March 27, 2015

A Life Through Newspapers: Andrew Jackson ("AJ") King

By Natasha Hollenbach, Montana Digital Newspaper Project Assistant

Historical newspapers can reveal people who were important in their time and place, but whom history has deemed unnecessary to remember. During the 1902 election, the Kalispell Bee ran several political cartoons directed at Andrew Jackson (AJ) King.

However, concerted searching through the Montana Historical Society catalog, Google, and revealed very little about this man. So an experiment was proposed. How much of AJ King’s life could be revealed using just Montana digitized newspapers available on Chronicling America? Using the advanced search, limiting to Montana and using “a j king” as the search term under "with the phrase," 163 pages were returned. These results ranged from 1892 to 1921 including papers from Libby, Great Falls, Anaconda, Cut Bank, Butte, Missoula, Helena, Havre, Glasgow and Fort Benton. While there was a surprising amount of information available, not all articles that mentioned 'AJ King' actually pertained to this AJ King. For example, during this period there was also an A (Alfred) J King in Missoula who worked for the Daily Missoulian. However, there is enough to provide a reasonable account of AJ’s professional life.

When Flathead County was created in 1893, AJ King was appointed county treasurer. He was elected to this position twice--first in 1894 and again in 1898. During the 1896 campaign, he was chosen as one of the delegates to represent the county at the Democratic State Convention. It appears to be his first attempt to expand his political career. In 1902, he ran for State Senate, but lost in an election that was a blowout for the Republican Party.

From the end of the campaign until he was appointed collector of customs in 1913, he appears only twice, both concerning land transactions. In 1910, AJ was one of the individuals who offered land for sale to the federal government that wanted federal buildings in Kalispell, Miles City and Bozeman. In 1912, the Libby Herald reported a land transfer from AJ to his son, Carlisle. In 1913, AJ was appointed collector of customs for Montana and Idaho with his headquarters in Great Falls, a position paying $3,500 per year for a 4-year term. He would serve two terms in this position (1913-1921). Over the next several years, most references to AJ are about smuggling activity. Because this was the time of prohibition, whiskey smuggling from Canada was a regular occurrence, with articles often describing how it was smuggled and the amount of liquor poured into the city’s sewer.

In addition to whiskey, a number of other items were smuggled from Canada during AJ’s tenure: horses (1915), grain through Scobey (1915), and a diamond worth $200 (1920). Nineteen-nineteen was a busy year for AJ. He spoke to the Woman’s Club in favor of the League of Nations; aided in a collection campaign for the Salvation Army; attended the state fair; heard President Wilson speak in Helena; attended a conference in New York; and visited family and friends in Kentucky and Nebraska. In 1920, AJ King's activities with the Democratic Party received significant coverage, as did his business affairs. The creation of two oil companies, Missouri River Oil & Gas Company and Cat Creek Devil’s Basin Oil Company, both had AJ as one of the primary owners. One story highlights a different aspect of his job. On May 14, 1921, he was in Boise, judging whether art imported from Europe for the new Catholic Church could enter the country duty free or if money was owed.

In late 1921, his term was up and a Republican president was in power. The last mention of him is November 21, 1921 in the Great Falls Daily Tribune, stating that he was moving back to Kalispell after buying the Ford Hotel.
Not only do these articles track AJ’s working history, they also provide insight into his family life. AJ’s wife was active in the social scene, as  found in articles about the Great Falls Woman’s Club, musical club, bridge club, and Ladies’ Auxiliary to the American Legion. She and AJ had two sons, Carlisle and Dean. When Carlisle returned from WWI, the event was recorded in the newspaper.

Several years later, when Carlisle stopped in Great Falls to visit his parents on his way back home to Seattle and, then, when AJ and his wife visited Dean and his family for Christmas, the newspaper reported it. In the last article about AJ, it mentions that part of the reason he chose to return to Kalispell was that his son, Dean, was County Attorney.

And, so ends a life through digital newspapers!

March 26, 2015

Now Playing at the MHS Research Center!

Lory Morrow, Photograph Archives Manager

Recognizing the importance of motion pictures and the need to preserve them as historical records, the Research Center’s Photograph Archives began collecting films in the 1960s.  Our collection includes films produced by Montana film makers, production companies, and by state agencies.  As an archive, we are primarily concerned with preserving our film holdings and making them available for viewing by researchers.  With this goal in mind, in 2009, Molly Kruckenberg, the Research Center’s Director, applied to the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) for a grant to preserve and digitize three of the Research Center’s films.

NFPF gives grants for film preservation to United States public and 501(c)3 nonprofit institutions that provide public access to their collections. These grants target orphan films (films “that lack either clear copyright holders or commercial potential” to pay for their preservation) made in the U.S. The grants must be used to pay for laboratory work involving the creation of: 1) new film preservation elements, 2) two new public access copies (one of which must be a film print), and 3) closed captioning for sound films destined for Web or television exhibition.

View of water running through lower tunnel portal of Tunnel #2,
Fort Peck Dam, circa 1939. Still from film titled
Construction of the Fort Peck Dam (1939–1950) taken
by Jerold Van Faasen.
From our first grant application in 2009 until 2013, the Research Center has been awarded five NFPF awards for the preservation and duplication of eleven historic motion picture films in the collection:

2009 Grant
Construction of the Fort Peck Dam (1939–1950), three (color and silent) films taken by Jerold Van Faasen, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil engineer, of the construction of Fort Peck Dam and events that took place during this massive Public Works Administration project near Glasgow, Montana; including footage of President Harry S. Truman’s visit to the dam in 1950.  Catalog #PAc 94-31

2010 Grant
• Ceremonial Dances of the Pueblo Indians (1934), two black and white, silent films containing rare footage of Native American dances, filmed by Glenn C. Morton, an amateur photographer and film maker from Lewistown, MT.  In 1934, Morton traveled to New Mexico, where he filmed Indians of the San Ildefonso Pueblo dancing the Buffalo Dance and the Flag Dance.  Catalog #PAc 85-16.
• Growing Baby Beef in Montana (1933–1934), ranch manager Glenn C. Morton’s film documentation of ranch operations at the Green Ranch, operated by Ed T. Grove and the Pioneer Ranch Company, Inc., located west of Buffalo, MT.  The three black and white, silent films have subtitles that explain the ranch’s operations and the footage illustrates the methods used on the ranch to raise Hereford cattle (including calving, branding, testing for diseases, feeding, and the final shipment by rail of the “Baby Beef” to Chicago).  Catalog #PAc 85-16

2011 Grant
Rosebud County Fair and Rodeo (1926), one home movie (black and white and silent) filmed by Walter B. Dean, Jr., who was a jeweler, optometrist and amateur photographer from Forsyth, MT.  The film contains footage of the 1926 Rosebud County fair rodeo and of the interior of the Dean Jewelry & Drug Store in Forsyth.  Catalog #PAc 92-34

2012 Grant
Montana…Land of the Big Sky (1973), was produced by Robert Henkel and Jim Graff of Sage Advertising in 1973 as part of a series of tourism films.  The 27 ½ minute, color film was produced as a promotional piece and was narrated by Chet Huntley.  The film showcases summer tourist locations in Montana, including helicopter views of Glacier National Park; the underground geological formations in Lewis and Clark Caverns; a tour of the Little Big Horn Battlefield including a reenactment of the battle; trail riding on high-country trails; camping, fishing, boating, water-skiing and other outdoor recreational activities; historic Virginia City; Yellowstone National Park; and local rodeos.  Catalog #PAc 2011-51

MHS Photograph Archives, Catalog #PAc 2001-51
Front and back cover of brochure advertising the film
titled Escape to Montana's Glacier Park. Film sponsored
 by the Montana State Advertsing Dept. and Glacier Park, Inc.

2013 Grant
Escape to Montana’s Glacier Park (1973) was a state-sponsored travelogue; also produced by Sage Advertising and narrated by Chet Huntley.  This 27 ½ minute, color film shows the scenic magnificence of Glacier National Park including Lake McDonald, fields of wildflowers, cascading waterfalls, and the famed Going-to-the-Sun road.  The film also includes footage of fisherman fishing in the Park’s pristine glacial lakes, hikers on the many trails, and the well-known and loved red buses that take tourists throughout the Park.  Catalog #PAc 2011-51

The process of preserving films is expensive and time-consuming and only a few film laboratories in the country specialize in the preservation of historical films.  The Research Center’s film preservation work was done by Colorlab, a motion picture film laboratory in Rockville, Maryland.  Without the grant funds provided by NFPF, we could not have copied these historical films to meet today’s preservation standards.  The costs of preserving our films varied from $944 for the preservation and duplication of one 5 minute, black and white silent film to $8,267.30 to preserve and duplicate one 27 ½ minute, color film with sound.  These costs differ so widely because they are determined by the length of the film, its condition, format (black and white or color) and whether it is a silent film or has a soundtrack.  Color films are more challenging and expensive to copy because the color film often fades and then must be digitally restored.

If you are curious to see any of the films described above, DVD copies of these historic films are available for viewing in the Research Center’s reference room thanks to grant funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF).

• Read more about the National Film Preservation Foundation:
• Read more about orphan films at:

February 2, 2015

Historic Recipes for an Historic Event!

by Natalie Waterman, Photo Archivist, MHS Photo Archives

In honor of the Montana Historical Society’s 150th birthday, MHS staff decided to bake four different types of cookies from recipes found within our collection of historic cookbooks; ginger, scotch, spiced and chocolate. We selected recipes from Billings (1914), Butte (1923), and Miles City (1974), Montana. These cookies were available for the public attending the 150th birthday party held Monday, February 2, 2015, in the Capitol rotunda.

In addition to owning over 500 cookbooks in the library, the Society also houses over 19,500 books, pamphlets, and state and federal documents; 2,700 maps; 35,000 linear feet of manuscript materials and over 500,000 vintage photographs. Search our catalog for your topic of interest.

Below are adapted versions of each recipe for the modern baker. Enjoy!


Ginger Drops
"Methodist Episcopal Church, Ladies Aid Society: Tested Recipes"
Billings, Montana, ca. 1914

1 cup molasses
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup boiling water
2 eggs
4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream together the molasses, butter, brown sugar, and eggs until smooth. Sift together flour, ginger, cloves, and baking soda. Mix together the flour and creamed mixture with wooden spoon until smooth. Add boiling water to the mixture until water has been absorbed into the batter (it will get slightly 'runny' before it comes together).

Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet, about a half an inch apart.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Scotch Cookies
"St. John’s Guild Cook Book"
Butte, Montana, 1923
1/2 cup softened butter                  
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
4 tablespoons cinnamon
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375. 

Cream together the butter, eggs and sugar until smooth. Sift together the cinnamon and flour.

Add the flour mixture to the cream mixture; mix with wooden spoon. Place batter in the refrigerator for two hours.

Roll out dough on a floured surface until 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies.

Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes or until the cookies have lightened to a golden color and are softer at the center and crisper towards the edges.


Spiced Cookies
"St. John’s Guild Cook Book"
Butte, Montana, 1923

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour milk
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup raisins
1 cup oatmeal
Preheat oven to 350.

Cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs until smooth. Sift dry ingredients together; add chopped raisins and oatmeal. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix with a wooden spoon; pour sour milk into batter and stir until smooth.

Drop small spoonfuls of batter onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until cookies turn light brown.

Aunt Sally’s Cocoa Drops
"Grandma’s Favorite Recipes: Early Ways in Early Days of Preserving Food"
Miles City, Montana, 1974

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa
*1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
       *not added for the public event

Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, eggs; stir in buttermilk or sour cream and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and stir. Add nuts, if desired. Chill 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400. Drop with teaspoon, 2" apart onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool and frost with your favorite icing.



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 1873 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.

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.