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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2003
Contact: Steve Buchholz, Public Information Manager, 394-6082
Tech Professors Solve Custer Mystery
Two South Dakota School of Mines and Technology professors solved a mystery of the Custer expedition to the Black Hills by locating the exact location where one of the original expedition photographs was taken.
The mystery was created with the publication of “Exploring With Custer: The 1874 Black Hills Expedition.” The book includes several dozen 1874 photographs paired with modern photographs taken at the same locations. The book’s researchers and authors were not convinced they had the correct location of the original photo on page 262.
“We didn’t think it was right, and we told the readers to go find it,” researcher Jack McCulloh said. “And these guys did it.”
These guys are Jack Redden and Perry Rahn, both professors emeritus in Tech’s Department of Geology and Geological Engineering. Using their knowledge of the geology of the Black Hills, the pair searched for the location at several likely spots along Little Elk Creek and Boxelder Creek near Nemo Road. After several promising locations turned out to be wrong, they found the location between two Custer campsites.
Redden and Rahn matched the spot using the geological features of the cliff. Complicating the match was the angle of the camera when the original photo was taken. Original expedition photographer W.H. Illingworth tilted the camera about 25 degrees, making the rock layers seem steeper than they are.
The pair showed their photographs to the book’s researchers, who verified the location. A new photo of the correct location will be taken and used in an updated version of the book.
“This book is the result of more than 10 years of work,” McCulloh said. “We didn’t think it was completely done yet. With the help of people like Redden and Rahn, South Dakota will eventually have a book that’s bulletproof.”
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Devereaux Library. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.