When construction began on the new capitol building, the Capitol Commission hired a Bismarck photographer to record the construction process. Andreas Risem, who owned a photography shop in Bismarck for thirty-three years, took more than 700 photographs of the construction and other activities on the capitol grounds including the strike of unskilled laborers.
Risem, who had been born in Norway in 1875, recalled that the work of photographing the capitol was his most difficult assignment. The contractor, Lundoff and Bicknell, was headquartered in Ohio, and wanted photographs which showed how difficult it was to build in a North Dakota winter. Risem set out to shoot on a winter day with the temperature at twenty below zero and the winds blowing at 30 miles per hour. The bulb release on the camera froze and he had to trip the shutter with the lever. At the end of the day he was exhausted from the effort in the intense cold.
The result, however, is an extremely important historical record of construction, of human, machine, and animal labor, and of discord over wages. Through his photographs we can see the skeleton of steel which holds up the skyscraper, and the process of lining the steel with limestone.
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