April 30, 2014

Waffles, Parades, and Vigilantes

by Natalie Waterman, Photo Archivist

What do waffles, railroads, prospectors and high-tension robberies have in common? You’re right if you guessed Helena's annual Vigilante Day Parade. A time-honored tradition since 1924, the event celebrates Montana’s rich past through historically-themed floats—all built and staffed by high school students.

Helena High Principal Albert J. Roberts conceived of the parade as a way to combat the springtime restlessness of upper classmen, and to reduce participation in "Sneak Day"—an unauthorized break from classes.

This May 9, 1930, photo of young bakers showcases the popularity of whoopee waffles,
a close relative of the popular whoopie pie dessert. (PAC 2014-11.1)
Sadly, the tasty treat did not bring a first-place win to this entry. That honor. according to Helena Daily Independent (May 16, 1930), went to a float depicting The Montana Post, the first newspaper operation in the state.

To try your hand at making whoopie, check out these recipes:
The 2014 Vigilante Day Parade commences at noon on Friday, May 2, in downtown Helena. Many photos of past Vigilante Day Parades are available for viewing in the Montana Historical Society Research Center's Photograph Archives.

April 23, 2014

Montana Goes on Tour, 1964

by Matthew Peek, Photo Archivist

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Montana Territorial Centennial Train. Departing from Billings for a 30-day national tour, the train carried exhibits and 300 Montana boosters to the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. Making stops in 16 cities along the route, it remains one of the most memorable state promotions in U.S. history.  

Senator Mike Mansfield (center) talks with youths in a Montana Territorial
Centennial Train exhibit car, April 1964 (Lot 31 B8/8.04).
At Union Station in Washington, D.C., Senators Mike Mansfield and Lee Metcalf toured the exhibits. Later, President Lyndon Johnson hosted a reception at the White House, at which he remarked, to loud cheering:
 "Montana is one of the states in the Union that you can still visit and get the spirit of the frontier."

On April 17th, a celebratory dinner drew distinguished Montana natives Robert H. O’Brien, president of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; William Allen, president of Boeing Aircraft Company; John A. Burns, Governor of Hawai'i; and movie stars George Montgomery and Myrna Loy. Midway through the meal, the President made a surprise visit and was introduced by another famous Montanan, NBC newsman Chet Huntley.

(Left to right) President of Lee Newspaper Enterprises Donald W. Anderson, actress Myrna Loy, and Senator
Lee Metcalf arrive at the Montana Centennial Dinner, Washington, D.C., April 17, 1964 (Lot 31 B8/7.08).

In the MHS Research Center, dozens of photos of the 1964 Centennial Train’s Washington visit are available for viewing.

April 18, 2014

Dangerous Words

by Maegen Cook, Digital Collections Assistant

While examining prisoner data to be uploaded to our digital collection, Montana State Prison Records, I came across the following notation about prisoner John Harrington of Lewistown:

Detail from John Harrington's Montana State Prison intake sheet.
That’s it. This 1918 record intrigued me because it lacks the usual information on scars, religion, tobacco use, literacy, tattoos, education, etc. Based on this cheeky remark, I assumed Harrington was arrested for being drunk and disorderly, but I was wrong. He'd been convicted of sedition—a very serious offense.

The Sedition Act in Montana began in February 1918 and, during that time of world war, the statute criminalized almost anything said or wrote that seemed anti-American. The Montana Sedition Project by the University of Montana details all the accused, totaling 76 men and 3 women arrested in 1918-19. It amazes me to think what kind of seemingly harmless statements could result in being arrested during that time of hyper-patriotism.

1918 prison intake sheet for John Harrington, convicted of
sedition (RS197).
I decided to see what Montana newspapers wrote about Harrington's crime. It turns out that his case was one of the very first sedition cases in Montana. In the Lewistown Democrat News and Fergus County Argus from April 1918, I discovered that Harrington was accused of calling the U.S. government “rotten” and stating that they had “no business in [the war]” and that he “hoped the German army would whip the American soldiers.” One reporter warned: The “Harrington case ought to be a lesson to everyone” not to speak against the U.S. Harrington served one year, then continued through his parole without further incident.

One of the biggest projects the MHS Research Center oversees is digitizing all 10,000 Montana State Prison intake sheets. These records typically contain a wealth of information about each prisoner—crime(s), age, date, address, parents' names, occupation, physical features, and more. Most records contain a photograph as well.

You never know what kind of cases you'll come across while looking through these records.

April 8, 2014

Hats Off to Fashion

by Christine Kirkham, Coordinator, Montana Digital Newspaper Project

There is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes)

Pharrell with hat creased "fore and aft" (eonline.com)
Pharrell with hat creased "fore and aft" (eonline.com)
Like millions of others, I enjoyed the 2014 Grammy Awards, including the appearance of singer Pharrell (fa-RELL) wearing his signature headgear.

Within days of the broadcast, I happened to be examining a 1910 newspaper supplement*, The Bitterroot Valley Illustrated, when an advertisement caused me to do a double-take.

Detail, Welpton's menswear ad, The Bitterroot Valley Illustrated, May 1910
Detail, Welpton's menswear
ad, The Bitterroot Valley
, May 1910
According to the National Park Service, this hat style was originally called “Alpine” and became part of the official ranger uniform in 1912. Also referred to as a "Smokey the Bear" hat, its modern-day incarnation rises a full 8 inches above the brim. Manufactured by Vivienne Westwood, it is available in seven colors and retails for $180. (Don't get your hopes up; the item is sold out.)

Like Pharrell and other 2014 "rangers," the 1912 wearer was free to mold the top into any shape he desired.

"[The hats] were usually creased fore and aft, but there were no regulations on the subject and it was left to the ranger to do whatever styling he wished." (Badges and Uniform Ornamentation of the National Park Service.)

* A supplement to the Hamilton-based Western News, the Illustrated was a lavish 50-page homage to the Bitterroot Valley, touting the region's abundant timber, fruit, and other riches. This and other digitized Montana special editions will soon be available on Chronicling America.