March 31, 2010

Prison Record Search Turns into an Interesting Story

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

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

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


Guide to the Montana State Prison records 1869-1974

Prison Registers, State Microfilm 36

Terry Tribune, April 4, 1930.

March 19, 2010

Happy little accidents

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

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

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

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

March 3, 2010

Montana History…in 3D!

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

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

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

Finding Aids on the Northwest Digital Archives

March 1, 2010

Connecting our Collections

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

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

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

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