Henry Rudolph Martinson was born on March 6, 1883, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Gilbert C. and Catherine Martinson. He attended public schools in Sacred Heart, Minnesota. In 1905, Martinson graduated from the School of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota.
Martinson spent most of his adult life in North Dakota. In 1906, he moved to Crosby, North Dakota, where he homesteaded for several years. He painted professionally for 15 years and became a lifetime member of the Brotherhood of Painters, Decorators and Paperhangers of America Union. He had a large list of political achievements, he was: the organizer of the Nonpartisan League from 1918-9; the Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor for the State of North Dakota; the WPA instructor and supervisor in Labor History; and the president of the Fargo Trades and Labor Assembly. Besides this, he made two political campaigns, one as the Socialist candidate for Secretary of the State of North Dakota in 1910, and the second as a Democratic candidate for the State House of Representatives in 1936. In addition to his political work, Martinson was heavily involved in writing. He was editor of the Iconoclast in Minot, North Dakota, business manager of the magazine Prairie Wings, and published three prose pieces: "Comes the Revolution"; History of North Dakota Labor; and Village Commune Barefoot Boy, along with two books of poetry entitled 135 Funny Stories in Verse and Old Trails and New. He also appeared on film in a 1978 movie entitled Northern Lights, a fictional portrayal of the early years of the Non-Partisan League in North Dakota. Other notable accomplishments included his presidency of the Fargo Lodge of the Sons of Norway, and becoming Poet Laureate of Fargo in 1971.
Martinson married Lorency M. Mitchell of Lyon Mountain, New York. He died on November 20, 1981, and is buried in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Letter from Henry R. Martinson to Orville W. Hagen dated November 19th, 1966 (Box 1, Folder 2)
Article entitled, "Henry Doesn’t Consider Himself a Loser," from November 12th, 1972 issue of Fargo Forum (Box 1, Folder 11).
The following publications were written by Henry R. Martinson and are available in Special Collections:
135 Funny Stories in Verse, 1970.
"Comes the Revolution: A Personal Memoir of the Socialist Movement in North Dakota." Originally published in North Dakota History, Winter 1969.
History of North Dakota Labor, 1970.
Old Trails and New, 1958 and 1973.
Village Commune Barefoot Boy, 1976.