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North Dakota: Legendary. Follow the trail of legends

Backstage Pass to North Dakota History

This blog takes you behind the scenes of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Get a glimpse at a day-in-the-life of the staff, volunteers, and partners who make it all possible. Discover what it takes to preserve North Dakota’s natural and cultural history. We encourage dialogue, questions, and comments!

Shane Molander's blog

Charles Lindbergh Visits Fargo

Ninety years ago, Minnesota’s Charles Lindbergh became perhaps the most famous aviator in the world when he made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. On May 20, 1927, Lindbergh took off in the Spirit of St. Louis from Roosevelt Field near New York City, and after 3,600 miles in 33.5 hours he landed near Paris to thousands of cheering people.

Lindbergh’s heroic flight thrilled people throughout the world. He was honored with awards, celebrations, and parades. President Calvin Coolidge gave Lindbergh the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Flying Cross. To promote and encourage aviation-related research, Lindbergh, sponsored by the Daniel Guggenheim Fund, went on a three-month tour of the country in his airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis. On August 26, 1927, he landed in Fargo.

Advertisement in Fargo Forum leading up to Lindbergh's 1927 visit

One of the many advertisements in the Fargo Forum leading up to Lindbergh’s 1927 visit

Lindbergh’s arrival to town is described in this excerpt from The Fargo Forum – August 26, 1927 Evening Edition:

He turned and twisted around the city, his plane at an altitude low enough so that many of his downtown watchers believed they could see the nation’s hero in his enclosed cab.  His flight over the city turned to the flying field, circled it in a huge sweep once, and then, evidently seeking to inspect it closer, dropped near the ground and circled it three times before ‘snaking’ his machine to the ground.

Advertisement in Fargo Forum leading up to Lindbergh's 1927 visit

One of the many advertisements in the Fargo Forum leading up to Lindbergh’s 1927 visit

Lindbergh would spend the night in Fargo after his hero’s welcome and speech. He flew to Sioux Falls, SD, the next day.

The State Archives recently completed digitizing the Meyer Broadcasting/KFYR ¾” tapes that date from 1976-1998. During that project, I came across Lindberg’s Fargo landing on one of the tapes. KFYR reporter Dick Heidt did a story on the 50th anniversary of Lindbergh’s historic flight and visit to Fargo.  The attached clip from 1977 includes an interview with Basil Kolosky, an amateur photographer from rural Georgetown, Minn., and shows film footage that Kolosky took during the actual event of 1927. So, not only are we marking the 90th anniversary of the Lindbergh’s flight and tour, but also the 40th anniversary of the KFYR-TV story on the 50th anniversary of Lindbergh’s great feat!

Enjoy the clip!

Muhammad Ali in North Dakota? Discovering a Film Treasure in State Archives

Working with Archives’ film collections, it’s not out of the ordinary to come across something special once in a while. On January 26 I was searching through our film database for a requested topic when I spotted “Muhammad Ali” in a description. Immediately I figured this was a clip from the national news or something, and then I read the whole thing: “WDAZ Muhammed Ali talks with Boyd Christensen at the train depot.” “Wow!” I thought. “What could this be?” The database indicated it had not been digitized, so I went back to the storage vault and pulled core 2490 from the WDAY/WDAZ TV news collection 10351. It is 16mm film on a core with a total of 20 segments. The clip is nearly eight minutes and is a treasure.

For those too young to have been around during Ali’s boxing career here is a little refresher:

Muhammad Ali was born in 1942 as Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky. He won the gold medal for boxing in the 1960 Olympics, turned professional boxer, and became the second youngest heavyweight champion of the world in 1964. Clay would convert to Islam in the 1960s and change his name to Muhammed Ali. He had his title stripped from him and was banned from boxing for three years for refusing to be inducted into the armed forces because of his religion and his anti-Vietnam war stance. He was later acquitted. Following his suspension, Ali would capture, lose, and recapture the heavyweight title several times throughout the 1970s. His last fight was in 1981. In 1984 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He passed away on June 3, 2016.

On January 27, 1969, Ali, AKA “The Greatest,” was in North Dakota. North Dakota Sportscaster and eventual Sportswriter Hall of Famer Boyd Christensen of WDAY TV in Fargo interviewed Ali at the Fargo train station. In the interview, Ali speaks about civil rights, black society, and……the weather! How else could The Greatest have ended up in Fargo?

The following day the Forum read, “The champ, unstoppable in the ring, was decked here Monday by the North Dakota weather en route from his New York home to the west coast by car. Ali found the northern climate too much for a left jab and ended up in a snow bank.”

Enjoy the clips! Take a look at the full clip and a short one where Ali tells us why he’s in Fargo.