June 14, 2018

In Search of the Oldest Montana Photograph, Part 1

by Jeff Malcomson, MHS Photo Archives Manager

What is the oldest photograph taken in Montana? This question haunts the staff of the MHS Photograph Archives. Hundreds of thousands of variously interesting, even compelling, historical images, but which are the oldest, and which one can claim that incredible status of being the oldest of them all?  For a repository of historical materials, the oldest items are often some of the most significant, and in many ways, they help us define the most prized objects in our collections. The problem with labeling items as “the oldest” for archivists and historians is almost always in the details.

An ambrotype (C969-001) showing a mining camp scene in French Gulch, dated Aug. 23, 1862.]
Enter the French Gulch ambrotype.  It is a prized cased image showing a small mining camp high in the mountains. Written on the back of the case in handwriting is “French Gulch, Aug. 23, 1862.”  The photograph was donated to the Montana Historical Society Library in early June of 1969 by the grandson of a man who was reportedly a gold prospector in the Rockies during the 1860s.  In the September 1969 issue of the Society’s newsletter, Montana Post, MHS staff reported the interesting news: “this could be it…MONTANA’S OLDEST PICTURE.”  While mistakenly referring to the cased image as a tintype (an easy mistake because the donor referred to it as a tintype) and quoting the wrong year (1863 instead of 1862), the staff gave it tentative status as what they believed to be “the earliest picture ever taken in Montana.”

Nov/Dec. 1969 issue of Montana Post on the status of the French Gulch ambrotype as the 'oldest picture'.
This theory was quickly shot down in the following issue of Montana Post, when the staff reported the comments of veteran Smithsonian ethnologist, John C. Ewers, denouncing the image’s hopeful status as the “earliest.”  Ewers stated, “We know that John Mix Stanley was taking daguerreotypes of Blackfoot Indians as early as 1853.”  And he continued, “we also know that a member of Reynolds’ expedition to the Yellowstone in 1858 took pictures—of Crow Indians if not other subjects.”  He reported that he had not located any surviving daguerreotypes from Stanley’s work, but thought he had found prints from the Crow portraits taken by the Reynolds’ party’s photographer and, yet, did not mention where those were found.

With Ewers’ muddying of the already murky waters, the French Gulch cased image - discovered to be an ambrotype in the intervening years - held a place near the front of the line as likely one of the oldest extant photographs of Montana, certainly from its mining gold rush days of the 1860s.  For many years, we continued to believe it was taken at one of two different early mining camps in Montana known as French Gulch, most likely the one 15 or so miles south of Anaconda.  The date of Aug. 1862 would have been very early indeed since our first major gold discovery was in summer 1862 at Bannack.  We considered this photo perhaps the first photographic evidence of a small, primitive mining camp in Montana.

This past January, I endeavored to finally lay to rest the question about the location of this compelling and significant image, let alone its very early date.  Because the mountains on the horizon in the background of the image are fairly distinct and appear to be above tree line, I thought that they would be crucial to pinpointing the location, or at the very least, to ruling out other potential locations.  After investigating the two French Gulch locations in Montana, I determined that neither of them matched.

Discouraged, I noted that the writing on the back said only “French Gulch” with no state or territory designation.  Why not see if there was a French Gulch in Idaho where mining occurred slightly before it did here in Montana?  I found one possible location in northern Idaho but again the topography of mountains above the tree line did not fit.  Because I attended graduate school at Colorado State University and had studied some Colorado mining history, I next thought of Colorado. Back to Google maps and the only result for Colorado was French Gulch Road in Breckenridge, Colorado.  I switched to the 3D mode and looked along what appeared to be French Gulch. Looking back toward Breckenridge and the ski slopes, the mountain ridgeline came into view.  To my astonishment the peaks right above the ski slopes (now known to be Peaks 8, 9, and 10) fit very precisely the ridgeline in the French Gulch ambrotype.  The date certainly better fits French Gulch, Colorado as well, since the peak of early mining activity was post-1859 and into the early 1860s.

Comparison of French Gulch ambrotype image with Google Maps 3D image.
The French Gulch ambrotype, for nearly 50 years thought to be one of the earliest photographs taken in Montana, turns out to be an early Colorado image.  The search for Montana’s oldest extant photograph continues…

May 24, 2018

Campbell Farming Co. and the "Wheat King of the World"

by Kelly Burton, Film Archivist

Machinery in the Campbell Farming Co. fields (collection PAc 91-86)
The life of agriculturalist Thomas D. Campbell was largely defined by the merging of farming practices with those of large-scale business. Born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Campbell applied his engineering education to the mechanizing of a 95,000-acre wheat farm on land leased from the Crow and Fort Peck reservations in Montana. As special adviser to the Soviet government in 1929, he assisted in the agricultural development of 10 million acres as part of Joseph Stalin’s first Five-Year Plan. Campbell subsequently served as a farming advisor to the British government and to the French government in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. He entered the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel in World War II at the age of sixty and was later named as a permanent brigadier general of the honorary U.S. Army Reserve by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Montana historian Joseph Kinsey Howard described Campbell as the “acknowledged ‘wheat king of the world’ and one of the most theatrical figures in public life” in 1949, stating that “praise and castigation have been equally intemperate and few have been able to make sense out of his complex character.” (1)

Thomas Campbell (left) greeting a farm visitor at the train station (collection PAc 91-86)
As a pioneer of industrialized corporate farming in the early decades of the twentieth century, Thomas Campbell distinguished his Hardin, Montana farming business by producing more wheat than any other. He expressed his approach to agriculture in the June 1928 issue of The Magazine of Business: “Farming should be considered as a manufacturing business, with a proper record of costs and a constant endeavor to reduce these costs. (2) There is no doubt but that the greatest industrial opportunity in the United States today is in agriculture and the biggest opportunity for the technical college man is in agricultural engineering. Some day there will be a farming organization comparable in size to United States Steel or General Motors, for food is the most necessary commodity of all.” (3)

Battling a straw stack fire at Campbell Farming Co. (collection PAc 91-86)
 The films that comprise the Montana Historical Society’s Campbell Farming Co. collection were shot between the mid-1920s and the early-1930s, and they demonstrate what Campbell considered one of his major contributions to industrial agriculture: the windrow method of harvesting. Doug Edwards, a Campbell Fellow researching in the MHS Archives, described Campbell’s orchestration of large-scale activities for the cameras: “The sequence of starting the combines, cutting the grain, and making a turn gives the impression of manufacturing precision: the farm as a factory. Campbell’s use of the movies to advertise his farming operations demonstrates his ability as a promoter. The ‘enginemen’ operated the tractors and combines in precise sequence for the cameraman, and Campbell had the cameraman focus on specific steps of the operation when he demonstrated his windrow method.” (4) In addition to recording harvesting activities, the films show other day-to-day operations such as the modification and repairing machinery in the company shop and battling the occasional fire in the farm’s straw stacks. Campbell can be seen throughout these films, greeting guests at the nearby Montana train station, eating lunch with his field crew, and traveling around the farm in his Stutz-Bearcat convertible.

Farmers in Russia (collection PAc91-86)
 While the primary function of the Campbell Farming Co. films was the promotion of industrialized and mechanized agricultural practices, Campbell also used the motion picture camera to document more personal moments with his wife and children. His daughters can be seen enjoying several outdoor activities in these reels, riding horses on their father’s Montana farm and visiting what is presumably the Columbia Gardens amusement park in Butte. Several members of the Campbell family also accompany the agriculturalist on his return consultation trip to Russia in 1930. Footage from this excursion shows the family making the ocean voyage, visiting various ports of call, and engaging with locals as they travel to farm sites across the Soviet Union.

Campbell's daughters on the Campbell Farming Co. property (collection PAc 91-86)
The Campbell Farming Co. films were donated to the Montana Historical Society by Phoebe Knapp Warren, Thomas Campbell’s granddaughter, on September 4, 1991. Originally shot by both Campbell and a larger production crew on 35mm cellulose nitrate film, the deteriorating and hazardous reels were transferred to new polyester stock in the late 1990s with the help of a Cultural/Aesthetic Project grant funded by the Montana Cultural Trust Fund. VHS copies of the films were created during the transfer to new stock, and these cassettes are available for viewing in the Historical Society’s Research Center.

Film production assistant with Campbell (front, center) and his work crew (collection PAc 91-86)

  1.  Joseph Kinsey Howard, “Tom Campbell: Farmer of Two Continents,’ Harper’s Magazine, March 1949: 56.
  2. Thomas D. Campbell, “What the Farmer Really Needs,” The Magazine of Business, June 1928: 725.
  3. Ibid. 752.
  4. MHS vertical file, Campbell Farms.

May 10, 2018

World War II in Sanders County

by Natasha Hollenbach, Digital Projects Librarian

Nameplate of the Sanders County Independent-Ledger, December 3, 1941
If you’ve ever looked at newspapers published during either world war, you know that typically newspapers become consumed by war news, most of it consisting of national coverage by entities like AP, instead of locally or even state produced news. While the Sanders County Independent-Ledger did have some national coverage, most of the 8 pages per issue remained focused on how the war affected Sanders County.
Sanders County Independent-Ledger, December 10, 1941, p1
I expected the Pearl Harbor attack to be the major headline in the issue following the attack, but there were no screaming headlines and only one direct reference: a proclamation by the County Commissioners declaring “ourselves in behalf of the people of this county, State of Montana, to be wholeheartedly in support of our government and will do everything in our power and capacity to repel, defeat and crush the enemy…” [1] There were two other articles related to the consequences of the attack. One called “Defense Steps” talked about a report written in late October or early November which concluded that while enemy bombing of Sanders County was unlikely, sabotage was a concern, especially the possibility that enemy agents could set forest fires thereby creating “a serious hazard to airplane operations” [2] and destroying the timber supply. To defend against this threat, another article informed readers that “The office of the Sanders County Defense Commission will be held open from 9:00 A. M. until 8:00 P. M. for the purpose of registering men for Guard Service in Sanders County, bridges, power lines, etc.” [3] After a little thought, it occurred to me that this issue was published on December 10, by which point most people had probably heard details about the attack from the radio so why would the newspaper spend precious space telling their readers what they already knew?
Sanders County Independent-Ledger, May 20, 1942, p5
With this local focus in mind, even the ads from national organizations seemed more targeted. There was a map (above) of the Official U. S. Treasury War Bond Quotas for May 1942 showing the amount to be raised by each Montana county. Meanwhile, the War Production Board focused their scrap metal drives on heavy farm equipment. Check out the bottom of this ad (below) where we learn what a tractor, a plow, a stove and a pump were each turned into.
Sanders County Independent-Ledger, June 9, 1943, p5
From how rubber and gas rationing was affecting business to the farm labor shortage, this paper - instead of just announcing regulations and orders - reported their consequences on the community. Still the country was at war, so of particular interest were the local boys serving in the armed forces. “If you are one of our subscribers and your son earns promotion let us know about it so we can mention him with the rest of the boys whom we are proud of” declared the newspaper. [4] Not only did they print draft registrations, enlistments, commissions, and promotions, as the war continued, letters written by the soldiers, sailors and airmen were printed. Occasionally these communications included poetry, my personal favorite being this one by Dave Grant.

 Sanders County Independent-Ledger, January 6, 1943, p1
Newspapers provide a glimpse into another time, and that view is never more powerful than when they show how big events impact their local communities.

[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid

April 25, 2018

Les Jorud and "The Seventh Annual Vigilante Day Parade"

By Kelly Burton, Film Archivist

Costumed students from The Seventh Annual Vigilante Day Parade (collection PAc 90-50)

When speaking of photography in Helena, Montana, few names are as recognizable as that of Leslie H. Jorud (September 19, 1899 – August 21, 1977). Over the course of five decades, Jorud’s career in photography took him “into a cage with five lions, 275 feet up inside the smokestack at the AS & R smelter in East Helena, into morgues and operating rooms, into the wilderness alone with a nervous horse who wanted to go home, into a bucket over Canyon Ferry dam, down into mines, up steep mine shafts, in airplanes and to all the major events in Helena.”[1] In addition to the 50,000 negatives and 7,000 prints currently being processed in the Montana Historical Society’s Photo Archives, the institution is also home to 47 motion picture films created by the Jorud Family. These 16mm home movies span the early-1930s through the mid-1950s, and they provide contemporary viewers with a wonderful document of Montana culture during the first half of the twentieth century.

Costumed students from The Seventh Annual Vigilante Day Parade (collection PAc 90-50)

One of the major Helena events to be captured by the Jorud Family movie camera is the Vigilante Day Parade. Boasting elaborate costumes and floats that find a common theme in the region’s past, the event is perhaps better described as a mobile history pageant. A public letter from former Helena High School principal (and then-current Helena mayor) Albert J. Roberts in 1939 provides the most thorough narrative concerning the parade’s inception. Roberts claims to have inherited several school traditions that were “subversive to discipline, often lawless in character, and in the main hostile to the good work and reputation of the school,”[2] the worst being the ‘Senior-Junior Fight’. The activity moved to Helena streets and alleys after being banned by the school administration, and “a few boys each year came out of the fray with black eyes, bloody noses, teeth knocked out, faces scratched and bodies bruised, all for the honor of the ‘biggest and best class ever graduated from the Helena high school.’”[3] Other attempts to celebrate the end of the school year – ‘Sneak Day,’ ‘Old Clothes Day,’ ‘Hard Times Day,’ and ‘Costume Day’ – eventually became the Vigilante Day Parade: “After much serious discussion of the situation, and other readjustments of the entire activity program of the upper-classes, it was decided to put on a big historical pageant, in which every boy and girl in High School would have an essential part. The pageant, later called the Vigilante Parade, was intended to present in the main the adventurous life and colorful customs of the Montana Pioneer, especially the Pioneer of Last Chance Gulch. To the promotion, work and achievement of this program, the Senior and Junior classes gave their wholehearted support, a pledge, which to the present time has been faithfully and diligently observed.”[4]

Costumed students and spectators from The Seventh Annual Vigilante Day Parade (collection PAc 90-50)

While the MHS moving image archives contains several reels of the Vigilante Parade in various collections, the Jorud Family footage from May 16, 1930 represents the oldest and best-preserved film of the pageant at the MHS repository. Though only in its seventh year at the time of the film’s creation, the event garners a sense of civic enthusiasm that is echoed in the advance newspaper coverage: “The parade this year will equal or surpass that of preceding years, the boys and girls declare. The streets will be cleared of cars, and the juvenile burlesquers will be given the fullest latitude for their performances. Already the youngsters of Helena are excitedly discussing the Vigilante Parade as the next local event of superlative importance. It will be a grand and glorious event from all standpoints of the rising generation.”[5] The anticipatory article goes on to describe several of the entries to be captured by the Jorud Family camera, including the “old swayback horse and two-wheeled cart illustrating the rig of early days, the six-horse stagecoach of Canyon Ferry, a hangman’s float with a replica of Hangman’s tree, and a long string of pack mules lent by the federal government.”[6] At almost twelve minutes, the reel documents preparations by students on the day the parade, the passing of dozens of the historical entries along the pageant route, and audience reactions to many of the displays.

Costumed students and spectators from The Seventh Annual Vigilante Day Parade (collection PAc 90-50)

Home movies such the one created by the Jorud Family provide great insight into the evolution of our civic traditions – they allow us to see what has changed and what remains the same. Mayor Albert Roberts happily noted in 1939 that “thousands of our citizens have obtained a knowledge of the life and customs, of the thrilling story of the early days in the Treasure State”[7] through the Vigilante Day Parade. The 94th Annual celebration of the pageant takes place in Helena on May 4, 2018, and one supposes that Roberts would be still more excited to learn that his fledgling event is now nearing its centennial.

The hangman's tree and spectators from The Seventh Annual Vigilante Parade (collection PAc 90-50)

[1] Helena Independent Record, June 26, 1955.
[2] Helena Independent Record, May 28, 1939.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Helena Independent Record, May 7, 1930.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Helena Independent Record, May 28, 1939.

April 12, 2018

Ephemera 101: When are you going to clean under your bed?

By Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian

ephemera 1 : something of no lasting significance 2 : paper items (such as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles

When mom ordered me to “clean under my bed,” she was not referring to the dust bunnies.  She was despairing over my teenage clutter: movie calendars, church bulletins, pamphlets, tickets, and so much more.  Fortunately, a lot of folks were not raised to worry about such clutter.  Rather, they collected and savored programs, advertisements, bulletins, and more. Some of these memorabilia find their way to the MHS Research Center’s Ephemera Collection.

Recently two pieces of ephemera from 1918 landed at the MHS Library.  These century old documents offer informative glimpses of Helena as well as Montana’s cultural environment.  The first is a theater program dated April 4, 1918 from Helena’s Marlow Theater. In hopes of understanding the context of the piece, I searched the 1918 Helena Independent. I discovered that just the day before, April 3, was the Marlow’s grand opening and Helena’s social event of the year!  Newspaper headlines described the “Capital Elite in Force.”  The sheer spectacle of scenery and costumes of “Show of Wonders” amazed the crowd.  However, the Independent critiqued the chorus as “young and pretty and shapely,” but “not a real voice in the lot.”  Also reported was a generous gift of $50.00 for “Red Cross Women to Attend Marlow Opening,” sent by the vacationing Senator T. C. Power. [1]

The Helena IndependentApril 3, 1918
Marlow Program
April 4, 1918
MHS Research Center Ephemera Collection

The program itself delivers a plethora of historic information.  It lists the schedule for the Marlow in the coming weeks, from vaudeville and musical performances to “black face comedians” and drama.  Fisher’s Millinery, the State Nursery & Seed Company, and Montana Phonograph Company are just a few of the dozens of businesses advertised.  The leaflet also lists the Theater’s stockholders and firms connected to the Theater’s construction.  In short, the program offers an exciting glimpse into Helena’s businesses, society, and the era’s entertainment culture. [2]

Montana State War Conference, May 28-29, 1918
MHS Research Center Ephemera Collection

The second booklet is for the May 28-29, 1918 Montana State War Conference, coincidentally, held at the recently christened Marlow Theater. Numerous delegate organizations are listed.  Governing bodies such as the Red Cross, Liberty Loans, Federal Food Administration, Extension Bureau, and County Councils of Defense are predictable.  The presence of groups such as YMCA, Rotary Clubs, and Knights of Columbus reflects the depth of mainstream participation. The Conference’s patriotic goals were highlight by musical performances of Marseillaise, America, and Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Newspaper reports emphasize the diversity of backgrounds represented by speakers. They included Lt. Paul Perigord, a Catholic priest turned soldier, and Dr. James A. B. Scherer, Lutheran Minister and expert on Japanese relations.  The Independent declared that “in Montana, politics, religion, sex and creed have been forgotten.” The common goal was to “help the national government win the war.” [3]   The many organizations represented at the Conference played integral roles in not only uniting Montanans, but in monitoring and regulating individual behavior. 

While the Marlow program creates images pertaining to 1918 recreation and entertainment, the Montana State War Conference pamphlet reminds readers of the countless organizations and coordinated efforts necessary to win the war.  Two very different perspectives of 1918 Montana, both accessed through items not meant to last a house cleaning – ephemera. 

[1] “Helena Theater Opened, Capital Elite in Force,” pg. 1 & 7,  “Senator T.C. Power Gives $50,” pg. 8, Helena Independent, April  3,1918.
[2] See Montana Historical Society Research Center Ephemera Collection, “Helena (Montana)-Theatres-Marlow Theatre.”
[3] “History is Debated by Councilmen,” Helena Independent, May 28, 1918, pg. 1 & 6.

April 2, 2018

National Boot Day...Montana-Style, April 13, 2018

Barbara Pepper-Rotness, MHS Research Center Reference Librarian

April 13th is #NationalBootDay and we are celebrating it Montana-style…with cowboy boots, of course! Visit us April 13, 2018 wearing your western-style boots to receive free admission.

Also, we are creating a new Pinterest board dedicated to this day and we need your help! Read below to learn how you can play our Facebook sweepstakes and participate in this collaborative collection.

The picture of the cowboy boots below is our most popular image on Pinterest and is the inspiration for our #NationalBootDay event.
Image: MHS Museum #2004.47.01
Play to win:
  • Two books published by the Montana Historical Society Press
    • A Tender Foot in Montana, by Francis M. Thompson, ed. by Kenneth N. Owens
    • Charlies Russell Roundup, ed. by Brian Dippie
  • One issue of Montana The Magazine of Western History
  • Several postcards from our store
  • MHS bookmarks and pencils from the Research Center

Play to win:
Gifts you could win (minus the boots)
Image by Tom Ferris, MHS Photographer

Enter Sweepstakes:
  • Go to our Facebook Page to enter.
  • Add one clear, close-up image of your cowboy or western-style boots (boots only, no people) in the Comments field of our April 13 #NationalBootDay Facebook post. Submissions for the contest will be accepted through 5:00pm on April 16th.
  • “Pick a Winner”, a third-party app sponsored by Woobox, will randomly select a winner at 5:01pm (MDT) April 16th.
  • Photos will be displayed on our Pinterest #NationalBootDay…Montana-Style board*.
 *During the month of April, you can watch our Pinterest ‘channel’ set to the #NationalBootDay board. Click on the Pinterest tab (no mobile access) on the left side of our Facebook Page and watch this gallery grow!

Well-worn cowboy boots
Image by Tom Ferris, MHS Photographer
  • Must be eighteen years or older to win.
  • Must be a resident of the United States to win.
  • We reserve the right to remove any images that contain faces, names, profanity, nudity, hateful or political content. Removal of your image will nullify your eligibility.
  • Employees of MHS are restricted from entering contest. 
  • No purchase necessary to win.
  • Playing this game is not required to receive free admission to the museum on April 13th; nor, is admission to the museum contingent upon entering the contest.
  • Must access our Facebook Page to play.
  • Submit one clear (not blurred) image, 600 x 900 pixels minimum for Pinterest.
  • We will not use names for any purpose other than to notify and announce the winner.
  • Winner will be notified by April 17, and winner will be announced (after verifying his/her compliance with our official rules) on Facebook no later than April 30, 2018.

  • By entering this contest, you agree to a complete release of Facebook and Pinterest from any liability in connection with this contest.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, associated with, or administered by Facebook, Pinterest, or, other social networks.
  • By adding your image in the Comments field of our #NationalBootDay Facebook post, you are granting MHS permission to use image on other social media.
  • Prize has no cash value.

March 22, 2018

A Visit from Silent Cal

by Kelly Burton, Film Archivist

President Calvin Coolidge and Superintendent Horace Albright at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1927 (PAc 93-25)

When speaking about photography in the American West, few names are as ubiquitous as Haynes. Frank Jay Haynes made his name by documenting the settlement of the west, ultimately becoming the first official photographer of Yellowstone National Park. Upon his retirement in 1916, his son, Jack Ellis Haynes, inherited his father’s business and continued as the official park photographer until his death in 1962. Jack began shooting motion picture film of Yellowstone shortly after the advent of 16mm film in 1923, and aside from a handful of commercial films for the park and the Northern Pacific Railway, these films can be classified as home movies. The Jack Ellis Haynes collection at the Montana Historical Society (PAc 93-25) documents Yellowstone’s ecology and its employees from the 1920s to the 1950s, as well as Jack’s family life during this time. Footage of his 1930 marriage to Isabel Nauerth is part of the collection, and the couple’s daughter, Lida, grows up in front of her father’s camera lens.

Dr. Hubert Work (center) with Albright (right) in Yellowstone National Park, 1927 (PAc 93-25)

In addition to capturing the daily lives of those who lived and worked within the park, the collection also documents the leisure time of several well-known Yellowstone visitors. One reel in particular highlights the amount of promotion that Superintendent Horace Albright undertook on behalf of the park in the very busy year of 1927. Labeled the “Celebrities Reel” by the Haynes Studio, this film features several notable names from the worlds of politics and finance: Dr. Hubert Work, Secretary of the Interior; Judge John H. Edwards, Assistant Secretary of the Interior; Dr. John Merriam, president of the Carnegie Institution in Washington D.C.; Dr. Harold Bryant, founder of the Yosemite Field School of Natural History; Will H. Hays, former U.S. Postmaster General and first chairman of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA); and Kenneth Chorley from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Foundation. It is worth noting that Yellowstone’s southern neighbor, Grand Teton National Park, was established in 1929, due in large part to Albright’s promotional efforts in the region.

Grace and Calvin Coolidge at Camp Roosevelt in Yellowstone, 1927 (PAc 93-25)

The most famous visitor on the “Celebrities Reel” is arguably President Calvin Coolidge, who came to Yellowstone with his wife, Grace, and his son, John, in the summer of 1927. After spending several weeks at their vacation lodge in South Dakota’s Black Hills, Interior Secretary Hubert Work urged the family to spend time in nearby Yellowstone before returning to Washington. (1) According to Albright’s memoir, the surprise visit came shortly after Coolidge issued the statement that he would not seek a second full term as president:
“Having made his decision not to run, he had thought he might as well add a few days to his vacation and get in some fishing in the park before returning to the summer heat of Washington. Bill Starling of the Secret Service came to Yellowstone with an advance party to check on security procedures, and wanted special protection measures taken. Starling told me not to announce ahead of time where the President would be going, and to be flexible with the planning because they might change the schedule with no notice. While I wanted to make it possible for the President to get his rest and relaxation fishing, I did not intend to miss the opportunity to push for some of our priorities.” (2)
Superintendent Albright ultimately satisfied Coolidge’s predilection for fishing, (3) and was even witness to the quiet president’s “peculiar style of wry, taciturn wit,”(4) but was somewhat less successful in discussing matters of park promotion with the president at that time. (5)

Albright and Coolidge at Artist Point in Yellowstone, 1927 (PAc 93-25)

The Haynes footage of the visit begins with the presidential motorcade approaching the north entrance to the park in Gardiner, Montana. Mounted park rangers salute from the side of the road as the automobile procession passes through Roosevelt Arch, so named for the president that laid its cornerstone in 1903. The touring group then poses in front of a wooden building at Camp Roosevelt, east of Mammoth Hot Springs on the Wyoming side of Yellowstone. Artist Point overlook on the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone provides Haynes with the most significant images from the celebrity visit, and it is from these viewing platforms that we see Superintendent Albright pointing out various features of the landscape to President Coolidge and his family.

Calvin, John, and Grace Coolidge at Artist Point, 1927 (PAc 93-25)

The Jack Ellis Haynes collection consists of 141 reels of 16mm film. Twenty of these films are available for viewing in the Montana Historical Society Research Center, and two of the commercial productions, Magic Yellowstone and Yellowstone Park: Scenic Wonderland of America, can be watched on the MHS Moving Image Archive YouTube playlist.

(1) Richard Bartlett. Yellowstone: A Wilderness Besieged (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1985), 97.
(2) Horace M. Albright. The Birth of the National Park Service: the founding years (Salt Lake City: Howe Bros., 1985), 211-212.
(3) Bartlett, 97-98.
(4) Albright, 212.
(5) Bartlett, 98.

March 15, 2018

Oh, The Places You'll Go: A Research Request Journey

by Barbara Pepper-Rotness, Reference Librarian

The Montana Historical Society’s Research Center receives an average of twenty paid requests per month for information on various subjects. No matter the topic, each request provides us with a question we must answer and forces us to look more in-depth at materials we may not have previously. Once the search begins, we embark on a journey that hopefully leads to an answer; or, at minimum, provides the patron with one or two pieces of the puzzle he/she is trying to solve. Whatever the question, we are always fascinated by what we learn.

A request for information about a building in Helena arrived recently. The patron was interested in knowing when this structure was first built and who resided there, both of which are typically easy to ascertain.

After verifying that the building is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, we can use the Helena Polk City Directories to determine who currently resides at the address. We can also see who lived there when it was first built by searching under the street address (only in the Polk’s from 1929 to the present).

1954 Polk City Directory

When was it built, though? We used the current resident’s name found in the Polk City Directory to search for the property in the online Montana Cadastral database. Nothing came up, though.  Since this database is for valuation of property owned, the most likely explanation is that the person who resides or does business there is not the owner. If you don’t have a name to search, you can zoom in on the associated map. Once you select the correct plat, the corresponding data will display. The cadastral data indicates that this cabin was built in 1953 and we can verify that against the Polk Directory to see if the address is listed before 1953. It wasn’t. In addition, we can check our Helena Sanborn maps for surveys of that area. In the collection of 1930-revised-to-1953 maps, there was nothing surveyed above the 1500 block of 11th Avenue.

Because our patron also wanted information about the people who resided at that location, we must go back to the Polk City Directories and determine who lived there when. We tracked that ownership from the first resident to the present, noting each year the ownership changed.

From the Spokesman Review, November 11, 1951, p.2
The gem of this search, however, was learning about the first owner, Jean Barnes Allen, who resided and did business at 1807 11th Avenue. We were pleasantly surprised to find a vertical file for her and it held surprises of its own. Jean sold, from her home business, antler and horn carvings that she fashioned into buttons, belts, and jewelry.

From the Great Falls Tribune, November  18, 1962, p.2

The highlight of Jean’s life, though, was when she rode an eleven-year-old Morgan horse called Black Beauty 1500 miles from Deer Lodge, Montana to Chicago, by herself, for the Century of Progress Exposition of 1933, a trip that took sixty-eight days. Although on her own for the ride itself, and with only $10.00 in her pocket, she was greeted by fans and was welcomed into homes along the way. Of her experience in Chicago, she commented, “I had been told to watch out for gangsters in Chicago, but the only person I saw who looked like a gangster turned out to be an evangelist.”

From the Great Falls Tribune, November 18, 1962, p.2

We never know what we will learn, and will want to continue learning about, in our quest to help our patrons!

Mac, ‘Tana. “Helena Woman recalls 1,500-Mile Ride on Horse.” Great Falls Tribune, November 18, 1962.
Friesen, Phyllis L. “When Extra Money Needed…Hobby Became Career.” Great Falls Tribune, March 29, 1970.
Helton, Dorothy. “Montana Headline Girl Runs Side-of-the-road Shop” Spokesman Review, November 11, 1951.

March 2, 2018

Montana Madness: The Other Big Tournament This March

This March, sixteen objects from the Montana Historical Society’s vast collections are competing in “Montana Madness” for the title of Montana’s Most Awesome Object.

The competition, modeled on the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, will pit object against object from the Montana Historical Society’s museum, archives, and library collections.
Throughout the month, objects will face-off in online polls that will be promoted on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #MontanaMadness. But the game isn’t limited to Facebook and Twitter. Anyone can download a Sweet Sixteen bracket from the Montana Historical Society website home page, where they can also vote on the objects they think should advance in the tournament.

Those voting through the website can enter a sweepstakes to win a one-year family membership to the Montana Historical Society, a signed copy of Montana's Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society, by Jennifer Bottomly-O'looney and Kirby Lambert, or a 7 ½” x 9 ½” print of Night Storm, by Blackfeet artist Gale Running Wolf, Sr.

According to MHS Historical Specialist Martha Kohl, “The Montana Madness competition is our way of having a little fun while looking to expand the audience for Montana history.”
History enthusiasts chose the Sweet Sixteen competitors from 65 objects displayed in the Society’s new online exhibit, “Appropriate, Curious, & Rare: Montana History Object by Object.”

Let's meet the Sweet 16 objects and view the matchups. For the story behind the object, follow the links in blue below.

Group A - Voting March 5-March 11

The Smith Mine Disaster Board, 1943 (#1 Seed) squares off against the "Square & Compass" Branding Iron, 1899 (#16 Seed), both from Montanans at Work.

Lewis and Clark Bridge Near Wolf Point, 1930 (#5 Seed) from Montanans in Motion plays the game with the Faro Board and Casekeep, ca. 1920 (#12 Seed) from Montanans at Play.

White Swan's Painted Robe, ca. 1880 (#4 Seed) from Montanans in Conflict faces off against Fort Benton Weather Vane, ca. 1854 (#13 Seed) from Coming to Montana.

Elk Tooth Dress, before 1860 (#7 Seed) from Montana Before Montana versus A’aninin (Gros Ventre) Tipi Liner, 1875-1900 (#10 Seed) from Montanans at Home: in a style battle between fashion and home decor, which one is better?

Group B - Voting March 12-March 18

Montana State Federation of Labor Certificate of Affiliation, 1908 (#2 Seed) tries to organize its way out of the challenge thrown down by Cree Gauntlet Gloves, 1910 (#15 Seed), both from Becoming Montanans.

Shoe Worn by Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, ca. 1914 (#6 Seed) from Montana and the Nation has a crushing competition with Petroglyph, 350-2,000 before present (#11 Seed) from Montana Before Montana.

When the Land Belonged to God by Charles M. Russell, 1914 (#3 Seed) from Montana State of Mind battles Fisherman's Map of Montana by Jolly Lindgren, 1940 (#14 Seed) from Montanans at Play.

Letter Written at Three Forks, Montana, 1810 (#9 Seed) from Coming to Montana tries to (paper)cut the Beaded Cradleboard, ca. 1900 (#8 Seed) from Montanans in Motion out of the competition.

Don't miss your chance to participate.  Download your bracket today!

February 22, 2018

Lee Metcalf's Reports from Washington

by Kelly Burton, Film Archivist

It seems only fitting that the third largest moving image collection at the Montana Historical Society documents the professional career of Lee W. Metcalf, one of the state’s most industrious public servants. Between the years 1937 and 1952, Metcalf served as a Montana state congressman, state assistant attorney general, World War II soldier and military prosecutor, and a Montana Supreme Court Associate. From 1953 to 1961, he held Montana’s First District United States Representative seat, and in 1962, he became the first Montana native to serve his home state in the U.S. Senate. His career as a Democratic senator was distinguished by a long list of progressive measures, many of which were related to conservation and environmental protection legislation. In addition to his passion for regional and national ecological concerns, Metcalf was also known for turning his attention to a host of complex societal issues such as health care, veterans’ rights, consumer protection, public education, firearms, and poverty. Metcalf served Montana in the U.S. Senate until his death on January 12, 1978 and was ranked number 15 on a list of the 100 Most Influential Montanans of the Century by The Missoulian in 1999.

Given the progressive nature of his political endeavors and his desire to reach the voting public en masse, it is no surprise that Metcalf’s office was responsible for the creation of a large volume of motion picture films and videotapes. The Lee Metcalf moving image collection at the Historical Society consists of 388 reels of 16mm film, with an additional 38 items on various video and digital formats. These 426 items pertain directly to Metcalf’s political endeavors between 1959 and 1973, and his work in both the House and the Senate is represented within these documents. Campaign commercials with twenty, thirty, and sixty second running times were recorded by Metcalf and his team, and the themes of these advertisements give us a clear idea of the policies that he was addressing with his constituents: education, farming, industrial and small business development, social security, unemployment, taxation, and conservation, to name a few. Certain commercials also feature endorsements by like-minded politicians in Washington, D.C., and these films show strong support for Metcalf from such prominent figures as Senators’ Mike Mansfield and Edward Kennedy and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The collection also contains various speeches given by Metcalf during this period, with appearances being filmed both inside and outside of Montana.

From Metcalf’s “Washington Report” of May 12, 1966 (Lot 31)

The bulk of the items in the Metcalf moving image collection represent installments in a series of television films created by the politician’s team during his time in the Senate, the purpose of which were to inform constituents of current political issues via mass media. “Report from Washington” (1963-1965) and “Washington Report” (1965-1967) feature Metcalf addressing the camera in an office setting, and often in conversation with a political contemporary who has detailed knowledge of the subject at hand. Topics of conversation in this series are as far-reaching as those found in his campaign films, and the participants regularly discuss specific policies and pieces of legislation: Medicare, Minuteman-II missile production, Peace Corps, the Economic Opportunity Act, and the Veterans’ Readjustment Act. The issues directly related to Montana are often environmental in nature, including the creation of Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area, the building of Libby Dam, increased protection of migrating waterfowl, and the Great Plains Conservation Program.

Production script from 60 second commercial 
MC 172, Box 646, Folder 3
Script from Kennedy endorsement commercial 
MC 172, Box 646, Folder 3

As with many of the items in the moving image archives, the content of Metcalf’s films can be greatly enhanced by information from other collections within the Historical Society. The Lee Metcalf photograph collection contains over 3,500 items, many of which similarly record his extensive political career. We also have access to a wealth of textual information related to the senator’s films in the Lee Metcalf papers, a collection which boasts over 300 linear feet of documentary material. Copies of recorded speeches, scripts of political endorsements, detailed information on general campaign commercials, transcripts from the “Report from Washington/Washington Report” television films, and even teleprompter printouts from televised addresses can all be found within these files. Such items provide a meaningful window into the production process undertaken by Metcalf and his staff, thus giving us an idea of just how much work went into the completion of a single film.

Section of a teleprompter script 
MC 172, Box 646, Folder 3

Several items from the Metcalf collection have now been digitized, and a selection of these films can be seen on the MHS moving image archive YouTube channel and in the Research Center reference room.