North Dakota - Alexander


Welcome to the tourist attraction in Alexander, on old US Route 85 (Elk Street). All of my photos are from this museum, but it would be misleading to name this page "Lewis & Clark Trail Museum," because you won't really find any Lewis & Clark artifacts here. Instead, it's a museum devoted to the artifacts of life along the trail - in other words, western N. Dak.

This was the town's school building from 1914 to 1967, when it found a newer one to use. Instead of demolishing it, or even cleaning it, the town discovered that it had a lot of schoolhouse artifacts left inside, and decided to just open it up as a museum. Exhibits are continually added as locals come through and donate old relics of their own. It should really be called the McKenzie County Museum.

This is the good side of the tractor behind the museum sign, along with a plow in front of it.

More farm equipment left outdoors to browse, including an unusual shed on wagon wheels. The earliest mobile home?

About the only interesting thing I learned in the "back building" of the museum was that Alexander issued its own currency. Sorta. It had a national bank for exactly 5 years, 1919-1924, and back then, having a national bank entitled you to print legal tender money. Sorta. It was actually printed in DC. But still, imagine pulling a Bank of Alexander note out to pay for your street pretzel in New York.

This sequence of photos will give some of my older readers flashbacks to what may have been the most pleasant or unpleasant period of their lives. Note the exposed radiator in the 3rd photo - very safe - and the curtains and pink paint in the next two. I snuck into the girls' bathroom! Ooooooh! The mural in the last photo was probably in place for at least part of this building's school tenure.

Different rooms have different exhibits, but only one is set up like a schoolroom. Imagine your desk being physically attached to someone else's. Moving around at all would be quite unpleasant. Also notice that all of the desks are on the back side of the chairs. No, you didn't have to turn around to read or write, you would use the desk in front of you. The last chair in the row would have no desk, the first desk in the row would be detached from a chair, but everyone else would be shaking the person in front of them by doing any desk work. Aren't you glad we've moved on from this?

The first interesting exhibit I came to was this 1912 Monarch stove, used for over 50 years before donation.

Sewing desks, an organ, washing equipment, an adding machine, a package scale, and a cash register.

The typewriters were next to the adding machine.

For some reason, a jail cell was rebuilt in a tucked-away corner of the schoolroom, replete with a mechanical bell for summoning the jailor. These came from the McKenzie County Jail in Schafer, and the standalone door notes itself as holding murderer Charles Bannon behind it. You can look him up, but I think he's more of a local villain than anything. The idea of a jail in a school basement is more shocking.

Let's call this the apothecary room. We have a scale from The Computing Scale Co. of Dayton, Ohio. I don't know what else is on the desk, but the thing on the right is also from Dayton and looks, to me, like a milkshake or soda fountain apparatus. The last photo is the top of some very interesting shelves, showing off a few old lanterns.

Here are some interesting containers of yesteryear, featuring a milk cone. My understanding is that the Sealright Sanitary Service Kone was so designed to transport stably on trucks or rail, where the ride may not always be the smoothest. Sealright started making these in 1921, the first paper milk cartons.

Here's what makes the shelves so interesting, more container donations. You can see Smith Brothers, Satina, Horse Shoe, Palmolive (the rare brand that lasted), and so many more, right on down to the Best Chew Ever Made and another milk cone. Wait, what's that in the 5th photo? O-vary Coffee? Always food?

Oh, phew.

As a bonus for making it through all those bottles, here's a 2-headed calf, because that's entertainment in middle America.

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