December 21, 2010

Jo-Jo, The Dog-Faced Russian Boy!

Daily Yellowstone Journal,
July 31, 1887, page 2
The staff involved in Montana's National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) grant spend many hours of looking at historical newspapers on microfilm. To keep things interesting, we look for pages with intriguing headlines, illustrations and ads.
One such advertisement was for S.H. Barrett’s New United Monster Show, which visited Miles City on August 16, 1887. We noticed the ad in the July 31, 1887 issue of the Daily Yellowstone Journal and saw it reappear daily for a few weeks (see ad above). Then it would disappear until the following summer. The show's main attraction was "Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced Russian Boy." Our Photo Archives staff located a photograph (below) of Jo-Jo in our collection. According to his Wikipedia entry (, "Jo-Jo" was actually Fedor Jeftichew, born in Russia in 1868. Fedor’s distinctive look was due to the medical condition called hypertichosis (hair growth in amounts considered abnormal). Fedor was first brought to the United States in 1884 by P.T. Barnum and he toured extensively until his death in 1904.

Jo'Jo' The Dog Faced Russian Boy, Chas Eisenmann
Jo'Jo' The Dog Faced Russian Boy, Chas Eisenmann,
The Popular Photographer, NY, Tilton Family Photograph
Collection Lot 5 Box 4 Folder 6

The Daily Yellowstone Journal’s review stated:
"While we were not particularly stuck on Jo-Jo the fact remains that he is all and more than represented. The human skye terrier was the wonder of the women and children who apparently appreciated his wonderful growth of hair to a greater extent, even than the men. Barrett’s circus and menagerie is well worth the admission charged.”

Find additional information on Fedor Jeftichew at The Daily Yellowstone Journal (1887-90) is available online at Chronicling America ( .

October 22, 2010

Archives Month Activities Continue: How to Care for Your Family History

On this blog the Montana Historical Society Research Center staff has discussed a variety of ways that archivists and librarians provide public access to historical materials. Another important function of working at the historical society is taking measures to preserve the materials in our care. Since the Montana Historical Society has staff that is knowledgeable about how to preserve documents, books, photographs, and objects—we decided to use this knowledge to give an Archives Month presentation to the public on how to care for their family history.

The Montana Historical Society Archives and Museum staff worked together to present a three part presentation on preservation: Lindsay Matson, Photograph Archivist, discussed how to preserve photographs inexpensively and effectively, Rowena Harrington, Assistant Registrar for the Museum, talked about how to prevent the deterioration of objects, and Caitlan Maxwell, Electronic Records Project Archivist, presented on how to care for documents and books. I am excited to say that we had a full house. People were very enthusiastic and had tons of questions for us on how to care for their collections. Some people even had useful preservation tips of their own to share with the rest of the audience. For example: did you know that you can remove photographs from a scrapbook safely by using dental floss?

In addition to our presentations—we also had handouts with contacts for licensed appraisers and conservators, as well as links to go for more information and preservation supplies. In November we are offering a second opportunity for the public to talk with the staff at the Montana Historical Society about preservation. There will be an open house on November 6th from 2-4pm where people can bring 1-2 small items (or photographs of the items if they are too large or fragile) to the research center reading room to talk with us about how to care for the item. It has been a very exciting Archives Month here at the Montana Historical Society!

Online Resources:

University of Washington Libraries: Annotated List of Useful Websites on How to Care for Family History

Montana Historical Society List of Manuscript Appraisers and Dealers

Archives Month in Full Swing

MHS librarians Anne McDonnell and Virginia
 Walton work to save Helena banking records, 1955
Who do we think we are, anyway? Well, we are archivists seeking to celebrate the work we do! October is Archives Month across the country, and this year the staff of the MHS Archives wanted to spotlight the long tradition of “history keepers” in Montana going all the way back to 1865 and the founding of the Montana Historical Society. A couple weeks ago on Oct. 7 we kicked off our celebration with a light-hearted program revealing the men and women of Montana who were critical to collecting and caring for the superb historical collections we now hold at the MHS archives and photo archives. Rich Aarstad, archivist and oral historian, began with a tale of the original “Beard of Directors,” reviewing the efforts of the Montana pioneers (and mostly bearded men) who founded and led the Historical Society through its first decades of existence. State Archivist Jodie Foley, then illuminated the audience on the “maternal branch” of the Society’s history as she celebrated the long line of female library professionals who began applying professional standards to the care of archival collections. The MHS archives came into its own during the “Age of Acquisition” in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as explained by Archivist Jeff Malcomson. The Montana Legislature in 1969 declared MHS the official state archives, while at the same time MHS administration hired professional historians, like Brian Cockhill and Lory Morrow, for the first time to work solely with the archives collections. Archives acquisitions quickly increased through the 1970s and 80s, right on through to the significant collections of today. Caitlan Maxwell, electronic records project archivist, concluded the presentation by describing the coming of the computer and its impact on the MHS Archives. She demonstrated the multiple ways computers are used to make the Archives collections accessible to the public and users around the world.  The MHS Archives and photo archives have come a long way, and we look forward to carrying on our mission into the future.

September 21, 2010

Montana Post now in Chronicling America

The Montana Historical Society is pleased to announce that the complete run of the Montana Post (1864-1869) is now available on Chronicling America ( Ever wonder what the weather was like in Virginia City in 1865 or what those vigilantes were up to? Dig in!

The Montana Post and other Montana newspapers published prior to 1923 are being digitized as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) which is a partnership between the Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities and state partners. More information about the Montana Historical Societies participation in the NDNP project and titles selected for digitization is available at:

The Daily Yellowstone Journal and Anaconda Standard should be included in the next Chronicling America update (December).

August 13, 2010

Caution! Researchers at Work

Summer is a busy time at the Montana Historical Society. The tables in the Research Center are overflowing and the microfilm readers are humming. Each year hundreds of researchers make the trek to Helena to do research. Some of these folks are working on family history, some are discovering the history of their homes, and some are writing dissertations and books. The Research Center promotes research and discovery of Montana history by offering two different research fellowships each year (for more information on these fellowships, please see our website at

Bradley Fellow Tashun Wisemiller researching
the history of tourism in Montana
(Photo by Tom Ferris)
This summer there are two James H. Bradley Fellows spending time conducting research in our collections. Tashun A. Wisemiller (pictured here), is a Ph.D. candidate from Arizona State University, originally from White Sulphur Springs. He is researching tourism in the region between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, from 1900 to 1950. Tash has spent a little more than a week exploring the ephemera and vertical files for information on tourism and promotion. (For a look at a Montana Dept. of Transportation pamphlet Tash examined in his research see "Headin' for the Hills," PAM 3247) Dr. Andrea Radke Moss, a history professor from BYU-Idaho, is our second Bradley Fellow and is digging into materials on Montana's involvement in the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Andrea has spent hours pouring over the records of the Montana Board of World's Fair Managers. She is looking specifically at the women who were involved in planning and implementing the Montana exhibit.

Our patrons, no matter what their topic or how deep they are digging, help to reveal Montana's history. Although we preserve and provide access to the original books, documents and photographs, the reason we are here is to help researchers like our Bradley Fellows discover and explore Montana history.
[written by Molly Kruckenburg]

July 28, 2010

A Polish aristocrat in Montana

One of the most fun things about being an archivist is the unexpected things you discover. I was cataloging a trivial little item (SC 473) consisting of an 1894 application for a position as City Engineer of Helena by a man named Michael A. Meyendorff. (ho-hum)

Well, I decided I needed a little information about Mr. Meyendorff. Wow! Turns out he was the son of a Polish nobleman, Baron Meyendorff. In the early 1860s the Baron and his sons, including 13 year old Michael, took part in a failed uprising against the Russian occupiers of Poland. They were all arrested and sent to Siberia. When they were released several years later, Michael came to the United States and studied engineering at the University of Michigan. In 1876 he came to Helena and briefly ran a cigar store before being hired by the U. S. Assay Office. In 1894 he was indeed hired as City Engineer (as our little item had indicated). He later went to Denver where he was a fraud investigator for the U.S. General Land Office. He got involved in all sorts of controversy because of his pursuit of fraud among coal operators.

All this because of a silly little item in the archives. Who would have guessed that such an fascinating man lived quietly in Helena in the 1890s?
[Image from Univ. of Montana digital edition of Leeson's History of Montana, p. 745]

May 12, 2010

The Way Things Work

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but those thousand words come much easier if you understand the subject. Describing and providing access to a collection of textual documents is difficult enough. The person processing a manuscript collection has to devise descriptions and subject terms that will enable others to find what they’re looking for. A photograph archivist in some ways has a more difficult task when it comes to crafting useful descriptions. What do you do if you have no idea what’s going on in a photograph, even though it looks very interesting? After all, very few people will be interested in a photograph of an “unidentified man doing something." When processing a new collection, an archivist often has to learn something about what things are and the way things work, and each subject carries with it a specialized vocabulary.

Lately, I have been processing the Mines and Mining photograph collection. My “the way things work” book for this project has been Drills and mills: precious metal mining and milling methods of the frontier West (Will Meyerriecks, 2003). I have learned a smattering of mining terminology, and while I am certainly not an expert, I hope that by learning about windlasses and hoists, sluices and long toms, and drifters and stopers, I will be able to provide better access to the collection.

April 28, 2010

Who knew comic books were State Documents?

Over the past year I have been working on cataloging all of the items we hold in our State Documents Collection. State Documents encompass a lot of different things, from agency annual reports, to college catalogs, to maps and videos. The collection covers the whole history of Montana, from territorial days to the present.

Interesting items from the collection include:

  • Inspector of mines reports (include listings of mine accidents and the names of persons who died in mine accidents)
  • State Veterinary Surgeon reports (tracing the history of animal care in Montana from territorial times)
  • Various college catalogs (include lists of students and what they were studying)
  • Legislative publications (from the first territorial session to the most recent session)
  • Agricultural promotional items used to attract people to Montana
  • Maps showing land use in Montana
  • Water resources survey information for all counties
  • State Health Department reports
  • Department of Agriculture reports about the Great Depression years
  • The Montana Reports (cases argued in the Supreme Court starting in 1891)

This is just a small sampling of all the wonderful documents that are just waiting to be explored.

Now about that comic book. Imagine my surprise when I pulled Sprocket Man out of an envelope. After investigating on-line I found that Sprocket Man was introduced on the Stanford campus in 1975 and was re-introduced in 2002. Our copy was produced in 1982 and was sponsored by the Office of Public Instruction and the Department of Justice to help teach folks about bicycle safety.

You never know what you are going to find when you start working with a collection!

April 6, 2010

Exploring a Montana History Connection Online

Reference requests often lead us in surprising directions, and sometimes the resources we find are all available online. Last week a gentleman sent us a scanned photograph of a man named Grover Cleveland Crosswhite lounging in front of a curious-looking little hut. The sign above the door read “South Butte Camp No. 6127 South Butte, Montana.” The gentleman who wrote us wanted to know where the photograph was taken – and he thought it might be a place where people with tuberculosis were sent.

The first place I checked in my search was the online newspaper archive. I searched for “Camp” and “6127” in Butte, Montana, newspapers between 1900 and 1939. A handful of articles came up – it turns out that South Butte camp No. 6127 was affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal benefit society. The articles mentioned lodge elections and dances, but nothing about tuberculosis.

I next visited the Modern Woodmen of American website and navigated to their “About Us – History” page. In addition to a timeline, I noticed a very interesting link – “Tuberculosis Sanatorium.” I clinked on the link and learned that between 1909 and 1947, the Modern Woodmen operated a tuberculosis sanatorium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The sanatorium served thousands of members free of charge (they only had to pay for transportation to the sanatorium) and it boasted a 70% recovery rate. This web page also includes pictures of the sanatorium, showing small huts just like the one Grover Cleveland Crosswhite sat in front of. So perhaps South Butte camp No. 6127 sponsored Mr. Crosswhite’s recovery hut. A quick search on returns a Grover Crosswhite in the 1963 Colorado Springs, Colorado, city directory – let’s hope he made a full recovery.

And there we are – another interesting Montana history connection discovered through some online sleuthing.

View a slideshow with interior and exterior pictures of the tuberculosis huts as they appear today and possibly a Youtube video of a 1933 promotional film for the sanatorium:

March 31, 2010

Prison Record Search Turns into an Interesting Story

While doing a research request for the prison records of Lloyd Peerboom, convicted for burglary in 1930, I was able to piece together the story of his burglaries and subsequent arrest by using the prison records and microfilmed newspapers that are available at the Research Center. 18 year-old Leroy Peerboom and two other young men were arrested for multiple counts of burglary on April 3, 1930. According to a front page news article in the Terry Tribune, the three youths stole clothing, candy and other goods from several businesses in Prairie and Dawson counties, including a pool hall, hardware store, and a grocery store.

The Tribune article notes that these boys had been under surveillance for some time by the officials of Glendive “they residing in a shack…and having no visible means of support.” The three young men were finally arrested after stealing a car and robbing Sawyer’s grocery store in Terry, Montana and sentenced to 5 years in the penitentiary in Deer Lodge. According to prison intake records, Peerboom tried to escape from the sheriff en route and was recaptured a day later. Peerboom was ultimately released on parole on January 2, 1933. The other two youths, Almen and Raymond, were also released on parole before the end of their 5 year term.

When doing a research request, the records will often lead you to find more than you bargained for. In this case, I started by doing a simple search for prison records. When I found out that Leroy Peerboom had attempted to escape the sheriff en route, Research Historian Zoe Ann Stoltz suggested that I check out the Terry Tribune to see if they covered the arrest of these boys. This lead me to a front page article that not only detailed their arrest, but delved into the burglaries they had committed as well.


Guide to the Montana State Prison records 1869-1974

Prison Registers, State Microfilm 36

Terry Tribune, April 4, 1930.

March 19, 2010

Happy little accidents

About a month ago I was contacted by a gentleman from Colorado. He was very interested in a government publication we had from 1879 dealing with mineral surveyors. He mentioned that he is a surveyor and it really helps him to know how things were being surveyed when he has to go out and re-survey an area. He submitted a research request and I sent him copies of the document. A few days later he called to let me know about a cataloging error with the title (it wasn't for mineral surveyors) and to tell me that he had not known that the Special Instructions for U.S. Deputy Surveyors in the District of Montana for the Establishment of Corners, etc., existed.

He commented that this was a "Happy little accident".

Since then he has contacted me to let me know that these "special instructions" do appear in the 1879 Annual Report of the Commissioner of the General Land Office (on pages 10-12), in a circular dated July 27, 1878. He also asked if he could send a copy of the document to the BLM office in Washington, D.C. because they were not aware of individual territories putting out these types of publications.

I'm always glad when things work out and am very glad that this "happy little accident" occurred to make us more aware of these types of documents and how they are still being used today. We are still looking for Special Instructions for U.S. Deputy Mineral Surveyors in the District of Montana for the Establishment of Corners, etc. If you happen to know where a copy exists, please let us know.

March 3, 2010

Montana History…in 3D!

Everything is more exciting in 3D! And while we are currently experiencing a new wave of interest in the technology, stereoscopic photography has been enjoyed by countless viewers for over 150 years. Before 3D movies, View-Masters and those posters at the mall, there were stereographs. All the rage in the Victorian era, stereographs employ a relatively simple technique. Two very similar photographs are placed side-by-side on a rectangular card. When viewed through a stereoscope, the images appear to overlap, creating the illusion of a single, three-dimensional image.

Over the years, the Research Center Photograph Archives has acquired thousands of stereographs representing the photography of dozens of celebrated Montana photographers and studios including Bundy & Train, N. A. Forsyth, Stanley J. Morrow, F. Jay Haynes, and Calfee & Catlin. Until recently, one had to visit us in person or submit a request to search the stereograph collection. But over the past months we have been working to create finding aids for our stereographs, which are organized by photographer. These finding aids include biographical information about the photographers and overviews of the collections as well as titles, descriptions, and dates for the individual stereographs.

There are currently two stereograph finding aids available online through the Northwest Digital Archives: the guides to the N. A. Forsyth stereographs and the Calfee & Catlin stereographs (a stereoscope and stereographs from the N. A. Forsyth collection are pictured at right). We hope to create and upload many more finding aids in the future, so please follow the link below to check out our finding aids, and visit us in person on the third floor of the Historical Society to see Montana history in 3D!

Finding Aids on the Northwest Digital Archives

March 1, 2010

Connecting our Collections

Every day those of us who are fortunate enough to work at the Montana Historical Society learn something new about Montana history and about our own collections. It may be a bit of trivia or perhaps its something significant, but every day something new is revealed. While working at our reference desk – our front line for assisting the public – I answered a telephone call from a patron who was trying to find some information about a photograph he had. The photograph was taken in Montana and showed several automobiles, including their license plates. The license plates had a year on them – 1915. The patron wanted to know if we could find out who owned the cars with the license plate numbers.

Well, it turns out that we can! In our Archives resides a collection of records from the Secretary of State’s Office (Record Series 250) that contains a wealth of information. In addition to oaths of office for notary publics in the 1860s, examples of coal mine inspector examinations from the 1910s, and inventories of state agencies from the 1900s, this collection contains a listing of all automobiles registered in Montana from 1913 to 1921.

In 1913 the Montana Legislative Assembly passed the first automobile registration laws, which required the Secretary of State’s Office to keep an index of all registered motor vehicles. The first motor vehicle registered in the state was registered by E. C. Largey of Butte. Edward Largey, the son of Patrick Largey, was involved in many Butte businesses and served as a state Legislator in 1909 and 1911. Some of Edward's papers can be found in our Archives in the
Patrick Largey Collection.

A simple phone call led me to discover many things about Montana history and our collections. First, Montanans have been required to register their vehicles for nearly a century now, although the fee has increased a bit (it cost $2 in 1913). I also discovered these wonderful records – what great information about who owned cars in Montana and where they lived – Butte seems to have the most registered cars in 1913. Finally, I rediscovered the wonderful link between the different types of materials that document our past – photographs, records of state government agencies, state laws, and personal papers. What a great way to spend a work day!

February 16, 2010

"The Green Mile"

All archives stacks look alike - or do they?  Though our archives boxes look just like the rest, our green floor is somewhat distinctive - or at least we think so!

For this first post for our new blog I thought sharing a few scenes from our archives stacks would be a good way to introduce the theme of the Montana History Revealed blog.  Archivists are sometimes accused of squirreling away vast amounts of historical documents that are difficult for the public to access.  We hope to use this venue to not only provide numerous "peeks" behind-the-scenes, but also to demonstrate how open and available is Montana's history at the MHS Research Center.
While our stacks are physically very full of materials of all sorts, it is the routinely amazing history that is revealed in the documents, maps, ledgers, architectural drawings, photographs, and many other items that brings people from all over the world to the MHS Research Center.

The main tool used to locate bits of Montana history in our collections is our on-line catalog.  A huge majority of our archives materials are represented in catalog records searchable through the catalog.  It is the best place to start in your own quest to reveal Montana's history.

Please stay tuned for many regular - and irregular - blog posts that will highlight specific details of Montana's exciting history evident in our archives, library, and photographic collections.