President Calvin Coolidge chose to spend the summer in the Black Hills during a pivotal year in the history of the United States and South Dakota. Against the backdrop of the roaring twenties on Wall Street, a farm crisis brewed in the Midwest with bank failures that foreshadowed the Great Depression. During his time in the Hills, Coolidge resided in the State Game Lodge, entertained dignitaries from around the world, fished for trout, attended rodeos and became the first American president to visit an Indian reservation.
This ongoing project kicked off July 11 with a lobby exhibit at the Journey Museum. On the same day, the Black Hills Knowledge Network will open a permanent, online exhibition detailing various aspects of the Coolidge Summer of 1927, featuring photos from the Rapid City Public Library's digital archives.
"Calvin Coolidge's summer in the Black Hills played a critical role in shaping the tourism industry in this region," says historian Dr. Eric John Abrahamson, project director for the Black Hills Knowledge Network. "We intend to offer a rich variety of photos, documents, and text to help visitors, students and area residents understand the legacy of the Coolidge summer."
According to Abrahamson, the Black Hills Knowledge Network site will feature bios of Calvin and Grace Coolidge, background on the president's famous announcement that he would not run for reelection, an overview of the Coolidge's contribution to the development of tourism in the region—including Mount Rushmore—and information on Coolidge's visit to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, including the text of his speech.
Historians Amy Davis and Eric Zimmer, working with Abrahamson and the Rapid City Public Library's Samantha Slocum and other staff members developed the online exhibition, which is intended to the be first in a series of online history exhibits offered by the Rapid City Public Library and the Black Hills Knowledge Network.