Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920

Agriculture always has been and will continue to be the strength of North Dakota. North Dakota produces more barley, sunflower seeds, and flaxseed than any other state; ranks number two in wheat production; and ranks among the leading producers of oats, rye, and sugar beets. Beef cattle also are important to the economy. Cropland and pastures cover about 90 percent of the state's total land area.

Photo IconThe state has tried to diversify its economy. In the early 1950s oil was discovered in the western part of the state. By the 1970s oil wells were operating in 14 western counties, and today it still remains an important export. The state also has been using more of its coal resources since the 1950s. Lignite coal is used to generate over 90 percent of the state's electric power. Today, North Dakota holds 80 percent of all lignite resources in the United States. In 1957 North Dakota established an economic development commission that has worked to attract industry to the state. Industry has grown and created thousands of jobs for North Dakotans, but attracting industry remains difficult because the state lies so far from the nation's urban centers.

In July of 1997, a report based on FBI crime statistics ranked North Dakota as the safest state in the nation, with the lowest violent crime rate. Another report in July of 1997, from the Children's Rights Council, ranked North Dakota as the best state to raise children. Their rating was based on nine factors, including rates of high school graduates, crime and divorce.

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Northern Great Plains: Photographs from the Fred Hultstrand and F.A. Pazandak Collections