Former Faculty(’59) Elmer Petersen Honored for Buffalo Sculpture

Jul 25, 2016

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Elmer Petersen

Elmer Petersen is best known in Jamestown for one of his biggest sculptures, the World’s Largest Buffalo.

Petersen, 87, is a Racine, Wis., native. He said he tried different art forms, mainly drawing and painting, growing up in Racine.

He attended Dana College in Blair, Neb., where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He went on to earn a master’s degree in applied arts from the University of Wisconsin. In 1957, Petersen got a job teaching art at Jamestown College. He taught for two years, and it was in 1959 that he was hired by Harold Newman to create the World’s Largest Buffalo.

Petersen said he used his experience as a student using plaster and steel bandage armature to create the large work of art.

“Moving to I-beams rebar, mesh and blown on cement wasn’t that much of a stretch,” he said about creating the sculpture.

The World’s Largest Buffalo is 46 feet long and 26 feet high. The sculpture was created to attract tourists off of the then recently built Interstate 94.

Petersen also created the eagle sculpture that graces the front of the All Veteran’s Building in Jamestown in 1974. He said Kent Horton, who was teaching architectural and engineered drawing at Jamestown College, contacted him about doing a sculpture for a new building that Horton had designed. Petersen came up with the overall design, including the eagle, but didn’t know what to put in the middle. He remembered a Bible story about Jacob wrestling with an angel and not letting go until he was blessed.

“It reminded me of the people of North Dakota,” he said. “They won’t let go until they are blessed.”

To see examples of Petersen’s work, go to

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