November 21, 2019

ExploreBig Gets Bigger and Better

by Christine Brown, Historical Specialist

In 2017, MHS launched—a website and mobile app—to share the history and architectural significance of selected Montana buildings, neighborhoods, and cultural sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Initially, ExploreBig included approximately 250 individual stories and several historic district and themed tours. In January 2019, the MHS Outreach and Interpretation program began efforts to make a good thing even better by showcasing our entire treasure trove of interpretive material.

Contractor Michael Connolly points out the interactive map featured on MHS’s, soon to be renamed

After many months, ExploreBig now has 1,700 brief stories on a dizzying array of historic sites ranging from grand business blocks, churches, and schoolhouses to railroad depots, brothels, mansions, humble homes, cabins, and industrial buildings. Thankfully we had help in this time-consuming process from a dedicated group of volunteers and students. MHS volunteer turned part-time contractor Michael Connolly assisted in uploading photos and text and creating links to digitized bibliographic sources. The project is far from complete however. Connolly continues to expand the site’s visual resources, researching and adding historic images from the MHS Photo Archives and State Historic Preservation Office collections, while MHS volunteer Joe Furshong is scanning photographs from National Register of Historic Places records and contributing contemporary photographs from his travels around the state.

ExploreBig looks good now, but will soon have a new name and look.
Watch for the launch of Historic Montana in 2020.

Students have also been key players in expanding the project. In September, Carroll College intern Augustus Krier-Ness and seven graduate students in a University of Montana public history course started work to add at least ten new themed tours to the site. And most recently, the Butte High School History Club has agreed to capture new photographs of buildings with National Register signs in the Butte National Historic Landmark, about 250 properties. Pairing new photos with historic Butte photos collected from the MHS Photo Archives and the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives will create a striking “then and now” virtual tour of Butte’s unparalleled collection of historic buildings.

A glimpse of the forthcoming Historic Montana exhibit on the
second floor of the museum. Rendering by Wyatt Design.

The next step in ExploreBig’s transformation is a new name and look and a physical exhibit inside the Montana Historical Society building. The website and app will be renamed Historic Montana and have a new address, The makeover clearly defines the site as Montana’s go-to place to learn about historic Montana buildings and places. The exhibit, near the Society’s second-floor Research Center, will provide a dedicated touchscreen tablet for visitors and researchers to use during their visit.

Work on Historic Montana will continue long after the name change becomes part of history. MHS historians create about fifty to a hundred new National Register signs every year and the content of each one will be added to the site along with photographs and links to research sources. It’s hard to say if the site will ever be complete, but the ongoing process is well worth the time to make this information readily available. Historic Montana will be an invaluable tool for students and teachers, researchers, and curious travelers delving into place-based Montana history for years to come.

October 28, 2019

Betty’s Kitchen, Sleeping Buffalo and Heidelhaus: Montana Restaurants, 1984

by Molly Kruckenberg, 
MHS Research Center Program Manager

In 1984 Ray Risho, a chef and restaurateur from Missoula, traveled across the length and breadth of Montana, stopping at restaurants in every small town or crossroads that he found.  As a former chef at Emmaus Road restaurant in Missoula and a cooking instructor, Risho understood the restaurant business.  In his work as a wine salesman in 1984, Risho visited and reviewed 450 different eating establishments across Montana.  The restaurants included everything from the “finest continental restaurants” to small, family cafes.  The reviews resulted in the book Risho’s Registry: From Absarokee to Zortman, A Town-by-Town Review of Montana Eateries.

In the course of gathering the information for Risho’s Registry, Risho also gathered menus from many of the restaurants and cafés that he visited.  Ray and his wife, Susie, recently donated those menus to the Research Center at the Montana Historical Society.  Their menu collection contains 288 menus from 87 different towns across Montana.  They represent all types of eating establishments, from the fanciest restaurant in Whitefish to the local café in Saco.   This menu collection is important in that it is representative of the restaurant business in Montana at a time before the wide-spread introduction of national chains to the state.  The menus are from single location restaurants for the most part, although there are a few restaurants that could be considered Montana chains, having multiple locations within the state. 

Menus provide a wealth of information, in both their content and their design.  They provide us with information on the popularity of different foods at certain time periods and, when looked at over time, can provide evidence of changing culinary tastes.  They indicate what and how particular foods were utilized locally and regionally.  The graphic designs of menus show the use of design elements over time.

The Montana menus in the Ray Risho Menu Collection provide all of these different insights for restaurants in Montana at one specific time – 1984.  In that way, they provide a snapshot of both common and unique foods being served.    The collection contains menus from Montana icons – Lydia’s in Butte, On Broadway in Helena, The Mustard Seed in Missoula – as well as many establishments that did not survive the last ensuing decades.  Fare in Montana restaurants in 1984 was as diverse as the many towns that populated the state.  Steak, burgers and pizzas share menu space with German, Mexican, Oriental, Lebanese and Hungarian foods.  Sandwich shops and pancake houses vied for customers with supper clubs, inns and cafés.  

Whether you are studying the foods Montanans were eating, the types of restaurants found in the state or graphic design of menus, we invite you to visit the MHS Research Center to see the wealth of menus in the Ray Risho Menu collection.

September 26, 2019

How to Choose a Newspaper

By Natasha Hollenbach, Digital Projects Librarian

Last August, we were awarded a fourth NDNP grant, and with this blog post, we’re announcing which titles and date ranges have been selected and giving you a little behind-the-scenes of the selection process.

First some NDNP basics. NDNP stands for the National Digital Newspaper Program. It is funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities; but, the content is hosted by the Library of Congress on the Chronicling America website. Each grant cycle is 2 years and should produce about 100,000 pages.

One hundred thousand pages sounds like a lot, until you actually try to select titles and date ranges. When we were putting together our application, we needed a focus, a reason why NEH should approve our proposal. Since our last grant, the accepted date range has expanded from 1836-1922 to 1690-1963, so we knew we wanted to choose content after 1922, but what? We decided to focus on booms and busts in the mining, logging, agriculture and oil industries. Consider that for a moment, four major industries across the entire state over four decades, which include the Great Depression and WWII, in 100,000 pages!

Geographic distribution of selected newspapers this round
At this point the selection committee became my lifeline. We had a meeting in November 2018. They gave me a list of titles with date ranges that they thought would accomplish our goals. However, many of those titles were suggested with a 20 or 30-year date range. I had to look at these titles on microfilm, and if you’ve ever tried to look at a long date range of newspapers on microfilm you know how challenging and time consuming that is. Here are a few factors that I considered.

The Microfilm Itself:
The quality of the digital image is dependent on the quality of the microfilm image, which in turn is dependent on how it was microfilmed and, on the quality of the print pages it was created from. It’s also important to keep in mind that when the microfilm is digitized, the settings are determined for the whole reel, not for individual pages. When you see digitized newspaper pages that are too light or dark to read, are partially covered by the next page, or have random ink blots, those problems were on the microfilm.

Content - % of Local/State Coverage:
Obviously, priority goes to newspapers that have higher percentages of local and state coverage, but what counts as local or state coverage? Much of the state coverage comes from regular columns that you see in newspapers across the state or, from reprinted articles for other Montana newspapers. What I focus on more is how much of the issue is local. Columns titled “Local News”, “About Town”, or any news that comes from surrounding communities are what I look for. Are they covering the county commissioners’ meetings? Are they publishing obituaries? Do they talk about the local schools? And, for this grant in particular, are they covering one of the industries we’re interested in? For example, in an agricultural community are they providing advise from the extension service, information about crop prices, and legislation that will affect farmers? If the paper is overwhelmingly concerned with national or international news from the AP and doesn’t tie these events back to Montana, it won’t be selected.

Content – Copyright:
For published materials including newspapers, anything published in 1923 or earlier is in the public domain. From 1924-1963, a newspaper might be in the public domain. (In order to still be under copyright, they had to register the copyright for each issue and then renew the copyright 28 years later.) I have yet to find a Montana newspaper that went through the trouble of copyrighting.  However, during this period, newspapers published things like comics and fiction that potentially has its own copyright. Therefore, another selection question is how much copyrighted material is in each issue? We decided early on that we wanted to include the Producers News, a socialist newspaper out of Plentywood. But, we also wanted to pick another paper from the area for that same time period in order to compare and contrast political positions of the time. The committee suggested the Daniels County Leader; however, over half of each issue was copyrighted material. The thing about copyrighted material isn’t just that it’s copyrighted, making it a potential legal issue. If there is a high percentage of that, then, there’s probably not enough local and state content.  The Plentywood Herald was chosen instead.

Page Count:
Here’s a little newspaper math for you. The page count for a year’s worth of an 8-page weekly is 416 pages. A year’s worth of an 8-page paper published 6 days a week is 2,504 pages. Unfortunately, daily papers tend to have more pages per issue and, they also include a lot more non-local and state content; such as, a full sports page, a society section, a fashion section, and so on. This is why there are few daily Montana papers on Chronicling America and the few included have very short date ranges. While we didn’t choose any daily papers this time around, we are including the Montana Farmer-Stockman which was published twice a month, the shortest issue having 28 pages. We’re also doing an extended run of it (1948-1963), which is unusual for such a high page count paper. The difference is that this paper pulls content, and highlights people, from across the state, as opposed to covering the news of  just one town.

Now that you know a little more about the process, here is the list of titles that have recently been chosen.
Belt Valley Times (Oct 1921-1926)
Bozeman Courier (1921-1927)
Montana Labor News (1932-1951)
Circle Banner (Nov 1914-1924, 1921 and 1/2 of 1922 missing)
Columbian/Hungry Horse News (Aug 1946-1955)
Eureka Mirror (Mar 1932-Nov 1936)
The Fort Peck Press (Aug 1934-May 1937)
Glasgow Courier (1942-1945)
Montana Oil Journal/Montana Oil and Mining Journal (1931-1946)
Montana Farmer-Stockman (1948-1963)
The People’s Voice (Dec 1939-1963)
The Kevin Courier/The Montana Courier/The Kevin Review (May 1922-Jun 1929)
Laurel Outlook (1944-1950)
Western News and the Libby Times/Western News (1929-1949)
The Producers News (1928-Mar 1937)
Plentywood Herald (1927-1936)
Carbon County Chronicle/Carbon County News/Red Lodge daily news combined with Carbon County News/Carbon County News (1924-Jul 1945)
The Sidney Herald (1955-1963)
The Wolf Point Herald (1920-1932)

September 12, 2019

Olga Ross Hannon, artist

by Kirby Lambert, Outreach and Interpretation Manager

Olga Ross Hannon

Olga Ross Hannon was born in Moline, Illinois, and educated at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Student’s League in New York City, and The School of Fine and Applied Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  An extensive traveler, Hannon also studied widely in Europe where she focused her study on traditional arts and crafts.

Life In The Open – Crow Fair
Olga Ross Hannon
Watercolor, 1941
Montana Historical Society Collection, 1977.39.236
Gift of Jack and Isabel Haynes
Hannon worked as a teacher and administrator at various institutions before moving to Montana in 1921 to head the art department at Montana State College (MSC) in Bozeman.  In her capacity as department chair, a position she held until her death, Hannon worked tirelessly to strengthen the school’s art program, especially in the field of painting.  In addition to hands on instruction in the classroom, she augmented students’ development by organizing a chapter of Delta Phi Delta, an art honorary fraternity, on the MSC campus, and serving as the national president of that organization for eight years. She was sponsor of the college art club and the Spurs, a sophomore women’s service organization.

Hannon’s contributions to the development of the arts in Montana were not limited to her work on campus.  She organized the Bozeman Chapter of the American Federation of the Arts and maintained a membership in the Western Association of Museum Directors.  She held various offices in the Montana Education Association, chaired the selection committee for Montana paintings and sculptures to be exhibited at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, and served as the Montana representative for the American Artists Professional League.  In addition, she was a regular contributor to various professional and education publications.

During summers away from Bozeman, Hannon traveled and studied around the globe, or taught art courses at universities and institutes ranging from Maine to Colorado.  While traveling, she collected artworks created by the indigenous peoples of the countries she visited, and gathered Plains Indian art from Montana and the surrounding region to strengthen the college’s art collection.  In the early 1940’s she began a project to record traditional Blackfeet tipi designs that was completed by Jessie Wilber after Hannon’s death.

Throughout her career as an educator Hannon remained active as an artist.  Oils and watercolors were her favored media but she was also quite proficient at lithography, etching and wood block printing.  Subjects commonly depicted in Hannon’s paintings included Montana’s historic mining camps and other early settlements as well as the arts and customs of the Big Sky’s Native American residents.  


August 22, 2019

First Gold in Montana

Ellen Vogelsang, MHS Volunteer

Most Montanans are familiar with the Grasshopper Creek Gold Discovery in 1862, which began the gold rush to Bannack and the Montana Territory. However, Granville Stuart “found” gold four years earlier, near what is now Gold Creek. Stuart had been delayed by illness at Malad Creek (Utah) in 1857, on his journey from the gold rush of California back to the 'States'. He heard, from other mountaineers, of gold found on a branch of the Hell Gate River (present-day Clark Fork River) and detoured to the north. He found gold, but lacked sufficient tools to excavate and did not return until 1862.
Granville Stuart, 1883 [MHS Photo Archives 981-260]
Earlier in Utah, Granville Stuart had learned of Metis trapper named Francois Finlay, known as “Benetsee”, who had found light float gold on what he called Benetsee Creek (now named Gold Creek) in 1852. This prompted the detour north by Stuart and associates. Benetsee traded the gold to Angus MacDonald at Fort Connah, which ultimately led to MacDonald finding gold in British Columbia. Both Benetsee and MacDonald were employed by the Hudson Bay Company and were told to keep the gold discovery quiet to protect HBC’s interests. The company had seen what the California gold rush had done to their trapping grounds and business.   

Stuart returned to Gold Creek in the spring of 1862 with the proper equipment to viably mine gold. The Pike’s Peakers got wind of gold in Montana, which led to John White coming north from Colorado and finding gold in Grasshopper Creek on July 28, 1862.
View of Bannack in 1891 with Grasshopper Creek in the background
[MHS Photo Archives 940-699]
Benetsee can be credited with finding the first recorded gold in Montana, 10 years prior to the Grasshopper Creek/Bannack discovery.  Granville Stuart had the means to make his discovery profitable several months before John White. 

Angus MacDonald (1816-1889) - MHS Archives Papers/SC 47: Box 3/Folder 3
Granville Stuart “Forty Years on the Frontier”
Wikipedia: Gold Creek, Hell Gate

August 2, 2019

Montana and the Nineteenth Amendment

by Martha Kohl, MHS Outreach and Interpretation Historian

When Governor Samuel Stuart summoned legislators back to Helena on July 29, 1919, for an extraordinary legislative session, providing aid to Montana’s drought stricken farmers was his primary concern. Ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution—the women’s suffrage amendment—was almost an afterthought.
Hazel Hunkins, Billings Suffragist, as a young student [from]
Montana women had won the right to vote in 1914 and Montana had elected Jeannette Rankinthe first woman U.S. Representative—to Congress in 1916.  As Governor Stuart explained in his call for a special session, “Montana already has woman suffrage; her women vote upon every important issue presented to our people.” The amendment’s ratification would not change Montana women’s lives or rights at all; “nevertheless our women feel that the women of other states should have their aid and support in this important matter.”

Both parties supported the ratification, which passed the very first day of the special session. Governor Stuart certified the ratification on August 2, 1919, making Montana the thirteenth state to ratify (tying with Nebraska). The biggest controversy was over which party would get the credit. The Republican majority insisted that  Emma Ingalls, Republican representative from the Flathead, introduce HJR #1, much to the dismay of Representative Maggie Smith Hathaway, a longtime suffrage advocate and Democrat from Ravalli County.

Emma Ingalls [from]
The vote, though inevitable, came about only after years of struggle, within Montana and nationally. Jeannette Rankin is, of course, the most famous Montanan involved in the fight for women’s suffrage, but my favorite suffrage activist is Hazel Hunkins from Billings, who moved to Washington, D.C. at age twenty-six to work as the National Woman’s Party’s organizing secretary. She also engaged in direct action, spending many hours on the picket line in front of the White House as a “Silent Sentinel,” and was arrested three times. Her intimate letters home to her mother reveal that she hated picketing, persevering only because she believed it was “a wonderful piece of publicity. …. It would be like base desertion to quit at a time when they need me worse than they ever have before. But oh how I hate it.”
Women Voters Day on the Picket Line, February 14, 1917
The lead woman carrying the American flag and wearing a sash that reads “Voter” is Hazel Hunkins.
Hunkins’ letters and telegrams—preserved at the Schlessinger Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts—bring the suffrage story to life. Reading them, I can imagine her mother, worried in Billings—especially after receiving a telegram declaring, “TWENTY SIX OF AMERICAS FINEST WOMEN ARE ACCOMPANYING ME TO JAIL ITS SPLENDID DONT WORRY.”

In 2014, as part of the Montana suffrage centennial, the Montana Historical Society Outreach and Education Program worked with Billings school librarian Ruth Ferris to publish Hazel Hunkins, Billings Suffragist. The primary source investigation makes the fight over the Nineteenth Amendment real and personal, reminding students that the unfolding of history is not preordained and that women gained the right to vote only after seventy-two years of struggle. Hazel Hunkins’ letters are also just fun reading. Feel free to download the curriculum from the MHS website as you remember August 2, 1919, when Montana formally ratified the Nineteenth Amendment.

July 18, 2019

Flashback Montana 1969

Christine Brown
Historical Specialist

The world watched in awe in July 1969 as scientists and astronauts successfully launched the Apollo 11 spacecraft, explored the moon’s surface, and safely returned to Earth. The momentous occasion was ever-present in the media and for good reason. Nine years and billions of dollars brought unprecedented advances in engineering and technology, spawned whole new industries, and gave the world technological innovations we still benefit from (and can barely live without) today.

The Eagle has landed.  Apollo 11, July 22, 1969.  U.S. National Archives

While the nation focused on the space race, in Montana advances in aerospace engineering and space exploration took a back seat and local matters dominated the state’s newspaper headlines.

Governor Forrest Anderson took office in January 1969. Back then legislators had just sixty days to decide on a lengthy docket of proposed legislation. The state desperately needed money for infrastructure and programming, and the legislature passed a 15 to 18 percent increase in the individual income tax, along with increases in property tax, corporate income taxes and fees, gas and cigarette taxes, and a doubled beer tax.

Other historic legislation lowered the voting age to nineteen, created a Constitutional Revision Commission, funded the state’s five vocational-technical colleges, and condensed 100-plus agencies into 29 departments. Legislators failed to fund public kindergarten and a prison pre-release program, and voted down the minimum wage and collective bargaining for state employees.

The year 1969 saw low unemployment in Montana, but an increasing demand for federal welfare funds as county governments tried to help the working poor and correct social and economic inequalities. Federal funds transformed Montana’s physical landscape too, as Montana cities applied for urban renewal grants to clear deteriorated buildings in their historic commercial downtowns. At the same time, developers built new shopping centers at the outskirts of town.

Teens, college students, and drugs were of rising concern. Both Helena and Missoula reported multiple teen arrests and sentencing for marijuana crimes. The University of Montana addressed the issue by inviting noted professor and LSD user Timothy Leary to the campus for a debate on drug use.

The war in Vietnam also preoccupied Montana campuses. Thirty-four students and instructors at the University of Montana turned in their draft registration cards in April, refusing to serve in the war. On October 15, thousands of Montana students participated in a national day of protest against the war. By the end of 1969, Montana had lost 204 men to the conflict in Vietnam.
Peace march in Helena
Montana’s Jeanette Rankin, at age 89, participated in the October 15 Moratorium Day activities from her adopted home in Georgia and continued to campaign for women’s rights. Almost exactly fifty years after women won the vote, 30 percent of Montana women were full-time workers. While a few more women each year rose to prominent posts, female pay in 1969 was about 40 percent less than a male’s pay for doing the same work.

In many ways Montana in 1969 was in a parallel race alongside the U.S. and Russia. Instead of rocketing to the moon, Montana was racing to keep pace with neighboring states in the never-ending quest to fund, maintain, and modernize. Just prior to July 20, U.S. President Richard Nixon declared the impending moon landing a national holiday, a day to watch and reflect on the U.S.’s scientific achievements. While many Montanans stayed home, watched television, and toasted the moon landing with glasses of champagne, Montana state offices remained open and Governor Anderson was at work. He declined NASA’s invitation to watch the moon landing from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and instead traveled to Sun River with fish and game officials to survey problem elk range areas and help set antelope quotas.
The Independent Record (Helena, Montana) 22 July 1969

July 9, 2019

"The Whole Country was...One Robe"

by Barbara Pepper Rotness, MHS Research Center

We just received the book back from the conservator, nicely bound and protected from further wear and tear, it had been so well-used and perused. “The Whole Country was…’One Robe’”, the definitive history of the Little Shell tribe of Métis in Montana. And, the life work of Nicholas Vrooman, folklorist, historian and defender of Métis rights. With this one book, Nicholas made their complex history accessible to the rest of us. And, he continued making it accessible through presentations and interviews. And, through his genuine passion for and love of a culture not his own.

We were honored to hear Dr. Vrooman share a bit of his vast knowledge during a panel discussion this past April. Not nearly enough time to even scratch the surface, attendees stayed an hour after the discussion to talk with the panelists. Between the extensive experience and knowledge of both Nicholas and his partner on the panel, Al Wiseman, a Métis and Montana Heritage Keeper, the audience was mesmerized from beginning to long after the end.

[Image from the Humanities Montana website]
You can watch the video of the panel discussion here, and, you’ll see for yourself the passion and intelligence of a man who is no longer here to share his knowledge with us. Nicholas Vrooman died June 26, 2019, and there is now a void in this ‘whole country’.

The ‘under one robe’ part of the book's title refers to the fur trade days when vast buffalo herds roamed the plains and resources were plentiful; when the peoples sharing a space and time could learn from one another. The Métis, or, ‘mixed blood’, are the result of that coming together from two very different worlds: that of French, Scottish, and Irish, and, that of predominantly Chippewa, Cree, and Assiniboine. In addition to the intermarriages, the exchange of ideas and resources led to cross-cultural innovations like the red river cart. An ingenious combination of Native travois and Celtic cart, red river carts had no metal parts. They could be easily built and maintained and, at the height of their use, there were thousands of them on the plains. Now, there are, at the most, one or two original carts remaining.
[Red River Camp and Carts, c.1890, MHS Photo Archives 950-581]
The most innovative and beautiful combination of the two peoples that has survived is their language, Michif. It's not a babel of a language. The melding of a rural type of French with the Cree language created a lilting, rhythmic language that has a tidy simplicity of structure – all verbs are Native, all nouns are French.

Even their music is a blend of cultures. Heavily influenced by the Celtic side of their heritage, they took Irish fiddle music and added a syncopated beat. This film explains and demonstrates what that means.

And, of course, food became an amalgamation of two cultures. Bannack bread (or, Li Galette) is a type of Irish soda bread that is quick and inexpensive to make. And, it was portable and filling, something they could take with them on the red river carts. 
[Galette recipe courtesy of Reno Charette, MSU-Billings]

Instead of the buffalo robes of their earlier days and ways, the Métis now carry sashes woven with colorful threads. Al Wiseman pointed out what most people don’t know, that even Charlie Russell incorporated one into his own wardrobe. “Russell also used his sash to store his art supplies when he was traveling horseback. “All the breeds wear them,” he said.”* Black, red, white, green all have significance. Red is the blood of their ancestors, green the grass, black symbolizes loss and death, blue the sky, and white represents the clouds.
[‘Would you know me Bill?’ Charlie Russell watercolor, 1901, MHS 1986.06.07b]
As Nicholas commented, the story of the Métis is a difficult but beautiful one.

Currently, the Little Shells' tribal status is being reviewed in the U.S. Senate as part of a decades-long effort to become federally-recognized as a unique people and culture to be honored and protected. Vrooman, who dedicated years of his life to this fight, won't see the fruits of his labor, but his work and his impact will live on. So, too, will the Métis people, whose flag, with its infinity symbol, represents lasting life and hope. Today, we raise it high!

July 1, 2019


Kelly Burton
MHS Film Archivist

One of the more frequent visitors to the Montana Historical Society’s moving image archives is Helena advertising entrepreneur and filmmaker Robert Henkel. After selling ads for the Billings Gazette for seven years, Henkel started his own company in 1959 under the name of Sage Advertising. While Henkel worked (and continues to work) from Sage’s headquarters in Helena, partner Jim Graff handled the Billings office. Sage had immediate success with the creation of promotional materials for Yellowstone National Park, a fact that is detailed in a July 5, 1987 issue of the Helena Independent Record: “The account with the private concessionaire at Yellowstone National Park has been Sage’s major success, a national ad account that ‘made’ Sage in the late 1950s and has stayed with them over the decades. In 1971, Sage noticed that Yellowstone was peopled with tourists who ‘weren’t spending any money there,’ who treated Yellowstone as a stopping-off point ‘to the rodeo and the South Dakota snake pit.’ Sage convinced the park to increase its ad budget by a third, reach visitors before they hit the park, and target their ads to a more upscale tourist. Ads began to appear in ‘Sunset’ and ‘Better Homes & Gardens’; the next year was a record-breaker.” Sage Advertising estimated that Yellowstone visitation went up 20 percent the following year, and the “average stay went from 1.7 to 2.4 days.”

from the Helena Independent Record, 5 July 1987

In addition to creating a wide range of print materials for Yellowstone National Park, Sage Advertising also made promotional films which served to highlight the various features and amenities of the park. Sage Films soon became a prolific arm of the company in its own right, with various employees – including Henkel and Graff – often handling the production, direction, writing and photography of the films themselves. The printed promotional materials for ”Yellowstone: A World Apart” describe the 1963 film as “a wondrous tour through nature’s unspoiled domain” with highlights that include “the great basins, bubbling mud pots, miniature volcanoes, geysers (starring Old Faithful), begging bears with cuddly cubs, and the many sports activities available.” Celebrated outdoor magazine ‘Field & Stream’ made note of the 1967 Sage Films production “The White Face of Yellowstone”, calling it “a pictorial winter tour into Yellowstone Park via snowmobile” that “captures the smoky eruptions of Old Faithful, focuses in on the park’s majestic wildlife, and its fantastic bubbling hot springs.” Sage also created “Four Seasons of Yellowstone” for the park in 1970, which sought to “explore the 4 delightful seasons of Yellowstone’s 2 million-acre sanctuary” and promote year-round visitation to the park.

(collection MOV 0099)
(collection MOV 0099)
In addition to Yellowstone, Sage Films worked with other customers throughout the region to create effective travelogues and promotional films. The company was very prolific through the 1970s, and some of the tiles from the Sage Advertising moving image collection (MOV 0099) include: “Montana: Land of the Big Sky” (1971); “Escape to Montana’s Glacier Park” (1972); “Montana: A Little Farther North” (1973); “Explore the Old West Trail Country” (1973); ”Red Sunday: The Story of the Battle of Little Big Horn” (1975); “Montana Grain Helps Feed a Hungry World” (1976); and “Old West Trail Country: Your Land and Mine” (1977). Customers for these films included the Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming Travel Divisions, the Montana Bicentennial Administration, the North Dakota Bicentennial Commission, the Montana State Advertising Department, Glacier Park, Inc., Montana Dakota Utilities Co., United States Travel Service, Old West Trail Foundation, Northwest Airlines, and the Montana Power Company, to name a few.

Sage Films promotional materials (MOV 0099 accession file)
Sage Films promotional materials (MOV 0099 accession file)

The 1987 article from the Helena Independent Record also discusses the political work of Sage Advertising, stating that “a large chunk of Sage’s reputation stems from its political track record – only two general election losses since 1968 – the 1982 gambling initiative and Don Allen’s unsuccessful bid to unseat U.S. Congressman Pat Williams in 1986.” Noting that “every Montana governor for two decades has used Sage,” Helena’s newspaper quotes Henkel as he describes Sage’s approach to the regional political landscape: ‘We like to win, so we try not to pick candidates we can’t work with. We can’t stop our compulsion to win. We’ve had clients who were egotistical, aggressive, hard-to-work with, nearly impossible. But even then we couldn’t stop ourselves from wanting them to win. We’re a success story because our clients are a success.” Sage often created motion picture films for their political clients, an excellent example of which are the ten “Forrest Anderson: Democrat for Governor” commercials currently housed at the Historical Society. These commercials were created for the Anderson campaign in 1968 by Sage Films, and their airing on Montana television was followed by a victory for the candidate later that year.

(MOV 0099)

(MOV 0099)

The Sage Advertising moving image collection at the Montana Historical Society consists of 73 films and videos, in addition to ephemera such as promotional materials and production documentation. Seven films from this collection are available for viewing via the MHS Moving Image Archive playlist on the Historical Society’s YouTube channel.

Sage Films production documentation (MOV 0099 accession file)

June 13, 2019

Montana and the Nation's Flag

by Kirby Lambert, Outreach and Interpretation Program Manager

While July 4th is celebrated as America’s birthday, since 1949 citizens of the United States have also celebrated June 14th as National Flag Day. The Treasure State is, of course, represented by the 41st white star on the field of blue in the upper left-hand corner of the “stars and stripes” (that’s us—the second-from-the-left star on the second-from-the-bottom row). But what did Old Glory look like when it only had 41 stars? Or did it, in fact, ever have exactly 41 stars? That’s a more complicated question than you might think.

In January 1889 there were 38 states, and 38 stars on the flag.

On February 22, 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed an omnibus bill that paved the way for the entrance of Montana, Washington, and North and South Dakota into the Union.  By July 4, 1889, however, none of those territories had yet become states, so the U.S. still had a 38-star flag.

This mural depicts President Grover Cleveland (right), Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard (left),
and Joseph K. Toole (standing), congressional delegate from Montana Territory at the signing of the
 “Omnibus Bill” on February 22, 1889,
 an enabling act which ultimately led to the creation of four new western states:
Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington.

 In November of 1889, the four territories did become states:  North and South Dakota on the 2nd; Montana on the 8th; and Washington on the 11th.  Although the states were admitted to the Union on those dates, the flag—as is always the case—would not officially be changed until the following July 4th.  Manufacturers began making 42-star flags in anticipation.  

On July 3, 1890, however, Idaho became the 43rd state. Therefore, when Montana’s star was added to Old Glory on July 4, 1890, it was officially a 43-star constellation. In reality, however, no one had had time to manufacture 43-star flags. Most of the flags actually used that day were 42-star flags.

On July 10th, 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state, so many manufacturers went straight to making 44-star flags, knowing that 43-star flags would soon be obsolete. This 44-star constellation remained official until Utah was admitted to the Union in 1896.

A relatively small number of 41-star flags were manufactured in spite of the fact
such  a configuration was never the official design of the U.S. flag.

 Obviously, the early 1890s were a confusing time for flag makers and the result was a wide variety of unofficial and inaccurate flags. Although the U.S. flag never formally had 41 stars, some 41-star flags were nevertheless manufactured. The Montana Historical Society has two in its permanent collection.

For more information refer to: The Stars and the Stripes: The American Flag as Art and as History from the Birth of the Republic to the Present, by Boleslaw and Marie-Louise D’Otrange Mastai (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), 1973 (reprinted 2002).