Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Virtually nothing has been written about the early life and career of Porter James McCumber, who served North Dakota in the United States Senate from 1899-1922. Contributing to the lack of written material about the man is the fact that there are very few sources available concerning his social and political life. He left no official papers, and therefore no clear record of his life. The purpose of this thesis, then, is to illuminate the life and times of McCumber, with a special emphasis on his career in North Dakota through his election to the Senate in 1899. I will examine who he was, what he believed, how he rose to prominence, and whether or not he was a "McKenzie Man," through the use of personal reminiscences and letters, contemporary newspapers, and general North Dakota histories.

The first chapter introduces McCumber, outlines the purpose of the paper, and describes the types of sources utilized and the problems I encountered while researching the subject.

A brief survey of the "Dakota Milieu" is examined in Chapter Two, while McCumber's early years, from his birth in Crete, Illinois in 1858 through his move west to North Dakota in 1881, are examined in Chapter Three.

Chapter Four follows McCumber from his arrival in the territory through the coming of statehood. Included in the chapter are McCumber' s activities in the city of Wahpeton, the Territorial Legislature, and the 1889 State Republican Convention in which he played such a crucial role.

The Fifth Chapter continues to examine McCumber' s activities after statehood was achieved, relating his continued involvement in the community and focusing on his feud with fellow Republican and resident of Wahpeton, William Lauder.

Chapter Six describes McCumber' s surprising and triumphant election as Senator, describing the "deal" that was struck with Alexander McKenzie and the state's reaction.

The paper concludes in Chapter Seven with an examination of the question of whether or not McCumber was a "McKenzie Man." The chapter illustrates that though the man may have become a "McKenzie Man," he was not a puppet, especially before 1899.