Elmer Thompson: The Inventor Exhibit

Capturing the history of photography played out in North Dakota. 

Growing up on a farm in rural North Dakota, Elmer O. Thompson (1891-1984) developed his creative impulses with photography, educating himself in matters of staging, lighting, and processing. Mr. Thompson quickly became an expert in the use of his 5 x 7 camera. His early photos show the development of a talent that would lead him first to the State Normal and Industrial School in Ellendale, ND, where he served as the official school photographer. He went on to earn an electrical engineering degree at the University of California, served in the Signal Corps in Paris in WWI, and then moved to the center of technological innovation in New York City.

Mr. Thompson earned the first six of his ultimate thirty patents at the AT&T Headquarters in New York City. From there he moved to RCA Victor, then spent several decades at Philco, where he earned two dozen more patents, including the first wireless radio remote control (Philco’s “Mystery Control”) and a phonograph that transferred the signal from record to the amplifier by means of an optical sensor (the “Beam of Light” system).

Mr. Thompson’s progress—from the prairies of North Dakota to New York City, the technological heartland of the early radio and television age—illustrates the marriage of artistic vision with technological innovation. This exhibition delineates his life as a photographer with large framed prints of his photographs, many of which were taken in and around Ellendale and near his home in Cavalier County. These include individual portraits, landscapes, buildings, scenes of farm life such as haying, harvesting, and  blacksmithing, and musical and military performances. He often staged trick settings for his 5 x 7 camera as he taught himself the rudiments of photography. He believed that having control, not only of the lens, shutter and chemicals, but of the source and volume of light, underlies creativity. Even devotees of palette and brush must acknowledge, if his results are pictorial, that he is an artist, not a ‘mere copyist. It is here that science and art intertwine. 

COVID-19 Response

The Underwood Public Library is closed to the public but will arrange for curbside pick up. Please call the library or Message us through Facebook with any needs. Here is a list of new books that have arrived from the McLean Mercer Regional Library. April Book List

September Events

Farm Story Time: Tuesday, September 17th 2-2:45pm

All kids (including babies) and their care givers are invited to a time of singing, reading and a science activity led by the staff at Underwood Public Library (88 Lincoln Ave.). Children also will have time to check out books and movies.

Mango Languages Class: Thursday, September 19th, 6-7pm

Want to learn a new language or brush up on one you learned years ago? Come learn how to use the new FREE language learning program that you can use from HOME!



2019 Summer Reading Events

Space Camp -Summer Reading Kickoff- Friday, May 17th; 3:30-5:00pm Build like an engineer, explore like an astronomer and eat like an astronaut. Kids currently in grades K-6th. Register by Tuesday, May 14th.

Story & Activity Times- Tuesdays in June; 10-10:45am for kids ages birth to 6th grade and their care givers: June 4th– Rocket Day- Make & learn about rockets; June 11th– Moon Day- Check out real moon rocks from NASA & investigate what planets are made of like an astronomer; June 18th– Telescope Day- decorate a telescope and describe features of a planet; June 26– Stars & Constellations- Why stars twinkle experiment and constellation lacing cards

Free Fair Ride Bracelets- kids ages 3 years-entering 3rd grade in fall can earn one day of unlimited rides at the McLean County Fair. Check out 10 books from the library and complete our book reports by June 13th.

Apollo 11’s 50th Anniversary Webcast- Monday, July 15th, 3:00-4:00pm- Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1st moon landing by watching this live webcast with the staff of the Underwood Public Library. The webcast will answer the questions: What was the sequence of this incredible mission? Where on the Moon did they land? And how did they return safely to Earth?

Galactic Bath Bombs- July -day TBD- students entering grades 4 and up will learn how bath bombs work and make one to take home. Limit 12 students.

Gummy Bear DNA Lab- date TBD- students entering grades 4 and up will make a double helix using gummy bears and tooth picks and learn about DNA.

2018 Story Times

All kids (including babies) and their care givers are invited to a time of singing and reading led by the staff at Underwood Public Library. Children also will have time to check out books and movies.

2018 Dates & Themes:

Every third Tuesday of the month from 10-10:45AM

September 18 (Farm Animals),  October 16 (Ocean Animals),

November 20 (Dessert Animals),  December 18 (Arctic Animals)



2017 Summer Reading Program Events

Join us as we explore how to “Build a Better World”!

Story and activity time– Mondays

10:00 – 10:45 AM for ages birth to 6th grade

June 12th– Architecture Day! (Leaning Tower of Pisa)

June 19th– Engineering Day (Build a catapult)

July 10th– Castle Building Day

July 17th — Solar Eclipse Preparation Day


Free Fair Ride Bracelets

  Kids ages 3 years—entering 3rd grade in fall can earn a one day             unlimited rides bracelet at the McLean County Fair. Check out 10 books from the library and complete our book reports by June 15th!


Create and Deconstruct

Activities for 4th-12th graders (snacks provided)

What’s inside night– Come take apart electronics (Printer, keyboard, TV) and learn about the components inside. Thursday, July 20th 5-7pm

Washi Tape Night– Join us for a crafting night featuring Washi tape! Tuesday, August 8th 5-7pm

Solar Eclipse Event

Monday, August 21st


All ages invited! Free activities and eclipse viewing glasses provided by StarNet Libraries



August Eclipse Details!!!

Mark your calendars!!! The Underwood Public Library is pleased to announce that it is partnering with the STAR Library Education Network and retired Underwood High School Astronomy teacher, Roger Britton, to provide an educational program and viewing of the solar eclipse this August. Mr. Britton will offer a short teaching and activity at 11:00am Monday, August 21st (two days before school starts) with the eclipse to start around 11:30am. Underwood will only see a partial eclipse of the sun, but it will be the coolest place to view the eclipse with NASA provided viewing glasses!