Cowboy Jam Session by Jeri L. Dobrowski: Browsing the ND Museum store bookshelves |

Cowboy Jam Session by Jeri L. Dobrowski: Browsing the ND Museum store bookshelves

The Northern Lights Atrium at the North Dakota Heritage Center overlooks an outdoor space dotted with Cannonball concretions. The large spherical concretions are found along the Cannonball River that runs through Morton and Sioux Counties in southern North Dakota. The Museum Store is located a short distance from the atrium entrance. Photo courtesy State Historical Society of North Dakota

President Benjamin Harrison approved statehood for North and South Dakota on Nov. 2, 1889, dividing Dakota Territory into the country’s 39th and 40th states. In 2014, in conjunction with its 125th anniversary of statehood, North Dakota unveiled a newly renovated Heritage Center and State Museum in the capitol city of Bismarck. The museum’s new galleries trace the chronological development of the land and its people from 600 million years ago through the present day. (For more see

Along with the galleries, the Museum Store benefitted from the $51.7 million, 97,000-square-foot expansion. Moved from its former location in the glass-walled entrance near the Badlands Plaza, it’s now centrally located within the corridors and exhibit spaces that house artifacts and high-tech displays.

On a recent visit to the facility, which some have called “the Smithsonian on the prairie,” I spent an enjoyable afternoon perusing the bookshelves. They held a mixture of titles that have stood the test of time and new offerings that piqued my interest.

Among titles I’ve previously recommended were Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden by Gilbert L. Wilson, Ph.D. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1987); Bleed, Blister & Purge: A History of Medicine on the American Frontier by Volney Steele, M.D. (Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2005); and Evelyn Cameron: Montana’s Frontier Photographer by Kristi Hager (Farcountry Press, 2007).

The store has an extensive selection of books dealing with homesteading, including a particular favorite of mine that I’ve not yet shared with readers, Checkered Years: A Bonanza Farm Diary 1884-88 by Mary Dodge Woodward (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1989). Mary’s diary recounts life on a 1,500-acre bonanza wheat farm in the Red River Valley where she lived with her son who managed the farm. It is a vivid account of day-to-day life. The author’s home is preserved in the Bonanzaville Pioneer Village, West Fargo, North Dakota. (See photos of the house at

Among a host of books beckoning from the shelves was The Horse Buggy Doctor by Arthur E. Hertzler, M.D., with a foreword by Milburn Stone (Bison Books, 1970). The story of country doctors in general and of Dr. Hertzler in particular, the book promises to take readers on rounds with the kindly Doc who practiced near Halstead, Kansas, shortly after the turn of the century. It’s a discussion of medical science at the time as told through first-person accounts.

Four Indian elders recount their life stories of growing up and living in Minnesota and the Dakotas in a collection of oral histories entitled Honor the Grandmothers: Dakota and Lakota Women Tell Their Stories by Sarah Penman (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2000). Originally broadcast as a radio documentary, the book tells of the grandmothers’ roles in teaching tribal language, medicinal lore and spiritual beliefs to the young people.

The children’s section offers an engaging assortment of nature and history books. I was captivated by a reproduction of the 1879 McGuffey’s First Eclectic Reader (McGuffey Readers) by William McGuffey. The first widely used textbook in the U.S., children and adults alike learned to read from the series. First published in 1836, they’ve sold an estimated 120 million copies, and are still in use today.

My vote for most intriguing cookbook went to Ewiger Saatz – Everlasting Yeast: The Food Culture of the Germans from Russia in Emmons County, Logan County and McIntosh County, North Dakota by Sue Kaseman Balcom (Tri-County Tourism Alliance, 2013). The 12 x 12-inch hardback coffee table book is written by Germans from Russia about the foods and culture of their ancestors who homesteaded in south central North Dakota. More than a recipe book, it contains wonderful narratives about how families raised and prepared their daily meals and holiday specialties. Lavishly illustrated, this heartwarming tribute includes chapters on milking, gardening, threshing, canning, butchering and baking. (Here’s a peek inside:

The North Dakota Museum Store is located at 612 East Boulevard Ave., Bismarck, ND 58505. For more information on the books mentioned here or to order, call 701-328-2879. The store’s online site is under construction.

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