September 21, 2017

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: University of Montana's founding

As soon as Montana became a state in 1889, the legislature set out to establish a state university. Missoula city leaders gave up a bid to become the state capital in exchange for becoming the site of the university.

Key dates

February 1893—After a debate over whether existing colleges should be consolidated, Missoula was appointed as the location for the University of Montana.
September 1895—Classes begin with an initial enrollment of nearly 100.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search for these terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: university, oscar j. craig

September 14, 2017

Home Movies: Both Common and Distinct Documents

by Kelly Burton, Film Archivist

While home movie collections in general have become a ubiquitous feature of the twenty-first century moving image archives, it is important to remember that the individual films which constitute such collections often exist as unique historical documents. Films of this type are most frequently created for personal use rather than broader public exhibition, so there is typically little concern when it comes to reproduction or duplication on the part of their creators. As potentially one-of-a-kind items within the historical record, the value of home movies to an archives – particularly facilities that focus on regional history – cannot be understated. Few names from Montana’s past carry the historical weight of copper magnate Marcus Daly, and the eleven film reels that constitute the Daly Family home movie collection provide us with a fascinating view of European opulence as viewed through the prism of Montana mining culture.

Though the patriarch passed away a full two decades before his family’s home movies were created, Marcus Daly’s legacy of hard-won wealth is evident in the stark contrast between the lavishness of the Daly Mansion and its rugged backdrop. The western Montana town of Hamilton was founded by Marcus Daly himself as a hub of business, and the frequently-remodeled mansion on the Daly property – a homestead purchased in 1886 – served as the most prominent structure in the otherwise rural area. Daly’s widow was largely responsible for incorporating the previous Queen Anne style into the newer Colonial Revival style by 1910, and this is the version of the mansion shown in the family’s films. The home movies themselves contain various family members and guests enjoying the amenities of the grounds, with one film canister label even listing aged Daly rival William A. Clark and his wife among those present.

The Daly Family home movie collection
PAc 97-56

The films in the Daly Family collection date from 1919 to 1921, and the very act of owning a personal motion picture camera at this point in the medium’s evolution displays an affluence that is mirrored in the images themselves. Several guests to the home arrive in automobiles, which would have been an equally rare possession. Lighting would have made the filming of interiors difficult, so all scenes are of recreational activities on the European-style grounds of the Daly Mansion. Activities in the films include: boating, duck hunting, tea parties by the pergola, horseback riding, swimming in the mansion’s pool, driving go-karts, and hitting golf balls off the home’s front drive on the Fourth of July. The camera also turns to the area surrounding Hamilton itself, with special attention given to the mountains that border the town’s west side.

Lele Von Harrenreich Daly teeing off at the Mansion, July 4, 1921

The home movies left by the Daly Family become still more unusual when we consider the materials with which they were created, specifically the gauge of the film itself. Looking for a smaller and less flammable alternative to 35mm nitrate motion picture stock, French company Pathé Frères introduced 28mm diacetate to the upscale home market in France in 1912 and the United States the following year under the name American Pathéscope. Though World War I brought a swift end to 28mm film production in Europe, the stock continued to thrive in the United States until the advent of still smaller gauges such as Pathé’s 9.5mm gauge and Kodak’s 16mm gauge in 1923. Kodak eventually bought American Pathéscope’s film stock factory in 1926, which brought an end to the business in the United States. Just over 100 of the 190,000 film and video assets currently held at the Academy Film Archive are 28mm, which testifies to relative rarity of the gauge itself.

Pre-printed Pathéscope film leader from the Daly Family reels, circa 1920.

The Daly Family home movie collection was donated to the Montana Historical Society by Francis B. Bessenyey, a step-great-grandson of Marcus Daly, in 1997 (collection PAc 97-56). A VHS transfer of excerpts from the films was also donated, and is available for viewing in the Historical Society’s Research Center.

August 24, 2017

L.A. Huffman: Photography in Motion

by Barbara Pepper-Rotness, Library Technician

L.A. Huffman on Horseback, [1879-1930]
MHS Photo Archives # 981-929

Much has been written about frontier photographer, Laton Alton Huffman, and those writings provide an indispensable view of this prolific man, who saw “an opportunity to record a disappearing era [and] made both beautiful and historic photographs.” [1] He could capture the harsh beauty and expansiveness of the plains in a way that was expressive and seemingly three-dimensional. Additionally, he recorded, through his pen and his camera, meticulous details about life in eastern Montana during the late 1800s-early 1900s, some of his best being those of early frontier cowboys and their ways. And, he was rather poetic in the telling, as in this statement - printed on many catalog brochures - of his own work.

“Kind fate had it I should be Post Photographer with the Army during the Indian Campaigns, following annihilation of Custer’s command. Round-about us in this Yellowstone Big Horn land, unpenned of wire, unspoiled by railway, dam or ditch, un-kodaked, hunters, Red and White, exterminated, for robes and tongues, the last great herds of Buffalo on this continent. With crude home-made Cameras, from saddle and in log shack, I saved something – built better than I knew.” [2]

Killing Cows and Spikes on the Snow, near Cohagen, 1880.
MHS Photo Archives Catalog # 981-699 

When he arrived at Fort Keogh for work in the winter of 1879/1880, L.A. Huffman set up shop in the log cabin provided to him in lieu of a paycheck and quickly established himself as a participant, not just an observer, of life on the short-grass plains. And by doing so, he understood the beauty, along with the hardships, of living in this vast, remote land.

Corner of my old log studio at Fort Keogh, 1879.
MHS Photo Archives Catalog # 981-139.

“From where I lay, through the wide-open door, I looked long at those eternal, turreted, cold, moonlit Western hills; outlined against them stood, saddled and picketed, sentinel like, the wrangler's gray night horse, listening too to the myriad voices of the night that unfailingly come to the senses once a camp is stilled. I wondered, as I had a thousand times in years that are gone, when, by some dying campfire I drowsed, up-gazing into the always new, yet changeless star-studded, glittering vastness, what the indescribable charm of this life was, that one failed always to put into speech.” [3]

But, he didn’t need to speak his observations, he had a camera to record those. In addition to his great skill in doing so, though, he was a prolific writer, corresponding frequently with his father; taking copious notes to go along with his photographic output; and publishing articles, such as this one for Scribner's Magazine.

When he wrote to his father, who was a photographer himself, Huffman often included samples of his work. “Please notice when you get the specimens that they were made with the lens wide open and many of the best exposed when my horse was in motion.” [4]

Roping a wild horse, 1904.
MHS Photo Archives Catalog # 981-505.
Bucked Off, [1879-1903].
MHS Photo Archives Catalog # 981-583

Not only was he in the saddle of a horse juggling heavy photographic equipment, he was able to capture cowboys in the midst of their fast-moving physical feats: at the moment a rope swirls just over the head of a horse before dropping around it; or, just as a bronco in mid-buck releases its rider. Even in those situations that appear staid, there is a sense of movement, of something more about to happen. It’s ironic that he signed letters to his father, Late (short for Laton) as he seemed to have perfect timing when it came to his photography. He was patient enough to capture and document those activities which required good timing themselves. He wasn’t often late.

“I am as ever Late” from MHS Archives Small Collection 1702, Box 1

You can browse the Montana Historical Society Photo Archives’ L.A. Huffman images on the Montana Memory Project.

[1] L.A. Huffman: Pioneer Photographer. intro. by Donna M. Forbes, essay by Terry Karson. (Billings, MT: Yellowstone Art Museum, 1990), 3. 
[2] Copy of catalog brochure. L.A. Huffman MHS vertical file. 
[3] L. A. Huffman. “The Last Busting at the Bow-Gun.” Scribner’s Magazine 42 (1907): 78.
[4] L.A. Huffman to P.C. Huffman. 7 June 1885. Small Collection 1702, Folder 1. L.A. Huffman Papers. Montana Historical Society Archives. 

Allen, Gene and Bev. The Collotypes of L.A. Huffman: Montana Frontier Photographer. Helena, MT: Gene and Bev Allen, 2014. 
Brown, Mark H. and W. R. Felton. Before Barbed Wire: L. A. Huffman, Photographer on Horseback. 1st ed. New York: Holt, 1956. 
Brown, Mark H. and W. R. Felton. The Frontier Years: L. A. Huffman, Photographer of the Plains. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995. 
Huffman, L.A. “The Last Busting at the Bow-Gun.” Scribner’s Magazine 42 (1907): 75-87. 
L. A. Huffman: Pioneer Photographer. Intro. By Donna M. Forbes. Essay by Terry Karson. Billings, MT: Yellowstone Art Museum, 1990.
Peterson, Larry Len. L.A. Huffman: Photographer of the American West. 2nd ed. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2013.

August 17, 2017

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: The Capitol Building

After Helena won the popular vote to be the capital city of the new state of Montana, lawmakers immediately created a capital commission to oversee the construction of a building to house state government. Amid scandal, the original commission and the architect were dismissed, but a new commission soon contracted with different architects, and the completed building was dedicated on July 4, 1902. Two additional wings, to the east and the west, were completed ten years later.

Key dates

1895—Capitol Commission is appointed.
1897—Contract for building the capitol is awarded to Charles E. Bell and John H. Kent.
1902—Montana State Capitol dedicated.
1909—Legislature authorizes addition of east and west wings.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search for the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: montana capitol building, capitol commission, george r mann, bell and kent, capitol wings

Written by Catherine W. Ockey

August 11, 2017

Trials of a Prairie Photographer

By Christopher Gray, Digital Projects Intern

Evelyn Cameron’s photography was born from necessity and love for the art. The Camerons were frequently out of cash, so Evelyn sold vegetables, hosted boarders, and took up photography to supplement what little income they had.

Living on a ranch, Evelyn was no stranger to hard work. Photography in the 1890s and early 20th century was a demanding and tricky endeavor, so adding the business of making photographs to her daily routine would have taken a great deal of energy and motivation.

Though photography was rapidly becoming more accessible to the public, it had not reached the level of efficiency it has today. Evelyn had only what was technologically available in Montana at the turn of the last century. Living on the prairie, her options were further limited to whatever mail-order equipment she could afford. Despite these limitations, Evelyn managed to excel at her work.

Some of the other difficulties she faced included a camera with slow shutter speeds [1] and photographic plates that weren’t very light-sensitive.

Catalog # PAc 90-87.G002-016
“Mary Phillips, May 4th, 1905.”
Photograph by Evelyn Cameron

For example, this picture, taken with a 5x7 Kodak in 1905, illustrates how Evelyn worked within those technical limits. She wrote her camera settings for this picture in her diary, noting a shutter speed of 1/5 of a second and an aperture of f32—slow shutter, small aperture [2]. These settings were necessitated by the slowness of the plate (about ISO 5 or 10) and Evelyn’s aesthetic preference [3]. She preferred well-defined backgrounds for her pictures, and a small aperture allowed that. 

Slow shutter speeds are no nuisance if the subject is stationary, the camera is mounted on a tripod, and the wind is calm. However, Evelyn’s subjects and the prairie wind were seldom still. 

Catalog #PAc 90-87.G003-002
“Cat sitting in hole in rock. 1900”
Photograph by Evelyn Cameron

Cats especially fall into the “seldom still” category. Pet photography is best done with a fast shutter speed, but here Evelyn used a slow shutter speed and a small aperture (perhaps out of habit). That the cat, Patchy, stayed still for this picture seems like a miracle. However, that Patchy appears unblurred in a handful of other photos suggests the cat was a more agreeable model than most. 

Catalog #PAc 90-87.G059-011
“[[Railroad crew on handcar]. 
[Five railroad workers standing on handcar.] [ca. 1910]”
Photograph by Evelyn Cameron

This photo of Northern Pacific workmen on a handcar may look ordinary for a moment, but its odd nature soon becomes apparent. Evelyn took two images on the same plate, most likely by accident. Looking closely, it seems she took one picture without the workmen and one with them. Note how the man on the far right looks translucent!

Catalog # PAc 90-87.NB067K
“[Family on parsonage porch, Marsh, Montana]. 
At the Lutheran Church parsonage. July 25, 1920”
Photograph by Evelyn Cameron

Finally, some unintentional elements in a photo can actually improve it. This would be a normal, staid family photo were it not for the mischievous young’un peering from behind the screen door. This may have gone unnoticed by Evelyn as she took the picture, but given her sense of humor she probably knew the girl was there and proceeded anyway.

[1] Only until late 1905, when she received a more advanced camera.
[2] Cameron diary, 7 May 1905
[3] Cameron diary, 27 June 1904