National Geographic Writer Sees Bright Future for North Dakota

Washington, D.C.
September 1951

When National Geographic Magazine’s writer, Leo A. Borah, visited North Dakota, he was impressed by the people, the land, and the state’s future. The lead article, “North Dakota Comes into Its Own,” gives readers a panoramic view of our past and present, concluding that the state “looks back proudly upon its victory over handicaps. Truly it is coming into its own.”

Power farm equipment shares the prairie with the state capitol in Bismarck. Courtesy of State Historical Society of North Dakota (0080-box 16-01).

Wherever he traveled, he was amazed by what he saw: the oil activity around Williston and Minot, the skyscraper capitol building and historical artifacts in Bismarck, the expansion of wholesale enterprise and agricultural research in Fargo, lignite research and the university in Grand Forks, the manufacture of briquettes from lignite in Dickinson, Rosemeade pottery creation in Wahpeton, the construction of the Garrison Dam near the new town of Riverdale, the beauty of the Badlands, an unusually fine men’s store in Valley City, the state’s only liberal arts college in Jamestown, rodeo events in Mandan.

A rope-twirling cowboy at the Mandan Rodeo, 1950. Courtesy of State Historical Society of North Dakota (0507-06).

In the countryside he witnessed the “exquisite blue” of flax in bloom and the “ocean expanse of golden wheat.” Writer Borah took special note of the abundance of animal and bird life, “a mecca for wildfowl” and “a huntsman’s paradise.” He views the grain elevator as “North Dakota’s trademark.”

Construction of the Garrison Dam. Courtesy of State Historical Society of North Dakota (B8081).

He admits that “North Dakota is no place for the timid or weak,” but describes North Dakotans in terms such as “never say die” and “ready to take chances.” The state, according to Borah, is “plain as an old shoe” where “‘Putting on airs’ is unheard of.”

The National Geographic observer concludes, “The future of North Dakota holds amazing promise.”

By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton


Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

Grade Level


Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change