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Peter Norbeck papers

Identifier: MS-116

Content Description

The Norbeck Papers consist chiefly of correspondence, manuscript, and print materials related to Norbeck's political service as governor of South Dakota and as United States Senator.

The boxes are very loosely organized. The materials span the years 1896-1936, concentrating heavily on Norbeck’s tenure as U.S. Senator from 1921 to his death in 1936. Overall, the collection can be broken into three general categories: political correspondence, most of which examines a particular subject, campaign, or correspondence with his constituents and other politicians; financial materials, including correspondence from his business ventures and his personal income tax returns; and personal materials, including correspondence with members of Norbeck’s family, trips, and copies of speeches. Additional materials include a box of books, a box of photographs, an individually wrapped scrapbook, and 3 oversize maps.

There are a variety of subject files found within this collection. Major topics are as follows: Badlands National Park (S.D.) (Boxes 118-120); Banks and Banking (Boxes 1-2, 13-14, 78, 169); Custer State Park (Box 71, 95-98); Doane Robinson (Box 130); Gutzon Borglum (Boxes 163 and 164); Mount Rushmore (Boxes 163-167); Native Americans (Boxes 157-161, 170); Oil (Boxes 41-46); Park Files (Boxes 100, 117-122, 147); Railroads (Boxes 33 and 34); Roads (Box 35, 117, 119); Rural Credit System (Boxes 168 and 169); Tariff (Boxes 31, 123-128, 150-151); Wildlife and Conservation Correspondence (Boxes 72-76); and Utah Senator William Henry King (Boxes 82 and 83, 101).

Printed Materials are located in Boxes 3 and 4, though many of the other boxes in the collection include an assortment of printed materials throughout.

The box of books is located in Box 171 and contains an assortment of books with many related to laws (specifically schools), education, and teachers in South Dakota.

The box of photographs is located in Box 172 and contains photographs of Library of Congress Annex and photographs of Peter Norbeck.

The oversize maps include an undated map of the Black Hills, a map of Custer State Park, and a map of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta shewing [sic] bird sanctuaries and public shooting grounds, 1925. This series is located in a large oversize folder in the light gray Map Cases.


  • 1896 - 1936


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research without restriction. Researchers are advised to contact the Archives and Special Collections prior to visiting. Advance notice may be needed to retrieve items for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers must obtain a signed Permission to Publish Form if they wish to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information from published and unpublished works held by ASC. Permission to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information materials from ASC does not constitute permission from the holder of copyright or literary rights. The researcher is responsible for securing permission from the copyright holder to publish or reproduce content from materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Progressive politician Peter Norbeck was born in Vermillion, Clay County, Dakota Territory, on August 27, 1870. Though he did not receive an official degree, Norbeck attended classes at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion for several terms before moving to Redfield, South Dakota in 1901. Norbeck, along with partner Charles Nicholson, started the Norbeck and Nicholson Drilling Company, which revolutionized artesian well drilling. He entered politics in 1908, serving in the state Senate until 1915; as lieutenant governor from 1915 to 1916; as the first native South Dakotan governor from 1917 to 1921; and as United States Senator from 1921 until his death on December 20, 1936, in Redfield, South Dakota. During his tenure as a politician, Norbeck assisted in the endorsement of many state-owned agencies, including a cement plant that officially opened in 1923 from legislation passed in 1919 and remained opened until its sale in 2001; the 1918 enfranchisement of South Dakota women; the passage of legislation in his second gubernatorial term creating the Custer State Park in the Black Hills; the development of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial; and implemented an extensive road construction program throughout South Dakota.


84 Linear Feet (172 boxes, 1 individually wrapped scrapbook, and 3 maps in map drawer)

Language of Materials



The Norbeck Papers consist chiefly of correspondence, manuscript, and print materials related to Norbeck's political service as governor of South Dakota and as United States Senator.

Related Materials

Papers regarding Norbeck's time as South Dakota governor can be accessed at the South Dakota State Archives located at the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre, S.D.

The Oral History Center, located on second floor of I. D. Weeks Library, have several oral histories that recall Peter Norbeck. Many of the interviews include a discussion of what South Dakota was like in the early 1900s and include topics such as Governor Norbeck, the flu epidemic of 1918, the Nonpartisan League, Prohibition, and the Norbeck-Nicholson firm in Redfield, South Dakota.

Peter Norbeck papers
Ashley Lynch
2017 June
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USD Archives and Special Collections Repository