January 29, 2016

"Our Day Out": Women in White Sulphur Springs

by Sierra Ross, MHS Volunteer

What did meat canning and the history of costumes have in common during 1937? According to this typewritten program, they were both topics of interest for the women of Meagher County. The “O.D.O” embroidered on the cover stands for “Our Day Out,” the name of a home demonstration club organized by women from White Sulphur Springs. Its hand-cut pages record over a year’s worth of monthly meetings, each demonstration hosted in the home of a different member. The contents of this pamphlet not only lit a trail of research into the lives of these women, but intimately captured the setting in which they learned and shared the skills and knowledge that pertained to their everyday lives.

The club offered demonstrations that could appeal to a variety of members. Themes ranged from daily housekeeping such as houseplant care and winter meal planning to hands-on crafts like apron-making and bouquet arrangements from local weeds. As the name of the club itself suggests, these women valued the club not only for its practical uses but as an opportunity to socialize with other ladies in their community. In addition to their monthly meetings, members of the O.D.O. celebrated holidays and club anniversaries together with gifts, refreshments and prizes.[1]

Those who held officer positions in the club ranged in age and experience from a 20-year-old newlywed to her middle-aged mother.[2] Their individual educations varied from completion of the eighth grade to college graduate.[3] The club accordingly provided demonstrations useful to both young housewives and experienced homemakers alike, and also continued the educations of women in the community. Fun and relevant history lectures included the July meeting for “History of Meagher County,” and the May meeting for “Past Influence on Present Dress.”

These club officers were active in  numerous organizations throughout their lifetimes. Club president Eleanor Mast served on the boards for Bozeman Family Planning and the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, and was a lifelong advocate for abortion rights.[4] Vice president Rosabelle Mayn was president of her community’s American Legion Auxiliary and a member of both the Republican Women’s club and the Order of the Eastern Star.[5] Project leader Dovie Zehntner held a Matron position in the local Eastern Star chapter and also involved herself in the American Legion Auxiliary.[6] Even with so many commitments elsewhere, the O.D.O. endured as a cherished part of life for some of its members. Ethel Musgrove not only served as the club’s secretary treasurer in 1937, but remained a dedicated charter member throughout her life,
attending the O.D.O. well into her
nineties before passing away in 2015.[7]

Community involvement shaped the lives of the members recorded in this program’s hand-cut pages, women who ultimately became remembered for their active presence in the clubs they formed and participated in. The Meagher County O.D.O. Club is only one example of numerous home demonstration groups in Montana at the time. However, its remnant leaves behind a vivid picture of the personal and social lives of Meagher County women during the late 1930s.

Independent Record
February 17, 1955
Image captured from Newspaper Archives

[1] “White Sulphur Springs,” The Helena Independent, February 17, 1955.
[2] “Ethel L Zehntner,” Montana, Select Marriages, 1889-1947. Retrieved October 26, 2015 from Ancestry.com.
[3] “Mamie Buckingham,” “Eleanor Mast,” “Rosabelle Mayn” and “Dovie Zehntner.” 1940 United States Federal Census. Retrieved October 26, 2015 from Ancestry.com.
[4] “Eleanor M. Mast”,” Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 18 March, 1991.
[5] “Funeral Services Are Held For Rosabelle Mayn,” The Meagher County News, November 24, 1966.
[6] “Dovie R. Zehntner Passes Away After Lengthy Illness”
[7] “Ethel L. Musgrove age 98 of White Sulphur Springs,” Stevenson Wilke Funeral Homes, accessed October 26, 2015, 

January 21, 2016

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: Anti-Chinese Discrimination

The 1870 census counted 2400 Chinese living in Montana, but by the 1880s there were an estimated 12,000 Chinese working on railroads in the territory. Nearly all were men, earning money to send to their families. In 1892, Montana labor leaders decry the “despicable competition” presented by the Chinese and warn of contamination from “their habits, their modes of living and by diseases.” A variety of discriminatory laws will remain in effect until 1965.

Key dates

1882—U.S. Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act, preventing Chinese immigrants from becoming U.S. citizens.
1892—The Geary Act prevents further immigration and requires Chinese in the U.S. to carry certificates of residency.
November 4, 1892—The “Eleventh Resolution” is adopted at a Butte labor meeting.

In the newspapers

To find more

Search for these terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: chinese, chinamen, geary law, chinese exclusion, celestials, yellow peril

January 20, 2016

Announcing a New Blog Series—EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922

In 2015, the MHS completed its sixth year as a National Digital Newspaper Project awardee. Over 257,000 pages from Montana's pre-1923 historical newspapers are now available (and searchable) on the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America.

The Big Burn, bison, and beyond

For each post in this series, we choose a significant person or event and give you links directly to news stories from the time—as they appeared in Montana's own newspapers. Watch for the posts during the third week of every month, on topics like the arrival of barbed wire on the range, Battle of the Little Bighorn, Calamity Jane, construction of the state capitol, creation of the national parks, Jeannette Rankin, statehood, founding of the state universities, arrival of the railroads, and more.
The topics were written by freelance writer and MHS Volunteer Catherine W. Ockey, in partnership with the Digital Services Group at MHS.

Tomorrow: Anti-Chinese sentiment

We kick off the series tomorrow, showing what local newspapers were saying about Montana's Chinese residents during a national wave of discrimination.

Anti-Chinese ad from The Weekly Tribune, Great Falls, November 4, 1892, page 7.
Anti-Chinese ad from The Weekly Tribune, Great Falls, November 4, 1892, page 7.

January 14, 2016

The Montana Club - an Architectural Gem

by Kate Hampton, Community Preservation Coordinator, SHPO

Designed by world-famous architect Cass Gilbert in 1904, the Montana Club stands as one of Helena’s most prominent buildings.  Beginning his career as an architect for the Northern Pacific Railway, Gilbert went on to design such masterpieces as the Minnesota Capitol, the Woolworth Building (once the tallest building in the world), and the U.S. Supreme Court building.  In Montana, his vision is responsible for the Metals Bank Building in Butte, Helena’s original Northern Pacific depot, and the Placer Hotel.

Montana architects Paulsen and LaValle oversaw the original Montana Club’s construction in 1893. Ten years later, however, a massive fire burned it to the ground.  A young boy, who worked as the elevator operator, set the blaze to “watch the horses from the fire station run.” The boy was the youngest son of the much beloved bartender at the club, Julian Anderson, who served the members for 60 years, retiring in 1953.  When asked the morning after the fire what they would do, the president of the club vowed to rebuild.

Ruins of Paulsen and LaValle's Montana Club
April 28, 1903.
Courtesy Montana Historical Society (PAc88-39 F1)
Paulsen and LaValle's Montana Club, northwest corner
of Sixth and Fuller Ave, Helena, 1893-1903
Courtesy Montana Historical Society (953-326)

Opened in 1905, the building is difficult to classify under one particular style. Instead it shows features associated with Classical, Elizabethan, Bavarian, and Swiss – and even has Italianate bracketing at the eaves –but it is best described as an American Renaissance building.  The Montana Club emblem – MC - is present in details throughout the building.  Medieval heraldry is a theme that carries throughout the interiors in the crown and shield motifs in the light fixtures, woodwork, switch plates, and wall coverings.  The swastika in the entry mosaic is used here as a symbol of good luck and success.  The ancient religious symbol welcomed members for decades before it assumed any negative connotations.

As you move from floor to floor, you notice that the interiors of the rooms at the basement, first, and sixth floor present a darker and heavier appearance, mirroring the exterior balance of stone arches at the bottom and dark, heavy bracketed eaves at the top.

The sixth floor hall, with its sweeping views of Helena, is patterned after a medieval Great Hall.  The MC emblem is prominent – most noticeable in the stained glass of every other window.  When you visit, take the time to look at the views from these wonderful windows – up the gulch to the south, across downtown to the firetower, and to the east, the beautiful Cathedral.

Montana Club Rathskellar
probably June 1905
Courtesy Montana Historical Society (PAc 88-39 F1)

One of the hidden secrets of the Montana Club is the Rathskellar.  If you haven’t gone to the basement level of the building, you should as you are in for a treat.  Rathskellers originated in Germany as restaurants in the basements of town halls. Many German rathskellers of the 19th century were decorated with painted mottoes and murals. Architect Cass Gilbert designed rathskellers in two of his other buildings: the Minnesota State Capitol and the Woolworth Building in New York City.

In the case of the Minnesota Capitol, a German theme was appropriate in 1905, because Minnesota's 361,000 Germans were the largest group of foreign-born immigrants. When it opened that year, the Capitol rathskeller served as a full-service restaurant, and true to the rathskeller tradition, the walls bore 29 painted mottoes in German.  Though a bit less elaborate, the rathskellar of the Montana Club certainly has that Bavarian, old world feel and I encourage you to visit.

Present Day Montana Club
Photo by Kate Hampton