The Archives and Special Collections contain some great materials, but we don’t always know the full story behind them.

To provide some background, the maps below are from Frederick Cullen Burton’s collection of manuscripts, photos, documents, and poems. Frederick attended USD as a journalism major before joining the Royal Air Force in Canada to fight in World War II. He was discharged and joined the Army when the US joined the war. Frederick was killed in action and is buried in Epinal, France at the American Military Cemetery. His papers, poems, maps, diaries, and short stories are here in the Archives.

Frederick Cullen Burton’s collection was pulled this week, and some maps from the 36th Infantry were found, following their campaign through Italy and then through France, Germany, and Austria during World War II. These maps are drawn almost like a cartoon, with surrendering Nazi soldiers and little doodles indicating regions, like grapes in southern France and olive oil bottles in Italy. The maps are perfectly accurate, following the 36th as they moved through Italy, were then relieved after Rome was taken by Allied powers, and then began their French and German campaign. They show where the 36th encountered major battles and where they ended before shipping home. What the maps don’t show is where they were printed, when they were printed, or who even printed them.

They could be a publication from the 36th themselves, printed on base, or from the Army, or from the Fort Worth base they were deployed from. Maps similar to these exist for other divisions, though they aren’t nearly as fun. Other archives and collections have copies of these same maps, but these entities don’t list the origin either. Were maps like these printed as souvenirs once the war ended, or were they an unauthorized joke among the veterans? Were they printed by a private company that worked with someone from the 36th, and distributed them to show where their soldiers went during the conflict? These questions are important, because our man Frederick was killed long before the 36th ended their campaign, and these maps made their way into his papers and collections. How did his friends and family come to have them? Why?

I’ll be looking deeper into the origin of these maps this week, and hopefully have an answer soon!

campaigns of the 36th france germany austria

The 36th infantry landed in France and moved through Germany, ending their campaign in Austria. Frederick Cullen Burton was killed in action in France, and is buried at the American cemetery in Epinal.

campaigns of the 36th italy

Before moving on to France, the 36th began the war in Italy, helping the Allied powers regain Rome from the Axis.


The Archives and Special Collections at the University of South Dakota began in October 1968 when Herbert Schell was appointed the first University Archivist. He was largely responsible for organizing The University of South Dakota’s historical records into the USD Archives. His extensive letter writing campaign between 1968 and 1971 added many collections of professional and personal papers from prominent South Dakotans to the Richardson Collection.

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Blachnik’s watercolor designs – Top left: Mt. Rushmore Visitor’s Center; Top right: USD Fine Arts building; Bottom left: ID Weeks Library; Bottom right: mid-century modernist house design. 

When you’re walking through USD’s buildings, whether you’re trying to get to class on time or deciding if getting that bagel is worth being late – and let’s face it, sometimes it is – do you ever think about how this campus used to exist only in the minds of skilled artists? Although American culture places high value on STEM fields over the arts, the world of architecture offers a unique look into a field that needs both mathematics and art in order to be successful.

One thing I learned about architecture is that the field needs more than calculated blueprint squares to convince a building investor. A good interior plan will demonstrate a strong sense of size, space, and functionality, but it falls short in one area: what is this building actually going to look like?

Enter architectural illustrator and artist Robert Blachnik. Although many today use technology to help bring their visions to life, many buildings that we still use frequently (hello ID Weeks Library!) first became actualized through hands-on art techniques that Blachnik and many other designers used: hand-drawn illustration and watercolor painting.

Blachnik’s story begins like many other American stories. Born in 1922, he was raised in a small town called Tyndall, South Dakota. Even though he was a second-generation American, Blachnik did not speak English until he was old enough to attend school because his family wanted to keep their Bohemian language and culture alive. Blachnik was smart, too. Eventually, he received a scholarship to attend Harvard’s architectural design program and studied under world-famous German architect Walter Gropius. If you don’t know who he is, he’s the trailblazer for the mid-century modernist style of architecture prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s. After studying under the architectural genius and obtaining his master’s degree, Blachnik was ready create his own space in the world by creating spaces for everyday people.

Blachnik illustrated buildings that we are familiar with on campus, including the ID Weeks Library and the Fine Arts building. Blachnik also designed other buildings around Southeastern South Dakota: apartments, other college campus buildings, public schools, hospitals, religious buildings, office buildings, and shopping centers – even the visitor’s center at Mt. Rushmore – all these first came to life through his hand-drawn illustrations and watercolors.

The Archives and Special Collections at USD is thrilled to have nearly all of Blachnik’s photographic renderings. His collection is almost 3.5 feet long and is filled with photographs of his beautiful watercolors. If you attend USD, you will likely find an artistic vision that materialized into a structure you now see every day. If you’re a local South Dakotan, you’re bound to see several buildings you will recognize. We may not always think of something like our own campus or town as art when we’re going through our daily routines, but looking at Blachnik’s photographs reminds us of the simple beauty that surrounds us every day, in the buildings that are markers of who we are.

Edward Edwards Journal

edwards-diary-001“As soon as we were across the [Missouri] river, we started up the river on our long westward journey. Late in the evening we camped at a farm house some six miles from Covington. The road we traveled is very smooth and level. The Missouri bottom here is some 18 or 15 miles wide and, for between one to three miles in width, is covered with a heavy growth of cottonwood timber. Back of Covington, for several miles, the country is not settled and cultivated as it should be, for, to all appearances, a more beautiful locality could not more easily be found. The soil is deep and rich and covered with an abundance of grass, with water and timber within convenient distance.”


edwards-diary-003This description of the Sioux City, Iowa area in 1865 is from the Edward Edwards’ journal. (I will use diary and journal interchangeably in this post.) Other towns mentioned in the next couple of pages of the diary are Decotah, Franklin, St. John, Ponka, St. James, and Niobrara. Some of these towns still exist and can be visited by driving west of Sioux City.



A portion of the Edward H. Edwards journal is in the Archives and Special Collections.


edwards-diary-002The diary’s writer Edward Edwards was from Sioux City, and he was 24 years old when he joined the Sawyers expedition as teamster. The expedition’s goal was to construct a wagon road from the Missouri River at Niobrara City, Nebraska to the gold mines of Virginia City, Montana (Drago and Mott).






edwards-diary-004.jpgThere are many different types of diaries. Some give an account of day-to-day life. Edward’s journal is not that type. It doesn’t have daily entries, and it doesn’t tell us much about constructing a road or what it was like living in a camp. It does contain detail descriptions of the land, plants, weather, and major events like meeting Natives or finding fossils. It reads like a travelogue.





When reading a diary for historical research, it is useful to ask yourself questions similar to the following:

What was the diary’s context?

What was the writer’s intent? Was it promotional? If so, what was the goal?

Was it written while the events were occurring or later?

Are there phrases borrowed from other contemporary literature? Clichés may indicate that the writer is repeating common knowledge rather than writing personal observation.


edwards-diary-005.jpgDrago and Mott tell us that Edwards wrote to his family during the same trip. I wonder how the observations in this journal compare with observations in those letters.


Some of the diaries from the Archives and Special Collections are on the Digital Library of South Dakota. Diaries by Austin Horace and an unnamed Civil War soldier are available there for viewing.




edwards-diary-007If you are looking for a fun volunteer activity, consider transcribing handwritten diaries for an archives. One of our diaries is in shorthand. If you know how to read shorthand, you could tell us what a young man in Sioux Falls in the 1870s-1800s was journaling.






Harry Sinclair Drago and Phyllis Mott. “The Edwards Letters and the Wagon Road to Virginia City.” In The Westerners, New York Posse Brand Book, Volume 9, Number 1, 1962.







Health Sciences Rare Books is one of the collections located in the Archives and Special Collections. This collection consists mostly of medical books donated to the Lommen Health Science Library. While the majority of the items are books, the collection does include anatomical stereograms, one movie film, and two video tape cassettes. Some of the items are facsimiles or copies, but most are originals. All the items can be found with the help of the library catalog. They cannot be checked out, but you can read the books in the Archives and Special Collections reading room.


health science003





Some characteristics of this collection are:

Year range: 1665 (original date; ours is a later facsimile) to circa 1980, with most of the items published between 1800 and 1899

Most Frequent Subjects: anatomy, midwifery/obstetrics, and surgery

Most Frequent Authors: Osler and Gray





Items that caught my attention are:

  • Abernethy’s The surgical and physiological works of John Abernethy. 1825. Subject is phrenology, which purports that the shape of the skull indicates mental faculties and character.
  • Andreae Vesalii Bruxellensis Icones anatomicae, ediderunt Academia medicinae nova-eboracensis et Bibliotheca Universitatis monacensis. 1934 edition based on the 1555 and 1543 books. Subject is human anatomy, and the book is illustrated with beautiful woodcuts.
  • Bichat’s Physiological researches upon life and death. Translated from the French by Tobias Watkins. 1809. Subject is biological life and death.
  • Carey’s A short account of the malignant fever, lately prevalent in Philadelphia: with a statement of the proceedings that took place on the subject in different parts of the United States. Subject is yellow fever in Philadelphia.
  • Dauer’s MAGANGA – ein wissenschaftlicer. Format 16mm film. Subject is African medicine from a very Eurocentric point of view. It shows trephination, which is drilling a hole in the skull to release pressure.
  • Edinburgh University Stereoscopic Anatomy. Circa 1900. Subject is human anatomy. Edinburgh University was an early teaching and research center for surgery. Their stereograms show three-dimensional images of human anatomy.
  • Gunn’s Domestic Medicine. 1835. Subject is health care you can do yourself when a doctor is not available, such as in frontier areas.
  • Hooke’s Micrographia or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses. With observations and inquiries thereupon. Facsimile of 1665 book. This is the first book describing observations made through a microscope.


Contact the Archives and Special Collections for a list of what is in the collection.










Oscar Howe Mural

Did you know there is an Oscar Howe designed mural in Vermillion, South Dakota?

See the web site for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Vermillion (and then the Church Life tab) or the Oscar Howe papers at the Archives and Special Collections for more information.

Anna Johnson Pell Wheeler

American mathematician Anna Johnson Pell Wheeler is best known for leading a successful career in mathematics in the early twentieth century, a time when few women worked in the field. She was the first woman to lecture before the American Mathematical Society, and she was influential in shaping the mathematics department at Bryn Mawr College. Her chief area of mathematical research was functional analysis (Hannon 2006).

Anna Johnson attended the University of South Dakota from 1899 to 1904. (Walz 2000), and obtained advance degrees from the University of Iowa in 1904, Radcliffe College in 1905, and the University of Chicago in 1909.

The Anna Johnson Pell Wheeler papers at the Archives and Special Collections consists mainly of family letters between Anna and her family, from 1898 to Anna’s appointment at Bryn Mawr in 1918.


Hannon, Jessica. “Anna Johnson Pell Wheeler: Background.” Science Reference Center Database, EBSCOhost http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=4&sid=3eeaf634-a369-475a-85cf-edf30cae1f59%40sessionmgr4008&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=22315949&db=sch (accessed 2/7/2018).

Walz, Shawna Darlene. “The University of South Dakota’s Own Anna Johnson: A Pioneer for Women in Mathematics.” Honors Thesis, University of South Dakota, 2000.


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