South Carolina Historical Marker Program
The South Carolina Historical Marker Program was officially established in 1936, thirty-one years after the S.C. General Assembly first empowered the S.C. Historical Commission—predecessor to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (SCDAH)—“to have the direction and control of the marking of historical sites, or houses and localities.” When the Historical Commission was reorganized in 1954 as the S.C. Department of Archives, the new agency was tasked with, “the approval of the inscriptions for all historical markers or other monuments erected on State Highways or other State property.”
Since the program’s creation, approx. 1,900 markers have been approved and erected across the state. Throughout that time, the program has received no regular state funding and has always depended on the citizens of South Carolina to suggest, document, sponsor, maintain, and pay for markers.
PROGRAM GUIDELINES AND CRITERIA
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 research, draft, 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 approve texts for the official state historical marker program.
- All markers must be sponsored by an organization; individual people may not serve as a marker’s sponsor. Groups that may sponsor markers include historical, patriotic, civic, or other organizations, as well as institutions such as church congregations or schools and colleges. Though individuals may not sponsor markers, they may propose and pay for them and request that an appropriate organization serve as sponsor on their behalf.
- Once a marker is approved, the sponsor is responsible for installing the marker and ensuring it complies with any applicable local or state regulations concerning the placement of historical markers, signs, etc. Markers that will be located in a South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) right-of-way require additional permitting and must be installed using a breakaway post system that must be purchased separately from the marker itself. Marker manufacturer Sewah Studios does not sell breakaway systems, but sponsors still must notify Sewah if their marker will require such a system.
- Sponsors are responsible for any future marker repair or replacement that may be necessary. SCDAH does not receive funding to assist with these tasks but can provide some general guidance on basic marker maintenance. Any damaged or missing markers should be reported to the program coordinator.
- If a sponsor does not own the property where a marker will be located, the sponsor may wish to secure a legal agreement with the property owner governing any future marker maintenance, repair, or replacement that may be needed. SCDAH does not require such agreements, nor is SCDAH able to offer any legal advice on whether such an agreement is warranted.
- Sites should be marked as close to the historic place as possible, on the nearest public street, county road, or state highway.
- 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. Being approved for a marker places no restrictions on what may be done to a property.
- Markers will only be approved for historic places that are at least 50 years old, associated with significant events that occurred at least 50 years ago, or 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.
- 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 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 and will not simply list individuals buried in the cemetery.
- Individual components of a historic property already marked as an entity may not be eligible for additional historical markers. Please consult the program coordinator before applying for such additional markers.
- Marker inscriptions will conform to the program’s in-house style guide for capitalization, punctuation, abbreviation, grammar, and otherwise.
- Marker texts 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 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 will not emphasize recent events in a site’s history unless they are necessary to advance the basic story of a property’s history, e.g. an historic building being demolished.
All new marker applications must include the following:
- Completed South Carolina Historical Marker Application Form
- 1-2 paragraph summary of the property’s history - This is not a rough draft of the marker inscription, but it will be used by the program coordinator to draft a proposed inscription for the sponsor’s review.
- Source materials documenting the history and significance of the proposed marker site - This should include copies of relevant portions of major primary and secondary sources. Contact the coordinator of the South Carolina Historical Marker Program for more information about submitting proper forms of documentation.
- Application fee (see below)
Using these materials, the program coordinator will draft a marker text that complies with the program’s criteria for content, spacing, and style. This will be sent to the sponsor for comment and further revised as necessary until a final text is ready for the review of the Director of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. A marker is not officially approved until the Director of the Department of Archives and History has signed off on its inscription.
$250.00 – Please make checks payable to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
These funds help support the various types of work that SCDAH conducts on behalf of the program, including but not limited to: reviewing application materials; conducting additional research; drafting and revising marker inscriptions, maintaining communication with marker sponsors; and fielding public inquiries related to the program.
If a proposed marker is determined to be ineligible for the program, this fee will be refunded.
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.
MARKER PRICES (Effective through May 1, 2023)
same text both sides with 7' post $2,270.00
different text each side with 7' post $2,500.00
same text both sides with 7' post $2,420.00
different text each side with 7' post $2,620.00
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 for the marker to:
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. Sponsors should plan for it to take twelve weeks to receive their marker once Sewah Studios has received payment.
SCDAH reviews proposed marker locations for their interpretive value, however sponsors are responsible for ensuring their preferred location complies with all local or state regulations.
Markers placed in the right-of-way of state-maintained highways must be approved by the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and meet additional permitting and equipment requirements. Markers may also have to meet additional municipal or county guidelines, which vary across the state. Sponsors should obtain all necessary approvals as soon as possible and particularly before placing their order with Sewah Studios.
For more information on SCDOT requirements, contact your local SCDOT office. For more details on SCDOT’s historical marker policies, please contact the marker program coordinator.
MARKER DEDICATION CEREMONIES
Many sponsors choose to unveil or dedicate their markers with ceremonies that range from the simple to the elaborate. The coordinator of the S.C. Historical Marker Program can provide general guidance on how to plan such events, and representatives from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History may attend as scheduling permits.
MAINTENANCE AND REPLACEMENT
There are no state funds for maintenance or replacement of historical markers. Sponsoring organizations are responsible for maintaining markers as needed and for repairing or replacing badly damaged markers. Please see this brochure for guidance on how to conduct basic maintenance on markers.
If you notice a marker has been severely damaged or gone missing, please notify the marker program coordinator.
Edwin C. Breeden, Ph.D.
South Carolina Historical Marker Program
South Carolina Department of Archives and History
8301 Parklane Road
Columbia, SC 29223
Applications and Further Information
Interactive Map of All Approved South Carolina Historical Markers – Includes subject-based filters for markers that highlight associations with African Americans, Native Americans, Women, Colonial Era/Pre-Contact, Era of the American Revolution, Civil War, Reconstruction, and World Wars I and II. Recently approved markers may be shown on the map but not yet be erected.
Revised October 2022