In 1922, the United States signed a treaty with four other large nations of the world. The purpose of this agreement was to help keep world peace. The five countries signing the treaty all promised to reduce the size of their navies.
The U.S. Navy needed to decide which battleships to give up. Because the USS North Dakota had been having a lot of engine trouble, it ended up on the list of U.S. ships headed for destruction.
In 1923, the USS North Dakota was taken out of use. The silver service, which had been a gift from the people of North Dakota, was removed and packed into boxes. It was then placed in storage at a U.S. Navy base in Virginia.
Frederick Cathro, a citizen who had attended the silver service presentation in 1915, had an idea. He thought that the people of North Dakota should get their silver dishes back. He wrote letters to James Sinclair, North Dakota's US. Representative in Congress, asking if he could help get the silver service back to its home state.
Congressman Sinclair liked Mr. Cathro's idea. He met with North Dakota's two U.S. Senators, Gerald Nye and Lynn Frazier. They also agreed that the dishes should be moved to North Dakota.
Congressman Sinclair introduced a bill into Congress, and the bill became law on April 24, 1926. The law stated that the silver service from the USS North Dakota should be the responsibility of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. It would still belong to the U.S. Navy but would be on loan to the people of North Dakota.
In July of 1926, the silver service was taken out of storage and briefly put on display in Grand Forks, Fargo, and several other North Dakota towns. It was then brought to the Liberty Memorial Building on the State Capitol grounds in Bismarck. At that time, this building housed the official state museum. Governor Arthur Sorlie and his wife hosted a reception at which 800 people welcomed the set of silver dishes to its new home.
Between 1915 and 1923, the silver dishes from the USS North Dakota had traveled to England, France, Cuba, Italy, Spain, and all along the East Coast of the United States. These silver pieces, however, were more than just fancy dishes that had been used on a ship. They became significant artifacts.
In this context, an artifact is a human-made object that is an important part of history. Artifacts are objects that were made in the past and teach us about how people lived and what was important to them. Today, they remind us about our history and help us understand our past.
When the North Dakota Heritage Center opened in 1980, the silver service was moved to this new state museum. In 1997, the Navy asked Congress to amend the rules so that the people of North Dakota could now own the silver service. Today, many pieces of this valuable treasure are on display for everyone to enjoy.
Would you like to use your silver service? You may get that chance! Every four years, everyone is invited to the Governor's Inaugural Ball in the capital city of Bismarck. At this event, punch is served from a silver punchbowl.
The punchbowl has carved bison heads for handles; it is beautifully engraved with symbols of North Dakota; it is the largest piece of a beautiful silver service. This is the same punchbowl that once sailed the high seas aboard the mighty U.S. battleship, the USS North Dakota!
612 East Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505
State Museum and Store: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F; Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
We are closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
We will also be closed on Christmas Eve this year.
State Archives: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F, except state holidays; 2nd Sat. of each month, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
State Historical Society offices: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F, except state holidays.