March 4, 2014

"Hot and Cold Baths, Artistic Shaving, and Hair Cutting"

by Christine Kirkham, Coordinator, Montana Digital Newspaper Project

So reads an 1883 ad from Chris Hehli ("The King of Barbers") in Miles City.

For the past four months, MHS volunteer Josef Warhank has spent two mornings a week poring over advertisements in Montana’s digitized historical newspapers. Starting with the Daily Yellowstone Journal (Miles City) in 1882, Josef is working his way through all 34 Montana newspapers currently available online at the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America.

This Miles City saloon promised
"boxing matches every evening."
Page by page, he records details from each ad—business name, location, products, and names of principals. Josef’s fast-growing spreadsheet already lists 165 distinct businesses—and that’s for one newspaper in one town!

Bypassing national advertisers like Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, the Index to Montana Newspaper Advertisers will focus on Montana-based businesses and be made available as a searchable online resource for historians and genealogists. In addition to presenting a panoramic view of active businesses at a specific time and place, the ads speak to the growth of local economies. For example, Miles City’s isolation—and the presence of Fort Keogh just west of town—spurred rapid and varied economic development. Click here to check out an early draft of the Index to The Montana Newspaper Advertisers!

Ad for a Miles City restaurant.
Newspaper ads reflect the reciprocal relationship of the press with the local community. Then as now, fees paid for ad space were an essential source of revenue for publishers. 


Having just commenced a new round of newspaper digitization, the Montana Digital Newspaper Project team is hopeful Josef will continue his work through 2015, when another 100,000 pages from 19 more newspapers will be digitized and added to Chronicling America.