December 19, 2012

Marketing a Merry Christmas

By Patrick McCue
Patrick is working temporarily on the Montana Digital Newspaper Project.
WHILE most people assume that the commercialization of Christmas is a modern phenomenon, I examined the digitized Montana newspapers available at Chronicling America to see if this is true. On December 9, 1865, one Virginia City merchant acknowledged the holiday but without much fanfare. This Frank’s Bakery ad showcases holiday confections, but the adjacent advertisers have not caught on to the season's commercial potential.

Ad in the Montana Post, December 9, 1865
Montana Post, December 9, 1865, p. 3 
A year later, the paper’s editor took it upon himself to direct readers toward an ad for Christmas goods. 

Montana Post, December 22, 1866, p. 8

The editor also offers a distinctly non-commercial message on December 29, 1866:

“Anthems of praise in honor of the sojourn of the Redeemer upon the Earth are this day resounding throughout the world… It is the grand anniversary, compared with which those of nations dwindle into nothingness.”

No references to gifts or reindeer, and no mention of eager children awaiting St. Nick. By the 1880s, things have shifted. Christmas sales are now front-page news, and retailers unabashedly cash in on the holiday spirit. All wares, from garments and toys to jewelry and cigars, are proudly promoted, using creative designs and seasonal slogans. The following ads appeared in the Daily Yellowstone Journal on December 3, 1889.

During the 1890s, Christmas ads begin to appear in November and in greater numbers. This ad sports some clever wordplay: 
Anaconda Standard, November 11, 1897, p. 1

By the new millennium, holiday ads are larger and more sophisticated, as evidenced by these full-page ads from the Fergus County Argus in 1902 and 1904.


Hundreds of ads like these can be found on the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America, where over 54,000 pages of historical Montana newspapers are available for searching and viewing.

December 7, 2012

Acquiring our Collections - The Mulvaney Postcard Collection

Although the Montana Historical Society relies primarily upon donations to build our collections, we occasionally take on the challenge of raising money to purchase large collections that we feel would be significant to the study of Montana history. 
A sample postcard from the Tom Mulvaney Collection.
Recently, we have been presented with and accepted such a challenge. Tom Mulvaney, an East Helena postcard collector, acquired a collection of real-photo and printed postcards over thirty years.  This collection of nearly 32,000 postcards includes cards from 1898 to the 1970s, with the bulk of the collection from pre-1930.  The cards cover a wide variety of topics in Montana history—including mining, agriculture, commerce, western life, and American Indians.  The postcards document the historical landscape of many towns—rural and urban—that still exist and that are no longer part of the Montana landscape.  There are also images of many railroads, both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, main streets and promotional advertising, and Montana artists. 

The Mulvaney Collection provides substantial visual documentation of Montana’s history in the early 20th century.  With many thousands of views illustrating towns and their development; historic events, including strikes and disasters; and appearances by notable personalities, this collection documents many different aspects of Montana history.
Many of the views included in this collection are rare and one-of-a-kind.  The contents of the collection, from both a topical and a format point of view, are very significant to the study and documentation of Montana history.

We look to you, our friends and supporters, for help in acquiring this important collection.  If you are interested in assisting us with this acquisition, visit our webpage for more information.


October 26, 2012

A Grisly Find

By Christine Kirkham
Coordinator, Montana Digital Newspaper Project

It is 1865. An unnamed miner taps alone in an isolated rivulet.

Tap tap.   Tap tap.

Suddenly his mallet echoes with a metallic clank.

Could this be it? Had his luck changed? Was he about to become a rich man?

Back in 1864, as the War Between the States dragged on, four Southern soldiers were brought before Union General Alfred Pleasanton and given a choice: remain POWs in Missouri, or be banished upriver. They chose the unknown hardships awaiting them in remote Montana Territory.

When the adventurous quartet discovered a sensationally rich vein of gold near present-day Townsend, Montana, they named their find after a cause close to their hearts: Confederate Gulch.

Their newfound riches gave rise to stories of fabulous wealth hidden in the hills of Montana. Between 1866 and 1869, over a third of the territory’s population resided near the Gulch, in a raucous boomtown called Diamond City. It's estimated that the value of gold dragged from the region eventually exceeded $30 million.

From the Montana Post, November 4, 1865
From the Montana Post, Virginia City,
Montana Territory, November 4, 1865, page 3
So what became of our hapless miner, tapping away silently until he heard an unexpected sound? Sadly, he had not found his fortune. Instead, his rhythmic pounding had unearthed a hollow cavern hiding a single unmarked coffin.

On November 4, 1865, the Montana Post speculated the corpse was that of a "candidate for hemp"—one of dozens of thieves who preyed on miners and ended life dangling from a noose. Over time, the burial plot sank due to the "heavy downward tendency of the corpse" on its way to a land below the Earth.

And what became of Diamond City? Today it is populated only by ghosts.

Hundreds of stories like this one can be found on the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America, where over 52,000 pages of historical Montana newspapers are available for searching and viewing.

This post was co-authored by Molly Miltenberger, based on research by Caitlin Patterson.

October 11, 2012

"One Man's Trash..."

By Kathryn Kramer
Archivist, Montana Historical Society Research Center
One morning in September, Rich Aarstad, our Senior Archivist, handed me a wrinkled white trash bag with a sad, dirty pile of papers and envelopes in the bottom and told me to find out what was in it.  All I knew then was that the papers had been described on the donation intake form as “1 bag correspondence—1940’s-1950’s Kathryn Teakles”—and that these papers looked like an asthma attack waiting to happen.  Thankfully, I don’t have asthma. I launched myself into the task, and soon, the large green table I call a desk was all but covered in chronological piles of dirty little envelopes with neatly written addresses and faded stamps and stickers, and my hands were covered in a thick layer of dust that turned the water in the sink brown when I washed them.  With each letter I unfolded, a puff of dust would rise into the air, disturbed by the movement of the paper.  I wised up pretty quickly, and took to cleaning each letter with a soft-bristled brush both before and after I opened it.
Letter from Valerie (James' girlfriend and future wife) to Kathryn Teakles.
An archivist does not sit down and read everything in a collection, even when she kind of wants to—there’s simply no time for that when nearly every research center and archives in the world has a mile-long backlog of unprocessed collections.    My job wasn’t just to put the letters in order, though; I would also need to take inventory and describe them for the research center’s records.  As well as noting the names of senders and glancing over opening lines, I picked a few letters from each year at random to read in whole, sometimes searching out more when some interesting event seemed to have occurred.  Slowly, a story began to emerge.  While Mrs. Teakles must have had decades’ worth of correspondence from family and friends over the course of her life, only a few years’ worth had been saved.  It soon became clear why correspondence from the 1940’s dominated the collection when I began to find letter after letter from one of her sons, Philip, on U.S. Air Corps stationary, and V-Mail from another of her sons, James.  Philip’s wife, Margarett, also wrote to her mother-in-law, and curiously, letters from someone named Valerie with a return address in Wales began to appear in 1944—first addressed to “Mrs. Teakles,” but later to “Mom.”  Sometimes one of Valerie’s letters would share an envelope with one from James, and then the return address was literally cut from the page.
What I learned was this:  in 1942, Philip (then thirty-four years old) enlisted in the Army Air Corps and James, nine years his junior, in the Army’s regular service.  Neither saw action; Philip was trained as a flight instructor and James was made a bookkeeper at a military hospital in Wales.  Back home, their mother, a resident of Montana since 1905, returned to her native Washington to work for Boeing as a central systems wiring specialist on B-17’s and B-29’s.  After over a year and a half of training, which he apparently never had much chance during his service to put to use, Philip was discharged in 1944.
Letter from Cpl. James M. Teakles in England, to his
 mother, Kathryn Teakles, in Washington, Oct. 11, 1944.
James, on the other hand, was shipped across the Atlantic at the end of his training, though his service in the 81st General Hospital seems to have been fairly uneventful.  His love life was another matter.  Valerie, whom he met at a dance, was a native of Cardiff whose family did not initially approve of this American beau eight years her senior.  By 1944, James and Valerie were serious enough about one another that he introduced her to his mother via mail and asked them to write to each other regularly, which the women did.  James and Valerie married in 1945, her parents apparently having become reconciled to the idea, and after the war she immigrated to the United States.  Though the collection ends abruptly at the beginning of 1946, other records show that “Jim and Val” both made it home to Montana later that year, that Philip became an air traffic controller after his return to civilian life, and that Kathryn Teakles returned to Helena and lived here until her death in 1962.
The story told by the Teakles correspondence is not one of derring-do or wartime horrors.  None of the people involved actually fought in the war, and they often spent more paper reflecting on romance, family news, and financial troubles than on the global conflict that had forced them apart—and that had brought James and Valerie together.  In other words, it is a story of ordinary people during extraordinary times—and it is a story that was nearly lost but for a donor and a couple of archivists who recognized that treasure sometimes comes disguised as trash.
The Kathryn Teakles Papers (SC 2615) will be available in the Research Center of the Montana Historical Society in the near future.

September 26, 2012

Boom and Bust: What Happened to Montana's Population in the Early 20th Century

By Jeff Malcomson
Government Records Archivist

At the 39th Annual Montana History Conference, held here in Helena last weekend, several members of the MHS staff participated in sessions on the conference topic of homesteading.  In my presentation on the Homestead Boom and its impact on politics and government in MT, I included a couple Powerpoint slides detailing the remarkable population explosion Montana experienced from 1900-1920, and how it came to an end in drought and depression.  I want to share two of these slides in order to reveal their meaning for Montana at this crucial time in its development.
This map shows population growth in Montana by regions from 1900-1920.  The eastern counties grew at the highest rate for the period by far, though the central counties added more total residents.  The western counties displayed a large influx of people in the first decade of the new century, largely due to the opening of the Flathead Reservation to settlement following the allottment program.  However, the western and southwestern sections grew much more slowly than the rest of the state during the period.  By 1920 the central and eastern regions of the state held the majority of Montanans for the first time.  This distinction would hold until the census of 2000 when newcomers to areas like Missoula, Kalispell, and Bozeman would finally surpass eastern and central Montana.

Montana's population grew rapidly each year throughout the 1910s as homesteaders and others flooded into eastern and central Montana.  The chart above displays estimates for Montana's population during this period of the most rapid growth in the state's history.  The state government provided estimates of the state population each year starting in 1915 in its main promotional literature.  They appear to be rough estimates of unknown origin; the state had no real way to gauge population growth at that time.  The figures in the black boxes represent U.S. Census numbers for 1910 and 1920.  I developed my estimates by compiling state school census figures for the period as found in the annual reports of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which documented the population of people 21 years of age and under.  I applied the rates of growth of this population of Montanans and simply applied it to the entire population.  Despite some drawbacks and possible overstatement in my methods, I believe it to be the best estimate we can obtain for the period.  It is important to note when looking at the chart above that a serious drought began impacting Montana in 1917 and continued until 1921.  The school census figures and other problems lead me to conclude that there may be undercounting issues with the 1920 U.S. Census in Montana.

August 10, 2012

Charlie Russell: It’s in the Details

By Tom Ferris
Archival Photographer

The staff of the MHS Museum and Photograph Archives has been busy over the last few months photographing our complete Charles M. Russell collection in high resolution digital format. The work is being done for a coffee table book to be published by the
Montana Historical Society Press, and for the museum’s image archive.When the Land Belonged to God by Charles M. Russell
MHS Staff are digitally photographing every item in the Society's Charles M. Russell collection, including one of Russell's most famous works, "When the Land Belonged To God." 

One benefit of doing this work is that we get to spend a considerable amount of time with each painting, both while we are shooting, and after the fact — as we check detail images, and zoom in on very small areas of each piece. We’ve become bigger fans of Russell’s work and have become aware of how much attention he paid to details. In some of his watercolors, a fully realized facial expression can be rendered with just a few brush strokes, on a person’s head that is about the size of a pea. That requires a serious skill set.

There are many good western painters, but few who had/have Russell’s sense of color or nerve to use it. This detail from the painting shows how Russell used pink, purple, and orange as highlights to paint a branch that surrounds a grouse — a detail that often goes unnoticed.
Detail from When the Land Belonged to God
Detail of grouse from "When the Land Belonged to God." 

In another detail, you will see splashes of turquoise, indigo, and fiery red used to depict a bison skull. A lesser painter would have settled for a palette consisting of grays, browns, and various shades of beige for the branches or the skull.
Detail from When the Land Belonged to God
Detail of bison skull from "When the Land Belonged to God." 

Charlie Russell’s work is known and loved the world over and we believe that one of the reasons for that is the details.

July 27, 2012

Married by the Mob

By Caitlin Patterson
Data Technician, Montana Digital Newspaper Project

Montana’s newspapers often published brief announcements about town visitors, residents who were injured or taken ill, and guests at private gatherings. Most “personals” were one- or two-sentence snippets, but once in awhile an event was entertaining enough to qualify for more detailed treatment.

This was the case in a November 1865 issue of the Montana Post, recounting a recent event in Helena. A young man and a young woman—strangers—happened to arrive in town on the same day. By sundown, they were married. What is interesting is the role played by Helena’s townfolk.  

Married from force, Montana Post excerpt, November 4, 1865, page 3
This item appeared in the Montana Post (Montana's first surviving
newspaper), published in Virginia City, on November 4, 1865,
page 3. We can identify with some certainty the International
Hotel (erected in 1865 at the corner of State and Main in Helena),
but we are unable to verify the H___ House mentioned in the story.
The hapless bride and groom remain anonymous.

The term b’hoy emerges from a 1948 play about the Irish in New York’s middle-class entertainment district, the Bowery. It came to mean any spirited street lad.

You can find this and many other tales from Montana’s newspapers in the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America, where over 30,000 pages of historical Montana newspapers are available for online searching and viewing.

June 21, 2012

A new series: Tales of True Crime in Montana

By Christine Kirkham
Coordinator, Montana Digital Newspaper Project
The Montana Digital Newspaper Project team examines dozens of historical Montana newspapers each week, enumerating the issues and pages. Project deadlines don’t allow time for reading, but occasionally a headline leaps off the page. For me, the crime beat offers the most compelling tales—always lurid, often tragic, and wholly fascinating.

Today's post, Rough on Rats, is the first in our True Crime series. I'm retelling it from reports published in the Anaconda StandardButte Intermountain, and Butte Daily Miner on April 26-27, 1894.

Detail from Rough on Rats sheet music
ROUGH ON RATS was a black paste sold in 15- and 25-cent boxes. According to Fenner’s
Complete Formulary
(1888), it was comprised of arsenic, sugar, lard and “ivory black,” a pigment made
from charred bones. [Detail from “Rough on Rats” sheet music, found at Music for the Nation]

Tales of True Crime:
No. 1--Rough on Rats 
It was Thursday, a typical morning in Butte’s St. James Hotel, across from the train depot. Longtime boarder Bill Scallon strode downstairs for his usual early breakfast before heading off to work at the Montana Central RR. Also in the dining room that morning was the hotel proprietress, Mrs. Henry Jefferson, along with Bill Williams, employed by McQueeney’s transfer line, and C. F. Jones, a foreman with the Northern Pacific. Stopping in for a quick bite was Ernest Hardcastle, a Union Freight clerk who rented a bed up the street. Hardcastle was the first to finish, eating quickly, then rushing off.

It was still early, but hotelier Henry Jefferson was already harried. Sometime after 5:30 a.m., his cook, Andrew Leo, arrived and began to prepare breakfast for the hotel’s 30-odd guests. What happened next is disputed. According to the Standard, the cook argued with the dishwasher and after an extended shouting match, Leo quit and stormed out. The Intermountain states that the argument was between Henry and Leo, while the Daily Miner explains that Leo had behaved strangely for several days and “the supposition is that he is not right in the upper story.”

Despite the backroom melodrama, by 6:30 fresh coffee, oatmeal, and other dishes had been served, and Henry was off attending to hotel business. Within fifteen minutes, screams summoned him to the dining room, where he found his wife violently sick. Williams and Jones were incapacitated, crumpled in their chairs. Scallon lay unconscious on the floor. Despite excruciating pain, Mrs. Jefferson managed to convey her suspicion: they’d been poisoned!

Rough on Rats box
ROUGH ON RATS ads claimed it also destroyed mice,
roaches, flies, beetles, moths, ants, skunks, weasels,
gophers, moles and muskrats. [Image courtesy
of Worthpoint]
Henry sprang into action, running uptown in search of help. He found a physician and together the two men sprinted back to the hotel. When they arrived, the diners’ condition had worsened, and Scallon was near death. Quick action saved four lives. The doctor injected Scallon with a stimulant to restart his heart, and he distributed an antidote. Within hours, the unlucky quartet was recovering. In the commotion, poor Ernie Hardcastle had been forgotten. Shortly after leaving the hotel, he’d become too ill to make his way to work. He was discovered later that day, alone in bed. After treatment, he, too, recovered.

Detectives started their investigation in the kitchen, where they immediately noticed the familiar red and white label of ROUGH ON RATS, a common household product. The open box rested in full view on a shelf near the stove, leading reporters to speculate that after his outburst, Leo silently re-entered the kitchen long enough to spoon some ROUGH ON RATS into the simmering oatmeal. He was never apprehended.
The Butte Intermountain, April 26, 1894, page 5

Hundreds of stories like "Poison in the Oatmeal" can be found on the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America, where over 30,000 pages of historical Montana newspapers are available for searching and viewing. Stay tuned for the next installment in this series.

And keep a close eye on your breakfast.

May 24, 2012

Take 50 pounds of butter, 660 eggs,...

This post comes to you from Senior Archivist Ellie Arguimbau.
Two years from now, in 2014, Montana will celebrate its Territorial Sesquicentennial. For the 100th anniversary of becoming a territory, in 1964, Montana did it up big. A Centennial Train traveled to Washington, D.C. Local events were held across the state. There were beard-growing contests. And Governor and Mrs. Tim Babcock hosted a grand Centennial Ball in Helena. As part of that celebration, Montanans baked an 8 foot by 16 foot birthday cake--big enough to feed 3000! Here is the recipe. (Do not attempt this at home.)
1964 Centennial Cake recipe
The recipe was found in a Centennial Ball scrapbook compiled by Jean Baucus (SC 2610).

May 17, 2012

Religious texts at the Montana Historical Society

Guest post from Allison Badger, a contract cataloger, who has been working at the Research Center for the past 6 months.
As a cataloger I deal with a variety of materials. Some are interesting and some not so much. A few weeks ago, I came across some items that definitely fell into the interesting category: the Montana Historical Society’s collection of Bibles and other religious books. While most of this collection consists of family Bibles, it also includes Catholic prayer books, a Jewish Bible and Methodist hymnals.
On the left, The Holy Bible, containing Old and New Testaments. together with the Apocrypha (undated, owners unknown). On the right, Tresor des ames pieuses ou divers moyens d'atteindre la perfection Chretienne, published in 1869, owned by Philomine Rouleau.
On the left, The Holy Bible, containing Old and New Testaments. together with the Apocrypha (undated, owners unknown). On the right, Tresor des ames pieuses ou divers moyens d'atteindre la perfection Chretienne, published in 1869, owned by Philomine Rouleau.
Before they came to the Montana Historical Society, many of these items belonged to people who played a role in Montana’s history. Materials of interest include Granville Stuart’s The New Testament of Lord Savior Jesus Christ (1881), Governor Samuel Hauser’s family Bible (1853) and a Bible presented to Governor Forrest H. Anderson on the one hundredth anniversary of the Montana ministry of Methodist circuit-rider Brother William W. Van Orsdel. This collection also contains items that were owned by less-well known Montanans. These books include French Catholic prayer books that belonged Philomine Rouleau and James Rodda’s Hymns for the Use of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1872).

Interior pages showing Philomine Rouleau's notations.
Interior pages showing Philomine Rouleau's notations.

Although the volumes themselves are fascinating, it’s the personal touches that truly set them apart. That is, many of the previous owners listed the marriages, births and of deaths of family members within the pages of these books. Some, such as the Hauser Bible, document several generations Hauser family. Others contain a lock of hair or four leaf clover or notes related to various Bible verses. One in particular, the Wood Family Bible, contains the signatures of the family members who owned this Bible.  

For a complete list of what is included in this collection, see the catalog record here. Then click on Catalog Record.

May 8, 2012

Attention, Men of Montana

Have you ever sported a Flatbottom? A Tailored French Fork? How about an Old Southern Colonel? While exploring our vertical file on the 75th anniversary of statehood in 1964, I discovered that the Junior Chamber of Commerce marked the occasion in a singularly masculine way: its members committed to raising a beard in an authentic historical style.

Bulletin: Centennial Beard Styles Courtesy of Frank Murray Secretary of State, Montana Territorial Centennial Statehood Diamond Jubilee
Bulletin: Centennial Beard Styles Courtesy of Frank Murray Secretary of State, Montana Territorial Centennial Statehood Diamond Jubilee, 1963, in the vertical file Montana Territorial Centennial 1964, 1.

They may have been inspired by this illustrated guide from 1963, where at least some of the whiskers are drawn on. By the way, vertical files are named for the tall cabinets in which they're housed. These folders of clippings and printed ephemera consume 42 file drawers (121 feet) in the Research Center and are open for public browsing.

January 11, 2012

Treasures from the Library Collections at MHS

In 1886 the citizens of Helena established a free public library and in 1891 created a published catalog of their holdings. The earliest library catalogs in the United States date to the mid-1880s in Philadelphia. Prior to the advent of the card catalog patrons located books on the shelves using a printed catalog in book form. Books classified as History, Philosophy, and Science filled the shelves of early public libraries in Montana and across the nation. The images below depict these early catalogs.

Catalogue of the Helena Free Public Library.

In 1890 a wealthy mining man by the name of Charles Larrabee donated $10,000 to establish a lending library in Butte. By the date of this publication, the library advertised a collection of over 15,000 books. The catalog contained an alphabetical listing of authors with book titles and the Dewey Decimal number location. The Butte librarian, John F. Davies, explained that advertising was sold for the printed catalog to defray its cost and to build an acquisitions fund. The Butte Free Public Library also maintained a card catalog, and 3100 copies of the catalog were printed for distribution in the community.
Catalogue of Books in the Butte Free Public Library,
July 15, 1894. Published in Butte by T.E. Butler, 1894.