Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920


This selected bibliography consists of publications that provide historical, economic, and cultural information about the northern Great Plains, with the greatest emphasis on North Dakota. Although the period between 1880-1920 is emphasized, a number of citations contain overlapping time periods, time periods before 1880, and time periods after 1920. The call numbers are provided to help you locate these titles. Most of these are Library of Congress call numbers.

Agriculture | General Northern Great Plains | Literature | Native Americans
Politics | Women | Younger Readers

Critchfield, Richard. Trees, Why Do You Wait?: America's Changing Rural Culture. Washington: Island Press, 1991 (HN59.2.C75 1991). This work explores and contrasts a present day rural community in North Dakota and one in Iowa. The demise of rural culture and the impacts of this demise on American culture and society in general is examined in this tale of two communities.

Danbom, David B. Born in the Country: A History of Rural America. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995 (E179.D25 1995). This comprehensive history of the development and growth of American agriculture, by the past president of the Agricultural History Society, provides the reader with an excellent overview of the beginnings of the American agricultural experience. Topics covered include the technological changes and impacts in agriculture, regional and cultural differences, demographic impacts, corporate agriculture, and the decline of family farming.

Danbom, David B. Our Purpose is to Serve: The First Century of the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1990 (S541.5.N9 1990). An extremely readable history of the growth of the station, the very strong personalities that shaped the direction of the station, and the numerous advances for which the station was responsible in agricultural research.

Drache, Hiram M. The Day of the Bonanza: A History of Bonanza Farming in the Red River Valley of the North. Danville, IL: The Interstate Printers & Publishers, Inc. Originally published in 1964 by the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies (S451.N9 D7). This history of bonanza farming in the Red River Valley traces the developments leading to farming on such a large scale, the impacts of the Northern Pacific land grants, and the scope and operations of these farms.

Drache, Hiram M. Plowshares to Printouts: Farm Management as Viewed Through 75 Years of the Northwest Farm Managers Association. Danville, IL: The Interstate Printers and Publishers, 1985 (S560.D73 1985). This book provides a history of the Northwest Farm Managers Association, an extremely influential agricultural association.

Murray, Stanley Norman. The Valley Comes of Age: A History of Agriculture in the Valley of the Red River of the North, 1812-1920. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1967 (S441.M95). This history of the Red River Valley focuses on three periods: prior to 1870 when the shift moved from furs to farming, the details and events that led to the bonanza boom from 1870 to 1885, and the coming of age of Red River agriculture from 1885 to 1920.

Arends, Shirley Fischer. The Central Dakota Germans: Their History, Language, and Culture. Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1989 (F645.R85 A74 1989). This scholarly work follows the Germans of Central Dakota from their agrarian roots in Southwestern Germany to their migration to Russia and later to the Dakotas. This closely knit community still maintains a great deal of its language and cultural heritage, including religion, customs, and traditions.

Bochert, John R. America's Northern Heartland. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987 (F597.B67 1987). This economic and historical geography study examines the changes and growth over a century of the region stretching from Lake Superior to the Montana Rockies. Perhaps the most dominant theme that runs through the study is the process of adaptation through which a regional culture emerged.

Coomer, James, and Sheldon Green. Magnificent Churches on the Prairie: A Story of Immigrant Priests, Builders and Homesteaders. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1996 (NA4828.C66 1996). The story of five churches and the communities in which they were built by immigrant architect Anton Dohmen in the early twentieth century. Four of the churches are located in North Dakota and one in South Dakota. Dohmen designed these churches to meet the enthusiasm, as well as the finances, of the immigrants and missionaries who came to settle the land.

Critchfield, Richard. Those Days: An American Album. NY: Dell, 1986 (CT274.C74C74 1986). The story of the author's family covering his grandparents, his parents, and their children. A fascinating tale covering three generations and sixty years of an American family, much of it set in North Dakota.

Danbom, David B. North Dakota: The Most Midwestern State. In Heartland: Comparative Histories of the Midwestern States, edited by James H. Madison, 107-126. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988 (F351.H35 1988). A compelling chapter that presents the history of North Dakota in terms of "colonial status." The dependence that the state had and continues to have on outside interests has to a great extent shaped the direction and focus of North Dakota.

Drache, Hiram M. The Challenge of the Prairie. Danville, IL: The Interstate Printers & Publishers, Inc. Originally published in 1970 by the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies (F642.R3D3 1970). This book provides a glimpse of some of the first pioneer families to the Red River Valley, their migration to the area, the early years struggling, and those who prospered and those who did not.

Hampsten, Elizabeth. Settlers' Children: Growing Up on the Great Plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991 (HQ792.U5H26 1991). Hampsten explores what life was like for the children of the first settlers in North Dakota. Through the use of diaries, letters, reminiscences, and oral interviews, a sense of what childhood and growing up was like on the northern Great Plains can be garnered.

Hudson, John C. Plains Country Towns. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985 (HT123.5.N9 H82 1985). The focus of this study is the development of towns in fourteen north central counties in North Dakota between 1870 and 1920. The study includes two hundred towns, three hundred smaller locations, and the cities of Minot and Devils Lake. Hudson identifies three stages of development: frontier stage (1870-1878), inland town stage (1878-1898), and the railroad town stage (1885-1920).

Newgard, Thomas P., William C. Sherman, and John Guerrero. African-Americans in North Dakota: Sources and Assessments. Bismarck, ND: University of Mary Press, 1994 (E185.93.N7N48 1994). This volume presents a chronicle of the black men and women who settled, permanently and semi-permanently, in Dakota from pioneer days to the mid-twentieth century.

North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains. Bismarck: State Historical Society of North Dakota (F631.N862). This quarterly publication contains articles dealing primarily with North Dakota history, although it includes articles detailing the northern Great Plains.

Plains Folk: North Dakota's Ethnic History. Edited by William C. Sherman & Playford V. Thornson.. North Dakota Centennial Heritage Series. Fargo North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1986, c.1988 (F645.A1P53 1988). Six scholars describe and analyze the ethnic dimensions of North Dakota's past and present in this major work. This study contains a description of every ethnic group that populated the prairies of North Dakota.

Robinson, Elwyn B. History of North Dakota. With a new preface and postscript. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1996. Originally printed by the University of Nebraska Press, 1966 (F636.R6 1995). This authoritative scholarly history of North Dakota takes the reader from the prehistoric times through the mid-twentieth century. In writing this history, Robinson not only took into account politics in the development of the state, but the impact of geography, sociology, economics, ethnology, theology, and nature. The postscript by Dr. David Danbom, Professor of History, North Dakota State University, brings the reader up to the present.

Stevens, Orin Alva. Handbook of North Dakota Plants. 3rd printing. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1963 (QK179.S75 1963). This timeless and excellent work by one of the premiere botanists of North Dakota presents information for the serious student and amateur on the approximately 1000 species of North Dakota plants.

Stock, Catherine McNicol. Main Street in Crisis: The Great Depression and the Old Middle Class on the Northern Plains. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992 (HN79.S83 S76 1992). This book examines classes in North and South Dakota during the 1920s and 1930s. Stock asserts that the depression destroyed economic foundations, community organization, and social relations. The acceptance of the relief from the various New Deal programs was a trade off of autonomy for survival.

Stradley, Scot A. The Broken Circle: An Economic History of North Dakota. Grand Forks: Bureau of Business and Economic Research, University of North Dakota, 1993 (HC107.N9 S74 1993). This book deals with the economic problems and realities that have impacted and continue to impact North Dakota. Stradley begins with economic themes, then delves into the economic history of Native Americans, then economics from settlement onward, including the domination of agriculture and the emergence of the energy complex.

Tweton, D. Jerome. The Marquis de Morès, Dakota Capitalist, French Nationalist. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1972 (DC342.8.M7T9). The Marquis de Morès, a French nobleman, arrived in the Dakota Badlands in 1883, with his wife Medora, with dreams of building a financial empire. On the east bank of the Little Missouri River, he founded the village of Medora and built a meat packing plant. Tweton's story delves into the complexities and problems, diverse interests, and various enterprises of this compelling individual.

Wilkins, Robert P., and Wynona Huchette Wilkins. North Dakota: A Bicentennial History. NY: W.W. Norton Company, 1977 (F636.W49). This very readable history of North Dakota presents a very good overview of the state. The reader is taken from early exploration and settlement to agricultural strengths and weaknesses to prairie politics to the challenges and directions of the 1970s.

Anderson, Kathie Ryckman. Dakota: The Literary Heritage of the Northern Prairie State. Grand Forks: The University of North Dakota Press, 1990 (PS283.N9 A52 1990). This work provides the reader with a wealth of information on almost 200 North Dakota authors and over 300 of their titles, ranging from fiction to autobiography, Native American stories and traditions, child and adult fiction, poetry, and drama.

Deloria, Ella Cara. Waterlily. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988 (PS3554.E44445 W3 1988). The novel, written by a Native American, takes the reader through the life of Waterlily, embracing the culture and everyday experience of a Dakota Teton woman in the Nineteenth Century. This novel was originally written in the early 1940s, but never published.

Erdrich, Louise. The Beet Queen. NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1986 (PS3555.R42 B4 1986). This novel takes place over a forty year span, from 1932 to 1972, and follows the lives of a deserted eleven-year-old girl and her fourteen-year-old brother who hop a train and land in fictional Argus, a small town in the Red River Valley, a place where sugar beets are raised.

Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine. NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1984 (PS3555.R42 L6 1984). Winner of the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. This novel deals with various members of two Chippewa Indian families in the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota. The interrelations between and among the people is viewed over a fifty year period, from 1934 through 1984.

Hudson, Lois Phillips. The Bones of Plenty. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962 (PS3558.U3 B6). Hudson's fictional account is based on her experiences in North Dakota during her childhood. The book deals with the Great Depression period in the Dakotas and the effects it had on farm families like hers.

Inheriting the Land: Contemporary Voices from the Midwest. Edited by Mark Vinz and Thom Tammaro. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993 (PS563.I54 1993). This anthology of contemporary prose samples eighty-four writers who deal with the Midwestern experience in works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

Lyons, Richard. Scanning the Land: Poems in North Dakota. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1980 (PS3523.Y85S3 1980). This volume of poetry is about communities and places in North Dakota. Lyons connects his photography with words to give the reader a sense of place in each poem.

McGrath, Thomas. Letter to an Imaginary Friend, Parts 1 - 4. With a preface by Sam Hamill and an afterword by Dale Jacobson. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1997 (PS3525.A24234 L4 1997). This four-part, critically acclaimed pseudo-autobiographical poem, written over a twenty year period, presents McGrath's life experiences, beginning with his childhood in Sheldon, North Dakota.

Norris, Kathleen. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1993 (F656.2.N66 1993). This highly acclaimed book takes the reader on a journey where the cultural identity of the people and the geography of the land blend. Rarely does a reader have the privilege of observing the interactions, mind sets and viewpoints of people in the small towns that constitute America's outback, or the great inland ocean of fields, called the Northern Great Plains.

Prairie Volcano: An Anthology of North Dakota Writing. Edited by Martha Meek and Jay Meek. Moorhead, MN: Dakotah Territory Press & Grand Forks, ND: St. Ives Press, 1995 (PS571.N9 P72 1995). This anthology of recent North Dakota writing features the works of fifty writers from across the state, as well as contributions of writers who have shared their concepts of North Dakota in national and international literary spheres.

Woiwode, Larry. Beyond the Bedroom Wall: A Family Album. NY: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1975 (PS3573.O4 B48). Winner of the Friends of American Writers Award and nominated for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Award. This novel follows the lives of three generations of the Neumiller family in North Dakota and Illinois.

Gilman, Carolyn, and Mary Jane Schneider. The Way to Independence: Memories of a Hidatsa Indian Family, 1840-1920. With essays by W. Raymond Wood, et al. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1987 (E99.H6.G55 1987). This book on a Hidatsa family living at Independence, North Dakota, is based on the memories of members of Buffalo Bird Woman's family, including her brother, Wolf Chief, and her son Edward Goodbird, as told to Gilbert L. Wilson in the early part of the twentieth century.

Gilmore, Melvin R. Prairie Smoke. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1987. Originally published by Columbia University Press, 1929 (E78.G73.G54 1987). This book furnishes traditional stories and accounts of the early Native Americans of the Plains: the Arikara, Hidatsa, Mandan, Omaha, Pawnee, and Sioux.

Goodbird, Edward (as told to Gilbert L. Wilson). Goodbird the Indian, His Story. With a new introduction by Mary Jane Schneider. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1985. Originally published by Fleming H. Revell Company, 1914 (E99.H6 G664 1985). This book is the autobiography of Edward Goodbird, a Hidatsa Indian from the Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota. His account, first published in 1914, provides insights and accounts into his life from the early reservation years of the 1870s to his experiences as a farmer and a rancher.

Schneider, Mary Jane. North Dakota Indians, An Introduction. 2nd ed. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/ Hunt Publishing, 1994 (E78.N75 S36 1994). This book deals with the major tribal cultures of North Dakota: Arikara, Dakota, Hidatsa, Mandan, Lakota, and Turtle Mountain Chippewa.

Schneider, Mary Jane. North Dakota's Indian Heritage. North Dakota Centennial Heritage Series. Grand Forks: The University of North Dakota Press, 1990 (E78.N75 S37 1990). This book provides the reader with insights into the rich Native American culture in North Dakota, from its origins to today's realities. Included are all the tribes and the reservations upon which they now live. This book explores each tribe as distinct communities and through the diversity of these Americans, challenges the reader to further independent exploration.

Spector, Janet D. What This Awl Means: Feminist Archaeology at a Wahpeton Dakota Village. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1993 (E99.W135 S65 1993). This book focuses on the excavation of Little Rapids, a site occupied by the Eastern Dakota dating from the early and middle 1800s, located about forty-five miles southwest of Minneapolis. In addition to being a fascinating excavation, Spector weaves the history of the Wahpeton community into her story, women's activities and relations between men and women, and finally the voices, visions, and perspectives of the Dakotas themselves into the story.

Blackorby, Edward C. Prairie Rebel; The Public Life of William Lemke. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1963 (E748.L57 B5). This biography of William Lemke presents a picture of an individual dedicated to preserving the rights and protection of farmers. He was one of the major forces behind the Nonpartisan League, served as the North Dakota Attorney General until the recall election of 1921, won election to Congress in 1932, ran against President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the Union Party ticket of 1936, ran against and lost to William Langer for a Senate seat, but then served in Congress again from 1943 until his death in 1950.

Geelan, Agnes. The Dakota Maverick: The Political Life of William Langer, also known as `Wild Bill' Langer. Fargo, ND: Kaye's Printing Co., 1973 (F748.L27 G43). This book focuses on William Langer's political career prior to 1942. Included are his tenure as State's Attorney, Attorney General, and Governor, and his control of the Nonpartisan League from 1932 on.

Lamar, Howard Roberts. Dakota Territory 1881-1889: A Study of Frontier Politics. Fargo, ND: Institute for Regional Studies, 1997. With new foreword by Jack Dalrymple and introduction by Catherine McNicol Stock. Originally published by Yale University Press, 1956 (F655.L25 1997). This re-issued classic on Dakota political history has stood the test of time. The struggle of the settlers against what today would be termed "special interest groups" permeates Dakota politics and today in North Dakota still holds true. Lamar's explanation of Dakota politics took into account not only the impact of federal policy and legislation, but also the environment and patterns of society.

Morlan, Robert L. Political Prairie Fire: The Nonpartisan League, 1915-1922. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1985. Originally published by University of Minnesota Press in 1955 (HD1485.N4M6 1985). This study provides an in-depth history into the inception, growth, progressive platform, political victories, and demise of the Nonpartisan League (NPL). The reader follows the NPL as it grew and challenged big business interests in Minneapolis, its control of North Dakota government, its internal squabbling, and the economic depression which shepherded in its death in 1925.

The North Dakota Political Tradition. Edited by Thomas W. Howard. North Dakota Centennial Heritage Series. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1981 (JK6495.N67). A series of seven essays exploring individuals and groups that impacted the growth and development of North Dakota through its politics. Essays are included on Alexander McKenzie, Governor John Burke, Governor and Senator William Langer, Governor Fred G. Aandahl, and Elizabeth Preston Anderson. The two other essays deal with the Nonpartisan League and the Independent Voters' Association.

Tweton, D. Jerome, and Daniel F. Rylance. The Years of Despair: North Dakota in the Depression. Grand Forks, ND: Oxcart Press, 1973 (F636.T94). A highly political view of North Dakota in the 1930s. This account goes into how the programs of the federal government impacted and assisted North Dakotans during this period, William Langer's political career during this period, legislation that tried to deal with the Great Depression, and numerous photographs from the Farm Security Administration.

Calof, Rachel. Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995; J. Sanford Rikoon, volume editor; translated from Yiddish by Jacob Calof and Molly Shaw (F645.J5C353 1995). This primary account of a Russian Jewish immigrant coming to the United States in 1894 provides a wonderful story of homesteading in rural northeast North Dakota, allowing the reader a quick glance at the joy, uncertainty, and perseverance of a pioneer woman.

Lindgren, H. Elaine. Land in Her Own Name: Women as Homesteaders in North Dakota. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1991 (HQ1438.N9L56 1991). Lindgren's study of women homesteaders dispels the myth that only men tamed the prairie. This sociological study into women homesteading in North Dakota provides the reader with an eye-opening view of the varied roles of women on the prairie. The vignettes within the study portray real events and real people attempting to carve a home in the northern Great Plains.

Raaen, Aagot. Grass of the Earth. New introduction by Barbara Handy-Marchello. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1994. Originally published by the Norwegian American Historical Association in 1950 (F645.S2.R3 1994). This is a riveting and extremely frank biography of a family of Norwegian homesteaders in eastern North Dakota in the later 1880s. The reader observes the ups and downs, the goals and dreams, and successes and failures of a family in this truly moving tale.

Raaen, Aagot. Measure of My Days. Fargo, ND: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1953 (F636.R22). This narrative, written in third person, is the record of a highly adventurous, curious, and driving woman, from establishment of a home base at Hatton, North Dakota, to far flung adventures in Germany, Canada, Honolulu, Japan, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Russia.

Schloff, Linda Mack. And Prairie Dogs Weren't Kosher: Jewish Women in the Upper Midwest Since 1855. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1996 (F358.2.J5S35 1996). Utilizing oral accounts, diaries, letters, and autobiographies, light is shed on the Jewish experience in the Northern Great Plains. Accounts from Jewish women who settled in the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin provide insights into forging a life in America's heartland.

Woodward, Mary Dodge. The Checkered Years: A Bonanza Farm Diary, 1884-88. New introduction by Elizabeth Jameson. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1989. Originally published by Caxton Printers, Ltd. in 1937 (F636.W66 1989). This book is the personal account of Mary Dodge Woodward's life on a bonanza farm in the Red River Valley of Dakota Territory. Her daily record provides the reader with a window to view the yearly farm cycle, mirages on the plains, family relationships, and the blizzard of '88.

Herguth, Margaret S. America The Beautiful. North Dakota. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1990 (F636.3.H47 1990). This book provides the reader with quick overview of North Dakota, using many color photographs and an informative facts section at the end of the book.

Jelliff, Theodore B. North Dakota, A Living Legacy. Fargo, ND: K&K, 1988 (F636.3.J45 1988). This text for junior high school students provides the reader with the information on the environment, the people and history, government, economics, and continuing issues impacting on the state.

MacLachlan, Patricia. What You Know First. NY: Harper Collins, 1995 (PZ7.M2225 Wh 1995). As a family prepares to move away from their farm, the daughter reflects on all the things she loves there so that when her baby brother is older she can time him what it was like.

Rolfsrud, Erling Nicolai. Gopher Tales for Papa. Farwell, MN: Lantern Books, 1984 (PS3535.O47 G6). This fictional work, based on historical fact, is a story of a preacher's son who drops twenty-three gopher tails in the church collection plate, since he knows that they will bring three cents apiece. This contribution sparks the entire congregation and by autumn enough money is raised to buy the church a new organ.

Rolfsrud, Erling Nicolai. Story of the Peace Garden State. Farwell, MN: Lantern Books, 1990 (F636.R64 1990). This book provides the young reader with an overview of the development of North Dakota, with emphasis on its growth and emergence as a state.

Sypher, Lucy Johnston. The Edge of Nowhere. NY: Atheneum, 1974 (PZ7.S9847Ed). The Edge of Nowhere is one of four autobiographical recollections by Lucy Johnson Sypher, originally begun for her grandchildren. All are set in her hometown of Wales, North Dakota, from 1916-1917. The other books are: Cousins and Circuses (1974), The Spell of the Northern Lights (1975), and The Turnabout Year (1976).

Tweton, D. Jerome. North Dakota: The Heritage of a People. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1976 (F636.T88). A general history of North Dakota, with emphasis on its people and institutions.

Verba, Joan Marie. North Dakota. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Company, 1992 (F636.3.V47 1992). For the young reader, this is a short and quick tour of North Dakota through text and photographs.

The World Book Encyclopedia. 1996 ed. S.V. "North Dakota The Flickertail State" (AE5.W55 1996). This general article presents a thorough overview of North Dakota, with numerous references to other related articles.

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