Medora
1-800-MEDORA-1
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Medora Musical Ticket Gift Vouchers

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Harold Schafer Heritage Center

Harold Schafer's life and commitment to Medora and North Dakota are displayed in this museum. From "Mr. Bubble" to the Medora Musical, you will discover the life of this extraordinary individual. The Schafer Center also houses the Sheila Schafer Art Gallery.

The Legacy of Harold Schafer

Harold Schafer was a businessman, philanthropist, founder of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation and an extraordinary man. He once said, "Do the best you can with what you have where you are. No one can do more. No one should do less." We celebrate the life of North Dakota's own, Harold Schafer.

Harold was born February 1, 1912 on a small farm near Stanton, ND, the second of three children born to Edward and Bertha Schafer. During Harold's school years the family moved repeatedly. It was in this period of his life that Harold came to recognize the value of hard work - a principle that defined his personality throughout the remainder of his working life. He took his first paid job at the age of eight working in a butcher shop in Killdeer for $4.00 per week. When his family moved to Bismarck, he worked as a newspaper boy, did janitorial work, and was employed as a gas station attendant. In Jamestown he candled eggs, sold flowers and worked as a department store clerk. In Glen Ullin he worked on a threshing crew, and by the time he was back in Bismarck and graduating from high school, Harold was working two or three jobs at one time. He did odd jobs at the Dahl clothing store, was an usher at the Capitol Theater, a bellhop at the Patterson Hotel, and an attendant at the Standard Oil Service Station. He also delivered milk and shoveled snow. Finally, he was offered a job as a salesman at Bergeson's clothing store, an experience that may have marked the real starting point of his career as a salesman.

In 1929, Harold enrolled at the North Dakota State Agricultural College (now NDSU) in Fargo. Already earning $200 per month while working part time and attending school, he hit the road as a traveling salesman, convinced that college was not the answer for him. By 1931, at the age of nineteen, he returned to Bismarck where once again he found work at the Dahl clothing store.

On September 22, 1935, Harold was married to Marian Nelsen of Aberdeen, South Dakota. During their thirty-year marriage they raised five children: Haroldeen, Joanne, Dianne, Ed, and Pam.

Through an unfortunate set of circumstances Harold was forced to take a job at a clothing store in Glasgow, MT, almost immediately after the wedding but, by January 1, 1936, he was back in Bismarck and working for Vantine's Paint and Glass. He switched to Fargo Glass and Paint in November of 1936 and then worked for that company as a traveling salesman for several years.

The Gold Seal Company

In 1942, Harold started packaging and selling a product he called Gold Seal Floor Wax. He personally typed the labels by hand and taped them onto old cans in his basement and, thus, Gold Seal Company was born. Virtually no one noticed. In the spring of 1943, Harold resigned his job at Fargo Glass and Paint to pursue his new dream only to discover that the few hundred dollars that he had expected to have available for the purpose of starting the company did not materialize. At that point Harold had three small children, he had no job and no money, and his new company had no assets... but he was living the dream.

In 1943, his Gold Seal Company made a profit of $901.02, and Harold borrowed money from friends to keep going. The company grew modestly at first but, in 1945, Harold introduced a new product called Glass Wax. Sales increased dramatically and then suddenly boomed when, in 1948, Glass Wax "went national." The astonishing rise of this small North Dakota company, Harold's sometimes flamboyant management style, and his incredible enthusiasm for hard work propelled Harold into the national limelight. The phenomenal success of Glass Wax was repeated again in the 1950s with Snowy Bleach and in the 1960s with Mr. Bubble. Each of these became the #1 selling product in the world in their respective categories and the Gold Seal Company continued to produce increasing sales and profits until it was sold in 1986.

On May 9, 1965, Harold married Sheila Chinn Limond. She had three children - Mark, Michelle, and Maureen. Harold and Sheila embraced each other's children as their own and the two families were melded into one.

Although Harold's business success received a huge amount of attention, most North Dakotans fondly remember him for very different reasons. He was phenomenally generous, often to the exasperation of the people who were charged with the task of making Gold Seal prosper and grow. The early years of his life were marked by hard work and a nearly destitute existence, his middle years were marked by hard work and business success, and the latter portion of his life was defined by hard work and his devotion to family, to North Dakota and to Medora. Through it all, he was always extremely generous. No living person knows the number of people touched by that generosity - but they are legion.

Harold had a quiet but determined faith in God that was inextricably woven into the fabric of his life. He expressed that faith by his actions more often than by his words. Though he seldom spoke of his faith publicly that faith was strong and always guided his path. Harold gave God full credit for his accomplishments and often felt very undeserving of having the prosperity that had eluded so many others. He was ever mindful of the passage from Luke 12 which teaches that, "...for unto whom much is given, of him shall much be required..." The feeling that he was not worthy of being singled out for any unusual success was the driving force behind much of his generosity. Harold truly lived his faith.

TR's Medora

As Harold grew older, his lifelong love for the Badlands and for Medora occupied more and more of his attention. TR's cattle ranches in the 1880s were located near Medora, in western ND. Harold Schafer purchased the Rough Riders Hotel and the Ferris Store in 1962 and began renovating them in 1963. Other renovations and improvements soon followed and, in 1965, the Medora Division of the Gold Seal Company was opened to the public. Harold was enthralled with Medora and its fascinating history, and continued to pour his money and his efforts into this project. A handsome outdoor amphitheater was built near the town, with performances blending history and music held every night during the season. Medora eventually developed into the largest recreational area in North Dakota. When the Gold Seal Company was sold in 1986, the family donated the Medora assets to the newly formed Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. A very large number of people have worked very hard to make Medora the premier attraction it is today but, clearly, it all began when Harold's crew took the Rough Riders Hotel apart board by board and then painstakingly reassembled it. (Medora and adjoining Theodore Roosevelt National Park have kept TR's western experience alive.) In later years, Harold would walk, with great difficulty, through the streets of Medora simply marveling at all that had been accomplished. He loved it. The happiest days of his life may have been those he spent with Sheila in Medora.

An astonishing number of awards were bestowed on Harold. A very large number of those were directly related to his philanthropy, but he also became the youngest person to win the Horatio Alger award, and in 1975, he was awarded the State's highest honor, the Rough Rider Award, by Governor Link. The Theodore Roosevelt Association awarded Harold and Sheila Schafer the Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, on October 27, 1983, TR's 125th birthday. Harold and Sheila Schafer served as Trustees of the Theodore Roosevelt Association for many years, and then were elected to the Class of 2002 of the Advisory Board. Harold and Sheila frequently were hosts to member of the TRA and of the Roosevelt family in Medora.

Shortly after Harold's death, North Dakota Horizons (Winter Issue, 2002, Vol. 32, No.1) published the results of a survey of North Dakotans on who has "made the biggest impact on our state during the past 100 years." The four individuals chosen by the readers of the magazine were Senator William "Wild Bill" Langer, Harold Schafer, Lawrence Welk, and Theodore Roosevelt.

Harold Schafer was a unique blend of flamboyance and humility, a successful businessman who was much more interested in sharing than in accumulating wealth. He loved his family, North Dakota, Medora, and the company he had built. He knew the joy of relentless hard work and the satisfaction of overcoming adversity in the face of all odds. We celebrate the life of an extraordinary man, Harold Schafer.

Admission:

  • Free!

Hours

  • Closed for the season.