August 24, 2015

Saving ticket stubs for the future

by Katey Myers, Summer Intern, MHS Library

Archivists deal with all types of materials in collections, from maps to letters to books and other priceless materials. Many of the materials that archivists work with on a daily basis are one of a kind and simply irreplaceable. With so much history to keep and preserve, what happens to things like a brochure you would pick up at a convention or symposium or the travel information you find as you pass through a town? 

Ephemera is defined as any transitory written or printed matter meant for eventual repression; or paper items (such as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles. These items may seem insignificant to us right now; however, in the future they will give archivists and historians a glimpse into the past. 

Over the course of my summer internship at the Montana Historical Society, I have had the chance to work with and organize the large collection of Ephemera that resides here. With nearly one-thousand different topics covered in the Ephemera collection, there is something of interest for everyone. Topics range from cities in Montana to railroads to wars and even sled dog races.

While adding to these ever growing files, I have found a few of my favorite items. The first would be a ration booklet (above) that was distributed during World War II. These booklets were distributed by the U.S. Office of Price Administration after the U.S. entered the war. The purpose of these booklets was to dictate the quantity of certain goods a family or person was allowed to buy. Two of these booklets, issued to Montanans, reside in the Ephemera files. 
In 1937, a gentleman wrote to the State of Montana requesting information about the state. He was answered with a packet full of information concerning all parts of Montana. While only a small portion of the packet is shown (right), the entire contents of the packet, as well as the original envelop, are housed at the MHS Research Center. 

A customer walking into Helena’s Holter Hardware in 1915 might have seen a stack of colorful John Deere catalogs sitting on the counter. Many of these catalogs include brightly colored illustrations as well fold outs of the newest products John Deere had to offer. This catalog (below) and many more are in the Ephemera files.

Nineteen thirty-three saw the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the first Northern Transcontinental Railroad by the Northern Pacific Railway Company. This drawing (below) was a commemoration of that anniversary. The Northern Pacific Railway file contains two of these commemorative drawings.

This is just a small sampling of the thousands of items that are included in the Montana Historical Society’s Ephemera collection. This collection is ever growing as theater tickets, catalogs, tourist brochures, menus, train schedules, and more are continually added to this form of historic record.

August 10, 2015

The Art and Science of Map Conservation and Preservation

Samantha Cook, Summer Intern, Montana Historical Society Archives

Archivists are tasked with preserving and providing access to historically significant records to anyone and everyone. Sometimes those records are in such bad shape that preservation work is required to allow access to the objects. Conservation and preservation work is time-consuming and challenging because there is no single approach that works for every object. This map is an example of the trial and error process that often occurs and makes archival work so fun and challenging.

The Antonioli family has been involved in mining in the Philipsburg and Butte-Silver Bow County areas since the early 1900s. Between 1998 and 2003, William Antonioli, with permission from his two brothers Frank and Peter, along with other members of the family, donated records and 608 maps related to the Antonioli family’s work in various mines. The maps in this collection have been in need of preservation work for many years.  My summer internship has allowed me to be involved in this process.  I recently completed a survey and inventory of the map collection in preparation for conservation work on those maps requiring immediate care.

This map (below), entitled, Mill Drawing, was the most in need of urgent attention. The map was in pieces and therefore difficult to measure and re-roll.  A complete description for the inventory wasn’t even possible until I could begin the conservation work.  It was the worst piece in the collection and the first I prioritized for conservation.
Mill Drawing  #103 before conservation
 MHS Archives Collection MC 417. Antonioli Family Map Collection
Photo credit: Samantha Cook
When I moved the map to the conservation lab, I was not sure how to approach the work. Not only was the map in pieces and made from a delicate and fine paper, it was also covered in dirt, dried mold and other materials from being used in the mines (yuck!). The condition of the map made it barely legible. My first step was to clean the map using a soft-bristle paint brush and a small piece of a soot sponge.  After I had removed a majority of the surface dirt and grime from the front and back of the map, I went to my next step of attempting to mend the drawing.
Mill Drawing #103 during archival
 taping conservation process
Photo credit: Samantha Cook
Since this drawing was in so many pieces and had been rolled for the past 20 years, mending the map was no easy feat, and required various approaches. First, I attempted to put archival tape on the map, which was a failure; the minute I lifted my hand from pressing the tape down the drawing would curl and tear into pieces again.

Because the map kept rolling, State Archivist Jodie Foley and I determined that the map needed to be flattened. We put the map under blotter paper, placed two flat boards and four weights on top and left it for twenty-four hours. The next day when I removed the wood and weights, I realized they had not made any difference on the map. I decided to attempt to mend the drawing again using larger pieces of archival tape. This stabilized the map a little more, but it was still very unstable. I returned the map to the flattening position with the wood and weights and waited a week. 

Mill Drawing #103 map during heat-sensitive taping conservation process
Photo credit: Samantha Cook
After a week, I removed the weights and determined the archival tape was still not strong enough. We decided to try archival heat-sensitive tape. This process involved tearing strips of heat-sensitive tape and ironing it on to the backside of the map (left), much like an old fashioned patch. We hoped that it would adhere to the paper and mend the map correctly. 

This process successfully mended the drawing, making it ready for encapsulation with polyester film to truly preserve and protect the map for many years of future use.

Mill Drawing #103 map after conservation and encapsulation
Photo credit: Samantha Cook
As this essay attests, archival work is an art and a science, in which good old fashioned trial and error helps to stabilize damaged records so archivists can conserve and preserve them and provide access to everyone. 

Thank you to the Antonioli family for this generous donation!

July 27, 2015

New Index to Montana's Historical Newspaper Ads

by Christine Kirkham
Coordinator, Montana Digital Newspaper Project

"The Bar is stocked with the finest Liquors and Cigars. Give me a call, boys."

So reads an ad for the Gem Saloon in 1876. MHS Research Center volunteer Josef Warhank has spent the last two years compiling an index to adverts in The Yellowstone Journal (Miles City), 1882-1891, and The New North-West (Deer Lodge), 1869-1885. This wonderful spreadsheet (searchable and sortable!) is a boon for researchers looking for businesses, products, and people. Josef has collected from each ad the following data:

business name and address
products sold
personal names in ad
other text in ad
date ad appeared

Click here to use the Index.
Note that businesses in Anaconda, Bannack, Billings, Blackfoot City, Bozeman, Butte, Cedar Junction, Edwardsville, Emmettsburg, Helena, Philipsburg, Pioneer City, Virginia City, Willow Glen, and Yreka also placed ads in these two newspapers.

Josef's index is now available online along with links to other newspaper indices on our website. Click the link "Index to Advertisers in Montana Newspapers (XLS)." As Josef continues to work on this project, more newspapers and date ranges will be added. Please spread the word and use this wonderful new resource!

July 15, 2015

Smallpox: Vaccination not Quarantine

By Natasha Hollenbach, Montana Digital Newspaper Project Assistant

On Nov. 25, 1909, The Whitefish Pilot (below right) ran the headline “Quarantine Abolished.”  Further reading reveals that beginning January 1, 1910, people with smallpox were no longer to be confined to their homes or the ‘pest house’ (a term used for an isolation house where contagious patients were sent to contain the outbreak).  While these individuals were still prohibited from public transit, this change in regulations defied the long established procedure of isolation and containment.  The motivation for this change seems to have been to encourage vaccination.

Although the first vaccination for smallpox was created in the 1790s, smallpox outbreaks remained common.  Outbreaks in Butte (1883), Missoula (1885), Anaconda (1893), Great Falls (1899) and Missoula & Butte (1900) showed that the problem was real and needed to be met with consistent, coordinated action.  Disease doesn’t stop at city or county lines, and neither should the response.  In addition, some authority was required to issue the sometimes unpopular orders to ensure a quick, effective response. 

In 1901, the Montana State Board of Health was created, and one of their first acts was to require children to be vaccinated before attending school.  Smallpox outbreaks continued, though the number of infected children plummeted.

From January through March 1905, there was an outbreak in Billings.  Although Billings officials were praised for their quick reaction, one-hundred fifty-eight cases were reported, of whom 16 died.  By mid-March, discussion of the epidemic in the Billings Herald revolved around money, for good reason, since it reportedly cost Billings over $25,000.  During the Billings outbreak, officials took several measures.  Everyone exposed was vaccinated.  Those who were showing symptoms went to the pest house, and those who didn’t were sent to a detention house for observation.  Every physician in town was employed by the city to either care for patients or to form diagnosing squads who investigated possible new cases.  The police force was enlarged to enforce the quarantine.  Vaccinations were wide spread: in a town of about 6,000 over 4,500 tubes of vaccine were purchased, and presumably used, during the month of January.

There was of course opposition to these measures.  Objections had two main threads: costs and the perceived violation of personal liberty.  The issue of cost had been debated for years.  Although most people either didn’t know, or didn’t believe, it actually cost taxpayers significantly less to provide free vaccinations than it did to treat those infected.  Those who objected for personal liberty reasons were generally “anti-vaccinationists” who didn’t believe in the effectiveness of vaccinations.  However, in February 1905 the Supreme Court case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts supported mandatory smallpox vaccination programs in order to protect public health.
Thomas Tuttle, M.D.,
Executive Officer State Board of Health,
MHS Photo Archives PAc 96-1.2
Following the outbreak, T.D. Tuttle, Secretary of the Montana State Board of Health, wrote a circular entitled “Small Pox, Its Prevention, Restriction and Suppression.”  In it, he emphasizes the importance of vaccination and promotes the same reasoning used in the 1909 Whitefish newspaper article.
“It is the firm belief of the author that the most effectual way to rid this country of small-pox would be to give a few months warning, in order that all might have time to be successfully vaccinated, and then let any cases of small-pox that might appear go at large, without disinfection, so that those who would not be vaccinated might have the disease and be done with it. Such a move would result in a radical “change of heart” on the part of many, if not all, “anti-vaccinationists.”
In 1909, Tuttle’s recommendations were enacted.  However, while quarantines were no longer required, local and county boards of health still had the authority to declare quarantines within their jurisdiction, which lead to some cities, like Missoula, continuing to use quarantines.  The River Press of Fort Benton, on March 15, 1911, reported that there had only been two deaths from smallpox during the previous year, which shows that whichever way the local boards decided, smallpox seemed to be under control.

Billings Gazette, March 10, 1905, March 21, 1905, March 24, 1905, and October 31, 1905.

The Daily Missoulian, December 3, 1909, December 31, 1909.

Leahy, E. (2000).  Active ingredient: Smallpox: genesis of the Montana State Board of Health.  (MHS catalog call number: 614.5 L471A)

The Montana State Board of Health (1905).  Small Pox, Its Prevention Restriction and Suppression.  (MHS catalog call number: S 614.5 H34SP)

The Montana State Board of Health (1953).  50-year history: Montana State Board of Health, 1901-1951. (MHS catalog call number: S 614.09786 M762FYH)

Photo – Smallpox vaccination site Days 4 through 21.

The River Press, March 15, 1911.

Whitefish Pilot, November 25, 1909.

June 30, 2015

The Indelible Mark of Francis Thompson

by Rich Aarstad, Senior Archivist

Montana Historical Society librarian Laura E. Howey sat down on October 31, 1899 to read a letter she had received regarding Francis Thompson, one-time Montana pioneer who spent a brief three years in the goldfields of the West.  Recent Montana newspapers had published obituaries for Thompson prompting her to write to his heirs in hopes of acquiring any letters, diaries, or other records of his time in Montana.  To her surprise the letter opened, "Your kind letter addressed to the 'Heirs of Francis M. Thompson' I have received in person.  As long as the Montana papers say nothing but good of me it is rather interesting to read their obituary notices, but should the case be reversed, I should prefer that they let me continue my allotted time."  One can almost hear the amusement in his voice when he penned his response, but then everything about Montana charmed Thompson from his very first arrival in 1862 until his death in 1916.
Francis M. Thompson
MHS Photo Archives 945-291

Perhaps no single pioneer left such a lasting mark on Montana as Francis M. Thompson.  Born in Colrain, MA on October 16, 1833 to John and Elvira (Adams) Thompson, he attended Science Hill Select School and Williston Seminary in Massachusetts.  At the age of 23, Francis made his way to Cincinnati, Ohio and began a career in banking.  Six years later, feeling restless and less than inspired about joining the Union Army, he departed for the goldfields of the territories to make his fortune. On his arrival at Fort Benton, then a part of Dakota Territory, Thompson made the acquaintance of the Vail family who traveled west to operate the Government Farm at Sun River crossing.  Traveling with them was Electa Bryan, the sister of Mrs. Martha Vail.  A year later Thompson fulfilled the duties of bride's maid for Electa Bryan who married Henry Plummer, the notorious sheriff of Bannack City.

Looking to establish a business in the mining community of Bannack, Thompson headed for the goldfields on Grasshopper Creek in 1863.  During the winter of 1863-1864, Francis Thompson witnessed the birth of the vigilante movement, as the honest miners and business men of the newly-created Idaho Territory banded together to rid themselves of the dreaded outlaw gang preying on the innocent men and women of the Territory's mining communities.  When he learned that the Vigilantes planned on arresting and executing Plummer for leading the outlaw gang, Thompson spent the last night with his friend and did not warn the unsuspecting sheriff of his impending doom.  The Vigilantes struck the next day, hanging Sheriff Henry Plummer, Deputy Buck Stinson, and Ned Ray. Thompson served as the executor of Plummer's estate paying for the construction of a coffin and burial of the outlaw chief (receipt below). He sent the remainder of Plummer's assets to Electa, who
Receipt for purchase of Henry Plummer's coffin and burial
MHS Archives Collection SC 297
returned to Iowa several months prior to the execution.  Thompson worried for a time that his friendship with Henry Plummer would tarnish his reputation with the respectable residents of Bannack, but Sidney Edgerton, the leading government official of Idaho Territory, and his nephew, leader within the Vigilantes, Wilbur Fisk Sanders, assured him that his reputation was secure.

Francis Thompson also played a role in the creation of Montana as a new territory.  Allying himself with Edgerton and Sanders, he used what political influence he had in the effort to get Sidney Edgerton appointed as territorial governor.  Upon his return from Washington D.C., Governor Edgerton wasted no time in drawing a sharp demarcation between those who were members of the Union (Republican) Party and those he branded as traitors for their allegiance to the Democratic Party.  As such, Montana's first election was a microcosm of the political angst that divided the nation and led to a bloody Civil War.  The Democrats swept the election for Congressional delegate and enjoyed a one vote majority in the Territorial House of Representatives.  Voters of Beaverhead County elected Francis Thompson to represent them in the Council for the first legislative assembly.
Thompson proved a leader in the legislature by carrying bills to fund public education, establishing the Montana Historical Society, and designing and sketching the territorial seal for the new territory.
Original sketch of  proposed seal for the
Territory of Montana made by
Francis M. Thompson
MHS Archives collection SC 839

Upon the completion of the legislature, Governor Edgerton appointed Francis Thompson Commissioner of Emigration for Montana.  Returning east he settled in Greenfield, Massachusetts.  From there, he worked on recruiting settlers for the new territory as well as promoting the various economic opportunities available to interested investors.  It is uncertain if Thompson intended to return east permanently, but a few months later he married Mary Nimms, and his days of wanderlust and adventure in Montana came to an end.

Having passed the Massachusetts Bar in 1876, Thompson settled down and served in public office as a judge.  He did retain a lifelong interest in Montana and kept in close touch with friends such as Wilbur Sanders.  As the new century unfolded, he began an active correspondence with the librarians of the Montana Historical Society, describing his contributions to the creation of the territory and the Montana Historical Society.  He was especially proud of the territorial seal that now graced the Montana state flag.  Thompson delighted in sharing his early memories and penned a reminiscence of his time in the West entitled, A Tenderfoot in Montana: Reminiscences of the Gold Rush, the Vigilantes & the Birth of Montana Territory.  In three brief years Francis Thompson had left an indelible mark on Montana that still exists today; public education, the state flag, and the Montana Historical Society remain hallmarks of the Treasure State.  His friend Wilbur Fisk Sanders summed up Thompson's contributions best.  "No man ever came to Montana and staid so short a time, left so deep an impress on history as did you, and it is a pleasure to know, in a rude time, the influence was wholly wholesome."

Selected Bibliography 
  • George D. French Receipt, 1864 (Collection # SC 297)
  • Martha Edgerton Plassmann Papers (MC 78)
  • Montana Historical Society Research Center Records (MHS 3)
  • Montana Territorial Legislative Assembly (LR-Terr. 1)
  • Francis M. Thompson Papers (SC 839)
  • Francis M. Thompson, A Tenderfoot in Montana: Reminiscences of the Gold Rush, the Vigilantes & the Birth of Montana Territory, edited by Kenneth N. Owens. (Helena, Mont.: Montana Historical Society Press, 2004).