State Historical Society notes Taft’s 1911 visit to SDPIERRE — The South Dakota State Historical Society is noting the 100th anniversary of President William Howard Taft’s visit to the state.
By: News release, SD State Historical Society
PIERRE — The South Dakota State Historical Society is noting the 100th anniversary of President William Howard Taft’s visit to the state.
In October 1911, Taft made a three-day visit through South Dakota. It was the homeward leg of a swing through the western United States.
Taft’s railroad tour of the state included stops and speeches through larger South Dakota towns, as well as brief stops in smaller communities. The trip provided many people, and several towns, their first opportunity to host and hear a sitting U.S. president.
Taft arrived in Edgemont at 6:50 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21. The Lead Daily Call noted that as the president arrived in Edgemont, “he was greeted by cheers, hand clapping, and waiving of handkerchiefs.”
At Minnekata, the president made a short speech while holding the 3-year-old daughter of the train conductor.
The president made a number of speeches in Deadwood. Over 600 Deadwood schoolchildren, waving American flags, greeted the president.
Also in Deadwood, the president received a 15-ounce, goldbrick paperweight made with gold donated from the Golden Reward, Mogul, Wasp No. 2, Trojan, and Lundberg, Dorr and Wilson mining companies.
Taft traveled to Lead for a tour of the city and down to the 1,200-foot level of the Homestake Mine. He rode the Ellison hoist down into the bowels of the mine where they walked for about a mile by the light of acetylene miner’s lamps.
“I can see big buildings, battleships and armies whenever I want, but it is only once in a lifetime that a person has an opportunity to see such things as these,” Taft said while in the mine.
Newspapers estimated that 15,000 people were in Lead to see the president.
Arriving later that evening in Rapid City, the president’s parade toured the town and its streets adorned with “electric lights.” When he arrived at his speaking engagement, eight Sioux Indian chiefs, including Chief Austin Red Hawk, greeted Taft. The delegation of chiefs presented the president with a peace pipe.
The president’s train left Rapid City, traveled through the night and early morning, and arrived in Pierre on Sunday, Oct. 22, at about 4 p.m. In its Saturday edition, the Pierre Daily Capital Journal stated, “When the sun rises tomorrow morning the President of the United States will be in Pierre, the greatest man in the world, will be our guest for more than a day.”
The president’s next main stops the next day were in Huron and Aberdeen. A number of special trains were run to both Huron and Aberdeen for “Taft Day.”
Taft also made brief stops at a number of South Dakota towns, including Miller and Redfield.
The president’s special train arrived in Aberdeen shortly after 5:30 p.m. A parade of automobiles followed the president, along with the South Dakota State Band, the Grand Army of the Republic, Spanish-American War Veterans and Company L of the National Guard. The president’s special train left Aberdeen near midnight.
Select photographs and news clippings from Taft’s visit to South Dakota are on the State Historical Society-Archives Facebook page via http://history.sd.gov/Archives.