July 21, 2014

Lessons from a Child…

By Bruce Whittenberg, Director, Montana Historical Society
On June 28, the Anzick Child was returned to the land. In a Native American ceremony involving several tribes from Montana, Washington and Oregon, the remains of a small child were reburied near the site of the original discovery.
Anzick Child burial site
Photo by Bruce Whittenberg
This stunning discovery was made in 1968 near Wilsall, MT and is among the most significant archeological finds of human activity in North America.  Genetic research has determined that the 2-year old child and his family lived on this land over 12,700 years ago.  The Anzick Child is ancestor to 80% of all native tribes in the Americas. Objects included in the cache predate that by nearly 200 years.

The Montana Historical Society has the privilege of exhibiting artifacts
 of the Clovis culture, funerary objects of the Anzick Child.
Photo by Bruce Whittenberg
Presently we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Montana Territory and the creation of the Montana Historical Society.  Humans lived on our Montana land over 12,700 years ago, and have been a part of this land since.  In that context, 150 years is but the blink of an historical eye.  We celebrate this wonderful place, our rich history and the institution we have created that will serve us many generations into the future.  As we do so, it behooves us to remember the people who first discovered this land, made it their home for thousands of years and, whether through blood or heritage, are ancestors to us all.    

To know where you are going, you have to know where you’ve been.  Let’s remember what that really means to each and every one of us and give thanks to the Anzick Child for an important lesson in Montana’s history.

July 3, 2014

The Compact Green Mile

The Montana Historical Society Archives staff and the collections they manage have been through many changes during the past year. The main storage area underwent complete renovation. Old shelving was disassembled and removed. The white walls were repainted, and the green floors, as well. Most notably, the area we affectionately refer to as the Green Mile was compacted. A brand new, high-density mobile shelving system replaced the old mismatched standard metal shelves. The Archives now has room to grow and the collections are more protected and better housed than ever before.

Before (top) and after (bottom) (photos by Tom Ferris)

Of course, to accomplish all of this, much preliminary work had to be completed by the Historical Society staff before moving anything. Almost a year ago, archivists began preparing more than 17,000 boxes and bound volumes by systematically surveying the materials in order to plan for and resolve any potential problems. Hundreds of items were rehoused and a master shelf list was created to help track collections through the project. This effort continued as boxes were stacked on pallets for shipment to a temporary storage warehouse, where this large bulk of Montana's historical record would reside for several months. About a month and thousands of box lifts later, Research Center archivists, joined by other staff at the Montana Historical Society, completed the safe movement of all archival collections.

Archivist Jeff Malcomson checks on the archives materials in temporary storage (photo by Tom Ferris)
After several months of renovation work and installation of the shelving system, it all began again in March - in reverse order; collections began flowing back onto the new shelving. Anyone who has moved personal belongings from one house to another knows that moving in and unpacking is often a more difficult endeavor than the initial packing. The same holds true for archival collections.  Through several more weeks of exhausting labor, the race was won and the marathon finally finished. Montana's archival treasures are safely residing on their new (and very nice, I might add) shelves.

Through this once in a lifetime (we hope!) project, the archives staff learned many things about ourselves and our capabilities as archivists. Above all, we learned more about our amazing collections. The huge benefit of the project was that we handled just about every box and volume in the main storage area. This concentrated attention on the collections greatly aided us in two of an archivist's primary tasks: gaining physical and intellectual control over the collections. After a challenging year, the archival collections have a better storage and preservation infrastructure. And, we have a deeper understanding of the collections we hold.

If you would like to see the new Montana Historical Society Archives storage area, ask us for a tour on your next visit to MHS' Research Center library.

June 17, 2014

1964 Civil Rights Act at Fifty: Senator Lee Metcalf and the Fight for Equality

By Matthew M. Peek, Montana Historical Society Photograph Archivist
"Man’s inhumanity to man cuts across all nations and races. I would like to see us eradicate not only racial injustice but the injustices that breed racial injustice."          ~Lee Metcalf
June 19, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Senate’s passage of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination in employment practices, public places and accommodations, and hastened desegregation of public schools. The U.S. Senate received civil rights bill H.R. 7152 from the House of Representatives on February 26, 1964. Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield placed it directly on the Senate calendar, rather than refer it to a committee chaired by a civil rights opponent. The bill’s opposition leader, Sen. Richard B. Russell (D-GA), objected to Mansfield’s action; however, his objection was overruled by the Senate’s presiding officer, Sen. Lee Metcalf of Montana. Metcalf’s ruling ensured that the bill remained live. 
 Senator Lee Metcalf at his Senate office desk in Washington, D.C.
[circa July 1964] (Lot 31 B1/7.04)
A 53-year old junior U.S. Senator from Montana, Lee Metcalf had been selected in June 1963 by Mansfield to replace Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona as Acting President Pro Tempore. Metcalf carried an air of authority, with a booming voice and presence to match, which few senators could ignore. In a February 15, 1964, letter, he stated: “I do not hold myself out to be an expert on the Civil Rights Bill. I am going to participate in the debate, listen carefully and try to analyze and read the material that is presented. . . . I do know that if I were a Negro and treated as I can see Negroes are treated here in Washington, D.C., I would be protesting, I would be marching, and I would be sitting in, too.” To support their efforts, he presided over all important Senate votes and floor debate related to this legislation.

In 1964, Montana was mixed on its views of the pending civil rights legislation. With a population of only 1,467 African Americans in Montana at the time, many Montanans believed it would address only the racial issues inherent to a “Southern” problem. Metcalf, however, reminded the public that the bill’s measures would apply to anyone facing racial discrimination, including Montana’s 21,181 Native Americans.     

On June 10, 1964, after 75 days of filibustering by anti-civil rights senators, Mansfield forced a cloture vote to end the debate. Despite Southern senators’ efforts to reject a cloture vote, Metcalf overruled them using Senate parliamentary rules few legislators knew existed. The Senate voted 71-29 in favor of cloture, the first time it ever invoked cloture on a civil rights bill.

Rep. Lee Metcalf meets with Senate Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate, August 1960.
Pictured (left to right):  Democratic presidential candidate Senator John F. Kennedy; Senator Henry M. Jackson, National Democratic Party Chairman; Metcalf; Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson; and Senate Assistant Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (Lot 31 B16/1.01)
The bill was approved by the Senate on June 19, 1964. Montana’s junior senator had successfully controlled the longest debate in the U.S. Senate’s history. After the vote, an unidentified anti-civil rights senator told a news reporter that Lee Metcalf “was the Civil Rights Bill’s secret weapon.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964—officially Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241) — was signed into law on July 2, 1964, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Without the dedication and character of a Montana U.S. Senator, the Civil Rights Act may not have passed in the form we know it today.
If you would like to learn more about Senator Metcalf’s role in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you can find the Lee Metcalf Papers (MC 172) and the Lee Metcalf Photograph Collection (Lot 31) at the Montana Historical Society Research Center.

May 30, 2014

Research Spotlight: Jennifer Hill and the History of Childbirth

by Molly Kruckenberg, Research Center Director

Sophie Guthrie, born in 1882 and pregnant at the turn of the century, lived twenty-five miles from Big Timber, Montana, and successfully delivered seven babies at home. With her last child, she labored through the night with only her husband assisting, and delivered the baby by herself. Remoteness, harsh weather, poverty, and cultural taboos against openly discussing pregnancy made childbirth unusually hazardous in Montana.

Jennifer Hill is researching the history of childbirth
practices in Montana at the MHS Research Center.
(Photo by Tom Ferris)
The experiences of women like Mrs. Guthrie are what drew Dr. Jennifer Hill, who recently completed her doctorate in American Studies at Montana State University, to study the history of childbirth practices in Montana.

With assistance through a James H. Bradley Fellowship from the Montana Historical Society, Jennifer will be spending much of her summer at the MHS Research Center unearthing this history from comments in letters and diaries, hints in newspaper articles, frank discussions in oral histories, and statistics reported to the county.

Through such various Research Center materials as state government records and reports, records of women’s organizations, and the letters and diaries of Montana women, Jennifer will reconstruct the history of childbirth practices in Montana from territorial days through the homestead era.

Jennifer says that she “is thrilled to be spending part of her summer as a Bradley Fellow at the Montana Historical Society.” Jennifer’s research focuses on reproductive history, women in the American west, and museology. When she’s not researching, teaching, or writing, she loves to eat great food, run gorgeous Montana trails, and keep her hands in the dirt.

Each year the MHS Research Center awards two James H. Bradley Fellowships for research on under-studied areas of Montana history. For more information on this and other fellowship opportunities, visit our website.

To learn more about childbirth and maternal health in early-twentieth century Montana, visit the Women’s History Matters website.

May 16, 2014

Cased Images—Jewels from the Photo Archives Collection

by Tom Ferris, Archival Photographer

We have nearly 500,000 photographs, mostly of Montana from the 1860’s and on, in the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society. Some of the most precious, intimate and visually appealing are the tintypes and daguerreotypes in our cased image collection. We recently posted 39 of these images to Pinterest.

The majority of the images selected for the cased image board are tintypes and daguerreotypes which are housed in cases constructed of leather, velvet, bakelite plastic, or even pressed and embossed cardboard.

Exterior of a cased image (Montana Historical
Exterior of a cased image (Montana Historical
Society Photograph Archives C989-005).
Many are lined in velvet or satin and have small, gold colored, ornamental frames holding glass over the image for protective measures. Most are about three inches high when closed and could easily fit in a pocket or purse, so travelers were able to carry images of their loved ones when away from home or easily send them through the mail. When viewed after scanning at a high resolution, you can see bits of pocket dust and shed fabric from days past, and one case in our collection still houses a lock of hair with the portrait of a baby girl.

Cased image of girl with a lock of hair pinned to interior (Montana Historical
Cased image of girl with a lock of hair pinned to interior (Montana Historical
Society Photograph Archives C977-003).
Daguerreotypes were the earliest form of photography to be put into widespread use in the 1850s and 1860s and were first introduced in 1839. Images were exposed on silver coated plates and were quite delicate and expensive to produce. Tintypes quickly replaced them as a much less expensive and more durable option. These images were exposed on a sheet of iron coated in dark enamel and photographic emulsion, and the process was a favorite of itinerant photographers since the process required no drying time and images could be developed, fixed and handed to the customer in minutes. Both forms of photography were popular in the 1860’s and 1870’s and lesser use of the mediums persisted into the early 20th century. Today, a few photographers have revived the processes as a novelty or fine art format.

Cased image (Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives C978-012).
Cased image (Montana Historical Society Photograph
Archives C978-012).
Cased images are precious not only for their scarcity and aesthetic value, but also because they represent a time when having a photograph made was a special event—there was still some magic to the process, a bit of mystique. There were just not very many cameras around. Perhaps the cased images of today live in our phones, (they are case-like) but those images we carry around don’t seem to hold the sense of wonder or curiosity of the little jewels from the late 19th century. If you are interested in viewing similar images as well as other turn of the century photography, try visiting Historical Indulgences, hosted by Tuesday Johnson. It is constantly updated with new images. 

Most of the images in our collection are unidentified portraits. If you have information providing identification and other photographic proof to support this information, please contact the MHS Photo Archives at photoarchives@mt.gov.