The Brain Bucket

Sturgis, South Dakota: Photos of Then and Now

Jul 6, 2019 3:00:00 PM / by Jo Kelley

A History of Meade County, South Dakota through Photos

Nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the city of Sturgis in Meade County seems to be nothing more than a small town with a population not much higher than 6,000. But for one week every summer the small town’s lodging, campgrounds, and hotels are booked solid with motorcycle enthusiasts and riders. Before Sturgis was home to the famous motorcycle rally, it was a small mining town often referred to as “Scoop Town.” Sturgis, South Dakota was founded in 1878 to help house soldiers from the nearby Fort Meade and miners from the gold rush.

This photo slideshow shows the humble beginnings of the world famous home to the Sturgis® Motorcycle Rally™: Sturgis, Meade County, South Dakota.  With photos like these, you can really get a glimpse at the development it underwent to become the wild success that we know and love today. I dug into the archives to showcase some history of Sturgis, Deadwood, and the surrounding area in Meade County. Thanks to BiblioBoard, Google Street View and What Was There, these transition photos show Meade County evolving to present day. Leave a comment and let us know what you think and don’t forget to share so others can see too!

Use the arrows to scroll through this historic photo collection, and let us know of other historical areas that you'd like to see some comparisons of then and now!


NOTE: If viewing the gallery on mobile, tap the blue full-screen icon for the best experience.


The origin of the "Scoop Town" Stugis nickname differs depending on who you ask, but the most common stories are that the early entrepreneurs who would set up shop with brothels and saloons “scooped up” the money of the miners and soldiers. It’s also been said that the area was so profitable that the entrepreneurs literally had to “scoop up” all the money they were making. However, very few people refer to it as “Scoop Town” anymore. The miners gave way to bikers and the town has since been marketed as the “City of Riders.”

Present day Sturgis has built an economy and identity around the annual rally thanks to the thousands of people who attend. It is home to the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame, and there is even a Rally Department formed by the City of Sturgis to help with the big event each year.


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Jo Kelley

Written by Jo Kelley

I cover the history of motorcycles, motorcycle news, and tell the stories of some of the most popular brands.