Everywhere I go, I find Roosevelt connections. Recently I was invited to speak at the Minnesota Digital Library annual meeting in St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition to good discussions about creating, providing access to, and preserving digital images, we of course talked about TR items that the Theodore Roosevelt Center might be able to include in our digital library.
During the drive back from St. Paul, I took the opportunity to stop in Fargo to see where Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Fargo College Library in 1910. After a little sleuthing and several phone calls, I located the place. On the grounds of what is now the headquarters of the RDO Equipment Co., the site is marked by a simple plaque. The staff at RDO was very generous in helping me find it, despite spluttering rain and wet grass. In a natural setting amidst full-grown trees, it was hard to imagine that this was where one of Fargo’s two Carnegie libraries once stood.
Plaque placed at the former site of the Fargo College Library. Photo courtesy of Sharon Kilzer
The inscription on the plaque explains that the cornerstone was given to the Cass County Historical Society in 2001; so on leaving RDO, I went to visit Bonanzaville, USA, the historical society’s wonderful museum complex. Thanks to Troy White, executive director of Bonanzaville, for taking time to locate the cornerstone. The museum is under renovation, and the cornerstone was “tucked away” amidst many other great artifacts that are in storage. In fact, it’s right next to an American bison! The stone’s inscription acknowledging Roosevelt's role is well preserved. The stone’s substantial size and weight seem to suggest the builders’ expectation that the building in which it was placed would stand the test of time. Sadly, the library was razed after just half a century, in 1964.
While at Bonanzaville, I saw their display of Rosemeade, a North Dakota pottery manufactured from the 1940s to the early 1960s. Among the collection is a Theodore Roosevelt “Old Four Eyes” commemorative plate made in the 1950s. I quickly started a conversation with the Bonanzaville staff about what other Roosevelt related items the museum might have, and to my delight, they were very willing to cooperate in identifying such items and providing photographs or scans for the digital library.
Old Four Eyes Rosemeade Plate. Photo courtesy of Sharon Kilzer
Through our work and travels, we continue to connect to Roosevelt materials. We know there are many gems to be found throughout the country. This fall we’ll begin a campaign to gather those in North Dakota. Watch for news of the campaign soon!