The E.J. Lander & Co. was founded by Edward John Lander in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 1883, six years before statehood. Lander & Co. originated as a lending institution in the settlement period, expanding into real estate and land development by 1890 and into farm management in the 1920s. First mortgage farm loans and real estate bonds formed the cornerstone of the business. The company acted as the middle-man between western farmers in the northern half of North Dakota and Montana who had little capital and investors from Minneapolis to the east coast with excess funds to invest in sound, time-tested securities.
E.J. Lander & Co. operated differently from others in the business as it did not accept cash commissions, but rather secured loan investments with a second mortgage. In a publicity brochure entitled "We're Right on the Ground," published in the 1910s, Lander & Co. advertised conservative company methods. The brochure stressed that the company was located right in the territory of the loaning field. Company field examiners conducted thorough investigations of all farms advertised for investment. The brochure emphasized that "In times of war, industrial depression, and other calamities, the Real Estate Mortgage is never affected. The failure of the earth to respond to nature's laws is the only thing that can eventually affect the soundness of these investments."
Beginning in 1923, deflationary economic times after World War I and "failure of the earth" affected the value of Lander & Co. investments. By 1925, the company suffered three disastrous years of losses. Its accumulated earnings declined from a high point in 1922 of $550,000 to a deficit position of $115,000 in the late 1930s. It was not until 1941 that the company again showed a profit. During the depression decades of the 1920s and 1930s, many second mortgages were foreclosed and the company claimed title. These investment properties were eventually sold and investors were repaid.
The E.J. Lander & Co. Records were deposited in the Orin G. Libby Manuscript Collection by Robert Lander and Barbara Lander, Grand Forks, North Dakota, over a period of sixteen months, from December 1990 through March 1992.
Database of over 1,500 loan records and 2,000 client records from E.J. Lander & Co.: http://library.und.edu/special-collections/databases/lander/
The E.J. Lander & Co. Records contain company loan files, client files, and real estate files, 1902-1953. The bulk are from 1916 to 1942. The files document the economic and agricultural climate primarily of northern North Dakota, except for Sheridan and Towner counties, and northern Montana west to Glacier and Lewis and Clark counties, except for Blaine, Dawson, and Garfield counties. The records include correspondence, land and property descriptions, inventories, legal documents, and records for bondholders. The records describe land values, crop conditions, and income from harvests, besides income derived from New Deal programs designed to aid farmers. These also contain personal, often poignant statements. For example, detailing why a farmer was unable to make a mortgage payment or why an interest payment was vital to an investor.
Processing included surface cleaning of many of the records, which were stored in a bank vault or in metal file cabinets in the company's basement. The files were removed according to directions from the company's long-time secretary. Original order was maintained, which was intellectually analyzed and described on worksheets and control logs. The latter provided the basis for the searchable database that accompanies the finding aid. The database contains 1534 searchable loan records and 2039 client records. The company provided land investments to approximately 650 clients, some of whom had multiple investments with the company and were associated with many loans. Of all clients, 28% were from North Dakota, 16% from Minnesota, and 28% from the states of Illinois, New York, and Wisconsin.
The database is searchable here: http://library.und.edu/special-collections/databases/lander/