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HISTORY TOPICS

Nonpartisan League

Theodore G. Mattson and his Nonpartisan League wagon box, Little Falls. Location no. J1.4 r61The Nonpartisan League was an agrarian movement begun in 1915 in North Dakota that soon spread to Minnesota. League members protested the poor market conditions of farmers. The League advocated economic reforms to relieve the plight of farmers, who were exploited by middlemen in the grain elevator, packinghouse, stockyard, and cold storage industries. Decried as socialist from its inception, the League actually rejected the third party approach, choosing instead to endorse whichever candidates pledged to support their program. Once World War I began, Leaguers were ruthlessly attacked as disloyal pacifists, and the Minnesota state government, through the Commission of Public Safety, was instrumental in crushing the League in 1918. After the war, these events led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the guarantees of the Bill of Rights must be protected from state interference.

GET STARTED WITH SECONDARY SOURCES:

  • Cornbelt Rebellion: The Farmers' Holiday Association, by John L. Shover.
    Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1965.
    MHS call number: HD 1485 .N37 S5.
  • The Farmer Takes a Holiday: The Story of the National Farmers' Holiday Association and the Farmers' Strike of 1932-33, by Everett E. Luoma.
    New York: Exposition Press, 1967.
    MHS call number: HD 1485 .N37 L8.
  • "Fighting for a Future: Farm Women of the Nonpartisan League," by Karen Starr.
    In Minnesota History, vol. 48, no. 6 (1983): pp. 255-262.
    MHS call number: Reading Room F 601.5 .M66 v.48, or view an electronic version of the article.
  • The Nonpartisan League, 1915-1922: An Annotated Bibliography.
    Listing of books, articles, pamphlets, periodicals, government publications, archival and manuscript collections; includes annotations. Also, includes repositories besides the Minnesota Historical Society.
    MHS call number: Z 5075 .U5 C6 1985.
  • "The Nonpartisan League and the Minnesota Campaign of 1918,” by Robert L. Morlan.
    In Minnesota History, vol. 34, no. 6 (1955): pp. 221-232.
    MHS call number: Reading Room F 601.5 .M66 v.34, or view an electronic version of the article.
  • Political Prairie Fire: The Nonpartisan League, 1915-1922, by Robert L. Morlan.
    St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society, 1985.
    MHS call number: Reading Room JK 2391 .N41 M8 1985.
  • The Story of the National Nonpartisan League: A Chapter in American Evolution, by Charles Edward Russell.
    New York: Harper & Bros., 1920.
    MHS call number: JK 2391 .N42 R8.
  • Minnesota History index terms that may be useful for this topic:
    • Agrarian Movement
    • Farmer-Labor Party
    • Farmer's Nonpartisan League
    • Nonpartisan Leader
    • Nonpartisan League (NPL)
    • World War I

PRIMARY RESOURCES:

  • National Nonpartisan League Papers.
    This collection (1915-1927) contains correspondence and miscellany of Henry G. Teigan, the League's secretary from 1916 to 1923, and other league officials; correspondence, financial records, and other materials of the Northwestern Service Bureau, which assisted local newspapers that supported the league; subscription, financial, and other records of the League's newspaper, the Minnesota Leader; information on an anti-league exposé published by the St. Paul Dispatch in 1918; and other printed materials by or about the League. The bulk of the collection consists of Teigan's files, which provide information about the League's origin, growth, and decline; educational, organizational, and reform programs; relations with members; and publications. There is also data concerning opposition attacks, particularly in Minnesota during World War I; third-party politics, including the creation of the Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota; and the work of various reform groups in the Progressive era. The Henry G. Teigan Papers Supplement (M183) also contains correspondence regarding the National Nonpartisan League, the ties of its leaders with socialism, and the League's affairs at the state level in Minnesota, and a file on the Northwestern Service Bureau.
    MHS call number: M182 and M183; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks—filed under M182 and M183—for a detailed list of reel contents (there are 18 reels of microfilm). An electronic version of Guide to a Microfilm Edition of the Nonpartisan League Papers is also available.
    Note: Microfilm may be borrowed on Interlibrary Loan.
  • Henry G. Teigan Papers.
    This collection (1916-1941) includes correspondence and other material collected by Teigan as a participant in the Farmer-Labor movement; as secretary of the National Nonpartisan League (1916-1923); as secretary to United States Senator Magnus Johnson (1923-1925); as a newspaper publisher in Minneapolis; as editor of the Minnesota Leader; and as a member of the Minnesota Senate from the 29th district (1933-1935) and of the United States House of Representatives from the 3rd district (1936-1938). Correspondence (1916-1923) relating to the National Nonpartisan League and Teigan's participation in the Minnesota League affairs, and a file (1917-1922) on the Northwestern Service Bureau were microfilmed with the National Nonpartisan League Papers as M183 (Henry G. Teigan Supplement).
    MHS call number: A/.T263 and M182; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks—filed under A/.T263 for the manuscripts and M182 for the microfilm—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers and for reel contents (there are 51 boxes of manuscripts and 4 reels of microfilm). An electronic version of Guide to a Microfilm Edition of the Nonpartisan League Papers is also available.
    Note: Microfilm may be borrowed on Interlibrary Loan.
  • Records of Governor Floyd B. Olson.
    This collection (1931-1932) includes correspondence, subject files on public policy matters, files on state departments and agencies, federal department files, and organizations files.
    MHS call number: See the black State Archives Notebooks—filed under Governor: Olson, Floyd B.—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 18 boxes of material, but not all relate to this topic); or use an electronic version of the inventory.
  • "Interview and Biographical Data, 1956-1959," Arthur C. Townley.
    Includes a 27-page typed transcript of an oral history-type interview with League founder Arthur C. Townley. The interview discusses Townley's family background and schooling; the National Nonpartisan League's founding, accomplishments, and demise; socialism; Minnesota and North Dakota politics and politicians; and his work with the Producers' Alliance.
    MHS call number: P939; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks—filed under P939—for more details (there are 5 items).
  • Materials Relating to the Nonpartisan League, 1905-1920, collected by Howard Asher.
    Pamphlets, mimeographed materials, copies of letters, transcripts of court proceedings, and issues of the International Socialist Review, Nonpartisan Leader, and other periodicals and newspapers relating to radical political movements. They were gathered by Howard for selected reproduction in his paperbound book attacking the National Nonpartisan League, entitled The Leaders of the Nonpartisan League: Their Aims, Purposes, and Records.
    MHS call number: FJK2391/.N41H8; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks for more details (there 2 boxes of material).
  • Newspapers that may be useful for this topic:
    • Minnesota Leader (Minneapolis, 1920-1924; Olivia, 1925-1926)
    • Nonpartisan Leader (Fargo, N.D., 1915-1917; St. Paul, 1918-1920)
  • Visual Resources Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
  • Check the library catalog for other materials.