July 27, 2015

New Index to Montana's Historical Newspaper Ads

by Christine Kirkham
Coordinator, Montana Digital Newspaper Project

"The Bar is stocked with the finest Liquors and Cigars. Give me a call, boys."

So reads an ad for the Gem Saloon in 1876. MHS Research Center volunteer Josef Warhank has spent the last two years compiling an index to adverts in The Yellowstone Journal (Miles City), 1882-1891, and The New North-West (Deer Lodge), 1869-1885. This wonderful spreadsheet (searchable and sortable!) is a boon for researchers looking for businesses, products, and people. Josef has collected from each ad the following data:

business name and address
products sold
personal names in ad
other text in ad
date ad appeared

Click here to use the Index.
Note that businesses in Anaconda, Bannack, Billings, Blackfoot City, Bozeman, Butte, Cedar Junction, Edwardsville, Emmettsburg, Helena, Philipsburg, Pioneer City, Virginia City, Willow Glen, and Yreka also placed ads in these two newspapers.

Josef's index is now available online along with links to other newspaper indices on our website. Click the link "Index to Advertisers in Montana Newspapers (XLS)." As Josef continues to work on this project, more newspapers and date ranges will be added. Please spread the word and use this wonderful new resource!

July 15, 2015

Smallpox: Vaccination not Quarantine

By Natasha Hollenbach, Montana Digital Newspaper Project Assistant

On Nov. 25, 1909, The Whitefish Pilot (below right) ran the headline “Quarantine Abolished.”  Further reading reveals that beginning January 1, 1910, people with smallpox were no longer to be confined to their homes or the ‘pest house’ (a term used for an isolation house where contagious patients were sent to contain the outbreak).  While these individuals were still prohibited from public transit, this change in regulations defied the long established procedure of isolation and containment.  The motivation for this change seems to have been to encourage vaccination.

Although the first vaccination for smallpox was created in the 1790s, smallpox outbreaks remained common.  Outbreaks in Butte (1883), Missoula (1885), Anaconda (1893), Great Falls (1899) and Missoula & Butte (1900) showed that the problem was real and needed to be met with consistent, coordinated action.  Disease doesn’t stop at city or county lines, and neither should the response.  In addition, some authority was required to issue the sometimes unpopular orders to ensure a quick, effective response. 

In 1901, the Montana State Board of Health was created, and one of their first acts was to require children to be vaccinated before attending school.  Smallpox outbreaks continued, though the number of infected children plummeted.

From January through March 1905, there was an outbreak in Billings.  Although Billings officials were praised for their quick reaction, one-hundred fifty-eight cases were reported, of whom 16 died.  By mid-March, discussion of the epidemic in the Billings Herald revolved around money, for good reason, since it reportedly cost Billings over $25,000.  During the Billings outbreak, officials took several measures.  Everyone exposed was vaccinated.  Those who were showing symptoms went to the pest house, and those who didn’t were sent to a detention house for observation.  Every physician in town was employed by the city to either care for patients or to form diagnosing squads who investigated possible new cases.  The police force was enlarged to enforce the quarantine.  Vaccinations were wide spread: in a town of about 6,000 over 4,500 tubes of vaccine were purchased, and presumably used, during the month of January.

There was of course opposition to these measures.  Objections had two main threads: costs and the perceived violation of personal liberty.  The issue of cost had been debated for years.  Although most people either didn’t know, or didn’t believe, it actually cost taxpayers significantly less to provide free vaccinations than it did to treat those infected.  Those who objected for personal liberty reasons were generally “anti-vaccinationists” who didn’t believe in the effectiveness of vaccinations.  However, in February 1905 the Supreme Court case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts supported mandatory smallpox vaccination programs in order to protect public health.
Thomas Tuttle, M.D.,
Executive Officer State Board of Health,
MHS Photo Archives PAc 96-1.2
Following the outbreak, T.D. Tuttle, Secretary of the Montana State Board of Health, wrote a circular entitled “Small Pox, Its Prevention, Restriction and Suppression.”  In it, he emphasizes the importance of vaccination and promotes the same reasoning used in the 1909 Whitefish newspaper article.
“It is the firm belief of the author that the most effectual way to rid this country of small-pox would be to give a few months warning, in order that all might have time to be successfully vaccinated, and then let any cases of small-pox that might appear go at large, without disinfection, so that those who would not be vaccinated might have the disease and be done with it. Such a move would result in a radical “change of heart” on the part of many, if not all, “anti-vaccinationists.”
In 1909, Tuttle’s recommendations were enacted.  However, while quarantines were no longer required, local and county boards of health still had the authority to declare quarantines within their jurisdiction, which lead to some cities, like Missoula, continuing to use quarantines.  The River Press of Fort Benton, on March 15, 1911, reported that there had only been two deaths from smallpox during the previous year, which shows that whichever way the local boards decided, smallpox seemed to be under control.

Billings Gazette, March 10, 1905, March 21, 1905, March 24, 1905, and October 31, 1905.

The Daily Missoulian, December 3, 1909, December 31, 1909.

Leahy, E. (2000).  Active ingredient: Smallpox: genesis of the Montana State Board of Health.  (MHS catalog call number: 614.5 L471A)

The Montana State Board of Health (1905).  Small Pox, Its Prevention Restriction and Suppression.  (MHS catalog call number: S 614.5 H34SP)

The Montana State Board of Health (1953).  50-year history: Montana State Board of Health, 1901-1951. (MHS catalog call number: S 614.09786 M762FYH)

Photo – Smallpox vaccination site Days 4 through 21. http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/vaccination/facts.asp

The River Press, March 15, 1911.

Whitefish Pilot, November 25, 1909.

June 30, 2015

The Indelible Mark of Francis Thompson

by Rich Aarstad, Senior Archivist

Montana Historical Society librarian Laura E. Howey sat down on October 31, 1899 to read a letter she had received regarding Francis Thompson, one-time Montana pioneer who spent a brief three years in the goldfields of the West.  Recent Montana newspapers had published obituaries for Thompson prompting her to write to his heirs in hopes of acquiring any letters, diaries, or other records of his time in Montana.  To her surprise the letter opened, "Your kind letter addressed to the 'Heirs of Francis M. Thompson' I have received in person.  As long as the Montana papers say nothing but good of me it is rather interesting to read their obituary notices, but should the case be reversed, I should prefer that they let me continue my allotted time."  One can almost hear the amusement in his voice when he penned his response, but then everything about Montana charmed Thompson from his very first arrival in 1862 until his death in 1916.
Francis M. Thompson
MHS Photo Archives 945-291

Perhaps no single pioneer left such a lasting mark on Montana as Francis M. Thompson.  Born in Colrain, MA on October 16, 1833 to John and Elvira (Adams) Thompson, he attended Science Hill Select School and Williston Seminary in Massachusetts.  At the age of 23, Francis made his way to Cincinnati, Ohio and began a career in banking.  Six years later, feeling restless and less than inspired about joining the Union Army, he departed for the goldfields of the territories to make his fortune. On his arrival at Fort Benton, then a part of Dakota Territory, Thompson made the acquaintance of the Vail family who traveled west to operate the Government Farm at Sun River crossing.  Traveling with them was Electa Bryan, the sister of Mrs. Martha Vail.  A year later Thompson fulfilled the duties of bride's maid for Electa Bryan who married Henry Plummer, the notorious sheriff of Bannack City.

Looking to establish a business in the mining community of Bannack, Thompson headed for the goldfields on Grasshopper Creek in 1863.  During the winter of 1863-1864, Francis Thompson witnessed the birth of the vigilante movement, as the honest miners and business men of the newly-created Idaho Territory banded together to rid themselves of the dreaded outlaw gang preying on the innocent men and women of the Territory's mining communities.  When he learned that the Vigilantes planned on arresting and executing Plummer for leading the outlaw gang, Thompson spent the last night with his friend and did not warn the unsuspecting sheriff of his impending doom.  The Vigilantes struck the next day, hanging Sheriff Henry Plummer, Deputy Buck Stinson, and Ned Ray. Thompson served as the executor of Plummer's estate paying for the construction of a coffin and burial of the outlaw chief (receipt below). He sent the remainder of Plummer's assets to Electa, who
Receipt for purchase of Henry Plummer's coffin and burial
MHS Archives Collection SC 297
returned to Iowa several months prior to the execution.  Thompson worried for a time that his friendship with Henry Plummer would tarnish his reputation with the respectable residents of Bannack, but Sidney Edgerton, the leading government official of Idaho Territory, and his nephew, leader within the Vigilantes, Wilbur Fisk Sanders, assured him that his reputation was secure.

Francis Thompson also played a role in the creation of Montana as a new territory.  Allying himself with Edgerton and Sanders, he used what political influence he had in the effort to get Sidney Edgerton appointed as territorial governor.  Upon his return from Washington D.C., Governor Edgerton wasted no time in drawing a sharp demarcation between those who were members of the Union (Republican) Party and those he branded as traitors for their allegiance to the Democratic Party.  As such, Montana's first election was a microcosm of the political angst that divided the nation and led to a bloody Civil War.  The Democrats swept the election for Congressional delegate and enjoyed a one vote majority in the Territorial House of Representatives.  Voters of Beaverhead County elected Francis Thompson to represent them in the Council for the first legislative assembly.
Thompson proved a leader in the legislature by carrying bills to fund public education, establishing the Montana Historical Society, and designing and sketching the territorial seal for the new territory.
Original sketch of  proposed seal for the
Territory of Montana made by
Francis M. Thompson
MHS Archives collection SC 839

Upon the completion of the legislature, Governor Edgerton appointed Francis Thompson Commissioner of Emigration for Montana.  Returning east he settled in Greenfield, Massachusetts.  From there, he worked on recruiting settlers for the new territory as well as promoting the various economic opportunities available to interested investors.  It is uncertain if Thompson intended to return east permanently, but a few months later he married Mary Nimms, and his days of wanderlust and adventure in Montana came to an end.

Having passed the Massachusetts Bar in 1876, Thompson settled down and served in public office as a judge.  He did retain a lifelong interest in Montana and kept in close touch with friends such as Wilbur Sanders.  As the new century unfolded, he began an active correspondence with the librarians of the Montana Historical Society, describing his contributions to the creation of the territory and the Montana Historical Society.  He was especially proud of the territorial seal that now graced the Montana state flag.  Thompson delighted in sharing his early memories and penned a reminiscence of his time in the West entitled, A Tenderfoot in Montana: Reminiscences of the Gold Rush, the Vigilantes & the Birth of Montana Territory.  In three brief years Francis Thompson had left an indelible mark on Montana that still exists today; public education, the state flag, and the Montana Historical Society remain hallmarks of the Treasure State.  His friend Wilbur Fisk Sanders summed up Thompson's contributions best.  "No man ever came to Montana and staid so short a time, left so deep an impress on history as did you, and it is a pleasure to know, in a rude time, the influence was wholly wholesome."

Selected Bibliography 
  • George D. French Receipt, 1864 (Collection # SC 297)
  • Martha Edgerton Plassmann Papers (MC 78)
  • Montana Historical Society Research Center Records (MHS 3)
  • Montana Territorial Legislative Assembly (LR-Terr. 1)
  • Francis M. Thompson Papers (SC 839)
  • Francis M. Thompson, A Tenderfoot in Montana: Reminiscences of the Gold Rush, the Vigilantes & the Birth of Montana Territory, edited by Kenneth N. Owens. (Helena, Mont.: Montana Historical Society Press, 2004).

June 16, 2015

“I put down what I considered the best”: Walter W. de Lacy’s Mapping of Montana

by Molly Kruckenberg, Research Center Director

In February of 1865 the first Territorial Legislative Assembly approved the payment of $625 to Walter W. de Lacy for creating a map of the Territory of Montana, “for the use of the Governor and the Legislative Assembly.”  The map that de Lacy created (shown below) is the first map of what is now the State of Montana; the original of that map is in the collections at the Montana Historical Society.

Walter W. de Lacy's Map of the territory of Montana, with portions of the adjoining territories : showing the gulch or placer diggings actually worked and districts where quartz (gold & silver) lodes have been discovered up to January 1865 [See map on Montana Memory Project].
Walter W. de Lacy was a bachelor, traveling across much of the country during the 73 years of his life.  Born in 1819 in Petersburg, Virginia, de Lacy was educated as a civil engineer by West Point professors.  His first engineering jobs as part of railroad surveys, took him west to Illinois and Missouri.  After a few years as a language and mathematics professor with the U.S. Navy, de Lacy joined the first of several exploratory expeditions in the southwest, for the purpose of determining the viability of road construction, military fort placement and railroad engineering.

By the mid-1850s de Lacy had made his way to the Pacific Northwest, working on similar surveying assignments.  In 1859 he was attached to the command of Lt. John Mullan to survey and build a road from Fort Benton to Walla Walla; this was de Lacy’s first venture into what would become Montana Territory.

de Lacy’s most well-known accomplishment was the completion of the first map of the new territory of Montana in 1865.  But he was instrumental in many early mapping and surveying endeavors in Montana.  He created a map of Oro Fino and Grizzly Gulches near Helena, in 1865, as well as laying out the townsites of Deer Lodge and Argenta in the same year and Fort Benton in 1864.  And, with B. F. Marsh, he located the initial point for public survey in the Territory.
Map of Oro Fino and Grizzly Gulches near Helena City, Edgerton County, Montana Territory [See map on Montana Memory Project].
After serving in the Sioux War in 1867, de Lacy retired from military service and spent the remainder of his life in public service.  He worked as an engineer for the city of Helena from 1872-1886, serving as the City Engineer from 1883-1884.  From 1886 until his death in 1892, de Lacy worked for the U.S. Surveyor General’s Office in Helena.  He was a founding member of the Montana Society of Civil Engineers and the Montana Historical Society.

Walter de Lacy’s maps are both significant parts of Montana’s history, telling much about the early development of the Territory, as well as being works of art in their own right.  Much of de Lacy’s work is documented in the collections of the MHS, through nearly 20 maps authored by de Lacy as well as a small collection of his personal papers (see the guide to the collection of personal papers).

May 18, 2015

Gary Cooper: Helena's Hollywood Hero

by Susan R. Near, Development & Marketing Officer

In over 100 movies, actor and Helena native, Gary Cooper portrayed a wide array of characters – soldiers, cowboys, and ordinary Joes – all with charm and a succinct stateliness.  However, Gary Cooper was best known as the tall, Western American hero of 20th century film. During his 36-year movie career, Gary Cooper became one of Hollywood's leading men. When moving pictures were silent, his first jobs were as an extra in Westerns. Cooper quickly made the transition from silent film to talkies, and from stunt man to leading man.

Gary Cooper’s big break came in 1926 with a part in "The Winning of Barbara Worth."  He then  appeared in "Wings," the first movie to receive a Best Picture Oscar.  "The Virginian," the screen adaptation of Owen Wister's classic 1901 Western novel released in 1929, was Cooper’s first "talkie" and helped launch his career.  Cooper's on-film presence – tall, handsome and shy – had an immediate appeal to the movie-going public. 
Gary Cooper publicity photo for "The Westerner;" 1940;
Photo credit: Culver Pictures, Inc.
MHS Photo Archives Gary Cooper Research Collection Box 2, Folder 2

In the 1930s, Cooper was Hollywood's #1 male box-office star – earning him both unbelievable wealth and fame during the dark years of the Great Depression. In movies like "A Farewell To Arms," the first film adaptation of an Ernest Hemingway novel; Frank Capra's screwball comedy, "Mr. Deeds Goes To Town;" and "The Plainsman," Cooper's roles depicted the common man who persevered through adversity–and as always–was the hero. Some of Gary Cooper's most famous movies came in the 1940s and 1950s.  The leading roles in "Sergeant York" (1941) and "High Noon" (1952) earned Cooper two Best Actor Academy Awards. Many of his films remind us of his own heritage, bringing to a culmination his image as a true Western American hero.

Gary Cooper started out life as Frank James Cooper, the second son of Charles H. and Alice Brazier Cooper, both British-born. Charles immigrated to Montana in 1885, and studied law in Helena. Alice Brazier came to Helena in 1893, and she and Charles married in 1895. Their first child, Arthur, was born soon after. By the time Frank was born on May 7, 1901, Charles had earned his law degree and was busy expanding his political circle - even introducing Theodore Roosevelt when the candidate visited Helena during the 1904 Presidential campaign.

Family finances were good, and in 1906, Charles purchased a 600-acre ranch, the Seven Bar Nine near Craig. It was a place to 'turn the boys loose.'  The ranch, also known as Sunnyside, was along the Missouri River, but was 60 miles from Helena. "We had fast, convenient transportation from Helena to Dad's ranch," Cooper later remembered, "but that was only when we went by train. If we decided to hitch up the horse to the wagon, it was a trip that took a long day—and put the nag out of commission for a week."1
Frank Cooper (far left), Arthur, and visiting relatives
 at the Cooper Ranch along the Missouri River, ca. 1906
Photo credit: Brown Brothers, NY
MHS Photo Archives Gary Cooper Research Collection, B 1/F 1

In 1909, the Coopers moved their Helena residence from 730 11th Avenue to 123 Breckenridge and Frank and his brother continued attending Helena public schools. However, insisting that the boys needed some British discipline, Alice took her sons to England and enrolled them in The Dunstable School (Bedfordshire) in 1910. Because of their frontier manners, schoolmates at Dunstable teased them, but they soon adapted to life in England.

Alice and the boys returned to Helena from England in 1915 and lived at 115 North Beattie. The opposite of their English school experience occurred when the Cooper boys' British formal dress resulted in ridicule of their "fancy English duds."  It only took one day for Frank to change his attire from a tailored suit to overalls. Despite her attempts, Mrs. Cooper could not impose her form of culture on her boys in Montana. Frank's experience of living in two worlds would bode well for him later when he hit Hollywood.

In Helena, Frank often practiced boxing with close family friend Wellington Rankin - colleague of Charles Cooper and brother of suffragist Jeannette Rankin. Frank also frequently marveled at the art in Montana's new Capitol when visiting his father there. He especially related to the magnificent mural of Lewis & Clark by Charles Russell; it inspired him to be an artist himself one day.

At the family's Craig ranch, though, there was a substantial herd of cattle to tend, so Frank quit school and spent two years working there until the end of World War I. Frank learned about ranching, the outdoors, Western history, hunting, and getting along with characters as diverse as local ranchers, itinerant cowboys and the American Indians who lived nearby.  One of the cowboys who worked on the ranch, Slim Talbot, would later become Cooper's Hollywood stand-in.

Back in Helena, Frank broke his hip in a car accident on his way to school. The doctor's advice was to get exercise, so Frank returned to the ranch and rode horses for therapy. Though painful to ride, Frank learned how to gingerly move with the horse in an effort to minimize the pain. Many years later Cooper attributed this episode as the reason for his expert horsemanship.

Alice thought Frank's "rowdy" crowd was too much of a distraction, so he was sent to Bozeman's Gallatin County High School.  His teacher—Ida Davis, an influential force in his life—put Frank on the debate team and encouraged his participation in school plays. During the summer, Frank worked as a gear jammer, or tour bus driver, in Yellowstone National Park for a few years beginning in 1921.

Frank yearned to go to art school with the goal of becoming an illustrator.  As a compromise with his parents, he headed off to Iowa's Grinnell College for 3 years. He returned to Helena in 1924 though his parents had moved to California after Charles retired.  Frank sought a job as a political cartoonist, and four of his drawings were published in the Helena newspaper, The Independent Record.  When this line of work did not pan out, he headed to California to look for similar work. Frank's lack of success in this field led him to other employment; however, art continued to be a lifelong passion.
Political cartoon by Frank Cooper, Helena Independent Record, Nov. 2, 1924.
A couple of friends from Montana were working as movie extras, riding and doing stunts in Hollywood when they introduced Frank to some casting directors.  Slim Talbot, from the Seven Bar Nine Ranch, was an established stunt man.  Cooper wound up playing bit parts in twelve films during his first two years in California—nearly all Westerns.  Cooper later said, "I quit trying to draw when I started falling off horses for a living."2

Frank changed his first name to Gary during this time as there were already two actors named Frank Cooper. He forever after became known as Gary Cooper. Frank also took advice from his old friend, Wellington Rankin, "…Look at how this fellow [Valentino] puts over an idea.  He thinks it so strongly that it becomes obvious to the audience."3 Years later in a letter to Rankin, Cooper said, "I hold you partially responsible for my good fortune in Hollywood because you were the first to put the bee in my head about becoming an actor."4

Lobby Card, "A Farewell to Arms," 1932;
MHS Museum Collection, L88.12.05

Cooper's health began deteriorating in the 1950s. He contracted cancer in 1959 and never recovered.  Cooper was too ill in April 1961 to attend the Academy Awards, during which his friend Jimmy Stewart accepted Gary Cooper's lifetime achievement Oscar. Gary Cooper died in 1961, prior to the release of his last movie, The Naked Edge, which premiered at the historic Marlow Theater in Helena.  Family friend Wellington Rankin wrote a telegram to Cooper's mother, "All who knew him and of him are glad that he lived and are sorry that he seems to be gone.  His memory will always live."5

From stunt man to leading man—Cooper portrayed the quintessential American hero.  His image as an honest, courageous man survives in his films.  Most of all, Cooper was personally grounded in reality and his own history. Charles M. Russell once remarked, "No man should be condemned for what he can't do nor should get too much credit for what he can do because he can't help it." Gary Cooper could not help it.

1. Carpozi, p.13.
2. Hedda Hopper column, “Not ‘Diversified’ Wails Cooper,” Toledo Blade, July 17, 1949, p.4.
3. Salt Lake Tribune, May 22, 1961.
4. Letter, Gary Cooper to Wellington Rankin, October 9, 1946; MHS Research Center, MC 288, Box   1, Folder 12.
5. Telegram, Wellington Rankin to Mrs. Charles Cooper, May 1961; MHS Research Center, MC 288, Box 1, Folder 12.

  • Hector Arce, Gary Cooper: An Intimate Biography (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1979).
  • George Carpozi, Jr., The Gary Cooper Story (New York: Arlington House, 1970).
  • Gary Cooper Filmography
  • Maria Cooper Janis, Gary Cooper Off Camera, A Daughter Remembers (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999).