The North Dakota Economy (1890-1915): An Overview

North Dakota became a state just as economic hard times hit farmers across the nation. The Homestead Act of 1862 and the westward development of railroads (the Northern Pacific crossed North Dakota between 1871 and 1881 and the Great Northern between 1881 and 1887) opened up millions of acres to cultivation. Production of crops such as wheat increased much faster than the demand, causing commodity prices to fall. The national recession of 1893 made the situation for farmers even worse.

After 1900, however, the situation changed. Demand for farm products increased as cities swelled with new immigrants. This created the Golden Age of Agriculture, 1901-1915, when the purchasing power of farm income had never been better. This was an age of farm prosperity which stimulated North Dakota’s Second Boom. Dependent upon the condition of supply and demand, North Dakota went from bust to boom.

The following North Star Dakotan stories recount this dramatic change in the state’s economy.

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.

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