November 17, 2016

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: Helen Piotopowaka (The Bird That Comes Home) Clarke

Born the daughter of a prominent Scottish-American and his Blackfeet wife, Helen (Nellie) Piotopowaka Clarke spent most of her childhood at a Catholic school in Minneapolis, returning to Montana a polished and well-educated young woman. She worked as an actress, a schoolteacher, and an Indian agent for the U.S. government. She was the first woman elected to public office in Montana, becoming the superintendent of public schools for Lewis and Clark County at age 38.

Key dates

1846—Born at the mouth of the Judith River.
1869—Father murdered by a group of Blackfeet men.
1875—Takes a teaching position in Helena.
1884—Elected Superintendent of Schools for Lewis and Clark County.
1889—Leaves Montana to work for the Indian Bureau as an allotment agent.
1909—With her brother, Horace, is granted tribal membership and allotments.
1923—Dies at East Glacier Park Village, Montana.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search for these terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: helen clarke, nellie clarke, malcolm clarke, horace clarke

November 10, 2016

Montana Historical Society Archives Receives Grant to Start the Montana Brewery Oral History Project

Anneliese Warhank, C.A., Archivist/Oral Historian

With a $4,500 grant from Humanities Montana, MHS begins the initial phases of a project aimed at capturing the stories of Montana’s current brewing industry. The Montana Brewery Oral History Project will capture and record the history of Montana’s modern brewing industry from the last decades of the 20th century through 2008; the point the craft beer movement began to reemerge in the state, up to the creation of the Montana Brewers Association. As an archivist/oral historian, you might be wondering why I’d feel the need to build an entire project around this topic.

Montana’s brewing history runs deep, stretching all the way back to the territory’s first mining camps. Although prohibition and the rise of the domestic beers brought Montana’s craft brewing industry to a complete halt by the 1960’s, the 1980’s saw a new generation of brewers emerge. It was at this point that Montana’s modern craft brewing industry began to flourish into what many of us know and love today. Anyone who has spent just a short time in the state should be quick to recognize Montanans’ appreciation for local, craft beer. Craft breweries dot the landscape, while mom and pop as well as national chain grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores devote large sections of cooler space to Montana made brews.  Not to mention that if the local eatery offers beer on tap, it likely traces its origin to the community or county. Montanans love their beer as much as their big sky.

from the "Breweries, Montana" Ephemera file
Montana Historical Society
Photo courtesy of Natasha Hollenbach
Since legislation was passed in the 1999 session allowing breweries to operate taprooms, the state has seen steady growth in number of breweries. This has promoted job growth in some economically stagnated communities and increased demand in Montana agricultural products necessary for the production of craft beer. These breweries and their adjoining taprooms have become cultural hubs, with many hosting community events, raising funds for local non-profits, and serving as a communal center for local citizens and their families. Montana breweries have impacted the state economically, politically, and socially; as such, the oral history project will address all three topics, to some degree, with the selection of the narrators.  

The project will capture up to twenty oral histories from individuals who played a significant role in the development of the industry in Montana, selected by a five member board still in development. This project will provide insightful and valuable information for the academic and lay person alike who have an interest in Montana’s craft brewing history. The recordings and transcripts created through this project will become part of the permanent collections of the Montana Historical Society Research Center and will be accessible to the public for research and study. MP3 recordings of the oral histories will also be made available via the Montana Historical Society’s digital collections website. Upon completion of these interviews, I will begin phase two of the project, which will focus on the industry from 2008, to the present.

October 27, 2016

Great Falls and the Anaconda Copper Company

by Barbara Pepper-Rotness, Library Technician

Of course, we know that images evoke different responses depending upon the perspective of the viewer. Just as a painting may be pleasing, puzzling, or even off-putting, a photographic image contains elements that may or may not draw us in for a closer look. However, providing context for and a description of those elements may spark an interest we never anticipated.

Transformers at Zinc Electrolytic Substation. [Great Falls, Montana] January 29, 1920.
Catalog #PAc 81-34.2577

The Anaconda Copper Company Photograph Collection [PAc 81-34] includes images of smelting and refining copper and of the electrolytic zinc plant in Great Falls, Montana - not your typical ‘pretty’ pictures. However, Lory Morrow, Manager of the MHS Photo Archives, notes that the predominantly glass negative collection doesn’t just capture the day-to-day functions of an ore processing plant. It also contains images of people at work and play, along with wonderful views of the city of Great Falls and of the Missouri River over the course of sixty years.

First Aid Contest - A. C. M. [Anaconda Copper Mining] Club Orchestra, [Great Falls, Montana]. June 23, 1928.
Catalog #PAc 81-34.3059

To help researchers access this photograph collection, volunteer Anthony Schrillo, a retired mechanical engineer, is entering data found in record books provided by the ACM concerning over five thousand negatives in a Microsoft Access database. With the negative number, the title and description of each image, and the date the photo was taken, we get a visual record of the entire operation - machinery, supplies, buildings, and more - specific to the industrial complex at Great Falls between 1900 and 1958.  The work involved in cataloging this great collection will enable us to delve more deeply into a significant aspect of Montana’s history.

Built in 1892 under the auspices of the Boston and Montana Company (B&M Co.), the Great Falls plant originally conducted the full spectrum of copper ore processing. However, by 1910, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company had acquired the B&M Co. and set out to reorganize its operations. Gradually phasing out the pre-refining processes of concentrating and smelting, the Great Falls plant began specializing in the refining aspects of copper processing and added an electrolytic zinc plant in 1919. (MC 169 Historical Note)
During that same year, construction of the Washoe Smelter in Anaconda was completed. In addition to designing the Great Falls smelter twenty-seven years earlier, Frank Klepetko (MC 389 Biographical Note) designed the tallest (585 feet) brick structure in the world at the time. It is believed that the Washoe Smelter - “The Stack” - still holds that record and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gen. [General] View of Plant From Across River (File card: "… of Plant From South East From …"), 
[Great Falls, Montana]. July 18, 1928.
Catalog #PAc 81-34.3076

Unfortunately, the Great Falls stack was demolished on September 18, 1982 and nothing remains of any building in the once vast complex. However, with the aid of this photograph collection and its descriptive text, we can learn much about its different phases of operation. Depicting the people, the place, and the processes of this industrial facility over the years, we may be inspired to take a closer look at this rich photograph collection and its ancillary collections*.

*For further investigation, the Anaconda Mining Company archival collection, MC169, provides much documentation about the company’s history and the people who worked there, including a list of employees who were missing or were killed in World War II action. For those Anaconda, Butte, and Great Falls employees not on the battlegrounds of that war, the Copper Commando  newsletter was published to illustrate the importance of their contribution to the war effort and features stories and images of employees, housewives, and schoolchildren.

Additionally, you can see the demolition of the Great Falls stack by watching this KRTV program.

October 20, 2016

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

The Enabling Act of 1889, which created the State of Montana, provided for the establishment of a school of mines. Although the proposal faced controversy in the state legislature, the Montana School of Mines finally opened its doors to a class of 21 in 1900. The sole cost of attendance for a Montana resident was the $5 registration fee.

Key dates

1889—The federal Enabling Act appropriates 100,000 acres of public land for a school of mines.
1893—The state legislature appropriates $15,000 for the creation of the School of Mines in or near Butte; however, bank failures in Helena prevent construction from starting.
March 1895—State representative Howard Paschal’s bill, providing solid funding for the school, is approved.
December 1896—Cornerstone laid in Butte.
1897—Complaints and charges of fraud slow construction.
1900—Both female and male students start classes.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search for these terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: school of mines, howard paschal, n.r. leonard

Written by Catherine W. Ockey

September 29, 2016

Mining the Big Sky's Big Data

Tammy Troup
Digital Services Manager
Montana Historical Society

Datasets are a treasure trove of information for historians and social scientists who draw on relatively recently developed methods of historical analysis to support theories, develop new interpretations, and think deeply about the implication of patterns. While a blog post is too short to delve deeply into this topic, the MHS extends notice of datasets in our collections and we encourage the use and analysis of big data.
MHS Datasets
MHS recently shared three datasets on the Socrata data portal currently supported by the State Information Technology Services Division (SITSD). Since the software, people, and commitments are outside the organizational control of the MHS, researchers should assume links may change and should prepare citations which reference the fact that the dataset is held by the MHS. The MHS will maintain copies of the datasets and we will commit to ensuring access, we will also provide data accuracy and integrity statements. Datasets are presented under a public domain license, which permits researchers to export, use, and append the dataset.

Current datasets
Preparing the dataset
Historical datasets can be complicated to develop since historical data is not always structured consistently and handwritten data can be difficult to read. When data is structured for machine readability, it is fairly easy to map data into new fields, parse information, or aggregate data. Standardized information sets such as a handwritten table are also fairly easy to structure, but unstructured data must be hand-entered and the dataset creator must make decisions about field names, content standards, and normalization. In practical terms, this means that the dataset of a handwritten ledger (Figure 1) will easily map to a table or XML file (Figure 2). However, the dataset creator of military enlistment cards (Figure 3) will need to make the following decisions:
  • Field names – i.e., metadata terms, local terms or drawn from a professional authority;
  • Data content standards – if none are present, a standard will need to be defined or developed. Content standards are simply the rules for data entry which ensure consistency.
  • Data normalization –the process of organizing and cleaning data in order to reduce redundancy.
Figure 1. Enlistment records from Fort Assiniboine
(identified as Assinniboine in original ledger)
in a structured table, from MC 46.
Figure 2. Table of data in Excel (left) and structured data in xml
format (right)


Figure 3. Enlistment card from the
digitized Military Enlistments (Montana) 1890-1918

Example Methodology – State Prison Records

The State Prison Records dataset is drawn from digitized prison records which are presented on the Montana Memory Project in the collection Montana State Prison Records, 1869-1974. A team of stalwart volunteers—Marie McAlear and Anthony Schrillo—led by staff member Caitlin Patterson spent eight years digitizing, collecting metadata, and uploading the materials from the highly used public documents. Information about intriguing and unusual cases is recorded elsewhere on this blog. In order to understand larger patterns, though, researchers need access to the dataset created through metadata development.
We normalized the dataset by reducing the ~28,000+ lines of metadata down to ~15,000 unique records, standardized the content, parsed columnar data, and quantified some of the information. By presenting the metadata as a dataset, researchers may filter fields – Crime, Location, Gender, Descent, Occupation, and Religion—and may look for spatial or temporal patterns using Location or Incarceration Date.
However, simply filtering for a crime or demonstrating a pattern will result in flabby analysis. Trends identified in datasets need to be comparatively analyzed using state and local demographics, labor and culture statistics, and/or national crime data. Broad patterns of movement and human activity must be known and taken into consideration. Secondary sources read in order to understand historical context, original records reviewed, military enlistment cards searched, newspaper accounts studied, and researchers might even visit the Old Montana Prison and Montana towns to reflect on the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions which lead to crime and incarceration. It’s also important to look for the impact of incarceration and perhaps use a network analysis to look for generational trends, recidivism, and the haunting social impact of incarceration.
Big data analysis is a powerful tool for historical research, but it is not an end. Look at the numbers, but feel for the pulse.
Please contact Tammy Troup, for more information.