The History of Deadwood: Told through Library Resources


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Recently I’ve been rewatching the HBO original program, Deadwood (which you can order to the Library for free here). Doing so made me wonder how much of the show was true and how much was made up by the show’s creator, David Milch.  With this in mind I went to the Library’s resources with the research goal of uncovering Deadwood’s history.

The first resource I used to uncover the history of Deadwood was the SWAN Catalog. If you haven’t used the Library’s resources before, the SWAN Catalog is what you use when you want to look up what Books, eBooks, DVDs and CDs the Library has on a topic.

SWAN Search

When I submitted the search I found out that the Library has three eBooks on the subject, two of which are talking about the TV show, the other, Old Deadwood Days by Estelline Bennett is a first-hand account of growing up in Deadwood, which was written by the daughter of a Judge who was friends with the lead protagonist of the show, Seth Bullock.

Old Deadwood Days Ina Rae Mark Reading Deadwood

While finding the eBooks was great, I did want to look at some actual print books in the Library, so I refined and added some new searches to the mix. The first thing I did was broaden my search to the “Black Hills which was the area that Deadwood was located in. Doing so allowed me to find The Lakotas and the Black Hills, a book on the struggle between the Sioux Native Americans and the settlers that claimed the land around Deadwood. Next I tried researching some of the historical personas that were represented to which I found an autobiography on Calamity Jane. And finally, I broaden my search even more by typing “wild west” into the search box.


After locating the books from the shelves and saving the eBooks to My Bookshelf in Ebrary, I decided to look up some articles on Deadwood. To do so I went to the Databases page of the Library’s Website. Before I got too down my research path, I first decided to get a quick refresher on the topic. To do so I went the database, Credo Reference. Credo Reference is an online collection of encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other ready-reference books that are great for getting overviews on a topic. While in the database I did some quick searches for “Deadwood, South Dakota” as well as for some of the historical personas like “Wild Bill Hickok

The next database I decided to use was Academic Search Complete (ASC). The nice thing about ASC is that it is a “general database” which means it covers all academic subjects. Additionally it contains several different types of resources ranging from Academic Journals to Magazines and Newspaper, along with reports and conference proceedings. To begin, I did a simple search using the keyword “deadwood”.


Doing this search retrieved me 452 articles. Unfortunately, in addition to being the name of a town in South Dakota, deadwood also has several other definitions. Therefore, to make sure that my search is only retrieving articles on the town, I will have to add additional keyword(s). For this search I added “South Dakota” which brought my results down to a manageable 32 articles.


From there I started to look through my results list. In it I found two really good articles from magazines and one from an academic journal.

Real Men of Deadwood History in Towns Deadwood, SD AJ

With these articles in addition to my books I feel that I have a firm foundation to begin to read up on the topic of Deadwood. After I finish I may want to go back and try out searches on other databases such as Harper Weekly (a weekly magazine that has articles dating back to 1857). There I will be able to find actual articles on Deadwood that were being printed during the timeline covered by the show. I may also want to venture off and try out some websites like official website for the Adam’s Museum (museum located in Deadwood dedicated to the town’s history) or some videos on YouTube.

This is an example of ways to perform research. When the time comes around to begin research on your own unique topic, stop by the Reference Desk in the Library and a Librarian will be happy to help you out.

For more research help check out these posts


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