SCOUTING YESTERDAY: Freedom Train rolls into South Dakota to ‘resell America to Americans’
This week in South Dakota history: April 19-25
Thousands awaited the Freedom Train as it rolled into Rapid City’s Chicago and North Western depot on April 22, 1948. Schools throughout the Black Hills were closed for the day to allow students to attend the exhibit as special police and the Boy Scouts provided crowd and traffic control services, according to the Rapid City Journal.
Making stops in Rapid City, Pierre, Aberdeen, Watertown and Sioux Falls, the train was conceived by Department of Justice employee William Coblenz after spending his lunch viewing historical documents at the U.S. National Archives. Afraid that many Americans otherwise would never have the opportunity to see the documents that helped chart the course of the United States, Coblenz instigated a conversation with Solon J. Buck, Archivist of the United States, about putting documents on a touring exhibit.
After approval from the National Archives, the idea was sent on to Attorney General Tom C. Clark, who relayed the idea to President Harry S. Truman. Truman, who according to the National Archives, gave it his “strongest endorsement” because the train of documents would “make it possible for every man, woman and child in America to enrich their pride in the institutions that have made us great.”
However, the notion failed to earn Congressional support and instead relied on private funding through the formation of the American Heritage Foundation, created to lead the project.
SCOUTING YESTERDAY: Nixon veto leads to shut down of South Dakota school