January 28, 2015

Happy 150th Anniversary to the Montana Historical Society!

"It is for our people now to say whether they will preserve the early history of Montana in an enduring form, so that after times may know the thrilling drama here enacted."   

                                                        ~ Thos. J. Dimsdale, Editor, The Montana Post, 1865

 

Officially incorporated on February 2, 1865*, the Montana Historical Society and its historians, curators, educators and librarians have worked diligently through the years to collect, preserve, and share the stories of Montana's past.


We do this through our heritage resources—art, books, original documents and papers, artifacts, photographs, and even buildings throughout the state that we have helped to preserve.
                                                     
The Montana Historical Society also brings the state’s history to you, through our educational and public programs, traveling exhibits, publications, museum store, and research center.
 
The Montana Historical Society has its own unique history, which you can read about in the Spring 2002, volume 52, number 1 issue of "Montana The Magazine of Western History", and has changed over the course of 150 years.
Replica of 1863 structure using original logs. First meeting of
"The Historical Society of Montana" held here February 25, 1865.
Photo credit: Montana Office of Tourism

                       
With its beginnings in the Dance & Stuart Store of Virginia City, the Historical Society of Montana collections were later moved in 1874 to the law office of Wilbur Fisk Sanders. Shortly after the move to Helena, a fire destroyed the original collection and the work of restoring the library's collection began.

 
Library in the Montana State Capitol building, Helena, MT [ca. 1900]
Photo is of the entrance from the main hall and shows the oldest
printing press in Montana, located on the table in the foreground.
MHS Photo Archives #952-762
In 1887, the first public rooms in Helena were housed in the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse, and by 1902, the library moved into the newly-built Capitol as a state institution and was renamed the "Historical and Miscellaneous Department of the Montana State Library".

After the library was relocated
within the Capitol a couple of times, authority was given, as early as 1923, to fund a new building just for the library and museum, now called the "Historical Society of Montana". It took another thirty years before that goal was attained.
 
On January 8, 1953, the Society, renamed the "Montana Historical Society" in 1963, opened the doors of the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building to the public and has remained in its current location since that time.
Exterior view of the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building, ca. 1954
Photo credit: MHS Collection 1950-1955
Over the past 150 years, the mission of MHS has not altered. We work to promote an understanding and appreciation of Montana’s cultural heritage—past, present, and future. We are the guardians of Montana's memory and with your continued support, we will enhance that guardianship and will strive to be a highly regarded institution for another 150 years and longer!

Celebrate Montana history with us! Your interest and love of Montana’s past energizes our work. As reflected in the following comments by recent researchers, we function at our best when we serve you.
 
 "A treasure chest full of information. I appreciated your enthusiasm."
 
"I have never had better treatment; it made my visit memorable."

"Everybody was so friendly and helpful."

"I made my second visit to the MSH and again was treated with friendliness and enthusiasm. I thank you and your staff for that."

"We walked out of the building absolutely elated with the information and materials."

"Thanks for all you and your staff do for Montana History!"

"The students had an amazing experience with you last Friday and I want to express my sincere appreciation for your help."

"Thank you so much for everything. It was an absolute pleasure to do research in such a welcoming, good-spirited and knowledgeable environment."


With your continued research, donations, visits, participation and passion, more real stories of the past can be shared and more history is preserved for future generations.

 
*Join us at the Montana State Capitol Rotunda, Monday, February 2nd, 2015, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., to celebrate our 150th Anniversary. Beginning at 12:15 p.m., Governor Bullock and other state officials will provide a brief ceremony.

January 21, 2015

"We Are Getting Old Fast." A Newspaper Says Hello and Goodbye

by Christine Kirkham, Manager, Montana Digital Newspaper Project

We are getting old fast and the best years of our lives are swiftly passing by and we find there is a limit to our patience.
Edwin K. Abbott in 1887 (Source: noel_jeff)
So wrote the editor of the Neihart Herald, on January 12, 1901. The Herald had started life a decade earlier in a tiny mining camp deep in the Little Belt Mountains. Originally called Canyon City, the settlement experienced its first boom after James Neihart and two partners discovered silver-lead ore in 1881. By 1885, there were 50 homes, a post office, a blacksmith, and two saloons as well as restaurants and stables. But within a few years, the high-grade ore was played out, and removing low-quality rock from the isolated region was costly. Prospectors fled, and Neihart shrunk to fewer than 300 residents.

Fast forward to 1890. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act passed Congress, doubling the amount of silver the government was required to buy. In addition, the Montana Central Railway completed a new spur from Great Falls. At last, ore could be cost-effectively moved to smelters. A new boom arrived, and with it, a newspaper.

In the Herald's first issue, 25-year-old editor Edwin Abbott struck a celebratory tone: "The sound of the carpenter's hammer is now heard on all sides. There is not a house in town for rent, all of them being occupied." The issue features ads for six lawyers, four assayers, and three real estate agents. In short order, the population ballooned to nearly 5000 and the mines were managing a payroll of $250,000 (as much as $7 million today). On that hope-filled day, Abbott greeted readers with a benediction: 

1890 Map of Neihart
1890 map of Neihart and
dozens of mining claims above it.
The greatness of this camp is visible in the signs of its times. And no man not a fool will dispute the coming great developments and probabilities of new and valuable finds within the present season…many thousands of dollars will be poured into her tills and into the miner's wallet….

Over the next two years, the future looked bright. Neihart boasted four hotels, three churches, a hospital, and six miles of mining tunnels. Electric streetlights were installed, and the Belt Mountain Miners Union opened a library for members.


Fast-growing Neihart in 1892
But fate was not finished with Neihart. Over-production of silver drove the price into free fall, and the exchange of silver notes for gold seriously depleted the gold reserves of the government, leading to repeal of the Sherman Act. The Panic of 1893 led to the worst depression in American history. Thousands of banks failed, and silver mining in Neihart came to a halt.

Defiant, Abbott spent the better part of 1895 producing an elaborate, 25-page pictorial edition, the Herald Souvenir. Directed toward prospective investors, the publication chronicled the town's growth and promoted its potential.
We have prepared several thousand extra copies…which we expect the public to aid in distributing. Every family wants the Souvenir on its center table. But the copy which is sent out to distant friends is the one to be relied upon for doing the most good.
In 1896, William Jennings Bryan ran for president on a platform of free coinage of silver, and Neihart was behind him all the way. A group of local musicians performed as “The Neihart Free Coinage Band.” For months, Abbott printed this exhortation below the Herald's nameplate: FREE MEN, A FREE BALLOT, AND FREE SILVER.* But Bryan lost, and for the first time, the Herald's optimistic voice was tinged with the fear that things may not, after all, improve. Abbott unveiled a new motto below the nameplate:


In 1900, Bryan lost again. The silver lobby failed, and Neihart’s population shrank to 10% of its 1893 level. Facing a paucity of readers and advertisers, Abbott surrendered.

"This is the last issue of the Neihart Herald," he wrote, "and we wish to thank our patrons for past favors. We have struggled along since the panic of '93, hoping for better times and during that period at times did not much more than make our salt."
We have great confidence in the future of Neihart and know that some day its mines will be employing a large number of men…Neihart may be a good camp 2, 3 or 4 years from now but for us it is too long to wait.
Abbott decamped to Salmon, Idaho, taking his printing press with him. There, he started the Lemhi Herald and remained a newspaperman for his entire career. He died in Salmon in 1933.

And what became of Neihart? A brief surge in zinc mining enlivened the 1930s and 1940s, but in 1945, the railway closed. Due to high levels of lead in the soil, in 2001 the area was named a high-priority Superfund site. In 2013 the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Neihart was home to 51 souls. Their predecessors still populate the pages of the Neihart Herald, the entire run of which is available on Chronicling America.

*The Herald was avowedly Republican; however, miners and farmers in the West supported pro-silver Democrats like Bryan.


Sources
  • Ayer, N. W. N.W. Ayer & Son's American Newspaper Annual: Containing a Catalogue of American Newspapers, a List of All Newspapers of the United States and Canada, 1892-93.
  • Cascade County Historical Society. Cascade County Album. Great Falls, MT: Cascade County Historical Society, 1999.
  • Great Falls Tribune June 22, 1941.
  • Malone, Michael P., Richard B. Roeder, and William L. Lang. Montana: A History of Two Centuries. Rev. ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991.
  • McIntyre Brothers. "Map of Neihart, Meagher Co., Mont.," Chicago: John Morris Co., 1900. Last accessed 1-16-2015 at http://cdm16013.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15018coll5/id/622.
  • Neihart Herald, May 29, 1891, December 18, 1897, and January 12, 1901.
  • Niehart Herald Souvenir, November 28, 1895.
  • Photo: Edwin K. Abbott. Posted by noel_jeff. Last accessed 1-15-2015 at http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/71454848/person/46241976150/media.
  • Photo: Neihart, Montana, Fall of 1892, photographer unidentified, MHS Photo Archives PAc95-76.1.
  • Polk, R.L. & Co. Montana State Gazetteer and Business Directory. 1892-93 and 1900.
  • “The Death of Edwin K. Abbott,” The Recorder (Salmon, ID), August 25, 1933.
  • Wolfe, Muriel Sibell. Montana Pay Dirt. Denver: Sage Books, 1963.

December 31, 2014

James Bradley’s Historical Baggage

by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian, Montana Historical Society Research Center 

Every spring, the MHS Research Center offers two James H. Bradley Fellowships to graduate students, faculty, and/or independent scholars pursuing research on Montana history.

Past recipients and topics reflect the dynamics of Western U.S. historical interests, from Native women’s work wages/opportunities to Lee Metcalf’s role in environmental politics. The naming of the fellowship was no accident. Rather, its title represents just a hint of the invaluable legacy left to Montana by Lt. James Bradley, an historian who collected, created, and carried history.  
James H. Bradley, 1st Lt. 7th U.S. Infantry [no date]
MHS Photo Archives # 941-317
Born in Ohio in 1844, James H. Bradley served in the Ohio Volunteer Regiment during the Civil War. Following the war, he reenlisted and was quickly promoted to First Lieutenant. From 1866 through the next eleven years he was stationed primarily in Wyoming, Utah and Montana Territories.  His deployments consistently put him in harm’s way. During a brief 1871 assignment in Georgia and Alabama to suppress the escalation of Ku Klux Klan activities, he met and married Mary Isabella Beach. He returned to Montana with his new bride in January 1872. The couple was stationed at Fort Benton and Fort Shaw until 1877.[1]
 

The developing Montana Territory and its major players consumed much of Bradley’s spare time. He studied historical resources, such as volumes of the 1872 “History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis & Clarke." Bradley sought out and recorded stories told to him by early Montana history makers including Alexander Culbertson, one of the founding fathers of Fort Benton. He created historical sketches of Crow, Gros Ventre, Blackfoot and Sioux [2].

While under the command of General Gibbon, Bradley detailed daily events of the 1876 campaign against the Northern Cheyenne and Lakota. As Commander of the Scouts, including 23 Crow and two white, Bradley had the unenviable duty of repeating the Scouts’ report to Gibbon of a “horrid” battle involving Custer. Bradley’s final journal entry, dated Monday, June 26, conveys the reactions prompted by the report. Less than 24 hours later, Bradley and his scouts discovered the remains of Custer and his men.[3]

Bradley himself died on August 9, 1877, during the Battle of the Big Hole. Bradley’s passion for Montana history did not die with him, though. Upon the news of his death, Mrs. Bradley sold several of her husband’s books to trader J.H. McKnight. She then packed the bulk of Lt. Bradley’s writings and took them with her as she arranged passage back to Atlanta, Georgia aboard the steamboat Benton.[4] Just two years later, in 1878, she sold the collection to the Montana Historical Society. [5] 

One hundred thirty-six years later, Bradley’s legacy, both literally and figuratively, lives on at the Montana Historical Society Research Center. The numerous journals which he carried, such as the handwritten journal of the 1876 “Sioux Campaign on the Yellowstone,” along with The James H. Bradley Papers, 1872-1877 (Manuscript Collection 49), are retained in the MHS archives. 

A few books from his personal library are housed in the MHS library's collection, including both volumes of "History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis & Clarke," which Bradley signed and dated after picking them up in Fort Benton Feb. 21, 1874.[6] The volumes, small enough to fit in an inside pocket or saddle bag, still evoke the smell of camp fires.
 
This spring, the MHS Research Center will once again accept Bradley Fellowship applications. The Fellowship is just one of many legacies left by Lt. James Bradley’s passion for Montana’s history. 
Bradley's signature in his personal copy of "History of the Expedition
 under the Command of Captains Lewis & Clarke"
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 ____________________________________________________
 
[1] Jon G. James, “Lt. James H. Bradley, The Literary Legacy of Montana’s Frontier Soldier-Historian,” Montana, the Magazine of Western History, Winter 2009, v. 59, no. 4: 46-57.

[2] James H. Bradley Papers, 1872-1877, MC 49, Box 2, Folder 10.

[3] Lt. James H. Bradley, The March of the Montana Column, A Prelude to the Custer Disaster, ed. Edgar I. Stewart (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961), 153-162.

[4] "Mrs. Bradley,” The Benton Record, August 17, 1877, p. 3.

[5] Jon G. James, 56.

[6] Meriwether Lewis, History of the expedition under the command of Captains Lewis and Clarke : to the sources of the Missouri, thence across the Rocky Mountains, and down the River Columbia to the Pacific ocean: performed during the years 1804, 1805, 1806, by order of the government of the United States, ed. Archibald M’Vickar, (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1872). MHS Library Locker 917.8 L58HM 1871, Vol. 1 & 2.

 


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]