Wilber Stilwell, professor of art at USD from 1941-1973, and his wife Gladys experimented with different materials to create simplified printing processes that could be used in elementary and secondary classrooms. Their desire was to produce printing processes that were cost effective (utilizing readily available classroom materials), easy to employ, and preserved the feel of a professional artist. One of their creations, the blottergraph process, reflects the printmaking method of lithography. Lithography, as well as the blottergraph process, relies on the principle of oil and water and their natural inclination to repel one another. “Plates” of blotter paper are prepared using a wax crayon to draw on the paper followed by the application of watercolor. While the watercolor is still wet, contact is made with another piece of paper to make the final print.

The USD Photograph Collection holds a series of photographs taken by John Wicks and Bill Slattery for use in various publications such as Art News (S.D. Art Education Association), School Arts magazine, and the S.D.E.A. Journal illustrating their blottergraph process.

Preparing the printing plate (drawing with wax crayon on blotter paper)

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Printing plates showing wax crayon drawings on blotter paper

PRINTING PLATE using crayon on blotter PRINTING PLATE Printing plate

Plates saturated with watercolor

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Blotter paper applied to printing plate

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Finished prints

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Blotter forms cemented to wax cardboard for an alternative printing process

One variation of this printing process is the tearing or cutting of a number of small and varied shapes from a blotter. These are arranged in an interesting design with open areas of varying sizes surrounding the small blotter shapes. These small blotter shapes are then rubber cemented to wax paper or preferably to the flat factory-waxed side of a butter, oleo or milk carton. After the rubber cement dries,  watercolor is applied to the blotter shapes and a clean white blotter is pressed against this printing plate to obtain a print. — Gladys and Wilber Stilwell, SDEA Journal


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In a letter dated March 8, 1957, Wilber writes to Dr. Warren M. Lee, dean of the College of Fine Arts,

I believe I mentioned that we have now invented simplified versions of both the intaglio printing process and the relief printing process for use in teaching artistic printing in the elementary and high schools. These processes are currently being tested on a preliminary basis with various age groups. We hope to be able to report on them in a national magazine this next school year.

Wilber Stilwell and Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson from the University of South Dakota Bulletin, series LXVI no. 10, May 1, 1966.

— Stilwell, Gladys Feree and Wilber Moore. Blottergraph Printing. SDEA Journal, May 1956.

Federal Relief Maps

The Archives and Special Collections has a collection of 386 maps that we believe are associated with Great Depression federal relief programs. All the maps are identified to a town or county in South Dakota. Most indicate the type of project they are associated with, such as street surfacing. Most have dates from 1939 to 1942, but some are undated. Some indicate that they are associated with a WPA project.


During the Great Depression in the United States, several federal programs were created to stimulate the economy. These programs were both direct relief and work projects; impacted most of South Dakota’s counties, cities, and towns; and resulted in many construction projects. Some of the relief programs were:

  1. Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC)
  2. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
  3. Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA)
  4. Agriculture Adjustment Act (AAA)
  5. National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA)
  6. Public Works Administration (PWA)
  7. Civil Works Administration (CWA)
  8. Work Progress Administration (WPA)
  9. National Youth Administration (NPA)
  10. Subsistence Homesteads and the Resettlement Administration
  11. Federal Art Projects


The author of Federal Relief Construction in South Dakota 1929 – 1941 classified the structures funded wholly or partially by these relief programs into the following subtypes:

  1. post offices
  2. courthouses
  3. municipal buildings
  4. police stations, fire departments, and jails
  5. military facilities
  6. waterworks
  7. power and heating plants
  8. storm sewers and sewage treatment plants
  9. sanitary privies
  10. telephone lines
  11. libraries and museums
  12. primary and secondary schools
  13. college and university buildings
  14. lakes, dams, and waterways
  15. wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries
  16. forestry stations
  17. fire lookouts
  18. shelterbelts, terraces, contour lines, and pasture furrows
  19. auditoriums and community buildings
  20. fairgrounds and rodeo grounds structures
  21. sports and recreation structures
  22. swimming pools and bathhouses
  23. parks, campgrounds, and picnic grounds
  24. resorts and lodges
  25. scenic byways
  26. hospitals
  27. county poor farms and welfare offices
  28. housing projects
  29. work camp buildings and structures
  30. highways, streets, and sidewalk projects
  31. bridges
  32. airport facilities



Information from:

Dennis, Michelle L. Federal Relief and Construction in South Dakota, 1929 – 1941. Pierre, SD: South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office, 1998.


Flannery Lumber

Flannery Lumber

Do you have any stories or information about Flannery Lumber to share with our readers?

Flannery Lumber was located on Highway 50 in Vermillion and shown here in a wintry scene from the early 1950s. By 1957, the Vermillion phonebook listed the phone number for the lumber store as MA 4-3481.

Today marks the Annual Stilwell Student Juried Exhibition and Stilwell awards celebration. Below is the first printed announcement for the annual award and exhibition from 1987. The program provides a biography of Stilwell as well as a listing of award winners and exhibiting students.

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Below are photographs from 1953, which show Stilwell along with students, preparing for the 12th Annual South Dakota State Competition for Art for high school artists.

The University art department is sponsoring a competition for all high school students in addition to the scholarship competition for seniors. In the competition among all classes, awards of merit will be presented to all outstanding examples of drawing, painting, commercial art, and other types of art. In addition, every competitor will receive an individual criticism which will indicate the strong and weak points of his work, Stilwell promises. The criticism will be designed to help each competitor to improve his work…Seventy-seven awards were made last year, whereas only 56 awards were given the year previous in the University competition. — Volante February 17, 1953

Whether encouraging those at the high-school level, or engaging with his students at the college level, Stilwell was a tireless advocate of the visual arts and his legacy continues on today.

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Charles Hall Dillon was South Dakota’s representative to the U.S. Congress 1913-1919. He was also a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1900 and 1908, a member of the state senate 1903-1911, and an associate justice of the state supreme court 1922-1926. He was born near Jasper, Indiana in 1853 and died in Vermillion, South Dakota in 1929.


The Archives and Special Collections has a scrapbook full of mementos from the events Dillon and his wife Frances attended while they were living in Washington DC. The scrapbook contains invitations, playbills, and other programs that might be useful to anyone who is researching the social life of a U.S. Congressman and his wife during the early part of the 1900’s. Contact the Archives and Special Collections for a partial inventory of the items in the scrapbook.


Biographical information from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000348 (accessed January 7, 2015).


Image from the Charles H. and Frances J. Dillon scrapbook.

J.W. Parmley papers


“Joseph [William Lincoln] Parmley [1861-1940] wore many hats during his career – homesteader, stockman, publisher, real-estate agent, politician, promoter of Missouri River development, and advocate of world peace. He is best remembered, however, for his work for good roads in South Dakota and his role in creating the Yellowstone Trail (United State Highway 12).”


The J.W. Parmley papers at the Archives and Special Collections is a small collection consisting mostly of photographs showing Edmunds County agriculture. The collection does contain one folder labeled Edmunds County Pioneer Tells His Story.


Quote from Dakota Images, South Dakota History, Winter 1999, 39:4, 364. This article also contains Parmley’s biography and his portrait.


Image from the J.W. Parmley papers.


Grete in the Digital Library of South Dakota

About Grete


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