South Carolina Historical Marker Program
The South Carolina Historical Marker Program, originally the South Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program, was authorized by an act of the South Carolina General Assembly in 1905 creating the Historical Commission of South Carolina with authority "to have direction and control of the marking of historic sites, or houses, or localities," but was not officially established until 1936 when a marker was erected near the site of the Long Cane Massacre near Troy, in McCormick County.
Dedication of the historical marker for the Myrtle Beach Colored School
More than 1300 markers have been erected by the program in its first seventy-five years. Since 1954 the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, as the successor state agency to the Historical Commission of South Carolina, has been responsible for the program. The enabling legislation creating the Department of Archives and History gave it the responsibility for "the approval of the inscriptions for all historical markers or other monuments erected on state highways or other state property."
In 2009 a searchable online database of South Carolina historical markers was created by the South Carolina Department of Education and South Carolina Association of Educational Technology for the Department of Archives and History. It is the most complete and accurate record of the state’s markers to date, and marker texts are not only added to the database as soon as they are approved—at an average of 50 markers a year—but other information can also be updated as necessary if markers are damaged, need repainting, are replaced, or are moved.
In the past, markers were placed along the nearest South Carolina state highway and contained references to the location of the place being marked, usually some distance away. More recently, markers have been erected at the historic site itself without restriction to state highways and on other public streets and county roads.
Without state funding, the program has always depended on the citizens of South Carolina to suggest, document, sponsor and pay for its historical markers, and to maintain them once erected.
Markers may be sponsored by historical, patriotic, civic, or other organizations, or by institutions such as church congregations or schools and colleges. Though individuals may not sponsor markers, they may propose and pay for them provided the marker is sponsored by an appropriate local organization or institution.
South Carolina Historical Markers mark and interpret places important to an understanding of South Carolina's past, either as the sites of significant events, or at historic properties such as buildings, sites, structures, or other resources significant for their design, as examples of a type, or for their association with institutions or individuals significant in local, state, or national history.
As the official state historical marker program since 1936, the South Carolina Historical Marker Program has established criteria for what places may and may not be marked, and for the process by which accurate and appropriate marker texts are approved by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
The coordinator of the South Carolina Historical Marker Program, on behalf of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, works with sponsoring organizations to review, revise, and approve texts for markers.
The coordinator of the program has the responsibility to ensure that marker texts are both accurate and appropriate, and the Director of the Department of Archives and History has the final authority to determine the texts approved for the official state historical marker program.
Though markers interpret historic places they are not an official historic preservation designation, such as is the case with the National Register of Historic Places or National Historic Landmark programs.
- Markers will only be approved for historic places that are at least 50 years old, places associated with significant events that occurred at least 50 years ago, and places associated with significant persons who died at least 50 years ago.
- Markers may be approved for buildings or structures that are either significantly altered or no longer standing under the same criteria as other historic places.
- Markers will not memorialize families or individuals associated with historic places. Markers may, however, interpret the lives and careers of significant persons associated with historic places, as evaluated in the context of local, state, or national history.
- Markers will not recognize living persons, even persons of statewide or national significance associated with historic places.
- Markers may be approved for historic properties or sites closely associated with deceased significant persons, but ONLY if:
a) the property is the single property or site in the state which best represents the individual's community of birth or residence, productive career, association with a particular institution, or association with a significant event, AND
b) no other site in South Carolina closely associated with the individual and significant primarily for that association has already been marked.
- Markers will not include lists of significant persons associated with historic places or institutions.
- Markers for schools, colleges, or universities will not discuss the later careers and achievements of alumni, or list the fields of endeavor in which they gained significance. Markers will focus on the school as an institution and will not list or discuss any persons who attended or graduated from it.
- Markers may be approved for cemeteries based on their significance to a particular community, significant persons buried there, their association with significant events, or their significance in gravestone art. Markers will not be approved for individual graves or plots within cemeteries.
Individual components of a historic property already marked as an entity are not eligible for additional historical markers.
Sites should be marked as close to the historic place as possible, on the nearest public street, county road, or state highway.
Draft marker texts must be accompanied by documentation of the history and significance of the place being proposed for a historical marker. Footnotes or endnotes are not required, but copies of relevant portions of major primary and secondary sources used should be included. Contact the coordinator of the South Carolina Historical Marker Program for more information about drafting marker texts and submitting proper forms of documentation.
Draft texts will be reviewed and revised as necessary by the coordinator for spacing requirements, content, and style. A revised draft text will be sent back to applicants for their review, further revised as necessary, and a final text approved by the director of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
South Carolina Historical Markers are made of cast aluminum. The earliest markers, cast from 1936 to 1954, have a circular device at the top center bearing a palmetto tree and "S C". They are gray with raised gray letters or silver with raised black letters. Markers cast since 1954 have a triangular device at the top center bearing the state flag; those cast from 1954 to 1990 are dark blue with raised silver letters, and those cast since 1990 are silver with raised black letters.
City Size Markers, erected in incorporated cities and towns, measure 24" x 36", with one title line (1.5" letters, 17 characters per line) and 18 lines of text (1" letters, 27 characters per line). These markers are available with either a standard 7' post or a 10' post if required by local governments.
Country Size Markers, erected at all other sites, measure 42" x 32", with one title line (2" letters, 25 characters per line) and 11 lines of text (1.5" letters, 36 characters per line). These markers are available with a standard 7' post.
Make checks payable to: South Carolina Department of Archives and History
If a proposed marker does not meet the criteria of the South Carolina Historical Marker Program, the research fee will be refunded.
MARKER PRICES (Effective through May 30, 2014)
same text both sides with 7' post $1750.00
different text each side with 7' post $1920.00
same text both sides with 7' post $1860.00
different text each side with 7' post $2030.00
After the final marker text is approved by the director of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History the applicant will send a separate check to:
P.O. Box 298
Marietta, Ohio 45750
The coordinator of the South Carolina Historical Marker Program will advise applicants on the procedures for ordering historical markers once the final text is approved.
It usually takes Sewah Studios six to twelve weeks to cast and ship a particular marker once payment is received.
Revised September 2012