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 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


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 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.


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 Contact us at 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 State Archives hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CST Monday-Friday and the first Saturday of most months.


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 for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Spearfish Historic Preservation Commission awards grants

The modern farmhouse at 544 8th St., built in 1895, was one of the
recipients of a Spearfish Historic Preservation paint grant in 2018.

Pioneer photo by Kaija Swisher
In 2018, the Spearfish Historic Preservation Commission orchestrated a Paint Grant Program with three grants awarded and two recipients able to complete the work within the requirements: Chris and Melissa Haught, at 544 8th St., and Kathy Bohn at 730 8th St., received $500 matching-funds reimbursement grants for paint materials and/or labor for an exterior painting project.
The Spearfish Historic Preservation Commission established the Paint Grant Program to assist residents of Spearfish with the financial cost of painting residential, owner-occupied properties built pre-1950. The commission seeks to inspire and promote pride of ownership and to protect historic architecture.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Deadwood Fund grant applications due February 1st

The South Dakota State Historical Society announces that the applications for the first round of the 2019 Deadwood Fund grant program are due on Feb. 1, 2019, for work beginning no earlier than May 1, 2019. 

You can access the necessary forms online.  They can be found at the following URL:

The program is designed to encourage restoration or rehabilitation of historic properties by individuals, organizations or public agencies, according to Jay D. Vogt, director of the State Historical Society, whose historic preservation office administers the program. “It is one more way we can promote and protect our history and culture,” Vogt said.

Grants will be awarded in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $25,000. The grant amount must be matched at least on a dollar-for-dollar basis from nonfederal and nonstate sources. Nonprofit organizations will be allowed to use in-kind services for one-half of their match.

In 2017, $123,869 was awarded among 10 projects, which had matching funds of $360,498, resulting in a total public-private investment of $484,367.

Funding for the program is from Deadwood gaming revenue earmarked by state law for historic preservation projects throughout the state and distributed by the State Historical Society.

The second round of 2019 applications will be due Oct. 1, 2019, for work beginning no earlier than Jan. 1, 2020.

For more information on the South Dakota State Historical Society’s Deadwood Fund grant program, contact the State Historic Preservation Office at the Cultural Heritage Center, 900 Governors Drive, Pierre, SD 57501-2217; telephone 605-773-3458.