth bid for the presidency,
generally endorsed Democratic candidates, and denounced the
Nonpartisan Leaguer Gerald P. Nye for his isolationism. Ulsaker
worked unflaggingly to keep the publication alive. In 1944
Holt died, leaving Ulsaker all responsibility for the future
of the paper. Frequent apologies for irregularities in publication
indicate the severe difficulties that Ulsaker encountered
in trying to keep the paper going.
The Norwegian-language press had previously experienced 
a number of mergers, and in 1944 Ulsaker and Sigurd Knudsen,
editor and publisher of Visergutten in Canton, South Dakota,
decided to unite their two enterprises. The consolidation,
however, did not strengthen Normanden; three years later Knudsen
withdrew and re-established Visergutten in Fargo. Again there
were two Norwegian papers competing for a decreasing number
of potential subscribers.
The aging Ulsaker, tired of the endless struggle of publishing
an immigrant newspaper, in 1952 sold Normanden to a group
of politicians in the conservative Republican Organizing Committee.
T. D. Monsen edited the paper until its demise two years later;
after 1952 less than one quarter of the paper was in Norwegian.
Normanden continued strongly to advocate the conservative
platform of the organizing committee, and at the same time
it made violent attacks on the Nonpartisan League, especially
against the segment identified with William Langer. This new
alignment, however, did not save Normanden; neither did its
extensive use of English. The paper steadily lost subscribers.
In December, 1954, it came to an end on a conservative note,
far from its initial policy, and with a circulation of only
1,650. Visergutten continued on alone for a few months, but
in April of the next year, it turned over its list of subscribers
- less than a thousand - to Decorah-Posten. This vigorous
Iowa newspaper had already absorbed many other Norwegian-language
Thus an era had ended. A limited number of persons continued
to subscribe to the few remaining immigrant papers, like Decorah-Posten,
still in existence in other areas of Norwegian settlement.
As an institution, the Norwegian press, however, had definitely
outlived its purpose in North Dakota. The transition from
immigrant to American communities had been accomplished long
before the death of the last Norwegian paper in the state.
The final years of its life had revealed a stubborn unwillingness
on the part of certain men to let it die. 
A final assessment of the Norwegian press in North Dakota
shows that the papers, especially those in the period up to
World War I, were leaders of a regional Norwegian-American
community. They helped to explain the nature of the problems
facing the immigrants in a semiarid grassland, an area dominated
and exploited by out-of-state interests. They guided their
readers in pursuing a better life, and gave them a sense of
direction and solidarity. During the last decades of its existence,
the press gradually lost much of its significance, but it
continued to speak for its countrymen in North Dakota. And,
as always, it showed concern for preserving a Norwegian America
by perpetuating in a new-world society the best aspects of
an old-world heritage.
Afholds-Basunen (Hillsboro), March 12, 1890- December 23,
1896. Incomplete file in Luther College Library, Decorah,
Broderbaandet (Wahpeton and Grand Forks, Fergus Falls, Minnesota).
Complete file, 1899-1962, at Lutheran Brethren Schools, Fergus
Dakota (Grand Forks and Fargo), June 25, 1890-February 24,
1897. Incomplete file in Luther College Library.
Den Fjerde Juli, also Fjerde Juli og Dakota (Grand Forks),
August 16, 1896-April 27, 1898. Incomplete file in Luther
Eidsvold (1) (Grand Forks), May, 1909- July-September, 1910.
Incomplete file in archives of Norwegian-American Historical
Association, Northfield, Minnesota.
Eidsvold (2) (Fargo), June, 1912-January, 1914. Incomplete
file in archives of Norwegian-American Historical Association.
Fargo-Posten (1) (Fargo), January 24, 1885- December 22,
1887.  Incomplete file in University of North Dakota
Library, Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Fargo-Posten (2) (Fargo), October 22, 1897-November 13, 1903.
Incomplete file in Luther College Library.
Folkets-Avis (Hillsboro), March 4, 1899 -March 30, 1901.
Incomplete file in Luther College Library.
Folkets Ven (Fargo), September 30-December 16, 1896. Incomplete
file in Luther College Library.
Fram (Fargo), August 4, 1905-December 6, 1917. Incomplete
file in University of North Dakota Library. May 18, 1898-December
31, 1917. Incomplete file in Luther College Library.
Grafton Posten (Grafton), February 28, 1908-February 5, 1909.
Incomplete file in the University of North Dakota Library.
Grand Forks Skandinav (Grand Forks), June 18, 1937- May 23,
1941. Incomplete file in University of North Dakota Library.
Grand Forks Tidende (Grand Forks), June 3, 1885-December
23, 1885. Incomplete file in Luther College Library.
Minot-Posten (Minot), July 16, 1908-February 25, 1909. Incomplete
file in University of North Dakota Library.
Nord Dakota Tidende (Grand Forks and Fargo), June 26, 1919-April
22, 1922. Incomplete file in University of North Dakota Library.
Nordvesten (Minot), March 8, 1917- December, 1925. Incomplete
file in University of North Dakota Library.
Normanden (Grand Forks and Fargo), June 12, 1901 -February
25, 1954. Incomplete file in University of North Dakota Library.
July 8, 1896- February 25, 1954. Incomplete file in Luther
Norrøna (Fargo), January, 1914 -December, 1915. 
Incomplete file in archives of Norwegian-American Historical
Statstidende (Hillsboro), January 12, 1904- May 28, 1907.
Incomplete file in University of North Dakota Library. April
5, 1904-March 14, 1905. Incomplete file in Luther College
Vesten, also Fargo-Posten og Vesten (Fargo), June 23, 1888-May
22, 1889. Incomplete file in University of North Dakota Library.
Vesterheimen (Mayville), September 9, 1896- October 11, 1899.
Incomplete file in Luther College Library.
NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, the newspapers were located
in North Dakota communities. Dates
given in this listing are for the files, not the years of