Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




This thesis examines the Statehood history of the present-day states of North and South Dakota. They were part of the Territory of Dakota during the years of 1861-1889, their ultimate division occurring only after a long and bitter eighteen-year struggle.

The prime objective of this thesis is to pinpoint precisely the reasons why statehood for the Dakotas took so many years. It seeks to determine who supported and who opposed admission, both in Dakota Territory and in the United States Congress, and investigates the reasons admission was so long delayed. Specific investigation of the Fiftieth Congress, 1888-1889, is necessary because it was this Congress that ultimately allowed Dakota Territory to organize into two states, set forth in the Omnibus Bill.

Conventional methods were used to examine contemporary and modern histories, pertinent documentary collections, congressional records, and territorial papers. Quantitative analysis, involving a study of roll-call materials was also used.

Results proved that the Dakotans themselves contributed to their statehood delays by fragmenting into segregated groups lacking direction rather than their own local or regional interests, instead of those extremely strong in the Fiftieth Congress in Washington. Democrats and Republicans consistently voted along precise party lines, doing exactly what the party leaders apparently wanted. When it came to the statehood issue, two poles resulted. Democrats formed a united front against the possibility of new states, while Republicans fully supported the admittance of new territories into the Union.

In conclusion, research indicates that Dakotans were responsible to some degree for the long statehood delay because of their disorganized program and suspicious attitude toward other parts of the territory. A second conclusion, supported precisely by conventional and quantitative analysis, show that Republicans were promoters of statehood for the territories and that Democrats were opposed.