Archive for April, 2011

The earliest atlas of Dakota Territory in the Chilson Collection is Andreas’ Historical Atlas of Dakota published in 1884. Andreas’ atlas has county maps showing physical and cultural features, though the majority of the atlas is general thematic histories, county histories, biographies, and business descriptions.

During the late 19th century, many state and county land ownership atlases were sold door-to-door through advance subscriptions, similar to the way dictionaries, bibles, and encyclopedias were sold. Some subscribers paid a higher rate to have their biographies, business notices, location of their farm, and pictures of themselves and their farm placed in the atlas. Often in areas with smaller populations, county maps were offered instead of county atlases.

Alfred T. Andreas was not a surveyor or a cartographer, as were many involved in the atlas and map business. He was an entrepreneur who learned how to organize and to lead large and complex operations while in the army, skills that he used to produce numerous maps, atlases, and histories while employing salesmen, field surveyors, biographers, portrait takers, illustrators, and cartographers. From 1867 to 1884, he published 23 county atlases “illustrated in a lavish style, developed to a degree anticipated by none, and imitated by few,” three state atlases “on a grand scale seen neither before nor since,” and many county, state, and city histories. Many years after his state atlases, he published the less elaborate historical atlas of Dakota Territory.

The entire Andreas’ atlas can be viewed on the Digital Library of South Dakota.

Information and quotes from “Maps for the Masses: Alfred T. Andreas and the Midwestern County Atlas Trade,” in Chicago Mapmakers: Essays on the Rise of the City’s Map Trade, edited by Michael P. Conzen. Chicago: Chicago Historical Society for the Chicago Map Society, 1984, pp. 46-63.

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William Henry Over was a natural historian who lived in Vermillion from 1913 to 1956. While in Vermillion, he served first as the Assistant Curator and then full Curator for the University Museum. He studied numerous subjects relating to the natural world, including botany; however, until recently, little was known about Over’s work with plants. In 2009, a tattered box was found in the University Herbarium, and this box contained numerous documents relevant to Over’s botanical pursuits. As a part of an undergraduate Honors Thesis, a student worker from Archives & Special Collections researched the documents’ historical context and used this research to more fully understand Over’s work with the plants of South Dakota.

While Over had some difficulty advancing botany in South Dakota the way he originally planned, he still made significant contributions to the field. He established the University Herbarium in 1913, which is still in use today. Also, Over was the first botanist in 20th century South Dakota to develop a manual of the entire state’s flora, and other botanists have since used Over’s work as a tool to understand the state’s flora. Over was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University in 1936, and he was able to publish Wild Flowers of South Dakota in 1942 as a way to encourage both children and adults to appreciate the beauty of plants.

One of Over’s most lasting contributions to botany in South Dakota was the fact that he passionately encouraged others to appreciate the state’s botanical diversity and beauty.

To view the documents from the W.H. Over Collection in person, please contact the USD Archives & Special Collections.

Sample title page of Over and Petry’s First Vascular Flora of South Dakota (ca. 1924-1926).

Proof drawing published in Over’s Wild Flowers of South Dakota (1942).

Herbarium specimen collected by Over in 1920.

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Pinic in the Black Hills, from Mabel Townsley’s Black Hills Scrapbook, c.1903

Before I start gushing about how awesome these scrapbooks are, I want to tell you a bit about the person who compiled them. Mabel Townsley French, born May 30, 1887, was a student at the University of South Dakota from 1894-1899. After graduation, she spent a few years teaching at country schools in Hartford, SD and Keystone, SD. Then Townsley returned to Vermilion and became an English instructor and later, a registrar at the university. In 1910, she married Dr. Harley Ellsworth French, a professor of anatomy and bacteriology at USD. The couple had two children and lived happily in Vermilion for several years.

When one encounters a historical photograph it is often easy to forget that the photograph’s subject was once a real person. Historical images and portraits can have an air of formality and even, stuffiness about them; it can be difficult for the modern person to empathize with stern-looking women in hoop skirts or grim-faced frontiersmen. Intimate and filled with personality, Mable Towsley’s scrapbooks do not give one this view of history. The photographs depict people laughing and picnicking in the summer. The drawings are whimsical and humorous. Townsley herself embellished the pages with poetry and doodles.

In addition, the scrapbooks are also unique because they contain images that appear to be cyanotypes. It is important to note that the Cyanotype Process is an early photographic printing process that produces a Prussian blue print. This process is still widely practiced as an art form today. To view a selection of modern cyanotypes, check out the “Vermillion in Blue” exhibition on the second floor of the library. It runs through May 6.  (Click photographs below to enlarge.)

From Mabel Townsley's Black Hills Scrapbook, c.1903

"Scenes from a Performance of a Virtuoso," by John Boyd Townsley, c. 1903

Drawing by John Boyd Townsley, c. 1887

Cyanotype from Mable Townsley's Black Hills Scrapbook, c. 1903

 –Information gathered from the Mable Townsley Collection



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From Cleata B. Thorpe’s Education in South Dakota 1861-1961:

  1. Teachers will fill lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks each day.
  2. Each teacher will bring a scuttle of coal and a bucket of water for the day’s use.
  3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs for the individual tastes of children.
  4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
  5. After ten hours in school, the teacher should spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
  6. Women teachers who marry or engage in other unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
  7. Every teacher should lay aside from his pay a goodly sum for his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society. 
  8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents a pool or public hall, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason for suspecting his worth, intentions, integrity and honesty.
  9. The teacher who performs his labors faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents a week in his pay providing the board of education approves.

You can find more from the South Dakota Historical Collections in the Chilson Collection in the USD Archives.

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Gilbert C. Fite, Ph.D., a noted historian and USD alumnus, passed away on July 13, 2010. Dr. Fite, in 2002, arranged for the donation of his professional papers to the Archives and Special Collections. His son, James Fite, completed the donation in early 2011. The papers of Dr. Fite are a trove of correspondence, research files, and writings from his distinguished career as a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia. The collection also reflects his service to the profession of history as president of the Western Historical Association, the Agricultural Historical Association, and the Southern Historical Association.  The Farmers’ Frontier, 1865-1900 and Peter Norbeck, Prairie Statesman stand among his scholarly works that earned him high regard in the field of history. The Archives and Special Collections is honored to serve as the home for his papers.  In 1975, USD conferred an Honorary Doctor of Literature upon Fite.  .

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Last Friday, Doris and I were sent out into the world with an expensive camera as a part of a class that Sarah was teaching about using said expensive camera. It was daunting, mostly because I’m really clumsy so I was afraid of dropping and breaking the camera, but also exciting because I had never gotten to use an expensive camera before.

Thankfully, it was pretty nice outside, except for the wind that’s always blowing through Vermillion. We took some nice shots for being amateurs. Doris was more dedicated than I was. She laid down in the dirt for one of her shots. Here are the ones that I liked the most:


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