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, ttroup@mt.gov for more information.

September 15, 2016

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

In 1862, the Morrill Land Grant Act provides land for at least one college in each state to promote education in science, classical studies, agriculture and engineering. When Montana becomes a state in 1889, cities vie for the opportunity to host the college. It was awarded to the city of Bozeman in 1893.

Key dates

February 16, 1893—The Montana State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts is founded in Bozeman, Montana.
April 17, 1893—Augustus M. Ryon appointed president.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search for these terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: montana agricultural college, mac, augustus m. ryon (or a.m. ryon)

Written by Catherine W. Ockey

August 25, 2016

Supporting Your Presidential Candidate: Free Speech or Contempt of Court

by Natasha Hollenbach, Digital Services Technician

Before we start, this article is about an Idaho event.  However, it's important to remember that Montana newspapers reacted to events across the nation, and internationally.  These stories influenced Montanans and therefore can be considered part of Montana history. See Further Reading at the end of the article for many Montana newspaper articles.

The Daily Missoulian
January 4, 1913 p2

Researchers will tell you that while they’re researching one topic they’ll often find little snippets that lead to their next project.  Last year while working on the blog post about A.J. King I ran across the article below in the Daily Missoulian.  Penny contributions for free speech?  What was that about? 

It all started with the 1912 Presidential Election and a contentious Republican primary. In the aftermath of a highly contested Republican primary which pitted sitting President Howard Taft against former President Theodore Roosevelt, the national convention in Chicago nominated Taft as the party’s presidential candidate.  Roosevelt quickly became a third party candidate representing the Progressive Party popularly known for this election as the Bull Moose Party.  This change in party affiliation late in the primary season caused Progressive leaders at the state level to scramble to understand the relevant election laws. A few states saw legal actions to support or reject the nomination of one candidate or the other.  In one of these cases, the Idaho Supreme Court declared the nomination of the progressive electors invalid, thus ensuring that any voter wishing to vote for Roosevelt would be forced to write in the names of electors.

Evening Capital News
October 29, 1912 p12
The Evening Capital News in Boise reacted strongly to the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision.  For weeks afterwards, every issue contained at least some reference to the decision.  As seen above, they made it a point to repeatedly emphasize to their readers that in spite of the Supreme Court’s decision, they should still vote for Roosevelt electors. 

Evening Capital News
January 2, 1913 p1
This focus by the newspaper drew the attention of the Idaho Supreme Court who charged the publisher R.S. Sheridan and editor C.O. Broxon with contempt of court.  They were brought before the Idaho Supreme Court who found them guilty.  Both were sentenced to 10 days in the Ada County Jail and a $500 fine. 

(As a side story, the court also charged a third man, A.R. Cruzen.  While the truth is somewhat difficult to pin down, it seems that in an attempt to be a political player, he had claimed to be associated with the paper and to have some control over editorial decisions.  During the trial all three denied that this was the case.  The court disagreed.  He was convicted and in addition to the 10 days in jail and $500 fine he was also required to pay the court costs.)

Evening Capital News
January 3, 1913 p4

The contempt of court charge cited 31 articles that had appeared in the newspaper.  As seen in the above notice, after the conviction the Evening Capital News implied that the main cause was their publication of Roosevelt’s speech. While the speech did account for 6 of the articles cited, there were also a number of editorials and articles that construed political and self-serving motives for the justices’ decision.  Perhaps the best example of these is the article printed November 18, 1912 titled Only Part of Story.  One of the three subtitles reads “Claim Is Made That Action of Court Paved the Way for Election of Haines and Stewart and Later the Naming of Ailshie as United States Senator.”  This article paints a political conspiracy in which the justices rejected the Roosevelt electors in order to aid the Republican party so that there would be a Republican governor and state legislature which would then be grateful and vote Supreme Court Justice Ailshie to the US Senate.  They went on about the district judge who  would get Ailshie’s spot on the Supreme Court and then the Attorney General would move to the District Court.  Interestingly, Justice Ailshie actually dissented significantly with the court’s contempt decision, both on whether some of the articles, including the Roosevelt speech, could be considered contempt and the severity of the sentence.

Both during and after, newspapers nationally reacted to the case.  In Montana, the Daily Missoulian covered it extensively.  When Dow Dunning, an Idaho state senator, started the penny campaign to cover the fines, the Missoulian and many others across the nation supported the cause.  In addition, the case led to discussion about free speech, contempt of court and the recall of judges, and in the end the Evening Capital News used the case as proof their integrity and independence.

Evening Capital News
January 8, 1913 p6

Further Reading (in other words Additional Articles I really wanted to include) - the dates are links to the page:

Reactions to Contempt Case and Sentencing
“Newspaper Men In Jail. Three Sent to Prison for Contempt of Idaho Court.” Bamberg Herald. Bamberg, South Carolina. January 9, 1913 p6.
“Pertinent News of State With Our Own Comment – The Supreme Court Decision in the Capital News Contempt Case.” Caldwell Tribune. Caldwell, Idaho. January 10, 1913 p1.
“Roosevelt Denounces Decision of Idaho Court Characterizes the Wester Tribunal as an “Instrument of Reaction”. The Daily Missoulian. Missoula, Montana. December 11, 1912 p1.
“Contempt Decision of the Idaho Supreme Court.” Evening Standard. Utah. January 3, 1913.
“Fined for Printing News.” River Press. Fort Benton, Montana. January 8, 1913 p2.
“Idaho Judges Appear to Be Inviting Extension of the Recall Principle.” San Francisco Call.  San Francisco, California. December 14, 1912 p4.

Penny Campaign
“One Million People Asked to Contribute A Cent Each.” Daily Missoulian. Missoula, Montana. January 4, 1913 p1.
“Boise Men Pay Their Fines.” The Daily Missoulian. Missoula, Montana. February 2, 1913 p1.
“Pennies Come In.” The Daily Missoulian. Missoula, Motana. January 6, 1913 p5.
Kendrick Gazette. Kendrick, Idaho. February 7, 1913 p3.

While In Jail
“Liberated Scribes Get Ovation – Friends Send Flowers to Office of Boise Newspaper Men On Release.” The Daily Missoulian. Missoula, Montana. January 12, 1913 p7.
“Progressive Leaders on Visit to the County Jail.” Evening Capital News. Boise, Idaho. January 13, 1913 p2.
“Prisoners Enjoying Music At The Jail.” Evening Capital News. Boise, Idaho. January 9, 1913 p6.

August 18, 2016

What's in your stomach?

by Barbara Pepper-Rotness, MHS Research Center Reference Assistant

Museum accession # x1963 42 01
"Does anyone know what this object is?" asked Amanda Streeter Trum during a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum's stored artifacts.

  • It's a rock. No.
  • It's a prehistoric weapon. No.
  • It's, um... No.
The Curator of Collections for the Montana Historical Society Museum had us all stumped. And, we received an answer that was just as perplexing.
  • It's a bison hairball. What? That thing was in an animal?
Yes, in fact, much like hairballs in cats, hairballs in bison can be created by licking their own and other bisons’ fur. Unlike feline hairballs, bison hairballs can become trapped in the gastrointestinal tract and oftentimes a shell is formed around them. Technically called 'bezoars', these balls develop around not only masses of fur but also antler tines, twigs, gravel, bullets, pebbles – potentially any foreign object that isn’t expelled from the body.

The term ‘bezoar’ purportedly derives from the Persian words for ‘protection from poison’[1], and bezoars were once treasured - particularly by royalty afraid of poisoning by opponents - for this specific medicinal property. “It is said that a gold-framed specimen was included in the 1622 inventory of Queen Elizabeth I’s crown jewels.”[2]    

Example of bezoar pendant that could be dipped in a drinking cup for poison testing.
Netherlands, ca. 1600-1650. bezoar and gold filigree, 11cm.
BK-NM-7082 Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Image used with permission.
Bison and other ruminants, such as cows and oxen, can carry bezoars because of the unique anatomy and physiology of their four-compartmented stomachs. Anything swallowed makes its way to the first compartment - the rumen. From the rumen, food is regurgitated as ‘cud’ for rumination. The cud is swallowed and then travels to the reticulum. [3] “Bezoars are frequently found in the rumen and reticulum and are formed through the rolling movements of these two forestomachs during rumination.”[4] This mass remains lodged in the animal, potentially causing digestive problems or life-threatening situations “if obstruction of the esophagus, cardia, pylorus, or intestinal tract occurs.” [5] 

"University of Minnesota Extension --Dairy", University of Minnesota, Accessed July 22, 2016.
Used with permission.

In the case of the museum’s four inch wide and four inch high bison bezoar, openings in the outside layer allow us to see the "matted, compacted brown hair inside"[6]. One can see the rock-like formation surrounding the hairball. In an email several years ago, Dan Sharps, former biologist at the National Bison Range in Moiese, Montana, stated that whatever is at the core of a bison bezoar is “coated with minerals present in the animal’s diet in an attempt to protect the animal from harm” and this shell is described as a calculus or concretion. One wonders how long this particular heavy-looking and obtrusive bezoar was carried around by the animal.

Museum Director, Jennifer Bottomly-O’Looney, suggests visiting the Montana Historical Society Museum to see an example of a bison bezoar in the Neither Empty or Unknown: Montana in the Time of Lewis and Clark exhibit. 

Works Cited:
[1] “Hairballs: Myth and Realities Behind Some Medical Curiosities,” National Museum of Health and Medicine, last modified October 5, 2015, accessed June 24, 2016,  http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/index.cfm?p=exhibits.virtual.hairball.index
[2] Stefi Weisburd. "Chemistry." Science News 132, no. 12 (1987): 190. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3972072.
[3] Amy Lisk, email message to author, July 20, 2016.
[4] Jacqueline M. Zdziarski and Bush Mitchell. "Clinical Challenge: Case 3." Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 22, no. 4 (1991): 508.
[5] Ibid.
[6] “Bison Bezoar.” x1963 42 01. Montana Historical Society Museum.
Thank you to previous National Bison Range (NBR) biologists, Dan Sharps and Brendan Moynahan for their expertise and contributions; and to current NBR biologist, Amy Lisk for her expertise and for reviewing this article.