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Dickinson man's scrapbook a snapshot of ND history

Marvin Runge 90, of Dickinson, opens up his scrapbook to reveal clippings from newspapers and magazines that reveal life of Native Americans and ranchers in the early days of North Dakota. (Linda Sailer / The Dickinson Press)

Marvin Runge of Dickinson has a scrapbook filled with historic trivia unlike any other.

It's a snapshot of North Dakota history as seen through the eyes of a seventh-grader, when he made it as a school assignment.

"I went through magazines and newspapers, and I wrote letters to the State Capitol for information," said Runge as he showed his yellowed and tattered 23-page book.

Runge, who will turn age 90 in October, finished the project while he was attending Rainy Butte School, a country school near New England. His teacher at the time was Emma Brude.

"The teachers were strict, but I wouldn't trade my eighth grade with the guys in high school," Runge said. "I remember at the end of the school year, the county superintendent of schools gave you a test that you had to pass before you could graduate."

Runge stored the scrapbook away and pulled it out when his daughter, Chris Runge, came to visit from Washington, D.C..

Going through the scrapbook, he showed her the cover featuring the Great Seal of the State of North Dakota, which he drew and colored it with gold paint. The pages are bound together with a red cord.

He collected magazine photos of the Badlands and wrote the headline, "This Way to Wonderland."

He has photos of farmers using horses or vintage Minneapolis Molines to harvest grain. The headline reads, "Modern Farming."

One clipping reports on the statehood of North Dakota—the "Birth of the Twins: When Uncle Sam introduced the new and healthy members of his great family."

He clipped magazine photos of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and Soil Conservation's efforts to reduce the erosion.

He included a 1930s book titled "North Dakota: A State of Restful Awe-Inspiring Beauty and Thrilling History" The introduction was by J.M. Devine, the commissioner of immigration. It contains black-and-white photos of Native Americans, ranchers and Theodore Roosevelt riding on the Elkhorn Ranch. The same book reported North Dakota as having more than 78,000 farms, each averaging 496 acres.

Runge is especially proud of his photos of the state Capitol—the old capitol building, the fire of 1930 that destroyed it and the architecture's sketch of the capital as it would look when constructed.

He writes about the state's flower—the wild prairie rose—the state flag, the Great Seal of North Dakota and notes to a lost tune titled "North Dakota."

Runge's scrapbook featured a photo gallery of North Dakota governors, which he gathered from the North Dakota Historical Society. The governors include Dakota Territory governors John Pennington, appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant; Newton Edwards, the second governor; and 1930s governors John Moses, Walter Welford and Thomas Moodie.

His newspapers clippings depict Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of the LIttle Bighorn, and includes an interview with Curley, the Crow Indian Scout who rode with Custer. Runge has photos of the horse, Comanche, that survived the battle despite severe wounds.

Other photos depict the Marquis de Mores family and servants as they prepare for a ride from the Chateau at Medora.

Even lesser-known photos depict an Indian village at the Fort Berthold, an Indian travois, and Arikara scouts at Fort Berthold. Another clipping tells of Gen. Henry Sibley's punitive expedition into Dakota Territory in 1863, and of Ben Bird, a rodeo legend of the Killdeer Rodeo

With the history covered, Runge moved on to photos of wildflowers, birds, animals, plants poisonous to livestock, and an aerial drawing of what Bismarck looked like in 1887. To be inclusive, he included a clipping titled "North Dakota Jewish colony failed—refugees knew too little of farming."

Students of western North Dakota history will appreciate clippings on the "HT ranch dude house, a monument to spirit of Old West," and references to the surgeon who accompanied the Fisk gold expeditions to Montana.

What Runge didn't include were photos of the Dust Bowl grasshoppers that he personally witnessed.

"When you looked into the sun, you could see clouds of grasshoppers," he said. "The ground was lousy with them. Cars didn't have air conditioning then, and we put screens on the windows to keep the grasshoppers out."

If Runge had continued his scrapbook, he could have included photos of World War II—he served with the Army Air Force—or the love letters he wrote to his sweetheart and wife, Celeste, while she lived in Guyana. Celeste died three years ago.

After discharge, Runge attended Hansen's Mechanical Trade School and worked as a mechanic at DeFoe's, which later became known as Charbonneau Car Center. He later started his own business, Park Avenue Upholstery.

Having gone through the scrapbook with his family, Runge is putting it back into storage at home.

"It was fun to look at it with Chris when she was home," he said.