Arbeidsmanden (Fertile, Minn.) 1900-1901 Browse the title
Arbeidsmanden ("The Worker") began publication on May 11, 1900, in Fertile and Crookston, Polk County, Minnesota. Founded by J. (Johannes) P. Bakken, a Norwegian immigrant, the weekly newspaper provided a platform for radical social and political views about farmer and labor issues. It had a four-page, five-column format printed in Dano-Norwegian (at the time Danish was the basis for the Norwegian written language), with a blackletter typeface. Arbeidsmanden featured regular columns with news from Minnesota, North Dakota, and other states; reports from foreign countries, especially Norway; and local news from Fertile and Crookston. Although the newspaper was printed primarily in Norwegian, there were occasional articles, advertisements, or political cartoons in English. By January 4, 1901, Arbeidsmanden was published only in Fertile. Extant issues go only to March 29, 1901, but N. W. Ayer & Son's American Newspaper Annual (1904) shows that it was published in Portview, Cass County, Minnesota in 1903 with a circulation of 1,500. Other sources suggest it may have continued publication until 1905.
The publisher and editor of Arbeidsmanden, J. P. Bakken, was born in Vardal, Norway, on March 1, 1866. He immigrated to Wisconsin in 1887 and later settled in Portland and Maryville, North Dakota. In 1892, Bakken and I. (Ingvald) H. Ulsaker began publishing a weekly newspaper, Samhold ("Solidarity") at Elbow Lake, Minnesota. In 1895 Samhold consolidated with Rodhuggeren in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and Bakken was no longer listed as an editor. According to his obituary in the Fertile Journal of July 3, 1947, Bakken relocated to Portview in Cass County, Minnesota in 1901; he apparently moved publication of Arbeidsmanden to Portview as well. In 1905-06, Bakken operated a new weekly publication, Familiebladet, published in Brainerd and Portview.
The town of Fertile, where the Arbeidsmanden began, is located in the Red River Valley of the North, in an agricultural region in northwestern Minnesota. Crookston is a larger city to the northwest, with Grand Forks, North Dakota, beyond that. The area surrounding Fertile was prime farm land for a wide variety of crops. At the turn of the 20th century there were also dairy farms and a creamery, milling, and a large brick works. Arbeidsmanden consistently ran advertisements for farm machinery, farm loans, dry goods and groceries, feed stores, hardware stores, the Fertile Drug Store, the Crookston Furniture Company, attorneys, and many other businesses.
Editorials in Arbeidsmanden advocated for reform and the endorsed the interests of laborers and farmers. In 1900, for example, the newspaper supported William Jennings Bryan for president on the People's Party's national ticket. The Populist Bryan maintained that the government should protect individuals and defend the democratic process against the influence of monopolistic corporations. A sampling of article titles (translated below from Norwegian) gives a sense of the topics covered in the Arbeidsmanden: "When does the worker come to feel he is a human being?," "Is socialism impractical?," "Of importance for the farmer," "Populism and Republicanism in Practice," and "Religion in the election campaign is unlawful and incompatible with citizenship."
Arbeidsmanden was among a number of farmers' and workers' newspapers founded at the turn of the century and directed at Norwegian immigrants in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Most advocated for progressive reforms, and many espoused radical and socialist political views. These newspapers included the Fergus Falls Ugeblad ("Fergus Falls Weekly Newspaper") and Rodhuggeren ("The Radical") in Minnesota; Normanden ("The Norseman") and Fram ("Forward") in North Dakota; and Fremad (also meaning "Forward") in South Dakota.