January 24, 2019

Montana's Last Best Nicknames

This year marks the 130th Anniversary of Montana’s Statehood. Montana has had many nicknames through the years, and we often wonder how each came into being. Below is a brief look at some of the more popular ones. 

Treasure State
In 1895 "Treasure State" became the first nickname to gain wide appeal.  It appeared on the cover of a promotional booklet published by the Montana Bureau of Agriculture, Labor, and Industry.  "Treasure State" was chosen because of Montana's status as the country's foremost producer of metallic treasures - gold, silver, and copper.

Land of Shining Mountains
"Land of Shining Mountains" also appeared in 1895 in the same promotional booklet published by the Montana Breau of Agriculture, Labor, and Industry that introduced "Treasure State."  This motto had its origins with brothers Pierre and Chevalier Verendrye, French Canadian fur traders and explorers, who gazed upon the northern Rockies and upped them the "Shining Mountains."  According to Joaquin Miller's 1894 history Montana, Native tribes also referred to the Rockies as "the Shining" because of their snow caps.

Last Best Place
Originally the title of a compilation of essays, poems, stories by Montanans, The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology, it developed into the ‘last best’ descriptor of the state of Montana. William Kittredge, co-editor of the anthology, coined the phrase through an ‘epiphany’ of sorts:
“In an interview, they recalled being "in a tizzy" at an editorial meeting in 1987. They could not come up with a title for the book. Then Kittredge had an epiphany, which may or may not have been helped by the gin-and-tonic he was drinking at the time. He melded a line from a Richard Hugo poem about "the last good kiss" with Abraham Lincoln's definition of the United States as "the last best hope of mankind."*
Stubbed-Toe State
First seen in the 1922 edition of the World Almanac, the only explanation for Montana as the "Stubbed-Toe State" comes from the Dictionary of Americanisms, which asserts that the nickname refers to the mountainous region of western Montana where the multitude of rocks might pose a hazard to the novice hiker.

Montana: High, Wide and Handsome
Montana: High, Wide and Handsome first appeared in the 1940s on the cover of a Montana Highway Department publicity brochure. This phrase was also the title of Joseph Kinsey Howard's acclaimed book. Although the original source of the phrase is unknown, evidence points to C. B. Glasscock, who stated in War of the Copper Kings published in 1935 that "Life in Butte was high, wide, and occasionally handsome."

Big Sky Country
Big Sky Country was adopted as a Montana nickname in 1961 and is based on the book by A. B. "Bud" Guthrie.  In the summer of 1961 Jack Hallowell hosted writer John Weaver of Holiday magazine, who asked to meet Guthrie.  During their meeting Hallowell casually asked if Guthrie would object to the state advertising department using "Big Sky" to promote tourism.  Guthrie granted his permission on the spot.  Ironically, the title of the classic novel of the American fur trade originated with Guthrie's editor, Bill Sloane, because Guthrie submitted his manuscript without a title.  Guthrie had sent biographical notes, including the exclamation--"standing under the big sky I feel free"--that his father made during his first day in Montana."

Montana - Naturally Inviting
In 1985 state promoters developed "Montana - Naturally Inviting" as a replacement to "Big Sky Country," as they feared that state advertising using that slogan would be confused with advertising for Chet Huntley's Big Sky Resort south of Bozeman.


*[From the August 26, 2005 Washington Post https://wapo.st/2RNb3vY]

[Content borrowed and updated from the MHS Montana History Compass, which contains so much more information about Montana’s history. https://bit.ly/2F93E8y]

January 8, 2019

Revisiting Montana 1889: A Book Group

Join “Revisiting Montana 1889: A Book Group” Facebook Group during 2019

Join us in celebrating the 130th anniversary of Montana's statehood, and become a member of the Revisiting Montana 1889: A Book Group on Facebook throughout 2019. The Montana Historical Society will host this monthly conversation based on Ken Egan’s Montana 1889: Indians, Cowboys, and Miners in the Year of Statehood. Montana is a small town with long streets and we can have a lively exchange of views through social media.

We will revisit important figures out of Montana’s past such as Little Wolf, Granville Stuart, Nannie Alderson, Louis Riel, Mary Gleim, Deaf Bull, and Charlo. We will consider changes to the land and peoples that led up to and followed from Montana statehood.

Starting in January, and continuing each month throughout 2019 following the chapters of his book, Ken Egan, the author, will post prompting questions (such as the ones below) to the group and respond to readers’ comments.

Montana’s original Constitution was approved by voters on Oct. 1, 1889
To begin our journey through 1889, Ken will host an on-site presentation to introduce himself, his book and the Facebook reading club. The event will be held in the auditorium at the Montana Historical Society on January 15, 2019, 3:30-5:00 p.m. We will have livestreaming of it on YouTube and on Facebook Live, in case you are unable to attend the presentation on-site.

Going along on this journey will be MHS Photo Archives Manager Jeff Malcomson as our public-historian-in-residence.  He’ll be suggesting further reading in related areas of Montana and Western history and helping to answer any history-related questions readers may have.

No need to read anything in preparation for this first kick-off presentation; however, if you want to get a jump-start on the reading club, below are some questions to inspire you to consider the overall book. We will discuss these thought-provoking questions one week after the January 15th presentation. 

Getting to Know the Book
a.       Scan the layout and contents of the book. Why would the writer organize the stories by month? Do you find that format appealing? What are the possible pros and cons of this approach?
b.      Sample a few of the epigraphs (quotations) at the start of each month. Where do those excerpts come from? Why has the writer included those passages? (Note that in his previous book, Montana 1864, Egan used excerpts from the Blackfeet calendar to lead each chapter.)
c.       How do the photographs contribute to (or detract from) the stories?
d.      Scan the reference list (bibliography) at the end of book—do any titles call to you?

The January 15th presentation will be filmed on YouTube and Facebook Live and will be available for viewing during the entire year and beyond. The Tuesday following the presentation, on January 22, our Facebook Group will have a Watch Party in our Facebook Group from 1:30 to 2:30 pm to view and react to the presentation. It will be our first official virtual meeting and will give us a chance to get to know one another and begin discussing the book’s themes, figures, events and Ken’s questions in more depth.

Once you are a member of the Group, we will keep you posted about the meetings that will be held throughout the year. We plan to have one each in March, June, September and a wrap-up in December. During each meeting, we hope to include guests who will expound on certain topics in their areas of expertise.
Anaconda's Montana Hotel, built by Marcus Daly with the hope that
our State's seat of government would be in Anaconda.
To explore the chapter topics in more depth, Ken, our host for the entire year, will suggest additional readings, as will Jeff Malcomson. And, please share with us any ideas you may have for further readings!

If you need a copy of Montana 1889, you can purchase it through Riverbend Publishing http://www.riverbendpublishing.com/montana-1889.html 

You can also purchase a copy through the Montana Historical Society’s bookstore here:

Royalties from all book sales support the programs and grants of Humanities Montana.

We look forward to joining you on an adventure through time, that of Montana in 1889!