Midwest Book Review takes a look at “County Capitols”

Illustrated with black-and-white photography of historic courthouses throughout, County Capitols: The Courthouses of South Dakota is as much about the history of these storied edifices as their architecture. During the pioneer era, South Dakota communities competed fiercely for designation as a county seat (and access to railroad lines); such a distinction improved the odds that a town would flourish, and raised local land values. Land speculators especially had a vested interest in ensuring a courthouse would be established near their own property. This conflict of interest led to “courthouse fights” between rival communities, ranging from bidding wars to midnight excursions to steal county records, or even the destruction of nascent courthouses! County Capitols devotes two or more pages to each of dozens of courthouses, recounting the often colorful tales behind their creation and use, and makes an excellent addition to South Dakota state history shelves.—The Midwest Book Review

Rusch - County Capitols (small)

State Historical Society to Release New Book on Political Culture at USD Conference

Cover with medallionAcross the country, election-night viewers typically see South Dakota as a “red” or Republican state, but is it really that simple? In their upcoming book from the South Dakota State Historical Society, editors Jon K. Lauck, John E. Miller and Donald C. Simmons, Jr., present 10 essays that focus on the unpredictability and inconsistencies in the state’s political culture. “The Plains Political Tradition: Essays on South Dakota Political Culture, Volume 2” will be released on Thursday, Nov. 13, at a conference hosted by the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.

“Our political heritage is much more varied and unique than people realize,” said Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society, headquartered at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. “The editors continue to shed light on the South Dakota political experience—connecting it to the greater Midwestern and American setting.”

South Dakota’s political landscape is a mix of geographical variations and political subcultures that changes over time. The first volume of “The Plains Political Tradition” examined this complexity, and this new volume explores compelling stories of direct democracy, organized labor, West River identity, New Deal planning, Cold War loyalty, bicultural conservatism and the Christian Left—among other topics. Tracking the shifting dialogues that make the Great Plains unique, the authors and editors take South Dakota further into the growing study of modern political culture.

Authors of the essays in “The Plains Political Tradition” will discuss their topics in a series of panels at the USD conference, which runs from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST on Nov. 13. Tom Isern, University Distinguished Professor of History at North Dakota State University in Fargo, will give the luncheon keynote address. Contact Sandi Allred at sandi.allred@usd.edu or (605) 677-5242 to register. The event is free to the public.

“The Plains Political Tradition: Essays on South Dakota Political Culture, Volume 2” is available for $22.95 plus shipping and tax and can be purchased through most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit http://www.sdshspress.com or call (605) 773-6009. For distribution information, contact the South Dakota Historical Society Press at orders@sdshspress.com.

Full Press Release

Story Circle Book Reviews, “Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey”

In her new memoir, Darcy Lipp-Acord writes about how she learned to embrace the agricultural lifestyle to which she was born. She also affirms her voice as a writer. She explores her faith and motherhood, and the choices they demand, and brings alive the push and pull of compromise that makes an enduring marriage. She thinks about community. But most importantly, she writes that precious and still rare thing: the truth of a woman’s life. [. . .] Because she writes well, and makes us care, it is a joy when Darcy Lipp-Acord can say, “I feel like I’ve finally arrived.” How she gets there makes a fine story, one that might inspire, a good one to pass along to a friend.

Susan Schoch, Story Circle Book Reviews

Read the full review here.

Dakota Midday Interview with Darcy Lipp-Acord, “Circling Back Home”

Quote

“As I studied literature in college. . . .  there just wasn’t a lot out there about the woman who tended the home fires, who ran to town for parts, who cooked the meals, who took care of the children. There is a body of literature about the cowgirl who is out there alongside her husband, and that’s honorable in its own right, but I felt like the story of so many women of the plains needed to be honored—because of their importance, not just in an agricultural lifestyle, but any lifestyle. . . .”—Darcy Lipp-Acord speaking about Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey on Dakota Midday, 24 February 2014.

Listen to the rest of her interview here.

Darcy Lipp-Acord will be speaking live for the History and Heritage Book Club at three locations via the Digital Dakota Network on 11 March 2014.

  • Pierre:  Cultural Heritage Center, 7PM CST
  • Rapid City: South Dakota School of Mines, Classroom Building, room 109, 6PM MST
  • Sioux Falls: South Dakota University Center, Administration Building, room 145, 7PM CST

Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey is available for $16.95 plus shipping and tax and can be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota State Historical Society Press. Visit www.sdshspress.com or call (605) 773-6009. For publicity information, please contact our Marketing Director at info@sdshspress.com.

New Words, Old Words

In the course of my work making editors’ corrections to the “Pioneer Girl” annotations, I have come across several unfamiliar words. Most of these terms have simply fallen out of usage and been forgotten. Some became clear as I read through the manuscript, but others remain puzzling.

When I first read of a “lunatic fringe” in “Pioneer Girl,” for example, I immediately thought of its modern definition, which refers to a fanatical group. I was surprised to learn, as many Wilder fans may already know, that the term referred to the bangs that fall across one’s forehead. Apparently, this hairstyle was not looked on especially favorably in the late 1800s.

“Fichu” was another unfamiliar word. Laura’s good friend, Ida Brown, gave her one as a wedding gift. The vintage dictionary we sometimes consult here in the office defines a fichu as a small cape, usually made from lace and triangular in shape, similar to a scarf. I also learned that this very fichu is on display at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri.

When Laura became engaged, she wore the garnet-and-pearl ring Almanzo gave her on her “first finger.” This one still has me stumped. Did she wear it on her index finger, or was the nineteenth-century “first finger” what we call a “ring finger” today?

I had also never heard of “lawn” in connection with a dress. Laura had a pink sprigged “lawn” dress. I have since learned that lawn is a sheer, lightweight fabric, now usually woven from cotton but, in the nineteenth century, also made from linen.

Laura’s father, Charles, would sometimes sit with the graybeards in the “Amen corner” of the First Congregational Church. I now know that those who led congregational responses or who were especially ardent worshippers would sit in that section.

In These Happy Golden Years, Laura wore her new hat, which she described as “a sage-green, rough straw, in poke-bonnet shape.” I have since learned that a poke bonnet is one with a projecting brim or front, designed to shade the face. “Pie-plant” had me stumped at first, too, but the definition of garden rhubarb makes sense.

Little did I know that working with the Pioneer Girl Project would expand my vocabulary in so many ways.  I’m looking forward to solving the next “word mystery.”

—CO