New Hugh Glass Biography Coming in May from State Historical Society

Mclaird - Hugh Glass (CI)PIERRE, S.D.—This spring, readers will be able to learn the true story behind frontiersman Hugh Glass, who is currently portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the Hollywood blockbuster “The Revenant.” As Oscar buzz continues to mount for the movie, the South Dakota State Historical Society is getting ready to release “Hugh Glass: Grizzly Survivor”by James D. McLaird in May.


The most famous grizzly bear attack in the history of the American West took place in 1823 and left Glass struggling for life. Setting out on a journey of revenge and forgiveness, he eventually crawled 200 miles across the plains back to civilization. The story of Hugh Glass has provided fertile ground for articles, books and film, but the real man remains much a mystery.


“Hugh Glass continues to be a larger-than-life character who occupies a significant place in American folklore,” says Nancy Tystad Koupal, director of the South Dakota Historical Society Press. “However, little has been done to create an accurate historical biography that looks at the other narratives written about him.”


McLaird, a Mitchell historian, traces the few existing threads of Glass’ life and delves into the role of popular history in making a legend. He also looks at the grizzly bear itself, examining popular sentiments towards the creature that led to its near extinction.


“Had it not been for a chance encounter with a grizzly bear along the Grand River in what is now northwestern South Dakota,” says McLaird, “Hugh Glass would barely warrant a passing note in fur trade history. That fact made researching him a challenge.”


McLaird is professor emeritus of history at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. He is the author of the second South Dakota Biography Series book “Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane: Deadwood Legends” and numerous articles on the Black Hills and American West. 


“Hugh Glass: Grizzly Survivor”is the latest addition to the South Dakota Biography Series published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press. The book will be available in May for $14.95, plus shipping and tax. It can be preordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press at or by calling (605) 773-6009. Follow the South Dakota Historical Society Press on Facebook (SDHS Press) and Twitter (@sdhspress) for more information.




Editor’s Note:Email for publicity information and to contact the author.


About the South Dakota State Historical Society

The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call (605) 773-3458 or visit for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call (605) 394-1936 for more information.


Mount Rushmore Focus of State Historical Society’s Latest Book

Cerasani - Love Letters from Mt Rush (CI)
Pierre, S.D.—Written by former soap opera star Richard Cerasani, “Love Letters from Mount Rushmore: The Story of a Marriage, a Monument, and a Moment in History” is the newest book available from the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Starting with the discovery of an old trunk, Cerasani recounts a previously untold story of love and opportunity set during the carving of Mount Rushmore.

 The story centers on Cerasani’s father, Arthur Cerasani, who worked on Mount Rushmore from March to September of 1940. A sculptor and artist from Rochester, N.Y., Arthur lived in the Black Hills, while his family remained over 1,500 miles away in Avon, N.Y. Over this vast distance, he and his wife Mary stayed connected through daily letters. Their correspondence, presented here with never-before-seen photographs, brings to light the everyday trials of working on the Mount Rushmore Memorial and the strength of the human spirit.

 Despite isolation, spring blizzards, summer heat, and the unpredictable moods and fortunes of master sculptor Gutzon Borglum, Arthur Cerasani manages to grow as an artist and connect with Luigi Del Bianco, Hugo Villa and other carvers of the great monument.

 “Richard Cerasani is telling the story of his parents, but, in the end, he is sharing the experience of many workers on Mount Rushmore,” said Jay D. Vogt, director of the State Historical Society. “By using letters, photographs and art, the author has created an engaging new account for readers about this national monument. It is an important piece of history that, until now, was not available.”

 Made famous by his role as the villain Bill Watson on “General Hospital,” Richard Cerasani is the middle son of Arthur and Mary Cerasani. He has been a professional actor and member of the Screen Actors Guild, Actors’ Equity Association and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists for some 50 years. He acts under his professional name, Richard Caine.

 On the experience of writing “Love Letters from Mount Rushmore,” Cerasani relates, “when I first started this book, Arthur and Mary Cerasani were simply my parents. However, the trunk in the attic revealed a more complete—and complex—picture of the life they had lived for their children and others.”

 “Love Letters from Mount Rushmore: The Story of a Marriage, a Monument, and a Moment in History” is available for $29.95 plus shipping and tax and can be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit, email or call (605) 773-6009.

Read the press release here.

Praise for “Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend” in the Midwest Book Review

Montileaux - Tasunka (CI)

“Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend” is a traditional Lakota teaching tale about the significance of the discovery and taming of horses by an early Lakota warrior, on the Northern Great Plains of North America. Filled with vibrant, expressive, carefully drawn illustrations done in the style of Lakota ledger artists’ drawings, “Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend” tells the traditional story in both English and Lakota, in simple language filled with traditional storytellers’ fireside styles of intimate, significant communication to the young. In ancient times, a young warrior out hunting discovers evidence of a new, astounding animal. Times have been hard, and the people of his village were hungry. With much careful trailing, observation, and patient domestication approaches, the warrior succeeds in taming and building a small herd of domesticated wild horses, which he takes home to his village. The horses enabled the Lakota people to hunt game much farther and longer, and they prospered with the help of the fine horses. However, they used the Great Spirit’s gift of the horse, Tasunka, to claim new lands and to dominate other peoples. Because of their misuse of the great gift of Tasunka, horses were taken away from the Lakota people. Much later, they returned again ridden by strange white warriors wearing silver armor. The Lakota people once again were able to tame and ride the wild herd of horses, part of Tasunka’s legacy. ” This return of the Tasunka to the plains people was the Great Spirit’s way of forgiveness.” The Lakota once again became wealthy, great horsemen of the plains. The stunning ledger style illustrations add colorful imagery to the spare, descriptive traditional narrative of “Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend,” weaving a complex treasure of heritage for children of tomorrow. Each page contains both an English and a Lakota translation of the narrative, ideally written for children age five and up.”


See the review here.

New Books to Look Forward To

As I turn the calendar page to August, autumn has appeared on the horizon. At the South Dakota State Historical Society Press, we are overseeing the birth of new books for the fall.

SD LIPP ACORD COVER First off the press will be Darcy Lipp-Acord’s Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey, in which the author shares heart-warming and, at times, heart-rending stories of her pioneer heritage in Dakota and her working life in Wyoming.  The everyday struggles of motherhood and itinerant ranch life are leavened by the joys of nature and children in this lyrical portrait of one family’s experiences. Linda Hasselstrom provides a foreword, placing the book within the growing field of reflective memoirs.



Next out will be “Dear Unforgettable Brother”: The Stavig Letters from Norway and America, 1881–1937, compiled and annotated by Jane and John Rassmussen. The book contains the letters shared between family members on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean—one in South Dakota and one in Romsdal, Norway.  The letters provide vivid pictures of the lives of emigrants and the lives of those who stayed behind.  Edvard Hoem and Betty Bergland provide essays about conditions in the two countries.

Darcy Lipp-Acord and Jane and John Rassmussen will be talking about their books at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood on 20–22 September 2013.  Please come and meet them.


Coming Release – Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey

The South Dakota State Historical Society Press announces the coming release of Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey, by Darcy Lipp-Acord, with a forward by Linda M. Hasselstrom.


At a time when values of frugality, home, family, and care of the land seem increasingly absent, one woman looks to her past to create a life of significance for her family. Her search takes her back to the prairie of her grandmothers, who survived personal hardships and lived off what the land provided. Lipp-Acord mourns the loss of one child and celebrates the birth of others, all while balancing her own desire to put down roots with her husband’s life as a ranch hand.  Written over ten years, these essays compose a picture of endurance and grace as the author addresses her history and finds her way home.

The granddaughter of German-Russian immigrants, Darcy Lipp-Acord grew up in Timber Lake, South Dakota, on a farm worked by three generations of her family. She currently lives on a ranch with her husband, Shawn, and their six children near the Montana-Wyoming border. She won the Wyoming Arts Council’s Frank Nelson Doubleday Award for women writers, and her essays have appeared in several anthologies including Woven on the Wind.

“[Darcy] Lipp-Acord is one woman, but she tells a dozen stories, her ancestors’ voices mingling with her own: the farmers’ daughter, the Catholic woman, the wife, the mother, the artist. . . . Circling Back Home reflects the life of a ranch woman in all its prismatic variety.”   —Linda M. Hasselstrom, founder of the Windbreak House Writing Retreats.

Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey will be released August, 2013, for $16.95.

Get your pre-order in today by emailing or calling (605) 773-6009.

Search our online catalog and receive 10% off of another Press publication with your pre-order of Circling Back Home.

Looking back to move ahead

While most people typically spend the beginning of the year looking forward to the months ahead, we have spent part of 2013 looking back to the year just past. Early January is deadline time for the yearly summaries that each director of the South Dakota State Historical Society’s five program areas submits for us to use in creating the annual report issue of the History Notes newsletter. It’s a chore, for sure, but a useful one, giving both the staff and society members a chance to stop and take a look at the big picture of what we do together.

History Notes

Distilling a full twelve months of work into 600 words or less is an exercise in critical thinking, in looking back and judging what was truly important during the past year. While not easy, the task is satisfying, offering a chance to become unmired from the day-to-day details of our jobs and recognize just what those efforts have accomplished for preserving and interpreting the state’s history. It also gives us a focus point from which to look ahead at our goals for the next twelve months. Taken together, each program’s collected summaries constitute a history of the society itself and its progress over the long haul.

Another challenge comes in making the reports more than a collection of dry statistics. We get to work with some of the most fascinating artifacts and documents anywhere, so in addition to letting our members know the number of dollars spent and official reports generated, we want to highlight and communicate our enthusiasm for the discoveries made at archaeological digs, the good books that came off the press, or the fascinating photographs that some gracious donor brought in.

Finally, the annual report is where we recognize those individuals and institutions who help to make our accomplishments possible through their donations of artifacts, volunteer time, or funds. The list of donors published in the annual report is cumulative, giving us all a chance to look at the names of those, familiar and new, who have considered our endeavors important enough to support in some way. It is good to be reminded that the society and its programs are a partnership among many, and that the present is built on the past. So give the annual report issue of History Notes more than a passing glance when it arrives in your mailbox later this month—you’re sure to find something interesting.



Congratulations go this week to our sister program, the Museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society, which has just been made an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.  The formal announcement was made last Thursday at the State Historical Society’s annual legislative reception, with Governor Dennis Daugaard and a representative of the Smithsonian in attendance.

Smithsonian Affiliates logo

This gala reception featured a big event for the South Dakota State Historical Society Press, too: we released our latest publication, The Governors’ Portraits.  Dan Brosz was there in a double capacity: he is the Curator of Collections for the museum, and he is also the author of our chapbook, so he was able to sign attendees’ copies.

Governors Portraits cover

We are excited for the museum as it begins its Smithsonian affiliation, which will give it access to training programs and exhibits offered through the Washington, D.C. institution.  And as part of the South Dakota State Historical Society, we are proud of the closer association of two long traditions of excellence in research and education.