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Unit 4. Official Statehood Map, 1889

This is the official statehood map of 1889. It measures 17 ½ inches by 23 inches. Source: SHSND.

North Dakota gained its final boundaries in 1889 when it entered the Union. It had undergone several changes during the early territorial period. At first, what we know as eastern North Dakota was part of Minnesota Territory. When Minnesota became a state in 1858, its western portions were removed at the Red River. This area became part of Dakota Territory in 1861 which stretched west through most of modern day Montana and part of northern Wyoming. In 1863, Congress created Idaho Territory. This was another sprawling territory with its eastern border on the 104th meridian – North Dakota’s modern western boundary. Congress chose the 104th meridian because in creating new territories and states, Congress wanted to make them as equal in size as possible. Therefore, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon are similar in size, each having about 7 degrees of longitude in width.

Official statehood map for North Dakota, 1889
Statehood Map, 1889. Click on image to view
a larger version in a new window.

The southern border was established when the territory split into two states and the reasoning was similar. The column of states in the Great Plains formed by Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota were divided equally, each having 3 degrees of latitude. Only one of North Dakota’s boundary lines was based on a natural feature, the Red River of the North; the other boundaries were drawn by surveyor’s lines along the meridians.

Map Activity: This map was published by the Department of Immigration and Statistics. What kind of information is available on this map? If it was distributed to people in Europe who were considering immigrating to North Dakota, what would they find appealing or useful? Have the counties changed in size, shape, or name since 1889?