PIERRE | In the summer of 1927, President Calvin Coolidge brought his summer White House to the State Game Lodge at Custer State Park and his summer office to Rapid City’s now-gone downtown high school.
On the second day in August, the 55-year-old Coolidge sent news reporters hurrying to telegraphs and telephones with his declaration on hand-copied slips of paper: “I do not choose to run for President in nineteen twenty eight.”
The story of how President Coolidge and his wife, Grace, came by train from Washington, D.C., to the Rapid City depot at Ninth and Main and then down the gravel road to Hermosa and into the park is told in perfect detail by Seth Tupper in a new book.
“Calvin Coolidge in the Black Hills” is the 63rd title published about South Dakota by The History Press and its parent, Arcadia Publishing, headquartered in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Other South Dakota-based titles are about places, Native American tribes, events, groups and persons, such as architect Wallace Dow and Gov. Tom Berry. The books generally are 120 or so pages with many photographs along the way.
For regular readers of the Rapid City Journal, the name of Seth Tupper is familiar. He is an enterprise reporter who has recorded many highlights already in his short time at the newspaper and after many successes at the Mitchell Daily Republic.
I needed a nudge to get past the colorized photograph of Calvin Coolidge in eagle-feather tribal bonnet on the book’s cover. Once inside, I found a treasure chest of quality research and insight. This is a top-shelf book that belongs in the hands of many South Dakotans.
Part of its success is the skillful placement of art. Spread throughout are 47 photographs and drawings, plus one cake recipe (Coolidge was born on the Fourth of July!) and the famous note distributed one by one to reporters, who had returned for a pronouncement they didn’t know would come.
Aside from photographs of the president on the front and rear covers, the reader doesn’t get a photo of Coolidge inside the book until 31 pages into the main text.
By then, you’ve already seen the game lodge, an aero-map of the Black Hills and a photo of Rapid City high school. Then comes a cartoon of Coolidge, followed by images of Peter Norbeck and Williamson, agent Starling, Bulow and Grace Coolidge.
Next are two pictures of the First Couple, departing their Chicago and North Western train in one and posing in an open-topped car in the other. I asked Seth the other morning about how the photos came to be.
“I had to find them all, and I had to suggest spots in the manuscript where each photo should go. The publisher made adjustments from there,” he replied.
They came from collections of A.B. Kellogg, Pat Roseland, University of South Dakota, Library of Congress, National Postal Museum, National Archives and South Dakota State Historical Society.
Such a wonderful job, both with words and art: This is a fine book indeed.