December 18, 2014

The Christmas Goose – or was it Buffalo Tongue?

Molly Kruckenberg, Research Center Manager

Food is an important part of celebrations.  From eggs at Easter to cold lemonade on Independence Day to turkey and cranberries on Thanksgiving, food is integral to how we celebrate together.  Christmas food, while not as prescribed as the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, certainly has its customs.  Whether you have ham or turkey or roast beef on Christmas day, there are probably mashed potatoes that accompany it, along with lots of pies and cookies.

Like most traditions, though, the food that we eat on the holidays has changed over time.  In 1882 Nannie Alderson planned a Christmas feast in her new home on a ranch near Lame Deer.  The highlight of her meal was fresh oysters, which she had arranged for a neighbor, who was traveling to Miles City, to bring back.  She set a lovely Christmas dinner table, decorated with pine cones, wild rose berries, and her grandmother's silver candlesticks. The dish of scalloped oysters were front and center.*

The cover of the Christmas menu at the Grand Central Hotel, Helena, MT, 1889
(courtesy of the Montana Historical Society Research Center;
see entire menu here on the Montana Memory Project

In 1889, the Grand Central Hotel in Helena served Christmas dinner with a multitude of foods.  There were a few of the traditional foods we see today on their menu, such as mashed potatoes and stuffed goose.  But some of the foods served would not be seen on a holiday menu today, including green turtle soup, smoked buffalo tongue, and braised calve's brains with truffles.  There wasn’t a single pumpkin pie for dessert, but they did serve a Christmas plum pudding.

Whether you are eating turkey and mashed potatoes or stuffed buffalo tongue and oysters, the MHS wishes you Happy Holidays and pleasant eating!

(* Unfortunately for Nannie and her guests, the oysters had been tainted before they were frozen.  Nannie recollected that, "In spite of the bad oysters, we did have a merry time before the disastrous effects began to appear.")

December 11, 2014

Remembering Montana’s Chet Huntley

by Susan R. Near, Development & Marketing Officer, Montana Historical Society
Norma Ashby (nee Beatty) presenting Chet with a Montana
Territorial Centennial medallion in his NBC Office, New York, 1964.
  [MHS Photo Archives # 942-937]
Native Montanan Chester Robert “Chet” Huntley (December 10, 1911-March 20, 1974) was a national television newscaster best known for co-anchoring NBC’s evening news program with David Brinkley. “The Huntley-Brinkley Report,” which ran for 14 years beginning in 1956, had an estimated nightly audience of 20 million people at its peak. Huntley received numerous prestigious awards, including the Alfred I. DuPont award, two Peabody Awards, two Overseas Press Club awards, and he was named the International Radio and Television Society’s “Broadcaster of the Year” in 1970. In Huntley’s memoir, The Generous Years: Remembrances of a Frontier Boyhood, published in 1968, he credited family and his Montana roots as his influences. 

Huntley as a young thespian, c. 1935
[Photo: Museum of the Rockies Collection]

Chet was born in Cardwell, Montana to Percy and Blanche Tatham Huntley–the only son and oldest of four children. His father was a telegraph operator for the Northern Pacific Railway. The family moved often throughout his childhood, living in Cardwell, Saco, Willow Creek, Logan, Big Timber, Norris, Whitehall and Three Forks. Chet graduated from Whitehall High School and attended Montana State College in Bozeman. He also attended Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle before graduating with a degree in Speech and Drama from the University of Washington in 1934.

Huntley landed his first broadcasting job at Seattle’s KBCB radio where he was writer, announcer, and sales representative making $10 a month. News broadcaster and commentator positions for radio stations in Spokane, Portland and Los Angeles followed. He worked for CBS Radio from 1939-1951, then ABC Radio from 1951-1955 and joined the NBC Radio Network in 1955. Critics considered Chet Huntley to have one of the greatest broadcast voices ever heard.

Huntley and Brinkley at the NBC "Convention Central", 1960
[Photo: Museum of the Rockies Collection]
NBC tapped Huntley to anchor a half-hour news program in early 1956 originally called “Outlook,” later known as “Chet Huntley Reporting”. The show aired for 7 years and covered issues like segregation, civil rights and immigration. Later that year, NBC looked to replace their news anchor for coverage of the national political conventions; both Huntley and journalist David Brinkley were in the running; however, there was disagreement on who should take that role. Eventually the decision was made that both would share the assignment. Their on-air chemistry—Huntley’s straightforward presentation countered by Brinkley’s acerbic wit—was immediately apparent and popular with viewers. Their partnered success led them to co-anchor the NBC nightly news program debuting in October 1956.  It was the very first dual anchor national evening newscast, with Chet Huntley from New York and David Brinkley from Washington, DC. “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” was a ratings success and garnered several team awards, including eight Emmys and two George Peabody Awards. Chet Huntley’s last broadcast on “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” was July 31, 1970. 

Huntley was interviewed in 1961 by Newsweek magazine and was quoted describing himself as a “solemn, frozen, horse face that some people seem to like. He thinks awfully lucky to be where he is and sometimes feels it’s all transitory, fleeting. He’s aware of all the incredible things he does not know. He can’t stand ignoramuses or stuffed shirts.” 

“Maybe where there’s clarity of air, there's clarity of thought." - Chet Huntley
Huntley at Big Sky, Montana, 1973
[Photo: Museum of the Rockies Collection]

Chet Huntley returned to Montana where, in retirement, he conceived and spearheaded the development of Big Sky Resort – an 11,000
acre year-round ski resort and recreation complex on the West Fork of the Gallatin River. He worked with large corporations to fund the Big Sky development, which included an Arnold Palmer designed golf course, tennis courts, indoor swimming pools, a dude ranch, condominiums and the famous Big Sky ski runs. Chet Huntley died of lung cancer in March 1974 at his home in Big Sky, just days before the official opening of the resort. 

Enjoy listening to "Chet Huntley's Montana," a short tribute to the many quaint and unusual places in the Big Sky State. This fine example of Huntley's unique voice was recorded in 1959 for the 10th anniversary of the Montana Broadcasters Association. In 1993, Chet Huntley was inducted into the Montana Broadcaster Association’s Hall of Fame.
Chet Huntley, 1960
[Photo: Museum of the Rockies Collection]

November 6, 2014

Miss Ishikawa: A Japanese Friendship Doll

By Amanda Streeter Trum, Curator of Collections, Montana Historical Society Museum

Miss Ishikawa [Photo by Alan Pate, MHS Museum Accession X1928.01]
Nose: medium.             Mouth: small.               Eyes: black
This is how the Montana Historical Society’s "Miss Ishikawa" is described on her 1927 passport.  Eighty-seven years ago this month, Miss Ishikawa arrived in San Francisco aboard the Japanese ship, Tenyo Maru.  She is one of fifty-eight "Friendship Dolls" presented to the people of America by the people of Japan in November 1927, in response to a similar gift from the United States earlier that year. 
Blue-Eyed Doll sent to Japanese children
The Friendship Doll exchange began in March 1927 with the shipment of over 12,000 American dolls to Japan as a gesture of goodwill during a time of cultural and political tension between the two countries.  Known to the Japanese as “Blue-Eyed Dolls,” these small ambassadors were received with great fanfare and appreciation.  In return, the Japanese government commissioned their own specially made dolls as gifts to the children of the United States.  

The doll exchange occurred just three years after the United States passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which prohibited immigration from Japan based on an established quota system.  At this time, Japanese immigrants living on the West Coast experienced systematic and institutionalized discrimination and physical intimidation.
As anti-Japanese sentiment in the U.S. and anti-American sentiment in Japan increased, Reverend Sydney Gulick, a former American missionary in Japan, developed the idea of smoothing relations between the two countries by fostering cultural understanding and forging friendships among the countries’ children.
Gulick, founder of the Committee on World Friendship Among Children, obtained overwhelming support in the United States to gather and ship American dolls to Japan as a first step in improving relations.  Children from across the country dressed the dolls and wrote letters of greeting to accompany them. 
Rev. Sydney Gulick

In response, the Japanese government commissioned the fifty-eight Friendship Dolls—each named for a Japanese prefecture, city, or colony—to act as diplomatic ambassadors.  Baron Matsudaira, Japanese ambassador, stated in 1927, "These dolls are silent; they do not talk, but sometimes silence is more eloquent than speech.  When one’s heart is filled with emotion, one often loses speech.  So these dolls silently tell you of the friendly feeling which the children of Japan have for the children of America."

Miss Ishikawa and her peers were treated as VIPs, both in Japan and upon arrival in the U.S.  They held first-class seats on the ship and on trains as they traveled the United States, met dignitaries, and attended special receptions in their honor.
However, the goodwill generated by the dolls proved short-lived.  The children who participated in the doll exchange in 1927 became some of the same adults to fight against each other during World War II.  The imperial Japanese government labeled the American dolls spies and mandated that they be destroyed.  Today, relatively few Blue-Eyed Dolls remain, but forty-six of the original fifty-eight Friendship Dolls have been located.
In recent decades, there has been a renewed interest in both sets of dolls as historical artifacts and artistic expressions of cultural awareness.  Organizations in both the U.S. and Japan have planned reunions and homecoming exhibitions, as well as new doll exchanges.  The Blue-Eyed and Friendship Dolls continue to represent the promise of friendship and peace, a commendable sentiment that will always be relevant.
Miss Ishikawa joined the Montana Historical Society’s permanent collection in 1928. She was first displayed in the basement of the Capitol, where the museum once resided.  She and her extensive collection of beautiful accessories are now on display at the Montana Historical Society as part of our Montana’s Territorial Legacy exhibit, open through April 2015.

October 28, 2014

Being Sidney Edgerton

by Jeff Malcomson, Montana Historical Society Gov't Records Archivist

As children, and some adults, prepare their costumes for this coming Halloween, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my recent experiences with historical performance. Sometimes called first-person historical interpretation, historical performance has been around for a long time, though perhaps not as well developed a tool for public history in the Rocky Mountain region as in other parts of the country. Expert historical performer Joyce M. Thierer defines historical performance as "direct-address first-person narrative in correct clothing followed by taking questions in character and as the scholar."

Jeff Malcomson as Montana's first territorial governor,
Sidney Edgerton (ca. 1864) posing with the portrait of
Ellen Farrar Hauser, the wife of Samuel T. Hauser,
another Montana pioneer. The portrait is part of the current

MHS exhibit "Montana's Territorial Legacy."
"Gov. Edgerton" spoke at the exhibit opening.

My own recent experience started back in May portraying Montana's first territorial governor, Sidney Edgerton, during Helena's annual History Fair on the walking mall and for a couple special events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Montana Territory. My experience culminated at the Montana History Conference in Helena this fall where I portrayed Edgerton's nephew, and fellow Montana pioneer, Wilbur Fisk Sanders. In this latter historical performance, I was joined by my MHS colleagues, Rich Aarstad (as Samuel Word) and Jodie Foley (as Martha Edgerton Rolfe). We dreamed up a historical debate between these two real-life political adversaries of the territorial period (Sanders vs. Word). Over the summer we constructed a script based on many actual primary sources from Sanders, Word and Rolfe, and our own secondary-source research into the politics of the times. The dramatic climax of the performance—when Word challenges Sanders to a duel in Virginia City—was based on a real event during the 1878 political campaign.

Rich Aarstad plays democratic party "hatchet-man" Samuel Word
during a historic debate at the 2014 Montana History
Conference in Helena. (Photo courtesy of Ken Robison.)

Through this past six months of experimenting with historical performance I have learned that it can be great fun playing historical figures, though sometimes the clothing is a bit uncomfortable. More than anything though, I've found that as a historian and someone who loves to research, this is a fantastic way to engage the public, and history enthusiasts more particularly, to share the significance of the past. Through historical performances we can enliven the past, conveying information and context about how people lived, how they thought, and how they made choices that even now impact our lives. So if you dress up this year, I encourage you to choose your favorite historical figure and spend a little time in someone else's shoes, sharing the stories of the past as you go.

October 23, 2014

Chuck Wagon Provisions

by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian

We would be hard pressed to find a topic more iconic of Montana’s cattle history than the Chuck Wagon. Used during cattle drives as well as roundups, the camp cook and his provisioned chuck wagon were responsible for sustaining crews of hardworking cowboys for days, if not weeks. Camp cooks were only able to accomplish this task if they were adept at planning and packing the right provisions.  

Cowboys of the 1860s and 1870s often carried their own food supplies, including biscuits or cornbread, salt, coffee, and salted meat. Due to the weight of skillets, they packed large tin cups to warm water, and used sticks to cook meat and bread over camp fires. Texas rancher and freighter, Charles Goodnight, reportedly designed the first “Chuck” wagon around 1866. Although Goodnight’s original design consisted of a basic compartmentalized wooden cupboard, it served as the inspiration for later designs and improvements.

Mex John Making Pies, 1880-1900?, L.A. Huffman photo (Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 981-254)

Larger drives often included "bed wagons" to carry additional gear, such as tents and portable cook stoves, which became necessities with the industry’s exposure to cooler northern climates.
By the 1880s, the crude “chuck” boxes had evolved into sophisticated centers for food storage and preparation. They provided accessible storage for frequently-used spices, utensils, crocks, and pots. The remainder of the wagon was organized into storage for bulk foods, water, kindling, skillets, pots, ropes, tool box, portable wood cook stoves, and so much more. When dropped open, the hinged end created a work table.
By 1883, Northern plains culture, evolving social conventions, and the development of better food preservation methods had redefined camp cooking. The 1892 journal left by XIT trail boss Ealey Moore recorded the supplies used for a crew of 10 men during the thirteen weeks it took to drive 2500 cattle from Channing, Texas to the confluence of the Yellowstone River and Cedar Creek north of Miles City. The inventory included both traditional as well as recent additions to the cowboy diet. The cook, Sam Williamson, ground and brewed almost 2 pounds of coffee beans a day, going through 3 coffee mills. Each day he cooked 10 pounds of bacon. During the 13 week drive, the crew consumed
          • 40 pounds of rice
          • 160 pounds of beans
          • 9 gallons of sorghum
          • almost 300 pounds of fruit, including dried currants and prunes as well as dried, fresh, and canned apples and peaches
          • 1750 pounds of white flour
          • 405 pounds of white sugar
Williamson flavored his cooking with vanilla and lemon extracts, cinnamon and mustard. And, he brought both baking powder and soda. The only vegetables purchased during the trip were kegs of pickles and 720 pounds of potatoes. The inventory portrays a diet incredibly more varied than that from just twenty years earlier.

Cook and Pie Biter At Work, 1886?, L.A. Huffman photo (Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 98-253)

Moore’s inventory confirms many of the reminiscences and recipes associated with cattle drives and roundups. Teddy Blue Abbott raved about the amount of “white bread” eaten by Montana cowboys. Early photographer L.A. Huffman listed “hot biscuits” and “pudding with raisins” as mainstays. Robert Rice, Powder River Country cowboy, remembered being well fed. The offerings included, “several kinds of dried fruit stewed, bacon, beans, fried potatoes (or spuds), canned vegetables, biscuits or bread, usually made of sour dough, beefsteak, . . . all washed down with strong black coffee . . .” Traditional recipes also reflect inventory ingredients. They included suet pudding with raisins (also called S.O.B. in a Sack), vinegar dumplings or pie, biscuits, bacon and beans, potatoes and pan gravy, and fruit pies.  

Imagine carrying enough varied and nutritious foods and cooking supplies in the back of a wagon to feed a hungry cowboy crew for days! 


Abbott, E.C. ("Teddy Blue") and Helena Huntington Smith. We Pointed Them North; Recollections of a Cowpuncher. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1939.

Beach, Maude L., comp. and Robert L. Thaden, Jr.,ed. Faded Hoof Prints--Bygone Dreams: Stories from Montana’s Greatest Livestock Frontier, Powder River Country, from the Montana Writer’s Project, of the Work Projects Administration, from the 1860s to the 1920s. Broadus, MT: Powder River Historical Society, 1989.

Huffman, L.A. “Last Busting at Bow-Gun,” Montana, the Magazine of Western History 1 (Autumn 1956): 15.

Moore, Ealy ed. by J. Evetts Haley. A Log of the Montana Trail / as kept by Ealy Moore. Amarillo: Russell Stationary Co., 1932.

Price, B. Byron. National Cowboy Hall of Fame Chuck Wagon Cookbook: Authentic Recipes from the Ranch and Range. New York: Hearst Books, 1995.