April 18, 2014

Dangerous Words

by Maegen Cook, Digital Collections Assistant

While examining prisoner data to be uploaded to our digital collection, Montana State Prison Records, I came across the following notation about prisoner John Harrington of Lewistown:

Detail from John Harrington's Montana State Prison intake sheet.
That’s it. This 1918 record intrigued me because it lacks the usual information on scars, religion, tobacco use, literacy, tattoos, education, etc. Based on this cheeky remark, I assumed Harrington was arrested for buying alcohol during Prohibition, but I was wrong. He'd been convicted of sedition—a very serious offense.

The Sedition Act in Montana began in February 1918 and, during that time of world war, the statute criminalized almost anything said or wrote that seemed anti-American. The Montana Sedition Project by the University of Montana details all the accused, totaling 76 men and 3 women arrested in 1918-19. It amazes me to think what kind of seemingly harmless statements could result in being arrested during that time of hyper-patriotism.

1918 prison intake sheet for John Harrington, convicted of sedition.
I decided to see what Montana newspapers wrote about Harrington's crime. It turns out that his case was one of the very first sedition cases in Montana. In the Lewistown Democrat News and Fergus County Argus from April 1918, I discovered that Harrington was accused of calling the U.S. government “rotten” and stating that they had “no business in [the war]” and that he “hoped the German army would whip the American soldiers.” One reporter warned: The “Harrington case ought to be a lesson to everyone” not to speak against the U.S. Harrington served one year, then continued through his parole without further incident.

One of the biggest projects the MHS Research Center oversees is digitizing all 10,000 Montana State Prison intake sheets. These records typically contain a wealth of information about each prisoner—crime(s), age, date, address, parents' names, occupation, physical features, and more. Most records contain a photograph as well.

You never know what kind of cases you'll come across while looking through these records.

April 8, 2014

Hats Off to Fashion

by Christine Kirkham, Coordinator, Montana Digital Newspaper Project

There is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes)

Pharrell with hat creased "fore and aft" (eonline.com)
Pharrell with hat creased "fore and aft" (eonline.com)
Like millions of others, I enjoyed the 2014 Grammy Awards, including the appearance of singer Pharrell (fa-RELL) wearing his signature headgear.

Within days of the broadcast, I happened to be examining a 1910 newspaper supplement*, The Bitterroot Valley Illustrated, when an advertisement caused me to do a double-take.

Detail, Welpton's menswear ad, The Bitterroot Valley Illustrated, May 1910
Detail, Welpton's menswear
ad, The Bitterroot Valley
, May 1910
According to the National Park Service, this hat style was originally called “Alpine” and became part of the official ranger uniform in 1912. Also referred to as a "Smokey the Bear" hat, its modern-day incarnation rises a full 8 inches above the brim. Manufactured by Vivienne Westwood, it is available in seven colors and retails for $180. (Don't get your hopes up; the item is sold out.)

Like Pharrell and other 2014 "rangers," the 1912 wearer was free to mold the top into any shape he desired.

"[The hats] were usually creased fore and aft, but there were no regulations on the subject and it was left to the ranger to do whatever styling he wished." (Badges and Uniform Ornamentation of the National Park Service.)

* A supplement to the Hamilton-based Western News, the Illustrated was a lavish 50-page homage to the Bitterroot Valley, touting the region's abundant timber, fruit, and other riches. This and other digitized Montana special editions will soon be available on Chronicling America.

March 19, 2014

Fanny Cory, Montana Illustrator

by Maegen Cook, Digital Collections Assistant

Illustration (above) and poem (below)
from Little me: in picture and verse,
by Fanny Y. Cory (New York : E.P.
Dutton), c1936.

A conscience is a horrid thing!
Just when you're having fun
It makes you look around and see
The mischief you have done-

Recently, the Society acquired nine books that were beautifully illustrated by Fanny Young Cory. A longtime Montanan, Cory was a book, magazine, and newspaper illustrator best known for The Fairy Alphabet; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; and two works by L. Frank Baum: The Magic Key and The Enchanted Island of Yew. Her illustrations appeared in magazines like Life, Saturday Evening Post, and Century.

Fanny Cory in her youth
Fanny Cory in her youth,
from "Fanny Cory Cooney:
Mother and Artist," by Bob
Cooney and Sayre Cooney
Montana The
Magazine of Western History
(Summer 1980) p 9.
Cory was born in 1877 in Waukegan, Illinois, and moved to Helena, Montana, with her family as a ten-year-old. In 1896, she attended the Metropolitan School of Art in New York City. In 1902, she returned to Montana, where she married Fred Cooney. They lived for almost fifty years on Canyon Ferry Lake, raising three children and caring for their ranch. She continued her art until her death in 1972 at age 94.

The Research Center holds 14 works containing her writings or illustrations, and the Museum has 180 pieces of original Cory art.

Illustration in Fairy Tales, (Chicago, Illinois: N.K. Fairbank Company), [1903],
a promotion for Fairbank's 
Fairy Soap

March 4, 2014

"Hot and Cold Baths, Artistic Shaving, and Hair Cutting"

by Christine Kirkham, Coordinator, Montana Digital Newspaper Project

So reads an 1883 ad from Chris Hehli ("The King of Barbers") in Miles City.

For the past four months, MHS volunteer Josef Warhank has spent two mornings a week poring over advertisements in Montana’s digitized historical newspapers. Starting with the Daily Yellowstone Journal (Miles City) in 1882, Josef is working his way through all 34 Montana newspapers currently available online at the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America.

This Miles City saloon promised
"boxing matches every evening."
Page by page, he records details from each ad—business name, location, products, and names of principals. Josef’s fast-growing spreadsheet already lists 165 distinct businesses—and that’s for one newspaper in one town!

Bypassing national advertisers like Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, the Index to Montana Newspaper Advertisers will focus on Montana-based businesses and be made available as a searchable online resource for historians and genealogists. In addition to presenting a panoramic view of active businesses at a specific time and place, the ads speak to the growth of local economies. For example, Miles City’s isolation—and the presence of Fort Keogh just west of town—spurred rapid and varied economic development. Click here to check out an early draft of the Index to The Montana Newspaper Advertisers!

Ad for a Miles City restaurant.
Newspaper ads reflect the reciprocal relationship of the press with the local community. Then as now, fees paid for ad space were an essential source of revenue for publishers. 


Having just commenced a new round of newspaper digitization, the Montana Digital Newspaper Project team is hopeful Josef will continue his work through 2015, when another 100,000 pages from 19 more newspapers will be digitized and added to Chronicling America.

February 7, 2014

Circus Day at Lewistown

The Fergus County Argus declared July 6, 1908, “the biggest day in the history of Lewistown, so far as crowds are concerned.” That was the day the Norris & Rowe Circus would perform their spectacular show under the Big Top for the people of Lewistown. Special trains ran to carry the circus into town and to bring revelers in from the surrounding area. The morning of the show a grand parade of exotic animals marched through town to the tune of the circus band. For the residents of Fergus County the event held special significance—this was the first circus to ever visit Lewistown.

Fergus County Democrat, June 30, 1908
Fergus County Argus July 3, 1908
It is no wonder that the arrival of the Norris & Rowe Circus was so hotly anticipated. Their promotional materials boasted, among other things, 10 Reckless Rough Riders, 100 Shetland Pony Ballet, Educated Seals and Sea Lions, 18 Daring Aerialists, and 23 Merry Clowns.  Also promised were a real Roman Hippodrome, Scores of Trained Wild Beasts, and 20 Astonishing Acrobats!

Norris and Rowe Circus Band in Lewistown, Montana July 6, 1908
The Fergus County Argus later reported that “some 5,000 people filled the big tent, and all were satisfied.” The excitement of circus day left the town abuzz even after the performers had moved on to the next town. By all accounts, the arrival of the Norris & Rowe Circus was an historical moment for the people of Lewistown. They were lucky to catch the circus at all. By the end of 1909 the circus was in financial troubles, and by 1910 it had disbanded.*

Circus Elephants on Parade in Lewistown, Montana

*Circus Historical Society

 Thousands of stories just like this can be found on the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America, where over 150,000 pages of historical Montana newspapers are available for searching and viewing.