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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:

"COSMOS OF THE BLACK HILLS

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:

"YOU FEEL CRAZY AT THE COSMOS
WHAT IS THE COSMOS

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.

WHERE IS THE COSMOS
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.

WHEN IS THE COSMOS OPEN
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.

NOTE
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:
COSMOS OF THE BLACK HILLS
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.

FREE MAPS & STICKERS

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.

Vintage Postcards

Pictured below are some vintage postcards saved from that long-ago trip to South Dakota.

On the back of the postcards below the following was written:

"SWISS CHALETS MOTEL (AAA)

On Canyon Lake Drive and scenic Rim Rock Hiway. A haven under the trees, in an alpine setting. Delightfully cool and restful. Must be seen to be appreciated.

Mr. and Mrs. G. A. Harms, Props.

Rapid City, South Dakota Phone 1818

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

The reverse of this postcard below reads as follows:

"THE CHUCK WAGON

This replica of the old covered wagon is located at "The Chuck Wagon" cafe on Hiway 14-79 in Rapid City, So. Dak., where Ranch Style Food is served in an atmosphere of western hospitality.

Recommended by Duncan Hines

ART JONES and ROD PRICE, Proprietors

"ESPEPRINT" by Espe Printing Co., Rapid City, S. D."

Vintage Postcard, Rapid City, SD

Vintage Postcard, Rapid City, SD

On the back of the postcard below can be read the following:

"Our Motto

The Best for Convenience and Comfort At a Price You Can Afford to Pay

Cahill's Corner - On Highway U.S. 16 - Kimball, South Dakota

Made in U.S.A. by E. C. Kropp Co., Milwaukee, Wis.---ABB"

Vintage postcard

Vintage postcard

Posted on the back of the postcard below:

"CAFE 16

Murdo, South Dakota

Western South Dakota's Finest Restaurant Located at the head of the old Texas Cattle Trail of the late 1800's.

Made in U.SlAl by E.C. Kropp Co., Milwaukee, Wis.---DDL

This Is An ECKCO-CHROME Reproduction"

Vintage postcard

Vintage postcard

Written on the back of the postcard below is the following:

"THE FRONTIER MUSEUM

Sylvan Lake, S. D.

Over 1000 things of the Frontier Days --- when Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, General Custer and a host of adventurers rode the Gold Trails into the Black Hills."

Vintage postcard

Vintage postcard

Souvenir Menu

The Candlelight was a restaurant that my future mother-in-law and entourage frequented more than once. My husband tells me that he remembers his mother ordering the same mountain trout meal several times. The price for two trout was $2.25.

Take a look at the menu prices! It will bring back memories for some readers and be eye-openers for those who were too young to have ever experienced similar food pricing.

Front of the Candlelight souvenir menu from Rapid City, SD

Front of the Candlelight souvenir menu from Rapid City, SD

The Candlelight souvenir menu from the mid-1950s.

The Candlelight souvenir menu from the mid-1950s.

I hope you have enjoyed looking at these vintage postcards regarding the Cosmos and more from South Dakota in the 1950s. It brought back great memories for me, and it is also fun that my husband and I got to experience similar trips in the same era.

Mid-1950s photo taken in South Dakota That boy in the photo became my husband 16 years later!

Mid-1950s photo taken in South Dakota That boy in the photo became my husband 16 years later!

Sources:

© 2010 Peggy Woods

Comments

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 15, 2021:

Hi Larry,

I am glad that you got to visit South Dakota also when you were a child. I would enjoy going back as an adult to see those sites again. Depending upon where you live, perhaps you have gotten to return? My aunt, uncle, and cousins returned several times.

Larry on February 14, 2021:

In my youth we visited South Dakota and viewed the great sites. This is a nice memory for me.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 18, 2012:

Hello Howdy Roby,

The Cosmos was undoubtedly not a main attraction for people visiting South Dakota compared to Mount Rushmore & other famous places...but interesting none-the-less in a quirky kind of way. Your .50 cents an hour wage would have bought a hamburger and fries plus a drink back in those days or more than 1 gallon of gas. When I used to babysit, I earned 35 cents an hour. Of course that kind of money had more purchasing power compared to today. Thanks for your comment.

Howdy Roby on August 17, 2012:

Stationed at Rapid City AFB 1951 to 1953, never heard of the Cosmos. Worked in Munitions at base Worked part time at night at the King Tut Cafe .50 cents an hour

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 12, 2012:

Hi Cheryl,

The Cosmos is just one attraction in the beautiful state of South Dakota filled with natural and man-made attractions. Hope you get to travel there someday. Thanks for your comment.

Cheryl J. from Houston, TX on June 11, 2012:

Love your collection of vintage postcards. Great hub on South Dakota and the Black Hills. The Cosmos is a place I would love to visit. Great photos, information and videos.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 11, 2012:

Hi CassyLu1981,

Nice to hear from someone who actually lives in the area. The Cosmos is a fascinating area! So glad that you also enjoyed these old postcards...and how about that menu and the prices! Wow! Thanks for your comment and the share.

CassyLu1981 from Spring Lake, NC on June 11, 2012:

I'm from that area!!! It is great to see a hub on Cosmos :) I can't wait to take my kids there. I love the part where you change height just by standing on the other side of the board LOL I've been to Murdo and Kimball and everywhere else too :) Love all the old postcards. Brings back great memories! Voted up and shared!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 13, 2011:

Hi David,

The Cosmos is quite an amazing place. I guess some people just need to experience it for themselves to fully believe it. It truly defies the normal laws of gravity! Thanks for your comment. :))

David on August 11, 2011:

Hi Peggy, first of all thank you for all your hard work. While telling my 19 yr old son about the Cosmos and Mt. Rushmore we visited in 94 I googled and found your Hub. It was nice to see that the Cosmos is one of the few things that has not changed over time.Over the years I have had nearly everybody I have told about this place that I was a fool or it was mirrors and lights that fooled me. I had quit talking about this interesting place. I can start again. Yes mam you get my vote too.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 09, 2011:

Hi Marcee,

Happy to be able to share this information from the past regarding Cahill's Corner in South Dakota from these vintage postcards and other gathered souvenirs from the 1950's. Always interesting to see how things change or in some cases, remain the same. Thanks for your comment.

Marcee on August 08, 2011:

I'm from Kimball, SD. It's interesting to see what Cahill's Corner originally looked like. The diner is gone, but the hotel is still there and there's a liquor store there now.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 23, 2010:

Hi MFB 111,

Your vintage postcards sound very interesting! Have you checked Ebay as far as selling them? Personally I have never bought or sold anything on Ebay but it is a great reference tool. I noticed some of the ones I have, the asking price is around $10.00 per postcard!

Thanks for taking a look at this hub about the Cosmos in South Dakota in the 1950's and leaving your interesting comment.

Matthew Frederick Blowers III from United States on May 23, 2010:

I have two boxes of vintage postcards that date as far back as 1901, and they are as diversified into so many categories, a lot of german made ones and european cards, some great American views and comedy cards, some rare ones

as well....I bought them somewhere for a couple of bucks and am hanging on to them till I can find someone who collects collections, and then sell them. But, oh the stories the backs of these cards tell....and some great stamps too.

loved your hub~~~MFB III

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 15, 2010:

Hi James,

That makes sense. I think that they are only open during the majority of the normal tourist season. You were probably there just ahead of the onslaught.

James A Watkins from Chicago on May 15, 2010:

It didn't say but I think it was not yet open for the season.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 11, 2010:

Hi James,

Permanently closed or was the Cosmos closed for some temporary reason? Will look forward to your South Dakota trip posting.

James A Watkins from Chicago on May 11, 2010:

I just returned from my trip. It was great and I'm going to write a Hub about it in the next few days. Unfortunately, Cosmos was closed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 01, 2010:

Hi James,

Mount Rushmore would be the top tourist attraction obviously, but you will be close to many others while getting there. It all depends upon how much time you will be spending in South Dakota as to how much else you can fit in to your schedule. Hope you get to see more. Have a wonderful trip!

James A Watkins from Chicago on April 30, 2010:

Mount Rushmore is my main target. I'll let you know how it goes. You're welcome.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 28, 2010:

Hi James,

Hopefully you will have time to see all the great attractions South Dakota has to offer like Mount Rushmore, Devil's Tower, etc. The Cosmos is certainly an oddity among tourist attractions. Let me know what you think after visiting. Thanks!

James A Watkins from Chicago on April 28, 2010:

I truly enjoyed this great Hub! And how timely for me. I'll be going to South Dakota next week for the first time and now Cosmos is on my itinerary. Thank you very much!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 26, 2010:

Hello sarovai,

Happy to hear that you enjoyed these vintage postcards of the Cosmos and more of the 1950's in South Dakota. Thanks for the visit.

sarovai on April 26, 2010:

Very interesting to read about this hub,and lovely photographs of 1950. Thank u Peggy W for sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 24, 2010:

Hi Tom,

If you mean where you stand while visiting the Cosmos, you are correct. Ha! Thanks for the visit.

Tom rubenoff from United States on April 24, 2010:

I learned a lot from this, Peggy. For example, I have to be a lot more careful where I stand! Thank you

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 22, 2010:

Hello mdlawyer,

Thanks for stopping by to read about the Vintage Postcards - Cosmos and more - South Dakota - 1950's hub. Was fun to look back at those memories.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 22, 2010:

Greetings saddlerider1,

The 1950's brings back happy memories for me as a child during that period of time and we really enjoyed our family vacation in the Black Hills as did my future husband and mother-in-law. Obviously you share equally good memories of South Dakota including the Cosmos. Thanks for the visit and comment.

mdlawyer on April 22, 2010:

Memorable reminiscences.

saddlerider1 on April 22, 2010:

Hi Peggy, thank you for the share and pleasant memories. That was quite some time back there in the 50's I loved looking at those vintage pictures, something about nostalgia just makes you want to be able to enter those pics and walk around in that period. South Dakota, the black hills, Mount Rushmore, the Cosmos. gotta love it. You have my vote, a lot of work went into this blog.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 21, 2010:

Hi Cheryl,

Ah yes...Gunsmoke. That was a great show. Also goes back a few years like these memories of the Cosmos and South Dakota in the 1950's. Thanks for the comment Cheryl.

Cheryl on April 21, 2010:

Another great hub. I love the old photos and the presentation. Great photo of Bruce as a young boy. I love the saloon, general store and hotel all next to each other. It reminds me of Gunsmoke with Matt Dillion and Ms Kitty.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 21, 2010:

Hi dahoglund,

Thanks for reading about the Cosmos in South Dakota. Naturally if time is limited, Mount Rushmore and the other sites would come first...but it is an attraction that is interesting! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 21, 2010:

Hi Ethel,

It was especially fun finding out that my husband had been to many of the same places that I had visited with my family those many years ago in South Dakota...including the Cosmos. Glad you enjoyed this hub and thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 21, 2010:

Hi Smirles,

Have you visited the Cosmos in South Dakota? It is quite amazing...

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 21, 2010:

Hi Celesta,

There is so much to see in South Dakota! Naturally everyone wants to see Mount Rushmore and it is definitely worth the visit. But so are many other sites. The Cosmos if nearby to other sightseeing venues is worth the visit since it is so different and fun. Let's talk soon!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 21, 2010:

Hi Mickey Dee,

Guess you like vintage postcards...or is it the information about the Cosmos and other sites in South Dakota that you liked best? In any case, thanks for the compliment & comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 21, 2010:

Hi Tony,

Yes I agree with you that these vintage postcards are fun to showcase along with the memories they create of days gone by. Will have to try and find some of yours. Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 21, 2010:

Hi Hello, hello,

You mentioned loving this and going down memory lane Have you been to South Dakota and seen some of these sites like the Cosmos?

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on April 21, 2010:

I have been to the

I have been to the black Hill a few times but not the Cosmos, although I seem to recall running across something similar somewhere. I once applied for a newspaper job in Rapid City but it didn't result in a job offer. I'll keep some of these attraction in mind if we get there again.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on April 21, 2010:

What fun Peggy. A piece of history

Sandra Mireles from Texas on April 21, 2010:

This is a wonderful attraction. Thanks for the great pictures and the walk down memory lane!

Celesta on April 21, 2010:

I have seen Mount Rushmore, but now you have given me reason to see Cosmos.

Glad you did this hub before I planned my trip for Cain to see Mount Rushmore.

Thanks for sharing this great hub. I Enjoyed it.

Micky Dee on April 21, 2010:

Outrageous! This is so fantastic! Thank you Peggy! Great presentation!

Tony McGregor from South Africa on April 21, 2010:

Great Hub. I love old pix and postcards - have written a few Hubs on them myself.

Thanks for sharing these lovely memories

Love and peace

Tony

Hello, hello, from London, UK on April 21, 2010:

Thank you for a wonderful hub on down the memory lane and these incredible happenings in the Black Hills. Oh, I love all this.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 20, 2010:

Hi Enelle,

We also had a great collection on our family's station wagon. That was a special time frame which only those of us old enough to remember would cherish. Thanks for the first comment on this vintage sof the Cosmos and more in South Dakota in the 1950's.

Enelle Lamb from Canada's 'California' on April 20, 2010:

What a great hub Peggy! I indeed remember the stickers you received when traveling through the parks and different states and provinces. We had quite a decent collection for many years! Love the prices on the menu too - can't say I've seen a steak that price in years LOL!

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