Created By: North Dakota State University
Clarence Putnam was always a musician at heart, but he began his professional career on a different path. Putnam was born on September 16, 1859 in Barre, Vermont. He received his education from Barre Academy and Dartmouth College. With some convincing from his mother, Putnam then went on to attend Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago where he graduated in 1883. Through all of this, music remained an important part of his life. He stayed active in various musical groups and even directed a band at the young age of 17. Between the years of 1883 and 1903 Putnam practiced medicine in various cities throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota. In 1904, a fire broke out in the Edwards Building in Fargo, destroying his medical office. It was during that year that his career switched over to music.
After the fire, Putnam began teaching music courses at the North Dakota Agricultural College. Small-scale band classes would eventually lead to the formation of the Gold Star Marching Band, which to this day still receives national recognition. In addition to starting the school’s marching band, he founded various other groups including, a concert orchestra, girl's and boy's glee clubs, and a string ensemble. Putnam also composed the music to the school song, The Yellow and the Green, with lyrics written by Archibald E. Minard. When Minard brought the lyrics to Putnam he said, “I had but one request, that the music for them should not run so high or so low as to be hard for an ordinary voice to sing it easily.” Putnam is known for writing yet another highly praised song, the North Dakota’s state song, The North Dakota Hymn.
Putnam married Bertha Townsend and together they had four children. He passed away on February 25, 1944. His compositions along with an interview can be found at the North Dakota State University Archives.
This point of interest is part of the tour: North Dakota State University Walking Tour