County Seat Fights, Courthouses featured in New State Historical Society Book

Rusch - County Capitols (small)County Capitols: The Courthouses of South Dakota by former circuit court judge Arthur L. Rusch, will be released at the South Dakota Festival of Books on Friday, Sept. 26, in Sioux Falls, S.D. Rusch’s book details the history and architecture of the state’s current justice buildings and is the fifth volume in the Historical Preservation Series from the South Dakota State Historical Society.

County Capitols is a fitting title for South Dakota’s 125th anniversary of statehood. Filled with dozens of images, it is a wonderful resource for architects, historians and those interested in the building of South Dakota,” says Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Dreaming of great things for their communities, the pioneer town-builders who settled southern Dakota Territory took extreme measures to ensure that their communities would become commercial and industrial centers. One way to secure the survival of a town was to acquire the county seat. Using county records, period newspapers and other resources, Rusch shows how the “courthouse fights” between rival communities turned into outright battles, including bidding wars and midnight forays to steal county records and even buildings. In an opening essay, Jason Haug outlines the development of these county capitols and their architectural styles over time.

“Arthur Rusch has written a significant book on the building of South Dakota’s sixty-four current courthouses and their predecessors,” says Nancy Tystad Koupal, director of the South Dakota Historical Society Press. “In County Capitols, he details how the development of these important buildings was a matter of three key factors: functionality, style, and survival.”

Arthur L. Rusch of Vermillion received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of South Dakota and served as a judge in South Dakota’s First Judicial Circuit for seventeen years. An avid local historian, he has given numerous presentations and won awards for his work.

Jason Haug worked for the South Dakota State Historical Society’s Historic Preservation Office for eight years, serving as Historic Preservation director from 2007 to 2012. He currently lives in Willmar, Minn.

County Capitols will be available for $29.95 plus shipping and tax and may be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit, email or call (605) 773-6009. Pre-orders are currently being accepted.

More information about Arthur Rusch’s participation in the South Dakota Festival of Books can be found by contacting the event’s sponsor, the South Dakota Humanities Council, at (605) 688-6113, or by visiting

Celebrate Riverboat Days with Fraser Harrison’s Yankton: Portrait of a River City

SD History Cover Image Vol44No1After a brief stay in Yankton while working on his book Infinite West: Travels in South Dakota, British travel writer Fraser Harrison returned last summer for an in-depth look at the town. His recent essay, “Yankton: Portrait of a River City” appeared as the Spring 2014 issue of South Dakota History, the quarterly journal of the South Dakota State Historical Society. Harrison blends history with descriptions of modern Yankton for an insightful account that covers everything from its iconic bridges to its bars, churches, and even the patriotic cow that stands at the stockyard’s entrance. With a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council, Harrison spent six weeks in Yankton in 2013 interviewing residents and researching the town’s colorful past and present. He traveled there again this summer for a June 19―July 3 lecture tour to relate his experiences and promote his work. As Yanktonites and visitors gather this week for the annual River Boat Days celebration, we offer this excerpt from the opening pages of Harrison’s essay:

 It was not love at first sight.

My first, fleeting encounter with Yankton, South Dakota, in May 2011 was a disappointment. Booking a room in advance of my trip, I had been fooled by a misleading picture on the website and had chosen a hotel that I knew was a mistake as soon as I drove into the parking lot on a damp Saturday evening. My early misgivings were confirmed by a cell-like room, whose bare brick walls were lit by a single naked bulb dangling from the ceiling, and a rug on the floor that had the consistency, and something of the odor, of a swamp. I fled and booked myself into the comparative luxury of the Best Western Kelly Inn.

The next morning I drove downtown in search of what my guidebook promised would be “a gem-like historic town . . . comfortably ensconced beside the Missouri.” Once again my expectations were disappointed. [. . .] I checked out and drove westward towards Valentine, Nebraska, never imagining that I might return to this melancholy little town. My verdict, later recorded for all the world to read in my book, Infinite West: Travels in South Dakota, was that the city had “a forlorn and abandoned air.”

Travel writing is an irresponsible art. The writer grants himself the license to visit a place for a few hours and pronounce magisterially on its vices and virtues, its charms and blemishes, without fear of punishment or reprisal. Unlikely to call on the place again, he or she feels free to dispense judgments, caring for nothing except to score an entertaining point. And so it was with me, until I was caught out. I did return to Yankton, and I learned to eat my words; if nothing else, this essay is an act of atonement.

To read more of Harrison’s essay on Yankton past and present, contact the South Dakota Historical Society Press at (605) 773-6009 or


Back cover - fireworks


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.

Book Expo America 2014 Recap, “Little Booth, Gigantic Books”


This year the South Dakota Historical Society Press had the opportunity to exhibit at the largest annual book trade fair in the United States. Located in New York City at the Javits Center for 2014, Book Expo America (BEA) brings in thousands of business professionals every year to meet, listen to panels, and find the next “big book.” And, this year, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography was one of them. As Claire Kirch stated in her article, “Little Booth, Gigantic Books,” for Publishers Weekly, “Even with all the celebrity authors wandering around Javits, it’s impossible to overlook two monumental South Dakota Historical Society Press books about larger-than-life subjects: Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Love Letters from Mount Rushmore.”  She went on to say, “Even though Wilder wrote during the 1930s Great Depression, readers can still relate to her life story.”

Kirch was not the only BEA affiliate to understand that Wilder’s relevance has not faded. We spent three busy days talking with distributors, librarians, reviewers, bloggers, and other “book people” who shared their excitement about having access to Wilder’s first manuscript.

In both Pioneer Girl and These Happy Golden Years, Wilder wrote about her first composition, “Ambition.” Though the real and fictional essays differ, in These Happy Golden Years, young Laura writes, “Ambition is necessary to accomplishment.”  With such an important principle in mind, we had embarked on our ambitious BEA experience. Luckily, we had a little more time to prepare than Laura did when she set down to write her first piece of prose.

The trip yielded valuable information and contacts. Wilder made a lasting impression, showing that her coming-of-age story speaks volumes, even to those who haven’t experienced the open wilderness that Pa and Laura so loved.  BEA 2014 was a success!


Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt visit Prairie Pages for Love Letters from Mount Rushmore

MRM 1I have the pleasure of working with a variety of individuals on many projects. Not often, however, do I get to meet characters like the Mount Rushmore Mascots. With the South Dakota Historical Society Press book Love Letters from Mount Rushmore: The Story of a Marriage, a Monument, and a Moment in History, I had my chance!MRM 2

Earlier this week the mascots and I visited Prairie Pages Bookseller, the local bookstore in Pierre, South Dakota, so the guys could pick up the latest book from the Press. We had a grand time entertaining the gathering crowds and telling them about this fascinating story. Written by Richard Cerasani, Love Letters from Mount Rushmore uses photographs, letters, and artifacts to detail the previously untold experiences of his father, Arthur Cerasani, who worked on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in 1940.

Eager to begin reading, the “presidents” rushed to the cash register and then started their journey down the street to a local coffee shop, Pierre 347, for a comfortable spot to read. Of course, before they left the bookstore, they had to stop and show a young patron some of the never-before-seen MRM 4photographs of Arthur Cerasani surveying the mountain.

Sipping on their lattes and hot cocoa, the presidential mascots learned that Cerasani was a sculptor and artist from New York. With his family over fifteen hundred miles away, he dealt with isolation, spring blizzards, summer heat, and the unpredictable moods and fortunes of master MRM 5sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Over this vast distance, he and his wife, Mary, stayed connected through letters—their daily correspondence revealing the trials of carving sixty-foot heads on a mountain top.MRM 6


In the end, the Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Washington mascots gave a resounding thumbs-up to the latest edition about their stone counterparts. Thank you to all of the people and businesses who made it such a fun day!


Visit your local bookstore today to pick up Love Letters from Mount Rushmore, by Richard Cerasani. Orders can also be placed online at or by calling (605) 773-6009. View Cerasani’s website at for more news about the book!


—Jennifer McIntyre, Marketing Director


Cerasani - Love Letters from Mt Rush (CI)
Love Letters from Mount Rushmore

The Story of a Marriage, a Monument, and a Moment in History

By Richard Cerasani

$29.95, hardcover


Mount Rushmore Focus of State Historical Society’s Latest Book

Cerasani - Love Letters from Mt Rush (CI)
Pierre, S.D.—Written by former soap opera star Richard Cerasani, “Love Letters from Mount Rushmore: The Story of a Marriage, a Monument, and a Moment in History” is the newest book available from the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Starting with the discovery of an old trunk, Cerasani recounts a previously untold story of love and opportunity set during the carving of Mount Rushmore.

 The story centers on Cerasani’s father, Arthur Cerasani, who worked on Mount Rushmore from March to September of 1940. A sculptor and artist from Rochester, N.Y., Arthur lived in the Black Hills, while his family remained over 1,500 miles away in Avon, N.Y. Over this vast distance, he and his wife Mary stayed connected through daily letters. Their correspondence, presented here with never-before-seen photographs, brings to light the everyday trials of working on the Mount Rushmore Memorial and the strength of the human spirit.

 Despite isolation, spring blizzards, summer heat, and the unpredictable moods and fortunes of master sculptor Gutzon Borglum, Arthur Cerasani manages to grow as an artist and connect with Luigi Del Bianco, Hugo Villa and other carvers of the great monument.

 “Richard Cerasani is telling the story of his parents, but, in the end, he is sharing the experience of many workers on Mount Rushmore,” said Jay D. Vogt, director of the State Historical Society. “By using letters, photographs and art, the author has created an engaging new account for readers about this national monument. It is an important piece of history that, until now, was not available.”

 Made famous by his role as the villain Bill Watson on “General Hospital,” Richard Cerasani is the middle son of Arthur and Mary Cerasani. He has been a professional actor and member of the Screen Actors Guild, Actors’ Equity Association and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists for some 50 years. He acts under his professional name, Richard Caine.

 On the experience of writing “Love Letters from Mount Rushmore,” Cerasani relates, “when I first started this book, Arthur and Mary Cerasani were simply my parents. However, the trunk in the attic revealed a more complete—and complex—picture of the life they had lived for their children and others.”

 “Love Letters from Mount Rushmore: The Story of a Marriage, a Monument, and a Moment in History” is available for $29.95 plus shipping and tax and can be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit, email or call (605) 773-6009.

Read the press release here.

Praise for “Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend” in the Midwest Book Review

Montileaux - Tasunka (CI)

“Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend” is a traditional Lakota teaching tale about the significance of the discovery and taming of horses by an early Lakota warrior, on the Northern Great Plains of North America. Filled with vibrant, expressive, carefully drawn illustrations done in the style of Lakota ledger artists’ drawings, “Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend” tells the traditional story in both English and Lakota, in simple language filled with traditional storytellers’ fireside styles of intimate, significant communication to the young. In ancient times, a young warrior out hunting discovers evidence of a new, astounding animal. Times have been hard, and the people of his village were hungry. With much careful trailing, observation, and patient domestication approaches, the warrior succeeds in taming and building a small herd of domesticated wild horses, which he takes home to his village. The horses enabled the Lakota people to hunt game much farther and longer, and they prospered with the help of the fine horses. However, they used the Great Spirit’s gift of the horse, Tasunka, to claim new lands and to dominate other peoples. Because of their misuse of the great gift of Tasunka, horses were taken away from the Lakota people. Much later, they returned again ridden by strange white warriors wearing silver armor. The Lakota people once again were able to tame and ride the wild herd of horses, part of Tasunka’s legacy. ” This return of the Tasunka to the plains people was the Great Spirit’s way of forgiveness.” The Lakota once again became wealthy, great horsemen of the plains. The stunning ledger style illustrations add colorful imagery to the spare, descriptive traditional narrative of “Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend,” weaving a complex treasure of heritage for children of tomorrow. Each page contains both an English and a Lakota translation of the narrative, ideally written for children age five and up.”


See the review here.