February 27, 2019

Gallery of Outstanding Montanans Coming Up!

On Wednesday, February 27, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda, architects John G. Link and Charles S. Haire and champion bronc rider Fannie Sperry Steele will become the newest inductees into the Gallery of Outstanding Montanans.

Butte-Silver Bow Club
[MHS Photo Archives PC 001]
Working independently and in partnership, John G. Link (1869–1954) and Charles S. Haire (1857–1925) shaped Montana’s built landscape. In 1906, the two joined together to form Link and Haire, Architects, which quickly grew into one of Montana’s most prominent architectural firms. In addition to providing plans for a third of the state’s county courthouses and contributing to the capitol’s 1912 expansion, Link and Haire designed schools, churches, hospitals, office buildings, libraries, and private homes. Their buildings, many of which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, embrace the period’s eclectic and classical tastes.

Helena MT Life Insurance Company
[MHS Photo Archives PAc 2013-50]
Fannie Sperry Steele (1887– 1983) grew up near Helena and learned to ride almost before she could walk. In 1907, Sperry began participating in women’s bucking horse competitions. At the Calgary Stampede in 1912, her ride earned her the title “Lady Bucking Horse Champion of the World.” Sperry rode exhibition broncs until she was in her fifties. She was the first woman in Montana to receive a packer’s license, and with her string of pintos, she guided hunters on trips into the mountains. Widowed in 1940, she continued to run her family’s ranch until she was seventy-eight.
Fanny Sperry Steele, Miles City Roundup
[MHS Photo Archives 2018-56

February 14, 2019

My Valentine

by Jennifer Bottomly-O'Looney, MHS Museum Senior Curator

Charles M. Russell and Nancy Cooper were married on September 9, 1896, in a ceremony at the home of their good friends Ben and Lela Roberts. The bride wore a blue wedding dress that Lela Roberts made for her.[i]

Charlie Russell and wife Nancy, 1896, Elite Studio
[MHS Photo Archives # 944-674

The event was newsworthy. As the Anaconda Standard reported, “Wednesday evening at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. B. R. Roberts, Miss Mamie Mann and Charles M. Russell were united in marriage by Rev. B. W. Pierce. A large number of guests were present and after the ceremony the party sat down to an elaborate collation. The occasion was one of the most pleasant social events ever held in Cascade where the couple have many friends.” The Standard noted that “Charley Russell, the happy groom, is known all over the west as the ‘Cowboy Artist’ . . .  [and] now more than ever before [he] will confine himself to his profession. In the classic language of Charley, he’s ‘done settled down to business and can’t trot with the gang anymore…’” [ii] They honeymooned in the small twelve by twenty-four-foot shack behind the Robert’s house, where they would make their home.

My Valentine
Watercolor and gouache, ca. 1896-1897, 18” H x 15½” W
Gift of Mrs. Charles L. Sheridan in memory of Lela V. Roberts
[MHS Museum Accession X1954.03.03]

Charlie was persuaded to paint the very atypical, and romantic watercolor, My Valentine, for his friend Lela, who used it as a sign for a candy booth set up as a fund-raiser for a church social. It was given to the Montana Historical Society in memory of the donor’s mother, Lela V. Roberts. Both Lela and her husband, Ben Roberts, were close friends of Russell’s. The Roberts’s home is where Russell first met Nancy and where they married. [iii]

[i] Brian Dippie, Shaping of Russell’s Art, 6
[ii] Anaconda Standard, September 13, 1896, 13
[iii] MHS Curatorial Records.