Sheep in South Dakota, SD Digital Archives

The results of another random foray into South Dakota State Archives’ resources after thinking about suffragist Rose Bower speaking on the Fourth of July at Lodge Pole Butte surrounded by grazing sheep in 1914. [See also: Snow in South Dakota, SD Digital Archives.]

First, from the South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office’s historic context, Thomas Witt et al. The History of Agriculture in South Dakota: Components for a Fully Developed Historic Context (July 2013):
Sheep ranching took hold in the Black Hills in the mid-1880s. Cattle and sheep ranching expanded in western South Dakota counties after the federal government divided and reduced the Great Sioux Reservation to expand Euro-American settlement [p.13]. Sheep barns may have been one or two stories; the second story often used as a hay loft. They were characterized by large, open spaces (no stalls), good ventilation, ideally with a “grain alley” for feeding during inclement weather, and perhaps hay and grain racks [p.59-60]. Wool warehouses, where sheep farmers could bring their wool for grading and weighing, were located in urban centers along rail lines, east of the Missouri River. The South Dakota Cooperative operated warehouses out of Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, Huron, Mitchell, and Belle Fourche [p.99].

Thomas Witt et al. The History of Agriculture in South Dakota: Components for a Fully Developed Historic Context (July 2013), 60.
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Building the Capitol in Pierre

Was back again in the South Dakota Digital Archives (from the State Archives) and noticed that there are several photographs up that were taken during the construction of the state capitol building in Pierre—so sometime between 1905 and 1910. It’s so cool to have construction photos of any building, but it makes sense that even at that early date, there were photographers watching the progress of a state capitol. I noted some of the things I see in the photographs. What do you see?

Photo by author, 2017
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2019 South Dakota State History Conference

Just saw the description of the keynote for this year’s upcoming state history conference on their Facebook event page. The conference will be put on by the South Dakota State Historical Society, in Pierre, April 26-27, 2019.

Keynote Address – “At Your Fingertips: South Dakota History Through Historic Newspapers and More at the Library of Congress” with Deborah Thomas. Deborah Thomas from the Serial and Government Publications Division of the Library of Congress will share about the historic South Dakota newspapers in Chronicling America, as well as other digital collections at the Library of Congress that feature South Dakota content.

As is surely known by anyone who has followed this page, or has read almost anything on the page, I LOVE Chronicling America to a nearly unhealthy degree. I’m super-psyched for this year’s history conference!

Find out more information about the conference, including registration information on the SDSHS Conference website, here.

My Many Favorites of the Gustav Johnson Glass Plate Collection, SD State Archives

Below are some (quite a few) of the 2,038 digital images from the Gustav Johnson glass plate collection at the South Dakota State Archives that caught my eye or peaked my interest.  There are so many wonderful images in this collection, both for historical reasons and photographic – some beautiful portraits…  And there were a surprising number of humorous images, a lot of smiles and some down-right hilarious, like the ‘breaking out of jail’ image or the series of “Deadman Valley Ranch.”

The images are scanned at a high-resolution, which is wonderful for looking at details of a farmyard, or a street scene, or the expression of a person’s face.  There are also a lot of unlabeled people/places, so I’m sure the Archives would accept additional information about images.

As 100-year-old glass plate images, many of the images are full of glorious imperfections that I’m sure are frustrating in cases (like this one that had distortion right over a couple’s faces, 2013-04-17-317), but I think they are kind of beautiful in their own way–and in some cases add beauty to the image: like the cracks on this image, 2013-07-19-312 or these that frame their subject 2013-07-01-347 and 2013-04-25-304.

A lot of the images are of Philip.  I made a section for wider views of the town of Philip, but there are lines in other categories that are also clearly or ostensibly also the Philip area.  And, there are many in the collection that I did not pull out for my list here.

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Haakon Horizons (Philip, SD: E.H. Baye, 1982), 296.

Gustav Johnson was a photographer who lived in Philip, Haakon County.  “Johnson was a familiar figure on the prairies surrounding Philip…. Johnson spent many days wandering from homestead to homestead in search of customers for his postcard art.  Frequently trailing in his shadow was his eldest daughter, Evelyn, her father’s able assistant… For several years he operated a small photography studio.  It was common for a Philip resident to pass the shop and find framed glass negatives sitting in the sun exposing light sensitive paper” [Haakon Horizons (Philip SD: E.H. Baye, 1982), 297].  His daughter, Evelyn Haberly, worked to “[preserve] the photographer’s contributions for future generations” [Haakon Horizons (Philip SD: E.H. Baye, 1982), 297].  From the State Archives’ photo description: “Information about Gustav Johnson’s photographs can be found in “Haakon Horizons” by Elsie Hey Baye, 1982 and “A Pictorial History of the Philip Area Featuring the photographic art of Gustav Johnson” by the Taylor Publishing Company, 1987.”

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Places of Care and Science: Hospital Buildings in South Dakota

I recently ran a search for South Dakota hospitals that have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places for a Facebook post for our office (below), which led me to wonder about what historic photographs of hospitals are in the SD Digital Archives, and what they tell me about that slice of our built history.


The earliest hospitals in the territory were built with early military installations.  Once permanent settlement started, many of the early local hospitals were operated in conjunction with doctor’s clinics and often housed in buildings that were large houses in appearance.  In days before strict regulations, community health care was also undertaken by pharmacists, osteopaths, homeopaths, and others.  The Yankton State Hospital for mental health care was one of the earliest public institutions, followed by the state and federal veteran’s hospitals in Hot Springs and the state tuberculosis sanitarium in Custer.  As the profession changed near the turn-of-the-century, larger specialized buildings were erected, looking similar in style to the consolidated schools that were built at the same time.  In the 1910s-1930s, even larger facilities were built with wings for different care specialties.

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Snow in South Dakota, SD Digital Archives

Outside my window is a lot of snow that’s fallen in the last week, so I was curious what South Dakota State Archives’ digital archives had for the best and most interesting historic photographs of snow and snow removal in South Dakota.  There were nearly 1,600 results in a search for the word ‘snow’ (although admittedly, many are Preservation Office photographs of historic buildings that just happened to have been taken in the winter).

Snow is a big part of life on the Plains–beautiful, dangerous, and apparently a popular photography subject over the years.  I do know it generally makes for good building photographs — no leaves on nearby trees to block anything and a high contrast background.  From these historic photos, it looked like heavy snowfalls could be fun in their way, but they also required hard work and ingenuity to clear travel routes.  And of course we have our share of winter sports, especially in the recreation and ski areas of the Black Hills.

Here is a list of my favorites from the state digital archives…

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Germans from Russia Resources in South Dakota

A notable ethnic heritage in north-central and south-central South Dakota is that of the Germans from Russia.  Immigrants from Russia with German heritage had a distinct historical path to the Midwestern prairies that has been of special interest to their descendants as well as historians and architectural historians.  Here are some of the resources about the German from Russia experience in South Dakota and beyond that I’ve come across.  I’ll add to the list as I go, but please feel welcome to comment with your tips and suggestions!

A while back I got to visit the Ludwig Deckert House at the Heritage Hall Museum in Freeman.  The house is pretty awesome, especially because it has a central pyramidal brick chimney that encompassed the kitchen in its base and had smoking racks on the second story portion.  It sometimes takes a detailed eye to distinguish “folk” architecture of different ethnic groups from general vernacular architecture, or between ethnic groups, i.e. between Norwegian and Swedish… but the Deckert House is such a strong example of Germans from Russia folk architecture preserved to museum quality Continue reading