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The Mysterious Cosmos: See 1950s South Dakota Postcards and Mementos

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Vintage Postcard

Vintage Postcard

South Dakota Vintage Souvenirs

Going through some old family photos the other day, I came across these vintage postcards of the Cosmos and additional items saved from a vacation trip to South Dakota in the 1950s.

This collection came from souvenirs my mother-in-law had saved when she took her son (who would become my future husband many years later) and her brother on a family vacation. Her brother was eighteen years younger than she was and only seven years older than her son. Thus, she had two young men accompanying her on that vacation to South Dakota, from the State of Iowa where they lived back then.

None of these postcards have posted copyrights, so I thought it would be fun to let readers see them, plus a menu from that era.

My family had also taken a family trip to the Black Hills and saw the Cosmos tourist attraction. It is a topsy-turvy gravity-defying world once one enters the Cosmos!

The Cosmos

Notice the level placed on the pieces of wood showing that everything should be precisely plumb and even? Then who can explain the differences in height when the men exchange places? These unexplainable things and more are at the tourist attraction in the Black Hills of South Dakota named the Cosmos. The postcard at the top of this page shows this anomaly beautifully.

It was fun to find these souvenirs tucked away with photos and other mementos of their trip to the Black Hills since my family had experienced much of the same when we went there on vacation in the 1950s.

The experience of visiting the Cosmos was one of the many remaining memories that we took away from vacationing in that scenic state. One truthfully feels the effects of gravity in the most peculiar ways. The senses are fooled by seemingly incongruent things that make no sense in the ordinary world, like balls running uphill.

As one can tell from the postcard photos, people seem to lean in odd postures compared to looking at the walls, windows, chairs, and usual orienting features of what one finds in a house.

On the back of each of the three collected Cosmos postcards is written the same information:


Located six miles from Mt. Rushmore, The COSMOS is the most unique Tourist Attraction in the entire Hills. Bring your camera for the most unusual pictures of your trip.

U.S. Highway 16

18 Miles South of Rapid City

Espe Printing Company, Rapid City, S.D."

Written on the inside of a pamphlet shown above is the following:


The area known as the Cosmos is the strangest location in the entire Black Hills. Here the world is different, topsy-turvey, with nothing in its normal position, including yourselves. The laws of nature seem to have gone completely berserk, and especially in the mystery house itself where even the plumb bob does not know what is straight up and down. But to feel the pressure of the area against you is the most unusual feature of all, a physical experience which you will never forget.

The Cosmos of the Black Hills is located in a secluded valley practically in the center of the Hills. Because of its central location, it is easily reached as it is only six miles from Mt. Rushmore itself, and just a short distance off of highway sixteen between Mt. Rushmore and Rapid City. The map on the back of this pamphlet will locate the Cosmos exactly.

The Cosmos of the Black Hills is open during the tourist season from early morning until dusk. During that time a courteous guide will be on hand to conduct tours through the area, with a separate tour starting every fifteen minutes. Children under twelve are admitted free.

The unusual variations in gravity, height, and perspective may be easily photographed with your camera. We invite you to bring it along for the strangest pictures of your entire trip.
Our attraction is guaranteed; if you are not satisfied that the Cosmos is one of the most unusual attractions you have ever seen, we will refund the price of admission.

Mailing Address:
Keystone, South Dakota"

In the 1950s, zip codes did not yet exist on addresses. I am confident that the pamphlets have probably changed a bit over the years, but the enticement to visit this most unusual place still undoubtedly draws many visitors each year.

Most people want to visit South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore, Devil's Tower, The Corn Palace, free-roaming buffalo, The Black Hills, Custer State Park, and other attractions. One might wish to add The Cosmos to that list of attractions if in the area.

Other Mementos

This TWO SPOOKS slip of paper was in the souvenirs from the Black Hill's trip taken by my future mother-in-law and husband, and reading the back of it brought back some memories of my own.

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Few free maps are available these days!

As to the stickers, back in those days when one entered a State, at the rest stop areas, or a gas station, labels were given away which could be attached to car windows or bumpers indicating that one had visited that State. There were stickers for other attractions such as Mount Rushmore. In effect, it was free advertising for the attractions and also for the States.

It became a source of pride to add another state sticker to one's automobile and see how many stickers could accumulate on one's car. People generally kept their cars longer in those days, and people vacationed using their autos more than airplane travel.

My family added several new State stickers to our station wagon when making that trek to South Dakota. We were all excited to see my dad add every new sticker to adorn our car. We had quite a few and would notice other cars where the people had seemingly traveled more than us when viewing the numbers displayed on their vehicles. There was always another vacation in the planning stages in which we could acquire more of those prized souvenirs of our travels.