New laws from 120 years back

A look at the new North Dakota laws from 1901.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig

The laws passed by the North Dakota Legislature in the 1901 session went into effect in November of that year and were the subject of a front-page article in The Jamestown Alert.

One law gave the North Dakota Attorney General the same authority to prosecute cases at the local level as the county state’s attorneys. This was said to be part of the campaign against bootleggers and allowed the state to step in if the county officials were slow in prosecuting alleged alcohol violations during prohibition.


Another new law abolished the state’s $3 bounty on wolves but required counties in the state to offer a bounty of $2 per wolf.

The wages for county commissioners went up to $4 per day they met. Adjusted for inflation, that amounts to $126 per day now when adjusted for inflation.

There were a couple of laws that seemed strange to the writers of the Alert article back in 1901.

Slandering a woman was made a crime.

“Any person who speaks disparagingly of the character of a woman in the hearing of another will be liable to a fine and imprisonment in the county jail,” said the Alert.

Another new law was meant to improve the morals of North Dakota residents.

Divorced people were prohibited from remarrying within three months of a divorce. This was meant to prevent marriages at “15 minute intervals from the granting of divorces” wrote the Alert.

But the bill that confused the writers at the Alert the most dealt with how groceries and meat markets sold beef.


The law required that any dressed beef had to be displayed with the hide of the cow for a period of 10 days.

Violating the law could result in fines and even jail time.

Maybe you could pick out a hide and have it tanned and made into a belt when you purchased a roast or steak.

Instead, the law was intended to promote local livestock producers and processing.

Large-scale packing plants located outside the region were becoming a bigger factor in the meat processing industry. Cattle could be slaughtered in Chicago, for example, and shipped back to North Dakota in refrigerated boxcars.

Lawmakers felt it was impractical for those eastern slaughterhouses to ship the hides to North Dakota. Instead, it would more practical for local meat processors to keep the hide with the beef improving the market for locally raised and processed beef.

It may have promoted local industry, but I still don’t think I want to see a hide next to the beef cooler when I’m buying some hamburger.


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