January 12, 2021 — On this day, in 1914, it was reported in the Bismarck Tribune that some small towns in North Dakota were making big waves in Washington, D.C. — and all over a post office.

Several post offices, to be exact.

The reason for the uproar resulted from an effort to remove postal officials from their positions at Devils Lake, Valley City and Bowman.

W. H. Pray at Valley City and W. H. Workman at Bowman were being ousted from their offices, supposedly due to political reasons, which did not go over well with some of the politicians.

Senators McCumber and Gronna particularly did not appreciate these efforts. In the Tribune’s report, these two senators opposed the idea on account of the fact that the reason they were being kicked out of office was not purely political, and that the department had “only brought in trifling charges against the men as an excuse of removal.”

Eventually, what the Tribune termed as a “sort of agreement” was formed between the Senate and the post office committee. It was decided that nothing would happen in Valley City until Pray’s term had expired, and charges against Workman in Bowman were dropped. He had turned over the office to his bondsmen already, and so his resignation was to be accepted.

However, the post office department made recess appointments in those locations two days before Congress convened—allowing them, for a time, to avoid the law requiring nominations should be sent to the Senate. The nominations would still have to be sent to and approved by the Senate. However, by making recess appointments, even if their nominations were not accepted, the postal officials who were put in office would stay there until others were nominated and instated.

The issue at Devils Lake was another matter. John Bloom was nominated to take the office.

The Senate rejected his nomination. Afterward, John Bloom’s wife, Marjorie, was nominated, and then also rejected.

In mid-November, John Bloom went to Washington D.C., teamed up with the Hon. John Burke, and the two convinced the Postmaster General to appoint Mrs. Bloom by recess, even though her nomination had already been rejected.

The Devils Lake journal spared three lines on her appointment, writing only that President Wilson appointed her in the afternoon.

The action was unprecedented and was disagreeable to many. The Tribune stated, “If such action can be taken with a post office, it can be done with a cabinet officer, and the ultimate result would be the complete overthrow of the constitutional proposition, requiring the advice and consent of the Senate in presidential appointments.”

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast, or buy the Dakota Datebook book at shopprairiepublic.org.

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