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Photographs - Collections - 301-350 - #00339

Title: Charles and Viola Liessman

Dates: 1910-1989

Collection Number: 00339

Quantity: 49 items

Abstract: Images of Bismarck N.D, and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Provenance: The State Historical Society of North Dakota acquired the Charles and Viola Liessman Papers from Jack Vantine on July 18, 1985. The photographs were transferred to this collection.

Property Rights: The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to this collection.

Copyrights: Copyrights to materials in this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs. Researchers should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17, U.S. Code and an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirement is needed.

Access: This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Citation: Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.

Related Collection:
MSS 10113 Charles and Viola Liessman


Charles and Viola Liessman played an important role in the settlement of turn-of-the century Kidder County and later, North Dakota. The Liessman's involvement in business and politics there was influential in the development of the region. Moreover, the political experiences of Charles Liessman in Kidder County helped to catapult him into state politics during the early years of the Nonpartisan League (NPL). His most influential posts included Deputy Secretary of State and Executive Secretary of the state Farm Security Administration. Likewise, Viola Liessman's clothing store in Steele, North Dakota and involvement in a myriad of women's clubs reflected her active participation in social and patriotic spheres.

Charles Liessman was born on September 24, 1878 in Hildesheim, Germany. When he was sixteen years old he joined the merchant marine and served as a maritime sailor for Germany and other European nations. Around 1900, he established residency in the United States and shortly thereafter joined the U.S. Navy. He served until 1909. During his tenure with the United States Navy, Liessman visited most of the world's major seaports. Between 1905 and 1909, he served on the personal staff of the commander-in-chief of the Pacific fleet. Liessman resigned in 1909 when he decided upon homesteading in North Dakota. He had visited the state during the summer of 1907 and was impressed with it enough to make future plans to live there. Shortly after his move to North Dakota in 1909, he married Viola Stramblad. The two had met at Queen Victoria's jubilee celebration in London in the 1890s. Like Charles, Viola Liessman's origins were not in North Dakota.

Born Viola Stramblad on July 13, 1869 in Lenark, Illinois, Viola and her parents moved to Peyton, Iowa where they operated a family-owned general store. Sometime in the 1890s fire destroyed the business. Shortly thereafter her father died. Along with her mother and brother she traveled across Europe and supported herself from proceeds of sales of photographs and articles about Europe to American publishers. It was during these tours that she met sailor Charles Liessman. Viola returned to the United States in 1902 and filed a homestead claim on a tract of land in Kidder County. Viola and her family had claims around the now abandoned town of Bostonia. Her brother Theodore was largely responsible for the establishment of the town and even served as postmaster until 1913. After Charles and Viola married in July 1909, they worked their claims in Kidder County and on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. As a result, Charles had to be away from home a good deal of the time. During one such absence, Viola's mother helped her deliver her first child, Thelma. Viola raised a white signal flag when the time arrived, prompting her mother to rush to her side. On another occasion, Viola and her daughter were forced to live in a tent and granary when their home burned to the ground. After the harrowing and rough times before World War I, the success both she and her husband enjoyed was welcomed indeed.

Charles and Viola Liessman were involved in a number of different business and professional activities. The same was true of the Stramblad family of Bostonia. Admitted to the state bar in 1916, Charles was involved in states attorney work for Kidder County, as well as other minor governmental positions. Mrs. Liessman owned and operated a clothing store in Steele, North Dakota. By 1925, however, Charles was called upon to serve in the Secretary of State's Office.

In January 1925, Charles Liessman took charge of the Office of Deputy Secretary of State under Thomas Hall. He held the post for ten years. Of course, the job demanded that the Liessmans live near the seat of government. As a result, the Liessmans moved to Bismarck. Mrs. Liessman threw herself into a multitude of clubs and organizations in Bismarck. Some of those clubs included Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), Garden Club, Art Club, Pan Attic Club, and local women's suffrage groups. Mrs. Liessman was engaged in a good deal of political activity on behalf of the NPL. Charles' loyalty, too, was to the League and its ideals throughout his life, and was reflected in the earlier political posts he held.

Prior to his position as Deputy Secretary of State (1925-1935), Charles Liessman acted as Executive Secretary of the Board of Administration, Secretary of the State Board of Regents, Chief Clerk of the State Selective Service during World War I, and State's Attorney for Kidder County. His wealth of experience in political offices made his selection in 1925 as Deputy and Secretary of State an understandable one. His many political experiences, and Mrs. Charles Liessman’s involvement in different women's clubs, had an impact on Bismarck, Kidder County, and even state development.

Charles Liessman died on February 16, 1963 after a ten-day stay in a Bismarck hospital. His wife passed away on November 20, 1969 at the age of 99.

Who's Who for North Dakota, 1958
Bismarck Tribune, February 6, 1963
ibid., November 20, 1969, p. 13
Charles and Viola Liessman Papers, 10113


00339-01              State Capitol Building after fire, Bismarck N.D. December 28, 1930
00339-02              Old State Capitol Building and Liberty Memorial Building, Bismarck N.D.
00339-03              New State Capitol Building and inset of Old State Capitol burning, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1932
00339-04              New State Capitol Building, Bismarck N.D. (color)
00339-05              Railroad work crews, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-06              Masonic Temple, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-07              Grand Pacific Hotel, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-08              Federal Building, Bismarck N.D. 1913
00339-09              City National Bank, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-10              City Auditorium, Bismarck N.D. built 1914
00339-11              Bismarck Hospital ca. 1910
00339-12              Horse drawn parade float - Gussner's Groceries, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-13              Horse drawn parade float - G. M. Mandigo & Son Groceries, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-14              Group of ladies eating watermelon, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-15              National Guard Armory Co. A, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-16              First National Bank, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-17              Women’s Civic Club garden, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-18              Horse drawn parade float, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-19 – 23     Railroad work crews, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-24              Railroad work crews working on approach to bridge, Bismarck N.D. 1910
00339-25              Railroad work crews working toward bridge, Bismarck N.D. 1910
00339-26              Bismarck and Benton river boats, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-27              Steamboat Scarab at freight landing, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-28              Clarence Belden Little residence on Washington Street, Bismarck ca. 1910
00339-29              Homestead shack and horses by Missouri River bends ca. 1910 (00151-127-03)
00339-30              Northern Pacific Railroad train, Bismarck N.D. 1910
00339-31              Group in a car in front of C. B. Little residence on Washington Street. Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-32 – 33     Northern Pacific Depot, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-34              C. B. Little residence, Bismarck ca. 1910
00339-35              Northern Pacific Depot, Bismarck N.D. ca. 1910
00339-36 – 37     Garden party at Former Governor’s Mansion, Bismarck N.D. August 13, 1989
00339-38              Mrs. Mielke and Mrs. Powell at Evenstown Rest Cottage ca. 1952
00339-39 – 40     Bessie R. Baldwin
00339-41              This is me [Viola Liessman] a couple of months ago taken unawares when I was looking up at the windows in our house just across the street
00339-42              Convalescing at the sea shore last summer. The other girl is the American nurse who took care of me while I [Viola Liessman] was sick
00339-44              Scene from Winnipeg General Strike of 1919
00339-45              Knox Presbyterian Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba
00339-46              St. John’s College, University of Manitoba
00339-47              Members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Winnipeg ca. 1918
00339-48              St. John’s Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba
00339-49              Parade at Old Ft. Osborne Barracks, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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