June 22, 2017

Edwin B. Trafton, "...aside from his outlaw traits was a pleasant companion..."

Zoe Ann Stoltz, MHS Reference Historian, came across a fascinating true crime story from 1914 Yellowstone Park.  It seems there was a man, Edwin B. Trafton, who robbed at least 15 stage coaches on the same day.  As her research developed, it became clear that this was but one of Edwin's exploits.  Instead of trying to reduce him to a single post, we're trying something different today at Montana History Revealed. Edwin's story has been divided into a 6 part series.  Read one or read them all.

Delinquent Boy and Horse Thief
Stealing from Momma
How Do You Rob 15+ Stagecoaches in 1 Day
Talking with the Tourists
Will Someone Please Catch This Man
Released for Good Behavior

Edwin B. Trafton - Delinquent Boy and Horse Thief

Part 1 of Edwin Trafton series by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian

Born in New Brunswick, Canada in February 1857, Edward B. Trafton  discovered his affinity for theft early in life. At the age of ten, Edwin  was in the Denver Home for Delinquent Boys for theft.   After his release, he lived and worked with his mother and step father at their Denver boarding house, purchased with the proceeds from the sale of their Canadian farms.  For several years Edwin honed his larceny skills by stealing from the boarders.   Although often discovered, his mother Annie Knight continuously protected him from the law and consequences.   At the age of 20, Edwin became convinced that he was destined to become rich in the South Dakota Black Hills. After stealing food, cash, and a horse from his parents, he headed north. [1]

Not long after discovering that success in the gold fields demanded work, Trafton settled in Teton Valley, Wyoming.  Although ostensibly farming, he soon joined the Conant Gang of horse thieves.   By 1887, however, area ranchers tired of losing livestock took steps to round up the gang.  Found guilty, Trafton served just two years of a twenty-five year sentence. As explained by long time area resident, Trafton “ . . . was a clever fellow and aside from his outlaw traits was a pleasant companion. He elicited sympathy from people and petitions were soon signed for his release.” [2]

Return to Table of Contents

[1] Wayne Moss, “Friend or Faux?”  Teton Valley Magazine, 3 November 2015, http://tetonvalleymagazine.com/history-stories/friend-or-faux/ (30 May, 2017) 
[2] Ibid. 

Edwin B. Trafton - Stealing from Momma

Part 2 of Edwin Trafton series by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian


After serving time for horse theft as part of the Conant gang, Edwin Trafton spent the next two decades attempting to balance his criminal tendencies and family life. He married Minnie Lyman on July 3, 1891. They had five children, four girls and one son.

Following another two year prison sentence, this time for cattle rustling, the couple attempted homesteading, sheep ranching and operated a boarding house in Idaho’s Teton Basin. [1] Edwin even served as a postal carrier for the area.
Herald Democrat (Leadville, CO), May 3, 1910 p1
Retrieved from
Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection

In the fall of 1909, Edwin and Minnie now living in Denver set their sights on Annie Knight, Edwin's mother.  He convinced Annie to allow him to take control of several thousand dollars as well as the sale of her house. Surprisingly the couple soon reported that a satchel containing several thousand dollars had been stolen from them during a ride in a street car. [2] Maybe Annie finally realized the truth about her son.

The following May, Edwin and Minnie were found guilty of fraud and the theft of $7200.00 from his mother. [3] Minnie was released in February, 1912, and Edwin the fall of 1913. Reunited after serving their respective sentences, they attempted to settle in Rupert, Idaho.

[1] Wayne Moss, “Friend or Faux?”  Teton Valley Magazine, 3 November 2015, http://tetonvalleymagazine.com/history-stories/friendorfaux/ (30 May, 2017); Land Patent
[2] “Careless Couple Robbed of $10,000 on a Denver Street Car,” Cheyenne State Leader, 2 October 1909, pg.1 & 2 and “Sends Her Son to Prison,” Colorado Springs Gazette, 3 May 1910.
[3] “Sent to Prison for Stealing from Mother,” The Laramie Republican, 10 May 1910, pg. 1, and “Sends Her Son to Prison,” Colorado Springs Gazette, 3 May 1910. 

Edwin B. Tafton - How Do You Rob 15+ Stagecoaches in 1 Day

Part 3 of Edwin Trafton series by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian


Although Edwin Trafton tried to settle in Rupert, Idaho with his wife after their release from prison, a life of crime still called. Within months, he had disappeared from a legitimate job at Jackson Lake near Moran, leaving a larcenous trail behind.  As he departed from Jackson, he stole two horses, a roan and a gray. Unknown to Edwin, one of the horse had thrown a shoe leaving unusual tracks. On his way into Yellowstone, Edwin shared a camp site with J. Martinez. Before parting ways with his host, Edwin robbed Martinez of food and his best saddle. [1]

Postcard showing Old Faithful Lodge, circa 1909
On the morning of Wednesday, July 29, 1914, Edwin pulled a rifle on the first of at least 15 tourist-filled stagecoaches (reports vary from 15 to 26). The tour coaches, which left at 15-20 minute intervals from Old Faithful lodge, traditionally paused at the Shoshone Point promontory to allow occupants to enjoy the lake view.  As each coach approached, Trafton ordered the occupants to disembark and the drivers to pull the coaches ahead.  He instructed the tourists to place their valuables onto a coat spread on the ground. Trafton then forced his victims to sit on the ground. He repeated the process with each successive stagecoach until finally an oncoming driver recognized the situation and turned to warn authorities. At that point, Edwin disappeared into the woods completely unconcerned by the fact that British tourist Estelle Hammond and Anna Squire of Illinois had taken photos of him sorting his loot.

Return to Table of Contents

[1] “Wonderland Tourists Relate Thrilling Hold-up Stories,” The Livingston Enterprise, 1 August 1914, pg. 1 & 8 and “Yellowstone Park Bandit Arrested,” Livingston Enterprise, 25 May 1915.

Edwin B. Trafton - Talking with the Tourists

Part 4 of Edwin Trafton series by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian


The Livingston Enterprise
August 1, 1914
 A small crowd gathered at Livingston's Northern Pacific depot to ask victims of Edwin Trafton's Yellowstone Park stagecoach robberies for their first hand accounts. Many of them were anxious to share their adventures. [1] Their stories ranged from horrific to hilarious.

While he assured the stagecoach drivers that he was “not going to take their money,” because they “worked as hard” as he did [2], the passengers were not so lucky. After a self-professed suffragist settled herself on the roadside, she lost control of her anger with a shout at Trafton that “this is what we women get . . . when compelled to let a little man like you to take away our rights and force us to give up our money.” [3]  The bandit scolded the suffragist that she was “butting into his game.” [4]   He then ordered her to return to the coach and forfeit any remaining cash.  The tirade cost her $75.00.

During a confrontation with a Missouri woman who refused to leave her coach and children, the bandit reassured her that he “loved children,” and would not hurt them.  Although he guaranteed the children’s safety, he did not hesitate to take their mother’s money.

[1] “Wonderland Tourists Relate Thrilling Hold-up Stories,” The Livingston Enterprise, 1 August 1914, pg. 1 & 8. 
[2] “Wonderland Tourists Relate Thrilling Hold-up Stories,” The Livingston Enterprise, 1 August 1914, pg. 1 & 8 and “Yellowstone Park Bandit Arrested,” Livingston Enterprise, 25 May 1915.
[3] Ibid., pg. 8.
[4] Ibid., pg. 8.

Edwin B. Trafton - Will Someone Please Catch this Man

Part 5 of Edwin Trafton series by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian


After the Yellowstone stagecoach robberies, Trafton spent time with his in-laws and took Minnie to Salt Lake City where he stole a new touring car. But government officials were following his trail, conducting interviews, and compiling evidence. Department of Justice Special Agent James Melrose was ultimately responsible for the arrest. Melrose followed up on rumors of the hold up of Mr. Martinez, traced the unusual horse tracks back to Trafton, and connected jewelry from the robbery to Trafton. An affidavit submitted by Minnie stating her husband had admitted to the robbery and that she later found jewelry in her husband’s possessions was the final nail in the coffin.  Trafton was taken into custody May 1915. [1]

The evidence against Edwin during the December 1915 trial in Cheyenne was overwhelming. Not only did Melrose present his carefully compiled evidence, but several of Trafton’s victims, who had sat for several hours and witnessed him threaten scores of fellow tourists, identified him. The prosecution was so confident that the photographs taken by Hammond and Squire were not even shown. Following the inevitable guilty verdict, he was sentenced to five years at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. [2]
The Livingston Enterprise.
December 14, 1915

[1] “Yellowstone Park Bandit Arrested,” Livingston Enterprise, 25 May 1915, pg. 8. [2] "Yellowstone Park Bandit Arrested,” Livingston Enterprise, 25 May 1915 and “Man 63 Years Old Found Guilty of Sensational Yellowstone Hold-up,” The Kemmerer Republican, 10 December 1915; “Five Years in Pen for Trafton,” Livingston Enterprise, 14 December 1915, pg. 1.

Edwin B. Trafton - Released for Good Behavior

Part 6 of the Edwin Trafton series by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian


Teton Valley Magazine, 3 November 20015,
accessed May 4, 2017,
Although Edwin Trafton was convicted of the Yellowstone stagecoach robberies during his 1915 trial, he didn't serve his entire five year sentence. Early in October 1919, Edwin wrote to James Melrose, the Department of Justice Special Agent whose investigation led to Edwin's arrest.  The letter explained that due to his good behavior Edwin was being released from prison a bit earlier than planned. He assured Melrose that he had spent his time in prison making plans for his future. [1]

However, this time Edwin couldn't return to his wife. After divorcing Trafton while he was in prison, Minnie added insult to injury by marrying a policeman and left Idaho with their 14 year old son, Edwin Jr.  Additionally by August of 1920, all four of his daughters were married. [2] Instead Edwin made his way to California perhaps in hopes of finding family or of selling his much-exaggerated life story as a movie script.

On a hot day in August of 1922, in need of escaping the Los Angeles heat, he ordered an ice cream soda.  While sipping the cool drink, Edwin B. Trafton died.   An inglorious end to the man who incapable of leading a life without larceny.  But, as the Yellowstone Bandit, he gave 165 Yellowstone stagecoach tourists stories enough to fill a lifetime.

Return to Table of Contents

[1] “Yellowstone Bandit Released by Jail,”  Northern Wyoming Herald, 8 October 1919, pg. 4. 
[2] Wayne Moss, “Friend or Faux?”  Teton Valley Magazine, 3 November 2015, http://tetonvalleymagazine.com/history-stories/friendorfaux/ (30 May, 2017) ; Utah & Montana Marriage License Indexes. 

June 15, 2017

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: The Railroad Arrives!

The first rail line into Montana, the Utah & Northern Railroad over Monida Pass to Butte, was completed in 1881. Together with the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1883, it heralded a new day of transportation for both people and goods. The Federal government greatly aided the railroads by awarding them tracts of land along the expected routes. The railways connected Montana towns with each other and with the rest of the nation, and they facilitated the expansion of mining and manufacturing.

Key dates

1864—The Pacific Railroad Act of 1864 charters construction of a Northern Pacific link from Lake Superior to the Pacific Coast.
1881—The Utah & Northern Railroad drives its first train into Butte, successfully linking Montana with the transcontinental line in northern Utah.
1883—A ceremony at Gold Creek, Montana Territory, commemorates the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway. Former President Ulysses S. Grant attends.

From the newspapers

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Search for the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: northern pacific railroad, utah & northern railroad, great northern railway

June 8, 2017

Ratifying the 1972 Constitution

by Natasha Hollenbach, Digital Services Technician

This post is in honor of the 45th anniversary of the election to ratify the 1972 Montana Constitution.  All images of Con Con Monty come from The Proposed 1972 Constitution for the State of Montana published as a 12-page supplement in 13 daily newspapers across the state.[1]

Pundits have lauded the 1972 constitution as a progressive model for government covering issues as broad as privacy and environmental protections. In addition, the range of delegates at the Constitutional Convention has also been the topic of much discussion.  However, those of you who remember the election to ratify it in June 1972 may recall a different story…

During the Con Con, the Public Information Committee worked with the media to ensure that the public stayed informed on the development of the new constitution.  As part of this work, they set aside part of the Con Con budget to be used after the convention to educate the public about the new constitution in the run up to the vote on ratification.[2] Prior to adjournment, delegates adopted Resolution 14 that create a committee with the authority to complete the administrative and public education duties of the Con Con using the previously appropriated funds.  However, as soon as the Con Con adjourned opponents of Resolution 14 challenged the right of the committee’s use of the money before the Supreme Court, arguing that access to the money ended upon the conclusion of the constitutional convention. The supporters of Resolution 14 pointed out that the Con Con had an obligation to inform the public about the proposed constitution. The Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs since voters had already received the proposed constitution along with explanations of what changed fulfilling the public education requirement.[3]

Instead delegates raised independent funds to support education efforts and donated their own time to travel around the state boosting for the new constitution at town hall meetings, panel discussions, and organization meetings. Not all delegates supported ratification however.  Even though all 100 delegates signed the final document, after the Con Con several campaigned against ratification [4] and they weren’t alone in their opposition.  Across the state citizens wrote letters to their local newspapers expressing concern about the proposed constitution. Whether individuals focused on the lack of a maximum property tax levy, the possibility of a gun registration law, ability of the legislature to pass a sales tax, or any other specific issue, Walter A. Stamm in a letter to the Daily Tribune-Examiner of Dillon published June 1, 1972 sums up the main concern.  “Some advocates say that the old constitution had too many restrictions; I would say that the new constitution 
has too few limitations.” 

On June 6, Montanans went to the polls for two separate elections: the constitution and the primary. The constitution vote was close. The returns showed 116, 415 (50.55%) in favor and 113,873 (49.44%) against the new constitution. A difference of only 2542 votes.  Of the 56 counties, only 12 returned a majority in favor of the new constitution.  Opponents of the new constitution argued that since the 1889 Constitution required “a majority of the electors voting at the election” for ratification and given that 6,756 ballots went unvoted, the vote failed to pass.  Governor Forest H. Anderson declared the election valid, the Montana Supreme Court ended up validating the election results in a 3-2 decision on August 18, 1972.[5]

[1] These images come specifically from the May 19, 1972 issue of Daily Tribune-Examiner from Dillon.  Images provided by MONTANA NEWSPAPERS, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana.  Other newspapers which included this supplement are The Billings Gazette, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Montana Standard, Great Falls Tribune, Daily Ravalli Republican, Havre Daily News, Helena Independent, Kalispell Inter Lake, Lewistown Daily News, Livingston Enterprise, Miles City Star, and the Missoulian.
[2] Montana Centennial Commission – 1989.  100 Delegates Montana Constitutional Convention of 1972. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1989.
[3] Supreme Court Case No. 12260. State Ex Rel. Kvallen vs. Graybill. 1972. Accessed in the Montana Supreme Court Cases database, Available through the State Law Library of Montana.  https://searchcourts.mt.gov/
[4] “More Delegates Say No to Document.” Daily Tribune-Examiner (Dillon, Mont.), 01 June 1972, located at <http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053036/1972-06-01/ed-1/seq-1/>, image provided by MONTANA NEWSPAPERS, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana.
[5] Supreme Court Case No. 12309. State ex rel. Casmore v. Anderson. 1972. Accessed in the Montana Supreme Court Cases database, Available through the State Law Library of Montana.  https://searchcourts.mt.gov/

May 18, 2017

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: Statehood

By the 1880s, residents of the Montana Territory were ready to embrace statehood and enjoy benefits like full representation in Congress, the power to tax local corporations, and federal land grants to support education. Although there had been previous attempts locally and nationally to create the new state, it took 25 years for Montana Territory to become a state.

Key dates

February 22, 1889—President Cleveland signs the Omnibus Bill, an "enabling act" notifying North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, and Montana that if they drew up proper constitutions, they would be granted statehood.
July 4, 1889—Representatives elected from across Montana open a constitutional convention in Helena.
October 1, 1889—In a general election, Montanans approve the new state constitution and elect Joseph K. Toole governor.
November 8, 1889—President Harrison proclaims Montana the 41st state.

From the newspapers

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Search for these terms: constitutional convention, statehood

Written by Catherine W. Ockey

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May 11, 2017

A Continuing Journey: The Conservation of Published Accounts of the Journals of the Corps of Discovery

Molly Kruckenberg
Research Center Director

William Clark, Meriwether Lewis and the Corps of Discovery’s successful return to St. Louis on September 23, 1806, was far from the end of the story of the Corps.  Tasked with keeping a written record of their journey, Lewis and Clark as well as several other members of the expedition kept daily journals of their activities.  Sergeants John Ordway and Patrick Gass as well as Private Robert Frazer were among those that also kept a record of the journey. [i] After the return of the Corps there began a brief battle over who would publish the first account of the expedition.

Although rumors of a publication of Private Frazer’s journal surfaced and Lewis did his best to discredit publications not by he and Clark[ii], Patrick Gass’ journal was the first one published.  Shortly after returning from the Expedition, Gass had sold his journal and publication rights to David McKeehan, a Pittsburgh, PA, bookseller.  After much editing and transcription, McKeehan published the journal in 1807, under the title Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corp of Discovery and followed with an additional printing in 1808.  Two years later, Mathew Carey of Philadelphia, acquired the copyright to Gass’ journal and published more editions in 1810, 1811, and 1812.

It wasn’t until 1814, five years after Lewis’ death, and through the work of Philadelphian Nicholas Biddle, that Clark was able to see an edition of the official journals published.  Clark had worked closely with Private George Shannon to assist Biddle in the production of History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark.[iii]  Published by Bradford and Inskeep, also of Philadelphia, the two-volume set was primarily a narrative account of the expedition and did not include any details of the scientific discoveries recorded by Lewis and Clark.[iv]

The MHS Research Center is fortunate to hold several early publications of the journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, including an 1810 edition of the Gass journal and the 1814 Biddle edition of Lewis and Clark’s journals.  While the Gass journal is a recent donation, the Biddle edition has been in the care of the Research Center for more than a century. 

Kept in our secure and environmentally-controlled storage facilities, these volumes are a significant part of our rare book collection.  Given their age of more than two centuries, though, the books were beginning to show some gentle wear and tear.  Last year the Research Center undertook a project to see that these volumes were properly conserved so that they would be available for use and study for the next two hundred years.

The professional conservators at the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Massachusetts received the books in the fall of 2016 and conducted an initial review of their condition.  Each of the three volumes contained several issues, from patches and scuffs on the leather covers, to dirt, discoloration and water stains.  Conservators cleaned the pages, repaired bindings, reinforced sewing, mended tears and created custom storage boxes for each volume.  The images here illustrate the before and after condition of the title pages for two of the volumes.  The completion of this work stabilizes the volumes making them ready for study by the next generation of Montana history scholars.

The Research Center works continually to balance our joint missions of conservation and preservation of collections with public access to the materials that tell Montana’s history.  Through the conservation of the 1810 edition of Patrick Gass’ journal and the 1814 Biddle edition of Lewis and Clark’s journals, we are continuing our work to ensure Montana’s history is available for research far into the future.

[i] Private Joseph Whitehouse also kept a journal and Sergeant Charles Floyd kept a journal until his untimely death August 20, 1803.
[ii] Meriwether Lewis published a notice in the National Intelligencer (Washington D.C.) on March 18, 1807 warning the public not to purchase any publication about the Expedition not authored by himself.
[iii] The complete title is History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, to the Sources of the Missouri, Thence across the Rocky Mountains and down the River Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.
[iv] Aarstad, Rich and Jennie Stapp. “Travel and Exploration Narratives in the Montana Historical Society Collection.”  Montana the Magazine of Western History (Vol. 55 No. 3), p63-65.

April 20, 2017

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: The Mullan Road

Before the extension of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883, it was difficult to get people and goods from one side of Montana Territory to the other. The Mullan Road was a U.S. Army project built to move troops to the Indian wars. Named for Lieutenant John Mullan, it was the first wagon road to extend from the Missouri River over the Rocky Mountains, through Northern Idaho and beyond. The road became a vital transportation link, and parts of it were incorporated into major roadways that are still in use.

Key dates

1859—The U.S. War Department appropriates funds for construction of a military road between Washington Territory and the Missouri River.
1862—The Mullan Military Road is completed.
1880—Improvements are made on sections of the old Mullan Road.
1893—The completion of the Great Northern Railroad through Montana decreases demand for an overland wagon route.

From the newspapers

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Search for the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: mullan, mullan road, western slope

Written by Catherine W. Ockey

April 6, 2017

Jeannette Rankin and Her War Vote

by Natasha Hollenbach, Digital Services Technician

On April 2, 1917, Jeannette Rankin, the woman from Montana, made a triumphant entrance into Washington, DC as the first woman elected to Congress. Four days later the mood had changed drastically as she sat in the House with her fellow representatives debating the issue of US entry into World War I.

Catalog # 944-480
Jeannette Rankin, April 2, 1917
First appearance in Washington
Photographer Unidentified

The depiction of her vote commonly told today is well represented in Montana: Stories of the Land [1] which describes the scene like this:
“When her turn came, Rankin stood up. “I want to stand by my country but I cannot vote for war,” she said. Only a few other members of Congress shared her view, and the resolution to enter World War I passed overwhelmingly.” 
This simple depiction is quickly overturned by even a cursory look at the newspapers of the day who gave shockingly variable descriptions of her vote. [2] Was she weeping, sobbing, or trembling? Did she sit back down, disappear out a side door, or carried out? Did her vote provoke cheers or disdain? Even her now-famous quote wasn’t consistently reported, with at least one paper declaring that she never actually voted at all [2c] and another having her say “No matter what stand my country may take in this, I cannot cast my vote for war.” [2f]

Being the first woman in Congress meant that her votes and opinions never reflected on her alone. Unlike her male colleagues who voted against war (49 in the house and 6 in the senate), the newspapers declared that her vote would impact the national suffrage movement. [3] Opponents of suffrage declared that she proved that women couldn’t be entrusted with issues of national importance. Proponents of suffrage reacted in one of two ways. They either disavowed her actions or since one of the main arguments against women in politics was that it would coarsen them, they pointed out that Jeannette’s vote proved that women in politics could still retain womanly attitudes.

However, the press reaction is only part of the story. The correspondence sent to Jeannette Rankin both before and after the vote by constituents and other Americans (usually women) from across the country offer a more complicated reaction to her vote. [4] While there are some letters in opposition, their number is hardly overwhelming. Most of the letters supported her vote and even some of those who oppose her vote applaud her courage in voting as she did. The first notable observation are the two form letters, one for those opposed and one for those in support, that she sent in response. The striking comment to those who wrote in opposition declared that “…the letters and telegrams that come to me from Montana were sixteen to one against the war resolution.” It quickly becomes apparent that by the writer’s count the overwhelming feeling in their section is identical to the writer’s. While the newspapers focus on suffrage the correspondence is more varied. First they often criticize the press reporting.

From top to bottom:
Excerpt from letter by Byron DeForest, Great Falls, Montana. August 9, 1917. MC 147, Box 10, Folder 9. 
Excerpt from letter by  Mrs. DeLoss, Ekalaka, Montana. April 23, 1917. MC 147, Box 10, Folder 5. 
Excerpt from letter by  Ella and W. A. Grandey, Whitehall, Montana. MC 147, Box 10, Folder 5. 
Excerpt from letter by  R. J. Whitaker, Missoula, Montana. March 29, 1917. MC 147, Box 10, Folder 7. 

Second, the newspapers tend to take it for granted that the war is justified, while the letters show much less uniformity of opinion. Many openly question both whether the US ever acted as a neutral power and whether, even if the justifications for war were accurate, they are worth going to war over.

From top to bottom:
Excerpt from letter by Ella and W. A. Grandey. March 27, 1917. MC 147, Box 10, Folder 9. 
Excerpt from letter by Laura Booth Hall, Ekalaka, Montana. April 5, 1917. MC 147, Box 10, Folder 4. 

Particularly interesting are those who wrote multiple times. The best example is Ralph E. Courtnage [5] who wrote to Jeannette on April 12th strongly registering his criticism of her. She responded with her usual form letter, and a delightful thing happened (from a historian’s point of view). He wrote her again on June 15th. This time expressing regret over his earlier tone and concerns about liberty, security of law and the power of the president, clearly referencing the attitudes and actions which led to the sedition law. This continuing dialogue about the changing issues and attitudes reminds the reader that the war vote was only a moment in time connected to both the past and future of those living it.

[1] Montana: Stories of the Land. Chapter 16 – Montana and World War I, 1914-1918, pg. 315. http://svcalt.mt.gov/education/textbook/Chapter16/Chapter16.pdf 
[2] a sampling of articles showing the range of how the vote was described (all articles available on ChroniclingAmerica.)
     a. Columbus Commercial (Mississippi), April 8, 1917. 
     b. Topeka State Journal, April 6, 1917. 
     c. Ward County Independent (North Dakota), April 12, 1917.
     d. Harrisburg Telegraph (Pennsylvania), April 6, 1917. 
     e. “Woman Votes No.” Free Trader-Journal (Illinois), April 6, 1917. {2 clips} 
     f. “By a Vote of Three Hundred Seventy-Three to Fifty The House Casts Lot With The Powers of the Entente”.       
          Hawaiian Gazette, April 6, 1917. 
     g. “Dramatic Scene.” Daily Gate City and Constitution-Democrat (Iowa), April 6, 1917. 
[3] sampling of articles showing reactions of both suffrage opponents and proponents (all articles available on ChroniclingAmerica.)
     a. “A Hard Jolt for Suffrage”. St. Joseph Observer (Missouri), May 19, 1917. 
     b. [Kansas City Star] Harrisburg Telegraph (Pennsylvania), May 4, 1917. 
     c. “Miss Rankin’s Weakness.” Ogden Standard (Utah), April 11, 1917.
     d. [Billings Journal and Butte Miner] Daily Missoulian, April 11, 1917.
     e. [Comments by Charles A. Krause]. El Paso Herald, April 11, 1917.
     f. [Lewistown Argus.] Fallon County Times, May 10 1917. 
     g. [Red Lodge Civic League] Daily Missoulian, April 16, 1917.
     h. “Miss Rankin’s Vote Own View—Suffragist”. East Oregonian, April 13, 1917.
     i. “The Sobbing Woman.” Evening Times Republican (Iowa), April 30, 1917.
     j. [Record-Herald of Helena] Daily Missoulian, April 14, 1917.
     k. Jenkins, Alice. “Miss Rankin’s “Sensibility.”” Evening Star (DC), April 18, 1917. 
     l. “Miss Rankin’s Vote.” West Virginian, April 7, 1917.
     m. “The Case of Miss Rankin.” Daily Missoulian, May 11, 1917.[4] MC 147, Box 10, Folders 4-10 
[5] Ralph E. Courtnage, Great Falls, Montana. April 12, 1917 & June 15, 1917. MC 147, Box 10, Folder 4.

March 16, 2017

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: Yellowstone National Park

Although the unique geological formations of the Yellowstone area were known to Native Americans and early white explorers, it wasn’t until the 1871 Hayden expedition that the rest of the U.S. population believed the stories. Photographs from the expedition were published and just a year later, in 1872, Congress created Yellowstone National Park. It quickly became a popular tourist attraction and a model for national parks in other countries.

Key dates

1805-06—Members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition hear reports of a volcano south of the Missouri River.
1807-08—Former Expedition member John Colter travels alone through a large tract of present-day Wyoming as far south as Jackson Lake. After he reports astonishing sites such as geysers and rivers of boiling water, the area is jokingly referred to as “Colter’s Hell.”
1870—The Washburn–Langford–Doane Expedition returns with detailed maps and observations, and various members publish first-hand accounts in national periodicals.
1871—Congress appoints Ferdinand V. Hayden to make an official geological survey. Hayden is accompanied by artist Thomas Moran and photographer William Henry Jackson.
March 1, 1872—President Grant signs a bill creating the world’s first national park. It is comprised of 2.2 million acres of wilderness.
1894—The Lacey Act prohibits “the hunting, or the killing or wounding, or capturing. . . of any bird or wild animal, except dangerous animals” in the Park.

From the newspapers

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Search for these terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: yellowstone park, dr. ferdinand hayden, nathaniel pitt (n.p.) langford, henry d. washburn, john colter

Written by Catherine W. Ockey

March 9, 2017

Bombs over the Yellowstone! Or, How Custer County Breaks up Ice Jams

by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian

Initially, the weekend of March 17 & 18, 1944 was typical.  Many of Miles City’s residents enjoyed the popular music featured by radio station KRJF. Syndicated radio programs “Pioneer Women of Montana” and “Sports Roundup” were also popular with locals.[1] Many attended the Montana Theater which was running Grace McDonald’s light-hearted musical romance, “She’s for Me,”” or the musical, “Always a Bridesmaid” featuring the Andrews Sisters at the Liberty Theater. The upcoming High School Basketball tournament, to be held next weekend in Great Falls, was a primary conversation topic. However, by late Sunday evening, the weekend’s tone had changed. Within hours, Yellowstone flood waters forced hundreds of citizens from their homes. They would not return until after a B-17 dropped several tons of bombs on the Yellowstone.  

Earlier in the weekend, ice flows from the rising Tongue River joined those already accumulating in the Yellowstone. The resulting ice jam caused a rapid rise in river water. By late Sunday evening, residents on the north side of the city were warned to evacuate. Sheriff, police, and fire department personnel worked all night while KRJF ran well into the morning hours with constant updates.[2]
Monday morning, with the water too deep to wade through, men and boats continued to rescue marooned families. Water inundated Hubble Street, effectively cutting off the road to Jordan. Twenty miles south and upstream from town, high waters were forcing ice flows over a Tongue River Dam.[3]

Miles City Daily Star
March 23, 1944

In desperation, local, county, and state leaders contrived a plan to “dynamite” the Yellowstone’s ice jam.  On Monday, March 20, Mayor Leighton Keye called the Rapid City Army Air Base to request help. He was informed that thick fog prevented the takeoff of any aircraft in the Black Hills area. With assistance from Colstrip explosives experts and permission from the Civil Aeronautics Administration, the mayor enlisted local pilots Brud Foster, Fred Cook and Ted Filbrandt for the job.[4] According to one newspaper report, after flying reconnaissance flights over the river, the men fused and dropped close to 12 boxes, or 1500 pounds, of dynamite. The “shuddering blasts” created by the detonations were only partly successful in clearing the ice flows.[5]

Finally, Tuesday afternoon, residents were treated to the sight of a low flying B-17, or “Flying Fortress” in the skies over Miles City. The plane, piloted by Rapid City Air Base’s director of flying Major Richard Ezzard, carried a crew of 10 others. By 7:30 that evening, Ezzard and his crew began their attack on the Yellowstone ice. Forced to fly at just 2,600 feet rather than the previously planned 10,000 feet by a gathering storm system to the northwest, Ezzard dropped the first bomb just downstream from the 7th Street Bridge. During four runs, the crew dropped over fifteen 250 pound bombs into the ice packed Yellowstone.[6]

Immediately following the bombing, the Yellowstone’s waters began receding, preventing further danger and flood damage. Although crowds were kept as much as a mile away from the drop zone, locals saw the plane “circling and banking” as it approached the river. All agreed with Mayor Keyes’s description of the mission as “perfect and in accordance with the best traditions” of the U. S. Military.[7]

Miles City Star
March 23, 1944

Thanks to the heroic efforts of both locals as well as imported experts not a single human life was lost to the flood, and livestock losses were believed to be minimal.[8] By the end of the week, life in Miles City was returning to normal. After a brief stay to determine the success of their mission, Maj. Ezzard and his crew bid Miles City farewell with a late Wednesday afternoon flyover over.[9] City crews successfully pumped out a good share of the basements of between 300-500 evacuated residents.[10] Approximately one hundred evacuees attended clinics to discuss health concerns created by contaminated wells and needed repairs before returning home.[11] Weekend movie options included the moralistic  “Edge of Darkness” with Errol Flynn or the musical “Sing a Jingle.”[12] Sadly, the Miles City Cowboys failed to place in the Basketball Championship after losing to Stanford 51-48.[13] That was the tragedy!

[1] See “Air Log” pg. 3 & movie advertisements pg. 5, 18 March 1944, Miles City Daily Star
[2] “Flood Waters Reach Into City,” 21 March 1944, Miles City Daily Star, p.3
[3] Ibid.,  1 & 3.
[4] Ibid., 3 and “Home Made Bombs Used Preliminarily to Break Ice Jams,” 24 March 1944 Miles City Daily Star, p. 8.
[5] “Yellowstone, Tongue Floods Recede; Storm Prevents Bombers from Helping to Break Up Blocks of Ice,” 21 March 1944, The Independent Record, p. 3.[6] “Bombing of Yellowstone Is Effective,” 23 March 1944,
[7] Ibid., p. 3.
[8] “Flood Waters Reach Into City,”  21 March 1944, Miles City Daily Star, p.3
[9] “Flying Fortress Crew Departs Wednesday for Rapid City Base,” 25 March 1944, p. 3.
[10] “Scene of Flooded Area Covering the Island, Part of the Residential Section of North Side the City,” 21 March 1944, Miles City Daily Star, p.1.
[11] “Families Instructed Regarding Going Back Into Their Homes,” 23 March 1944, Miles City Daily Star??
[12] See Movie advertisements, 23 Friday 1944, Miles City Daily Star, p. 5.
[13] “Cowboys Put Up Great Game,” 26 March 1944, Miles City Daily Star, p. 9.

February 23, 2017

The Complexities of Digital Information Management

by Tammy Troup, Digital Services Manager

The myriad duties required and expected of museums and historical societies set these organizations apart from traditional libraries and archives. Principally, the exhibit and interpretive missions of these organizations introduce layers of creativity and organization of knowledge, which researchers may never realize, while the collection and preservation missions require knowledge of standards, systems, and practices which only subtly affect a visitor’s experience.

The crux of the matter involves organization of the information resource under consideration. Regardless of the type of information resource--bone awl, Finnish loom, legislative record, vintage print, or first edition book of poetry--using and reusing the information resource requires management of information about the resource.

Information management systems advanced significantly over the past 150 years.
Clockwise from top: Scan of Original Accession Register, Photo of Card Catalog,
Screenshot of Advanced Search Montana Shared Catalog 

Although the format is relatively new, management of digital and digitized information resources for both online exhibit and interpretation and collection and preservation builds upon knowledge acquired through a century of information resource management. Reformatting—digitization—is a fairly straightforward technical process. However, management of the resulting digital files requires the development and management of metadata--information about the information. The result—a digital object—includes both digital images and a metadata record structured for machine readability. High quality metadata managed within an organized system allows a user to search for and discover an information resource and to locate any derivatives.

In the past twenty years, libraries and archives improved and refined the processes involved in the management of digital information. These information management organizations developed procedures which resulted in organized, searchable digital collections. Researchers who enjoyed the methods of targeted research and serendipitous discovery appreciated access to digital collections. However, not everyone’s online information needs were met.

Despite extensive metadata records--and the idiom that a picture is worth a thousand words--digital objects without context quickly contributed to an overload of information. Workaround solutions included metadata records with detailed interpretive descriptions or the use of digital objects as captioned illustrations in “digital exhibits.” Meanwhile, information professionals managed information about the original and digital resources across a technological stack neither interoperable or searchable.

Well-managed records provide enough information for
items and derivatives to be located and used and reused.
Clockwise from left: Screenshot of Metadata Record, Screenshot of File Manager with File,
Screen Still of Photo Archives
File Shown Above in File Manager
Well managed information makes reusing content easier and more consistent.
As an organization responsible for collecting and preserving as well as exhibiting and interpreting, the Montana Historical Society knows this stage of information management quite well. The professional staff of the MHS created the first digital exhibit Encountering Montana: Lewis and Clark Under the Big Sky in 2001 and began making information available on the precursor of the Montana Memory Project in 2004. In the ensuing years, nearly 50 TB of data representing a small percentage of the Museum and Research Center’s collections have been generated and multiple digital exhibits have helped us contextualize our digital and digitized resources.

At this point, the information management needs of our entire staff are much more advanced. These needs include electronic records management, digital asset management, digital preservation, as well as online presentation and interpretation. Meanwhile, the research needs and expectations of our online visitors have also become much more sophisticated. Multiple factors contribute to the challenges of digital information management--particularly in state governments--yet the MHS remains committed to building on and applying over 150 years of knowledge in order to maintain the persistent link between the past, the present, and the future.

As we advocate for our digital needs in order to advance our mission to collect, preserve, and interpret, we invite you to share your comments about the MHS’s online presence, role in interpreting and analyzing digital information, and any concerns about Montana’s digital cultural heritage.

February 9, 2017

Lydia's: A Montana Tradition

by Barbara Pepper-Rotness, Library Technician

Last fall after spending the day in Butte, my husband and I wanted to find a quick bite to eat before heading back to Helena. It was getting darker and there were fewer and fewer cars as we headed away from downtown Butte, past the car dealerships and the airport. I was ready to turn around but just at that moment, I saw a lonely sign in front of a nondescript, anonymous looking building. The sign indicated that this was Lydia’s: A Montana Tradition. I’d heard of Lydia’s as, well, a Montana tradition and an Italian restaurant. So, of course, we had to try it. Once inside, the décor - lush-textured walls and seating, the mirrors, the colors and subdued lighting, the sunken floor with tables that accommodated many groups and yet, gave the feeling of one big group – resembled a 1960s lounge club. And, as we settled into our cozy section, our waiter brought over dishes filled with food. We hadn’t ordered anything and already we had food! A platter of salami and cheese, a little dish of green onions, a casserole of sweet potato salad, a saucer of anchovies, a basket of breadsticks, a small bowl of salad for each of us with a selection of home-made dressings, a dish of beets, and a plate of sliced red bell peppers. Wow, I didn’t even need to order an entrée. But, with that kind of a start, I was curious to see what other goodies we might receive. With our substantial main selections came more of these little treats – a dish of ravioli, a bowl of spaghetti, and of all things, a plate of French fries. It was quite the meal – delicious, hearty, different, relaxing, and fun.

Back in Helena, I had to learn more about this wonderfully unique experience called Lydia’s and its history. Originally located in Meaderville, Lydia Michelotti’s restaurant was called the Savoy Club before moving to the Flats in 1946. The current building was constructed in 1964 next to the older [1946] building and the restaurant has carried on the Meaderville-style dinner tradition. As Lydia’s brother, Dave, once commented, “We serve a Meaderville dinner today with chicken, steak and raviolis the same way they did in the old days. The sad thing is today when you say Meaderville no one knows what you are talking about” [1].

"What you can see from the headframe?" - Issue #1 Copper Commando
(view from Leonard Mine headframe of Meaderville, Butte, Montana)
Catalog #: Lot 019 B14

Meaderville was known as the Italian-American neighborhood of Butte and was renowned world-wide for its supper clubs that served sumptuous, multi-course meals. Lydia Micheletti grew up in this neighborhood - alternately nicknamed “Little Monte Carlo” (for its open gambling) and “the Night Club Mecca of the Rockies” [2] - and became a dishwasher in one of its restaurants as a young girl to help her family. She later worked under Ted Traparish at the Rocky Mountain Café, where she honed her cooking skills.

The star of the Meaderville night club restaurants, the Rocky Mountain Café on Main Street was considered one of the world’s top restaurants. In fact, an editor of the New York Evening Post wrote in his column, “This may be one of the three or four great restaurants in the world.” [3]. This editor was not the only writer enamored of the Rocky Mountain Café. Many high-profile newspapers and magazines, such as Reader’s Digest and National Geographic, provided the public with a glimpse of this amazing place and enticed them with statements like, “The Best Steak inside me”.  And, the September 1953 issue of Good Housekeeping contained a full-page article entitled, ‘A Big Night in Butte” by Dorothy Kilgallin. In it, she details her the contents of her lavish meal, beginning with the appetizers. “There were olives, stuffed celery, mushrooms, salami, an assortment of cheeses, sardines in oil, crab meat in Russian dressing, shrimp in hot sauce, artichoke hearts, pimientos, pickles, anchovies, a jar of Russian caviar and a big salad with Roquefort dressing…Then the steaks came.”  She ends the article with this perfect statement, “Even after seeing the prices in big black letters I went out feeling as if I had accepted charity.” In 1961, Teddy retired and the restaurant closed before expansion of the Berkeley Pit claimed all of Meaderville. [4]

Rocky Mountain Café flyer [5]

After learning the trade from master chef and host Teddy Traparish; and skilled with re-creating the recipes her mother brought from Italy, Lydia opened her own restaurant and it has been a mainstay in Butte since. As Lydia’s website states, “Meaderville and its many supper clubs are now part of Butte’s colorful history, but Lydia’s proudly carries on the ‘Meaderville-Story’ through our Italian-American dinners.” [6]

Cited works
[1] Kearney, Pat. Butte Voices: Mining, Neighborhoods, People. Skyhigh Communications, 1998, pp. 296-98.
[2] Kearney, Pat. Butte Voices: Mining, Neighborhoods, People. Skyhigh Communications, 1998, p. 214.
[3] Tribune Staff Writer. “’One of World’s Top Restaurants’ Near Butte: Few Dining Spots in U.S. have Won More Praise.” Great Falls Tribune (Great Falls, MT), 26 April 1953, page 13
[4] Excerpts Concerning Montana’s Famous Restauranteur Teddy Traparish, 1888-1971. Compiled by Edward Craney. [Butte, MT: Edward Craney[, 1971?.
[5] Excerpts Concerning Montana’s Famous Restauranteur Teddy Traparish, 1888-1971. Compiled by Edward Craney. [Butte, MT: Edward Craney[, 1971?.
[6] Lydia’s Supper Club, http://www.lydiassupperclub.com/. Accessed 7 February 2017. 

January 26, 2017

Public Enemy #1 - The House Fly

by Natasha Hollenbach, Digital Services Technician

Have you ever looked at a house fly and thought that it might be the cause of your death? Probably not, but during the early 1900s, the house fly was denounced by public health officials and newspapers across the country.

Called the Queen of the Rubbish Heap [1], the house fly was blamed for transmitting every major contagious disease, including typhoid, cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and smallpox. Thus the house fly stood at the crossroads of two movements in public health, the scientific quest to understand the nature and causes of disease and the resulting effort to prevent them.

Roundup Record (Roundup, MT)
July 28, 1911 p1


One of the notable aspects of the cartoon above is that Judge Science is presiding. In newspapers, the life cycle and habits of the house fly were discussed and condemned. In one notable article, the author concludes that the house fly is more evil than the bed bug and that all the public’s revulsion of the bed bug should be transferred to the house fly. [2]

Whitefish Pilot (Whitefish, MT)
June 29, 1911 p6

But just knowing the house fly was the culprit wasn’t enough. It was time to use this newfound knowledge of their habits against them. A major campaign was instituted to exterminate the house fly. Newspapers carried advice from public health officials about how to fly proof homes and deny flies their breeding grounds. This task became so ubiquitous that it carried over into poetry and advertisements. Indeed even school children were brought into the act.  When the Montana State Board of Health 1911 conducted an essay contest in 1911, one of the three topics was “The Evils of the House Fly, and How the House Fly can be Eradicated.” [3]

Saco Independent (Saco, MT)
August 6, 1915 p8


The Enterprise (Malta, MT)
June 15, 1910 p4


But the house fly was really only part of a larger problem: sanitation. The house fly was so dangerous because of the conditions. One of the other essay topics from that same Board of Health contest was “For the best description of an unsanitary back yard located in the district in which the child writing the essay lives, and the evils of such a back yard. Please note that the evils of the back yard should be treated not only from the standpoint of the effect on individuals owning and conducting the yard, but from the standpoint of the effect of such a yard on the community at large.” This focus led to community “clean-up days” in which either the state or community chose a day, usually in early spring, when all businesses and schools closed so everyone could focus on cleaning up the rubbish that had accumulated over the winter. The Clean-up Pointers below give insight to the mindset of the people and a glimpse of the conditions of their daily lives.

Blackfoot Optimist (Blackfoot Idaho)
April 1, 1915 p7

It’s easy to take our living conditions for granted so the next time you see a house fly stop and consider that a hundred years ago it might have caused your death. Then swat it with a fly swatter. After all, it’s still a potential public health hazard.

[1] The Libby Herald. (Libby, MT), July 25, 1913, p6. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.
[2] "The House-Fly and B.B." The Yellowstone Monitor. (Glendive, MT), July 4, 1912, p8. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.
[3] "Sanitary Education -- Contest for School Children." The Enterprise. (Malta, MT), October 12, 1911, p1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.