EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the current Corn Palace building, which opened in 1921.
Long before there was Twitter or Facebook or Yelp, reviews of attractions and places of interest were shared in person. Or in many cases, in the local newspaper.
In researching this series, I found a lot of newspaper stories online that mentioned the Corn Palace. But many of the mentions were often in the local happenings section, talking about how they traveled from one community to another near Mitchell to visit friends or family, and then took a day to visit an event at the Corn Palace, quite commonly the annual corn festival. (This is a uniquely small-town tradition that still lives on in many newspapers in South Dakota today.)
Passing along these stories about visiting the Corn Palace by word of mouth, or by word of local happenings, provided more legitimacy about the Mitchell landmark as a tourist destination.
Take for example The Potters Herald in East Liverpool, Ohio. It was a newspaper for the National Brotherhood of Cooperative Potters, a union of pottery workers, and in July 1939, a group of members took a 29-day, 7,240-mile trip to the western United States and San Francisco for the 1939 World’s Fair, visiting various states on the way. On the way home, they wrote about stopping in Mitchell.
“In South Dakota, they were passed by a cloud of grasshoppers and in Mitchell saw the famous corn palace, an auditorium, the front of which carries a beautiful picture depicting the history of the west. The picture is made of corn; the artist using everything from a grain to a stock in various colors,” the report said.
A family from Washington state traveled for six weeks to Iowa, Indiana and Illinois and was impressed by the Corn Palace, as well.
“As a point of interest they recall seeing the Corn Palace in South Dakota and enjoyed their visit to Chicago,” a newspaper in Kennewick, Washington, wrote in 1946 in its “Little Stories of the Week” section.
The Frontier newspaper in O’Neill, Nebraska reported dozens of people from the area visiting the Corn Palace show in September 1961, under the headline “Many from Here Attend Corn Palace Show at Mitchell, S.D.”
Even though the Corn Palace had been a draw since 1892, having those first-hand testimonials from friends and neighbors in local newspapers helped give the destination legitimacy, and proving to be a draw for showing people Mitchell’s unique combination of art, auditorium and prairie.
Whether it was visiting for a show, a concert or a game, it ended up being a key prism for how people outside South Dakota viewed the Corn Palace.
This story was published with the assistance of the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America online newspaper database.