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5 Facts About North Dakota's Capital: How Well Do You Know Bismarck?

By    |   Monday, 13 April 2015 01:07 PM

Though it's dwarfed in population size by Fargo, the North Dakota capital of Bismarck has been the center of the state's government ever since it entered into the Union in 1889. According to Forbes, its population growth of 22.5 percent from 2000-2013 makes it the seventh fastest growing small city in the country.

Here are five additional facts about North Dakota's capital:

1. The city was originally named "Edwinton" after a man named Edwin L. Johnson, a supporter of the transcontinental railroad. But after only a year, the name was changed to Bismarck in honor of Otto von Bismarck, the German chancellor.

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The hope locally was that the name change would help invite German investment in the railroad. The railway was finished that same year in 1873, and according to Britannica, it "contributed greatly to the community's growth."

2. Standing at 241 feet, the tallest building in North Dakota is the state capitol, and as Capitol Ideas writes, it's the only capitol building in the U.S. that's asymmetrical. Instead of the two legislative bodies on opposite wings of the building, the two halves of the legislature are housed on one side of the structure. On the other side is the 19 story executive tower that rises far above the legislative wing.

3. The state capitol building is actually a replacement for the original capitol, which burned to the ground in 1930 –— apparently caused by the oily rags in the janitor's closet which has been used to clean and varnish the legislators' desks in preparation for the upcoming 1931 session.

The new capitol building was completed in 1934 for $2 million, and the state had to overcome a strike by the WPA workers who were building it and who wanted a raise from 30 cents per hour to 50 cents per hour.

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4. The oldest and the longest-continuously running newspaper in the state is the Bismarck Tribune, which began publishing in 1873. The newspaper had a tremendous scoop in 1876 when it broke the story of Custer's Last Stand.

As the University of Nebraska tells it, reporter Mark Kellogg was killed in battle, but "his bloodstained notes found their way back to Bismarck, where [Tribune founder Clement A.] Lounsberry hogged the town's single telegraph line for 22 hours to transmit the story as sometime correspondent for the New York Tribune. The eastern editors ... did not believe him, however, and held the story long enough for Lounsberry's own paper to get the scoop."

5. In 2007, Bismarck played host to an attempt to set the world record for most snow angels at once when 8,962 people dropped into the snow near the state capitol building and waved their arms and legs until the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed the new mark. "If anybody wants to challenge [the record], bring 'em on," state Sen. Dick Dever said, according to USA Today.

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Though it's dwarfed in population size by Fargo, the North Dakota capital of Bismarck has been the center of the state's government ever since it entered into the Union in 1889.
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Monday, 13 April 2015 01:07 PM
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