Beginnings of a Journey for Chester Fritz

Last evening we had a presentation by Dan Rylance discussing Chester Fritz. This seemed like an appropriate time to blog about the early years of the man as well. Born in 1892, in Buxton, North Dakota, his family moved to Fargo, North Dakota, in 1898. Always living in poverty, his situation was exacerbated in 1902 when his father, Charles, was seriously injured in a threshing accident.

With the injury to his father, the family lost their main source of income. However, his mother was able to find work as a clerk and bookkeeper. As a result Chester Fritz was able to remain in school, and attended public school in Fargo from 1898 until 1905. It was during this time, in 1903, that the Fargo Carnegie Public Library opened and the young Fritz made daily visits, and consumed volumes of books. He was particularly enamored with Horatio Alger novels that gave the young man of no means hope for the future.

In 1905, when Chester Fritz was twelve years old, his mother apparently could no longer cope with the burdens of caring for a permanently handicapped husband and a young son. Anne Fritz disappeared in Februrary, 1905, and Chester Fritz never saw his mother again. As a result, he went to live in Lidgerwood, North Dakota, with his aunt and uncle, Katherine and Neil Macdonald. The change in his family status would change his life. The young Fritz excelled in Lidgerwood. He grew to become the high school football quarterback, and valedictorian of his graduating class.

Chester Fritz would go on to complete two years of higher education at the University of North Dakota, but he grew restless. Wanting to see more of the world he went west to Seattle, Washington. There he completed his baccalaureate degree in Commerce at the University of Washington. Shortly after he became employed by Fisher Flouring Mills, and it was while employed by that company that he began his journey to China. Selling flour in Hong Kong.

Want to hear Chester Fritz? Listen to a portion of his speech at our Omeka site from the original dedication ceremony in 1961:  Chester Fritz Library Dedication Speech Recording

To learn more about Chester Fritz, check out this video with Wilbur Stolt, Director of Libraries at the University of North Dakota:


Tonight: Dan Rylance will discuss the life and legacy of Chester Fritz as part of the Library’s 50th anniversary

Tonight:  Dan Rylance will discuss the life and legacy of Chester Fritz as part of the Library’s 50th anniversary

**Media release from President Robert Kelley’s Office**

Dan Rylance, coauthor of the biography on the UND benefactor Chester Fritz, will discuss “Reflections on the Life and Legacies of Chester Fritz” Wednesday,  Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Chester Fritz Library’s Reading Room.

The thrust of his address is to discuss the “Fritz challenge.”  According to Rylance, the term “Fritz challenge” comes from Fritz’s Oct. 13, 1961, library dedication speech, which said: “But now that we have this building, I am trusting that from time to time, alumni and other friends of the University will augment with private funds the regular legislative appropriations to the University for the growth of the library, so that this library will always be well-stocked with the type of books, magazines, and other materials needed for scholarly work in every department of the University.”

Rylance came to UND in 1964 as a graduate student in history and left in 1989 to become the editorial page editor of the Grand Forks Herald, a position he held until 1993. While at UND, he was coordinator of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections at the Chester Fritz Library and an associate professor of history.  Largely elected by UND’s students, Rylance served two terms in the North Dakota House of Representatives from 1975-1979. He co-authored Ever Westward to the Far East with Chester Fritz in 1982 and Quentin Burdick: The Gentle Warrior in 2007.

Dan Rylance’s presentation is part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Chester Fritz Library.

A Library Dedicated Fifty Years Ago

Our local paper, The Grand Forks Herald provided a well-written article sharing with the public what we are working to commemorate, the fiftieth anniversary of the Chester Fritz Library. Their linking to our site is quite appreciated.

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of the library. The University sent out many invitations to library staffs across the country inviting them to Grand Forks to share in our happiness and celebration of a new library facility. While most were unable to attend due to the distance to get to Grand Forks, they sent well wishes and some shared similar experiences of recent library constructions on their own campuses, which reflected the major changes coming to college and university campuses as they adjusted to different and expanding student populations both from veterans on the GI Bill to baby boomers entering adulthood.

Our library has changed much over the last fifty years. It has expanded in size, grown its collection, and incorporated new technologies to increase its accessibility to patrons, while changing how those patrons use it. It is the largest library in the state and is the heart of the UND campus. Chester Fritz’s donation of $1 million has certainly returned well in the thousands of students who have gained knowledge and their education through the library. Congratulations to the staff of the Chester Fritz Library on fifty wonderful years.

Check out the Fritz at 50 celebration at

Follow us on Twitter

And our Omeka page

Welcome to our blog!

Hello and Welcome to the Fritz at 50 Weblog,

The Chester Fritz Library has been a center of research, study, and
teaching on the campus of the University of North Dakota for 50 years.
This blog is dedicated to documenting the remarkable history of UND
libraries, the current building, its staff, and the community during
this time.

The blog and related digital content is being developed by students in
a Digital and Public History Practicum conducted within the Department
of History at UND and supported by the Working Group in Digital and
New Media. The students range from advanced undergraduate history
majors to Ph.D. student, and they have not only produced the digital
content presented here on this site, but also developed the strategy
to organize, disseminate, and curate the materials presented on this
site.  It was a remarkable collaborative effort by the students and I
hope that the results of their hard work will attract a wide audience.
Be sure to follow the Fritz at 50 Twitter feed (@fritzat50) and check
out the growing digital exhibit at or get
all the latest news and updates from our main page

Over the next three months, the history of the Chester Fritz Library
will unfold on this blog. The students will coax the artifacts,
images, and documents to narrate the story of this remarkable
building, its equally remarkable benefactor – Chester Fritz – and it
dedicated staff.

Enjoy and be sure to leave comments!