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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

D-Day program set for Tuesday at Cultural Heritage Center

A critical turning point in World War II will be the focus of a program this Tuesday, June 4, at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.

Dr. Benjamin Jones will tell about the D-Day invasion of France by Allied forces in a program beginning at 7 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, June 4. Everyone is welcome to attend the free program.

“June 6 marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Without the D-Day invasion, the Allies may not have defeated the Nazi forces in Europe,” said Catherine Forsch, president of the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation. The foundation hosts the program and is the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society.

D-Day at Normandy Beach - June 6, 1944
On June 6, 1944, more than 156,000 American, British and Canadian troops stormed 50 miles of Normandy’s beaches in northern France. The D-Day invasion, officially called Operation Overlord, had been years in the planning.

The invasion was carried out along five sections of beachfront codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

The D-Day invasion began before daylight on June 6 with paratroopers landing inland on the Utah and Sword beaches to cut off exits and destroy bridges to slow Nazi reinforcements.

The troops who stormed the five beaches faced not only the enemy, but bad weather. Rough seas made landings difficult. Many regiments came ashore far from their target destination. Anticipating an Allied invasion somewhere along the French coast, the Nazis had constructed the Atlantic Wall, a 2,400-mile line of bunker, landmines, and beach and water obstacles.

The heaviest fighting occurred at the Omaha and Juno beaches. The first waves of American fighters at Omaha Beach were cut down by German machine gun fire, and the first lines of Canadian troops at Juno Beach were also gunned down.
All five beaches were secured by June 11, however.

Because in part by the massive influx of troops and equipment, D-Day marked a turning point in the war. Less than a year later, on May 7, 1945, Germany signed an unconditional surrender.

Jones is the secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education. He has a doctorate in history from the University of Kansas. He retired from the United States Air Force after 23 years at the rank of lieutenant colonel. He has been an assistant professor of history at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He served in Afghanistan twice. Jones is the author of “Eisenhower’s Guerrillas, the Jedburghs, the Maquis, and the Liberation of France.”

Jones was dean of the College of Arts and Science at Dakota State University in Madison before leading the S.D. Department of Education.

The program is part of the History and Heritage Book Club sponsored by the foundation. The foundation sells several books about World War II in the Heritage Stores. They include “Dancing with Colonels,” “Lucky Stars and Gold Bars” and “Reveille for Sioux Falls.”

People can join in the program from locations other than the Cultural Heritage Center. People need a laptop or desktop computer with a camera, mic and speakers, and an internet connection using Google Chrome as their IE browser. Arrangements to join the program need to be made at least two days in advance by calling 605-773-6006.

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About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call (605) 773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call (605) 394-1936 for more information.

About the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation
The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation is a private charitable nonprofit that seeks funding to assist the South Dakota State Historical Society in programming and projects to preserve South Dakota’s history and heritage for future generations.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Minuteman Missile exhibit opens June 1st in Pierre

The new exhibit “Silent Silos: South Dakota’s Missile Field” opens Saturday, June 1, at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.

A public reception will be held 10 a.m.-4 p.m. CDT with refreshments and a presentation by Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Superintendent Eric Leonard entitled “The Story of South Dakota’s Missile Field” at 2 p.m. Museum staff from both sites will be on hand to greet visitors and answer questions in the gallery. There is no admission to attend the reception or the presentation. 

A launch control facility in South Dakota is shown under construction. The ground breaking of South Dakota's missile field was Sept. 11, 1961. By 1963 all of the 150 launch facilities (missile silos) and 15 launch control facilities were manned and ready to defend the United States as a deterrent. 

(Photo courtesy Minuteman Missile National Historic Site)
The exhibit, which will be open through February 2021, is a collaboration with the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. The two institutions have been working together since June 2018 on the project. 

Featuring never-before-seen artifacts from the collections of the Minuteman site and the State Historical Society, the exhibit traces the development of the Cold War-era missile field in South Dakota to house the new Minuteman missile and later the Minuteman II nuclear weapons designed to shield the United States from Russian missiles. 

From local protests about land use to the life of the missileers who operated both above and below ground, the exhibit employs photographs, artifacts, music, video, oral histories and interactives that bring this complex story to light. The exhibit includes a 1980s-era video game called “Missile Command,” Civil Defense videos featuring a character named “Bert the Turtle” and political advertisements that serve to remind visitors how the Cold War was omnipresent in American culture of the era.  

“It was important to us not to duplicate the exhibit that presently exists at the Minuteman site near Phillip,” said Jay Smith, museum director. “So we worked closely with Minuteman Superintendent Eric Leonard and his staff to ensure that we had a unique story to tell that emphasized different aspects of both the material culture and the human face of the silent silos story.”

Artifacts such as a transport container that once held top-secret control panels, the launch keys that two missileers had to simultaneously turn to engage the warheads and other items will be displayed in the museum exhibit. The exhibit also features oral histories from the missileers who described what it was like to work in the missile field. A menu board from the above-ground barracks will display the sustenance provided the men and women at the site.  

The exhibit also addresses how and why the missile field was closed, the economic impact the missile field had on the economy of western South Dakota, as well as the anti-nuclear and anti-war protests that occurred in South Dakota in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. 

“Simply put, this is a complex story worthy of preservation and public attention,” Smith said. “The impact of the missile field on South Dakota history continues to reverberate through the creation of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site by the National Park Service. The site draws more than 125,000 visitors each year, making it one of the most popular attractions in the state.”

The museum is open from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CDT Monday through Saturday, and 1-4:30 p.m. CDT on Sundays and most holidays. Call 605-773-3458 for more information about exhibits, special events and upcoming activities.

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About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

Friday, March 8, 2019

SDSHS lists early auto licenses/dealers online


The State Archives of the South Dakota State Historical Society recently added to its website searchable indexes to motor vehicle licenses issued from 1905-1911 and automobile dealer licenses issued from 1913-1919. 

Visit the State Archives website at history.sd.gov/archives. A link is found on the Collection Indexes page to Automobile Licenses/Dealers.

The first auto license was issued to Jason T. Bigelow of Flandreau in March of 1905. The vehicle had a 4.5-horsepower Olds Motor Works engine and featured signals of a gas lamp and bell.

An automobile license with South Dakota plate number 6834 was issued to Konrad Stiffler of Worthing in August of 1910. The car had a 12-horsepower engine and included signals of both a horn and lights. (Photo courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society-Archives)
The Secretary of State’s office issued the motor vehicle licenses from 1905-1911. The records, contained in two leather-bound volumes, include the license number, automobile owner’s name, town, make of motor, vehicle horsepower and available signals on the automobile.

“We’ve received a fair amount of requests from people with old license plates looking to connect the plate with the owner and vehicle,” said South Dakota State Archivist Chelle (“SHELL-ee”) Somsen.

Auto dealer licenses were also issued by the Secretary of State. The auto dealer records date from 1913-1919. Information includes dealer name, license number, town and county, date and year the license was issued, and types of cars sold at the dealership. 

Volunteers with the State Archives were tasked with adding the information into a searchable database.

“We are thankful to the volunteers who’ve worked on this project the last few years,” said Somsen.

For more information, contact the State Archives, located at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre, at 605-773-3804 or archref@state.sd.us.

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The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visitwww.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.


Monday, March 4, 2019

The Friendship between Lydia Norbeck and Grace Coolidge

On March 4, 1929, Sen. Peter Norbeck and his wife Lydia were in Washington, D.C., to watch as Herbert Hoover was sworn in as president of the United States and his predecessor left the nation’s capital.

“Immediately after the ceremonies, President and Mrs. Coolidge left for Northampton (Mass.). I was sorry to see Mrs. Coolidge leave, as I truly loved her,” Lydia wrote in her memoirs. Volume 39 of “South Dakota Historical Collections” contains Lydia Norbeck’s “Recollections of the Years,” edited by Nancy Tystad Koupal. The memoir, written in 1953 when Lydia was 80, contains numerous mentions of a friendship that has benefitted all South Dakotans.

Lydia Norbeck and Grace Coolidge first met in 1920 at a meeting for governors in Harrisburg, Penn. Peter Norbeck was governor of South Dakota and Calvin Coolidge was governor of Massachusetts.
“From my first meeting with Mrs. Coolidge I was impressed by her obvious sincerity and serenity,” Lydia wrote.

Grace Coolidge
Grace was noted for her charm and her love of people, outdoor activity and animals. Lydia was known as a gracious hostess with a magnetic personality.

When the two women met again in Washington, D.C., Peter Norbeck was a senator and Calvin Coolidge was vice president. As wife of the vice president, who presided over the Senate, Grace presided over meetings of the Senate Ladies Club.

“On St. Valentine’s Day, 1922, I acted on an impulse and wrote her a letter expressing my love and admiration (which was proper as a valentine). I told her how much she meant to the Senate Ladies by just being her own sweet, natural self. Imagine my surprise the next day on receiving the President’s and Mrs. Coolidge’s card together with the dearest letter from her, sent by a messenger!” Lydia wrote.

The friendship between Lydia and Grace might possibly have been a factor in the Coolidges spending the summer of 1927 in the Black Hills, according to various sources, including “Calving Coolidge in the Black Hills” by Seth Tupper. The Coolidges lived at the State Game Lodge, while he Norbecks stayed in a log cabin about a mile away.

The Norbecks accompanied the Coolidges to Belle Fourche for the Tri-State Roundup – the first rodeo the Coolidges had seen. The Norbecks also accompanied the Coolidges to other events and were the Coolidges’ dinner guests at the State Game Lodge one evening.

Lydia Norbeck
“Before the summer was over, I got up enough courage to ask the President’s secretary if I could entertain the Coolidges at dinner at our cabin … Imagine the President and his wife having dinner at our little cabin! … She was bubbling over with pleasure. She has a keen mind and a quick sense of humor, which she needed, as the President was often taciturn and could be rude at times. I respected Mr. Coolidge because he was always his natural self, never pretending nor presuming,” Lydia wrote.

While in the Black Hills, the president dedicated Mount Rushmore and handed drills to sculptor Gutzon Borglum so that official carving could begin. Coolidge’s actions helped bring national interest and federal money for the project.

The 90 days the first couple spent in the Black Hills also attracted national attention to the region.
“Truly, South Dakota was like a magnet that year for thousands of people from all over the country, and the envy of all the surrounding states, with the double attraction of a President vacationing in our midst and the prospect of the largest monument sculpture in the world,” Lydia wrote.

Calvin Coolidge never returned to the Black Hills, but he didn’t forget South Dakota, either, as president. He signed legislation one week before he left office that provided $250,000 of federal money to be matched by private donations for Mount Rushmore. And on his last day in office, March 4, 1929, Coolidge signed a law authorizing Badlands National Monument.

The friendship between Lydia and Grace continued throughout their lifetimes.

“When, years later, she wrote me of the arrival of a new granddaughter who was to be named ‘Lydia,’ I was very pleased,” Lydia wrote. Lydia Coolidge was born Aug. 14, 1939, the second daughter of John and Florence Coolidge.

Grace Coolidge died at the age of 78, on July 8, 1957, at Northampton, Mass. Lydia Norbeck was 88 years old when she died on Dec. 26, 1961, in Pierre.

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This moment in South Dakota history is provided by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. Find us on the web at www.sdhsf.org. Contact us at info@sdhsf.org to submit a story idea.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

More South Dakota historical newspapers available online

Several more South Dakota newspaper titles have been added to the growing online database of historical United States newspapers available to the public, according to the South Dakota State Historical Society.

New titles recently added include: the Union County Courier of Elk Point, 1877-1913; the Madison Daily Leader, 1890-1922; the Newell Reclamation News, 1915-1917; the Bad River News, 1906-1912; Philip Weekly Review, 1907-1912; Philip Weekly Review and Bad River News, 1912-1918; The Pioneer, 1917-1919; Philip Weekly Review 1918-1920; The Pioneer-Review, 1920-1922; The Oglala Light of Pine Ridge, 1905-1920; the Sturgis Advertiser, 1887-1891; the Dewey County Advocate of Timber Lake, 1910-1913; The Charles Mix New Era, 1905-1911; The New Era-Leader, 1911-1912; and The Wagner Leader, 1912.

“These titles join others that are already available on the Chronicling America website,” said state archivist Chelle Somsen. “We now have 53 titles online.”

To view these newspapers, visit the Chronicling America Website:

In 2016 the State Historical Society-Archives received a two-year $240,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize historical newspapers. The project is part of Chronicling America, a Library of Congress initiative to develop an online database of select historical newspapers from around the United States.

As part of the grant, the State Historical Society-Archives has digitized approximately 100 rolls of microfilmed newspapers pre-dating 1922 to be included in this collection. This was the second grant the State Archives has received to participate in this project. This recent addition completes the titles that were selected for the grant that began in 2016. A third grant began in September 2018, and another 100 rolls of microfilmed historical newspapers will be added in the next two years, Somsen said.

For more information, contact the State Historical Society-Archives at 605-773-3804 or visit www.history.sd.gov/archives. State Archives hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CST Monday-Friday and the first Saturday of most months.

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About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.