January 22, 2014

"Stay with the West" — new paintings by “Shorty” Shope

by Kendra Newhall, Assistant Registar, Montana's Museum

The Society recently acquired several works by well-known artist Henry Irvin "Shorty" Shope. Born in 1900, Shope’s paintings reflect the childhood he spent on a Muskrat Creek ranch (near Boulder, Montana) and later, four years as a working cowboy near Miles City. Heavily influenced by E. S. Paxson (1852-1919) and C. M. Russell (1864-1926), Shorty knew from an early age that he would become an artist.

"Cowboy" (oil on board, 1966), one of six new Shope acquisitions
by Montana's Museum, Montana Historical Society, 2013.82.04.
"I studied art every minute I could get, either at the high school or out at the university. The rest of the time, when I could, I was at Paxson’s studio." (New Interpretations, by Dale A. Burk, Western Life Publications, 1969, p.63) 

Shope was versatile, becoming skilled in cartography, commercial art, calligraphy, and cartooning. Although his work was carried by galleries in New York, Chicago and St. Louis, he remained true to his Montana roots.

Charlie Russell once told him: “Stay with the West, boy. The men, the horses and the country you like and want to study are here.” (Great Falls Tribune, November 30, 1958)

Montana's Museum owns 37 Shope works, and the Research Center owns another 13 items—books, maps, and promotional material for the highway department and several Montana businesses.

A versatile artist, Shope designed this cover for a 1937 Montana Highway
Department brochure.
Montana Historical Society Research Center, PAM3247.

January 15, 2014

Memorable Treats: Historical Cookie Recipes

by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Research Historian

Old recipes can evoke profound personal memories but also serve as important primary sources for historians—showing changes in culture, technology, and attitudes towards health.

Earlier this year we lost my mom. As the holiday season began, I received a frantic call from Dad. He voiced concern that we would not be able to bake Mom’s traditional Christmas foods—including these cookies. Fortunately, I had received the recipe several years earlier. Following Christmas Eve dinner, Dad grabbed several cookies and sat back in his recliner to enjoy them, closing his eyes after every bite. I can only imagine the memories behind his quiet smile—all because of a cookie!

This is an old German homesteader’s recipe that has been passed down in my family. I recall my grandmother making them. They were stored in a two-gallon crock with apple slices, as the cookies had to be “ripened,” or softened, after baking.

Mrs. R. M. Craven, c.1898-1900. PAC 941-627
Grandma’s Anise Cookies (Pfeffernüsse Cookies)
1 1/2 c. honey
2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. shortening
2/3 c. cold, strong coffee
3 eggs
1/4 generous t. anise oil
1/2 t. each: nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and baking powder
1/4 t. finely ground pepper
1 1/5 t. soda
5-6 c. flour

Heat honey, brown sugar and shortening until melted. Cool, then add coffee, beaten eggs, and  anise. Mix well, then mix in dry ingredients. Dough will be sticky and soft. Refrigerate for several hours until dough can be handled. Roll into small balls, place on greased cookie sheets and flatten a little. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-9 minutes. Do not brown too deeply. Roll in powdered sugar and store for several days or weeks before serving. The cookies harden as they cool but in time will "ripen" into soft, spicy cakes.

From the Society's collection of 500 historical cookbooks, here's a 1902 recipe for sugar cookies.*

One Egg, 1 Cup sugar, half cup butter, not quite half cup sour cream, about half teaspoon soda, flavor with nutmeg. Mix soft. —Mrs. Tabor

Early cookbooks often provided little in the way of instruction, assuming the cook's baking skills were already well-established. If you'd like to give this recipe a try, here are more detailed instructions:

Cream the sugar and butter. Add beaten egg and sour cream and mix until well blended. Add soda, 1 ¾ cups flour, and half a teaspoon of nutmeg. Drop from spoon onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 9 minutes. (You may need 1/4 cup flour more, depending on the consistency of your dough.)

*SOURCE: Daily Bread: Compiled from Tested Recipes of the Ladies of Fergus County Montana, by the “Home Workers” Society of the First Presbyterian Church of Lewistown, 1902, p.109.

January 10, 2014

A "Prime Garden Spot of Proportions Immense”

by Ashley Fejeran, Montana Digital Newspaper Project Assistant
The River Press, January 2, 1884
The practice of looking back at the past and making predictions for the new year is long-standing, and Montanans of 1884 were not exempt from this tradition. The Holiday “Reservation” Edition of the Fort Benton River Press paints 1884 as a particularly momentous year for Montanans. The edition is primarily taken up with speculation on the prospective opening of parts of the Blackfeet and Gros Ventre reservations. Reduction of the reservations would open up more land for ranchers, farmers, and prospectors—spelling increased prosperity and progress for white settlers in the area. The paper provides little acknowledgement of Native American perspectives on the events.
Colorful headlines from the New Year's
, The River Press, January 2, 1884

The New Year’s edition offers a rich look at life in Fort Benton at the time: detailed illustrations of buildings, meteorological data, a map of Fort Benton and prospective railroad lines, and historical statistics about the county. Articles on the profitability of raising cattle, the wool industry in Montana, and enthusiastic testimonials to the beauty and fertility of the land exemplify one role that early newspapers played: that of “booster” for their communities. They would print glowing reports of life in the area, with a view toward bolstering the confidence of the existing population and attracting new settlers.
A small article on page 11 mentions a proposal for the creation of a park in the mountains between the Flathead and Blackfeet reservations, in the region of what is now Glacier National Park. Although GNP wasn’t established until 1910, could this have been an inkling of what was to come?

You might also enjoy these New Year’s editions: Butte Inter Mountain, Jan 1, 1903 and The Daily Missoulian, Jan 2, 1910. Browse more historical Montana newspapers on the Chronicling America web site.