July 28, 2017

The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company

by Natasha Hollenbach, Digital Services Technician

 Sanders County Ledger (Thompson Falls, MT)

Newspaper ads for the Mountain State Telephone and Telegraph Co (MST&T) have always stood out to me, but the ad above convinced me that they were worthy of a blog post.  Well, technically the ad I saw wasn’t this specific one because MST&T was prolific in their advertising.  With few exceptions, all the ads I’ve seen were published in multiple Montana newspapers. Considering that MST&T served Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico plus the western corner of Texas, it isn’t surprising that I’ve seen many of them in Idaho newspapers as well.

The truth about blog posts is that most of us over-research them.  Most of the information that we find and sources we consult never make it into the post.  In this case, I clipped an instance of every unique ad I could find. When I found the same ad in multiple places, I choose which one to keep first by image quality and then trying to use as many newspapers as possible.  The ads date from December 1911 (shortly after the founding of the company) until January 1924 (when I realized I had 103 ads and should really stop).

I know 103 ads sounds a little crazy, but I was going to talk about the themes found in the ads and how they changed over time. It seemed like a good idea, but I had a difficult time selecting which special few to share. Instead I thought it would be fun to open the collection up to you all so that you can tell me what you find interesting.

There are a couple of ways to view the collection.  If you’d like a collage-type experience, you can see the Pinterest Board here.  If you’d like a more organized approach, they can be viewed here in an exhibit where you can look at the ads by location (using the map), title (on the right) or chronology (using the timeline at the bottom).  When you click on an item, the item's record will pop up.  Scroll to the bottom to find the image and then click on it to view.

Is there an ad that really stands out to you? As you look through the collection, what do you notice?Do you have a favorite? I’d love to know so comment below.

Below are a few of my favorites to get you started.

I like these two together to show the difference in attitude towards WWI between 1914 and 1917.

Big Timber Pioneer
November 5, 1914     
Mineral Independent (Superior, MT)
June 28, 1917

This ad is a good visual representation of how the company tries to explain their financial situation.

Mineral Independent (Superior, MT)
November 16, 1916

This one always makes me laugh.  Probably because when I first saw it, I was starting a walking challenge, which constantly emphasized “More Steps”.
Choteau Acantha
June 14, 1923

Lastly, this one has my favorite image.

River Press (Fort Benton, MT)
February 9, 1915

July 13, 2017

Montana History online

by Tammy Troup, MHS Digital Services Manager

History researchers employ a variety of strategies to gather and organize historical evidence. While we’re collecting evidence, we’re thinking about what we’re discovering, developing hypotheses, and ignoring tangents. Finally—if we’re fortunate—we draw evidence-supported conclusions which contribute to the scholarly record.
In this blog post, we’ll outline methods to help researchers conduct online research:

Database Search

You can search many online databases such as the Montana Memory Project (CONTENTdm), Digital Vault (Omeka), Internet Archive, Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Chronicling America, and MONTANA NEWSPAPERS using Structured Query Language (SQL).  Several online databases (including the databases mentioned above) include a Graphical User Interface (GUI) which structures (organizes) data into specific fields (e.g., Title, Creator/Author, Type, etc.) or which allows multi-faceted (categorical) searching.
For Google-trained online researchers, database research can be frustrating. Simple keyword searches are not effective. Researchers will have more successful results by employing a few SQL-derived techniques:
  • Look for Advanced Search options. Advanced Search provides researchers with an interface to organize and search specific fields and by specific types of searches (exact phrase, any words, all words, none, etc.);
  • Use Boolean operators to focus a search and connect related pieces of information. These operators include AND (all search terms must be present), OR (any of the search terms may be included), and NOT (none of the search terms will be included);
  • Use special characters to expand search results. An asterisk * may be placed in a word such as wom*n  to return results with woman or women.
  • The order of your search commands will determine the order of your results.  You may use parentheticals, which will determine the execution order of the commands you use (e.g., Homesteading AND (Norwegian OR Swedish).
Google Search

Complex websites with thousands of pages, pdf attachments, and links can be difficult for search engines to index and even more difficult for researchers to use efficiently. However, researchers may search the entire site if the understand the functionality which Google builds into the search bar (of course Google also features an Advanced Search option). Another resource, Nancy Blachman’s Google Guide is a well-organized tutorial to help people structure useful queries. A few of these query inputs include the following:
  • Special Characters:
    • - Operator (minus sign) to exclude specific words (same as NOT)
    • * Operator when a wildcard or placeholder is needed or you may use it before a word so search results will return synonyms of the word searched.
    • .. Operator between two years will produce a time range of results
    • “ “ will return results exact phrase results
  • Specific fields:
    • intitle: will return results which include metadata of a specific type (in this case title). This type of search is useful if you know what you are searching for may have specific metadata (e.g., title, creator or author, date, publisher, subject, etc.)
  • site: domain restricts search results to a specific domain
  • filetype: will restrict search results to a specific filetype
History Online

While the Montana Historical Society collects a wealth of information about the history of Montana, there is also a vast amount of data collected and owned by other individuals and organizations. We create billions of gigabytes of information every day.  Meanwhile more and more Montanans create digital information and place it online.  Printing or formally archiving the bulk of this information (image, text, moving image, software, database, etc.) will never occur. As such, historians will need to develop new research methods to identify, find, and collect evidence of the past, and we will need to carefully monitor information policy related to access to these collections.

EXTRA! Montana Newspapers Stories 1864-1922: Extermination of Wolves

Wolves were abundant in newly created Montana Territory in the 1860s. The same merchants who shipped bison hides to the East found a ready market for wolf pelts; the fur was widely used as trim on clothing. Between 1871 and 1875, an estimated 34,000 wolves were killed in northern Montana and southern Alberta. As the cattle industry rose in prominence, the territorial government began paying bounties for wolves, coyotes and other predators. By the end of the 1880s, the total extermination of wolves became a goal of ranchers—one that was finally achieved by government-salaried hunters in the 1920s.

Key dates

1883—Territorial legislature offers a $1 bounty for a full wolfskin. At the end of 1884, the treasury reports paying bounties for 5,540 wolves, 1,774 coyotes, 568 bears, and 146 mountain lions.
1887—Bounty claims are so numerous, the territory can no longer afford to pay them, and bounty laws are repealed.
1899—Under pressure from stock growers, bounties on cattle predators are reinstated, funded by a new tax on livestock.
1905—The latest bounty pays $10 per full-grown wolf scalp. Because an immature animal cannot kill cattle as efficiently as an adult, the bounty per pup is only $3.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search for the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: wolves, wolf hunting, bounty

July 3, 2017

"Rope in Your Chickens": Picnics and Picnic Food

by Molly Kruckenberg, Research Center Director

An American pastime with European origins, picnics were and continue to be a popular Montana activity.  Picnics often celebrate holidays, like the Fourth of July and Labor Day; gather together school, social and church organizations; or are just simply a way to get together with friends.  Picnics have been defined as “an outdoor meal distinguished by other meals because it requires the leisure to get away from home.” [1]

As a young child, Vera Whitney attended a Fourth of July picnic near Three Buttes in the Sidney area.  Early on the 4th, her mother “killed and dressed the first fryers of the season, made big bread-and-butter sandwiches and packed a jar of pickles.  The potato salad and white layer cake she had made the evening before were packed up” too, for the journey to the picnic area.  Spreading out their repast on a white tablecloth, the Whitney family enjoyed speeches, singing, and the usual picnic activities.  The highlight of the event for young Vera, though, was the call of “’Ice cream and lemonade! Come and get it.’”  That ice cream was made even more spectacular by being served in a cone.  The taste of the cone, her first, was like a “sweet, crisp cookie” to Vera. [2]

“Women with Ice Cream Cones, July 4, 1908.”  Evelyn Cameron, photographer.  
MHS Research Center Photograph Archives, PAc90-87.G027-006.  

Montanans picnic for many different reasons mostly in the summer and fall, when the weather is conducive to eating outdoors.  Whether private group picnics or community gatherings, picnics served to bring people together.  A group of 15 or 20 young people from Helena ascended Mount Helena in October of 1875 for a “genuine frolic.”  After their ascent, they “partook of a lunch . . . prepared in a style commensurate with the jolly occasion and capable of satiating the keen appetites that were engendered by ascending this precipitous mount.”  They were further “pacified” with two kegs of Nick Kessler’s XXX lager beer. [3]   On a larger scale but no less jubilant scale, the citizens of Ekalaka enjoyed a picnic at Medicine Rocks on August 15th, 1909 in a gathering “given by everybody, for everybody.”  Residents were advised to “rope in your chickens and cook ‘em up for the big feed.”  A “pie wagon” was available to take a load of food out to the picnic site.  Featuring baseball, music and speeches as well as a community feast, the Medicine Rocks picnic brought together all the activities and foods often associated with picnics. [4]

The Fourth of July serves as one of the most popular reasons to picnic.  In 1877 residents of the Bitterroot Valley celebrated the Fourth of July with a picnic that took place “about a mile from the home of Charlos [sic], the chief of the Flathead Indians, in a grove of large pine near a clear babbling brook, which meandered laughingly down from St. Mary’s mountain, across the bench land and into the Bitter Root River.”  As for food, the residents laid a table that “fairly tottered with its heavy load of good things,” including bread, boiled ham, chickens and turkey, several types of berries, pies (“great piles of them”), doughnuts, cookies, jelly cakes, confectioneries, pound cakes, and for dessert strawberries and cream.  At the end of the prodigious meal, there “remained enough to supply a meal for as many more.” [5]

Newspaper articles about picnics in Montana reveal three common foods consumed at picnics:  ice cream, lemonade and fried chicken. [6] While Montana cookbooks include recipes for ice cream, recipes for lemonade and fried chicken are not as prevalent, perhaps because the recipes were already known to the women making the dishes.  But a Dillon recipe from the 1908 cookbook Tested Recipes gave instruction to the inexperienced cook:
Chicken, To Fry – (Southern) – After you have killed and dressed your chicken, wash it in cold water thoroughly with a clean linen cloth.  Carve the chicken and season it with salt and pepper to suit taste.  Sift on enough flour to cover each piece and mix the chicken and flour thoroughly.  Put the chicken into a frying pan with equal parts of hot bacon grease and butter, or all butter, and then cover the pan with a lid.  Fry the chicken slowly, and to a nice, crisp brown. [7]

Picnics in Montana are varied, in food, occasion, and setting; yet they are the same in offering a social gathering in a setting away from home.   Whether held for a special occasion like the Fourth of July, to bring together a group of likeminded people, or for no reason whatsoever, picnics allowed participants an opportunity to relax in a social setting while consuming favored foods.  From traditional shared dishes of fried chicken, lemonade and ice cream to hosted events featuring cream cone cocktail or picnic goulash, picnic food was meant to be prodigious in amount, portable, and easily eaten outdoors.  The call of come and get it at Montana’s “recreational feasts” [8] might be at any number of locations for any number of reasons, but it always meant good times and good food.

[Title] "Big Picnic at Medicine Rocks.”  The Ekalaka Eagle, August 6, 1909. P1.
[1] Levy, Walter.  The Picnic: A History.  Rowman & Littlefield:  London, 2013.  P.5
[2] Page 83-85, Vera Whitney Gault Reminiscence.  SC2357.  Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives.
[3] “The Picnic on Mount Helena.”  Helena Weekly Herald, October 21, 1875.  P7.
[4] “Big Picnic at Medicine Rocks.”  The Ekalaka Eagle, August 6, 1909. P1.  Ad, “For the Picnic.”  The Ekalaka Eagle, August 6, 1909. P1.
[5] “Fourth of July on the Bitter Root.”  Rocky Mountain Husbandman., August 23, 1877, p7.
[6] For examples see:  “Boulder Valley.”  Rocky Mountain Husbandman, July 12, 1877, p2; “The Picnic on the Hillside.” The Bozeman Weekly Chronicle.  May 6, 1885, p.3; “The M.E. Sunday School Picnic.” The Wibaux Pioneer.  July 18, 1913. P.4; “Organized Farmers Attention.” The Producers News.  June 13, 1919, p. 1.
[7] Tested Recipes.  Dillon, Mont.: Tribune Publishing Co., 1908. P19.

[8] Levy.  The Picnic. P.5.