Monday, August 31, 2015

Aug. 31 – On this day in Montana history in 1953 Montanans experienced their first television commercial. KXLF owned by famous broadcaster Ed Craney in Butte moved the station’s only camera to the street where automobiles for sale by the Wilson Motor Company were paraded by it as an announcer described them. Depending on your point of view, the ad was said to be successful and millions more were to follow.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Aug. 30 – On this day in Montana history in 1901 one of the worst train wreck disasters in Montana and U.S. history occurred near Kalispell when 28 cars broke loose from a train stopped for water, and crashed into another train. Thirty-four people were killed in the wreck, many of them burned alive in the fire that quickly engulfed the wreckage.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Aug. 29 – On this day in Montana history in 1916 actor George Montgomery was born on a farm near Great Falls. One of his favorite things to do when young was to sneak in to the Mint Saloon and look at the Charlie Russell paintings there. He starred in many films and married singer Dinah Shore. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Aug. 28 – On this day in Montana history in 1878 the first corporate use of a telephone took place at the Hecla Mine. It was a project of the Stuart, Cable City and Phillipsburg Telegraph and Telephone Co. Stuart was located near Opportunity in Deer Lodge County, and Cable City was in Warm Spring Canyon. The Hecla mine was west of Melrose. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Aug. 27 – On this day in Montana history in 1864 the first newspaper published in Montana Territory, the Montana Post, hit the streets of the gold boom town of Virginia City. Although Thomas Dimsdale is often credited with being the first editor of the Post, the first four issues were edited by John Buchanan. Dimsdale was hired as editor for the fifth issue. The paper was moved to Helena in 1868 with the discovery of gold there. All of the extant issues of the Post and 95 percent of all the newspapers ever published in Montana are available at the Montana Historical Society. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sept. 26 – On this day in Montana history in 1910 the first successful public flight in the state of Montana was made at the Montana State Fair Grounds in Helena. Pilot J.C. “Bud” Mars made two successful flights in his Curtiss plane. The flights dispelled skepticism of many who doubted it would be possible for a plane to take off at Helena’s altitude of 4,157 feet.
Aug. 26 – On this day in Montana history in 1862 the first official hanging in what became Montana took place on a tree at Gold Creek near present day Garrison Junction on the Interstate between Missoula and Butte. C.W. Spillman, 25, reportedly from Kentucky was found guilty of horse stealing by a miner’s court headed by Walter Booth Dance. Spillman admitted his crime and asked only to be given time to write a letter to his father asking his forgiveness. Noted Montana pioneer Granville Stuart said Spillman was not a hardened criminal but a firm and brave man who met his death with great nerve. Some still call Gold Creek “Hangtown.”

Monday, August 24, 2015

Aug. 24 – On this day in Montana history in 1975 Libby Dam on the Kootenai River in northwestern Montana was dedicated. It was called the “key element” for plans to develop the Columbia River Basin for flood control, power generation, and recreation. It also destroyed historic Native American sites and had a major impact on fish and wildlife. The total cost was nearly half-a-billion dollars.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Aug. 23 – On this day in Montana history in 1866 a heavily guarded wagon with $1.5 million in gold left Helena for Fort Benton. Most of it was taken from Last Chance Gulch, and it showed that what became the Capitol City was overtaking Virginia City as the territory’s new gold capital.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Aug. 22 – on this day in Montana history in 1874 the Madisonian newspaper in Virginia City offered some tips on how to deal with the heat under a headline “Modern Health Rules.” Perhaps with tongue in cheek one of the guidelines offered was: “Clothes prevent the escape of heat from the body; wear only a loose shirt and drawers.” One never sees photos of early day miners dressed like that – and it’s probably a good thing.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Aug. 21 – On this day in Montana history in 1884 an incident occurred that reminds us that domestic violence has long been a serious problem. A couple identified only as Mr. and Mrs. Westlake got into a family fight in Butte and Mrs. Westlake was knocked off a veranda suffering severe injuries. “Mr. Westlake, unfortunately, was not hurt,” the Weekly Herald reported. Later he tried to take his own life in jail. The headline called it “Domestic Discord.”

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Aug. 20 – On this day in Montana history in 1905 Butte was mourning the deaths of 10 people and injuries to more than 20 others after a railroad freight car crashed into a crowded trolley returning from the Columbian Gardens amusement park. Butte reporters wrote that the trolley was crushed into kindling and that many of the faces of the dead could not be recognized. “Men cried out for members of their families from whom they had been separated and mothers begged piteously concerning their children.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Aug. 19 – On this day in Montana history in 1969 the first McDonald’s opened in Billings noting in an ad it was time to “stop building walls, and start building hamburgers.”  A & W Drive-in was fighting back offering a ham sandwich for 30 cents. Meanwhile actor Dustin Hoffman took time to take a photo on the set of “Little Big Man,” which was being shot in Virginia City and other Montana locations. A low flying plane had halted productions.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Aug. 18 – On this day in Montana history in 1920 the Silver State Deer Lodge newspaper had a story that portended one of the greatest presidencies in American history. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, spoke at the Deer Lodge Valley Farmer’s Picnic. The paper noted that Roosevelt was applauded and praised by “all parties” and their voters. Roosevelt’s appeal to the “common man” would make him the nation’s only four term president. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Aug. 15 – On this day in Montana history in 1953 the first television station in Montana went on the air in Butte. Legendary television pioneer Ed Craney actually put on a test pattern on his KXLF at ten minutes before midnight on Aug. 14 but programming didn’t begin until the next day. The reason he hurried the opening of his station was that KOPR in Butte was in a race to become the first in the state. The Montana Historical Society has a new state-of-the-art studio funded by the Greater Montana Foundation named in honor of Ed Craney.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Aug. 14 – On this day in Montana history in 1908 the railroad town of Taft on the far western edge of the state was consumed in a fire of near biblical proportions. News accounts described the town this way: “Women of the underworld, gamblers etc. flocked to the mushroom railroad town, and it was soon a place of about 1,000 inhabitants.” The town was rebuilt but once again was leveled by fire in 1910.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Aug. 13 – On this day in Montana history in 1920 eastern Montana was “a buzz” with talk of “aerial mail service.” The Broadus Independent said “as a direct result of the activity of the Chamber of Commerce” that Broadus had been designated a station on the branch aerial mail route from Cheyenne, Wyo., all the way to Miles City. Air mail was the e-mail of its day.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Aug. 12 – On this day in Montana history in 1919 Missoula police announced a “Vag Roundup” to clear the city of “undesirables.” It was a repeat of a similar campaign from the previous year. Police Chief Moore said: “Missoula gained a reputation through hobo circles, as a poor place for loafing.” Those arrested and convicted of vagrancy were put to work on the city’s “wood pile.”     

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

 Aug. 11 – On this day in Montana history in 1926 Montana, the rest of the Northwest U.S, and Canada were mourning the death of Col. James T. Stanford who died of pneumonia in Conrad while on a trip. At the time he was head of the powerful Conrad Banking Company of Great Falls and a statewide financial leader. Born in Nova Scotia in 1856, Stanford became a Canadian Mountie and played a pioneering role in the early development of the Canadian and U.S. Northwest. While still a Mountie, He came to Helena in 1875 as part of the inquiry into the Cypress Hills Massacre in which five Montana citizens were accused of killing 200 Cree Indians. He eventually settled in Montana.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Aug. 10 – On this day in Montana history in 1906 Bozeman was preparing to celebrate the first Sweet Pea Festival. It was hailed as “the prettiest” event in the history of the state. Festival Lord High Chancellor John Luce proclaimed: “For the first time in the history of the state of Montana a carnival has been inaugurated, and its citizens have laid aside the cares and responsibilities of business for a day to indulge in fun and frolic and the worship of the beautiful.”    

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Aug. 9 – On this day in Montana history in 1877 Lt. James Bradley came upon an encampment of Nez Perce led by Chief Joseph that were moving across Montana in an attempt to seek freedom in Canada. In what became known as the Battle of the Little Big Hole near Missoula, Bradley charged the camp and lost 31 men including himself,  with 39 wounded. The Nez Perce lost about 90 men women and children but beat off the attack and escaped. It was one of the most devastating battles of the Indian wars in the West.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Aug. 8 – On this day in 1920 K. Ross Toole, the father of the modern Montana Historical Society, was born in Missoula. In 1951 after graduating from UCLA Toole became director of the newly reorganized Montana Historical Society and put it on the national history map with among other things the acquisition of the Mackay collection of Charlie Russell artwork and the construction of the current home of the Society and its museum across from the Capitol. He wrote “Uncommon Land” and went on to become a professor at the University of Montana and a preeminent leader in Montana history.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Aug. 7 – On this day in 1958 the Missoula Timberjacks celebrated a 14 to 5 come from behind win in baseball against the Havana Cuban Giants in a game played in Kalispell. This was a good will tour before the days of the Cuban trade and travel sanctions and the two teams played the next night in Libby. It was not reported whether the Americans celebrated by lighting up any Cuban cigars.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Aug. 6 – On this day in Montana history in 1929 author Mary MacLane died. While still a teenager in Butte in 1902, she wrote “The Story of Mary MacLane” which at the time was considered a scandalous reflection on men, morals, customs and events in Montana’s booming copper town. It was translated into more than 30 languages and brought MacLane international recognition.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Aug. 5 – On this day in Montana history in 1949 the Mann Gulch forest fire in the Gates of the Mountains near Helena killed 13 firefighters etching their names into history with the passion of “Young Men and Fire.” Their tragic deaths forever changed the way that forest fires were fought and touched hearts across Montana and the nation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Aug. 4 -- On this day in Montana history in 2003 Native American author James Welch died in his home in Missoula. The Blackfeet and Gros Ventre descendant wrote numerous groundbreaking books including the heartbreaking “Fools Crow.” His books and Emmy Award-winning documentaries brought new understanding to American history across the world. He was knighted by the British and received a French Medal for his work.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Aug. 3 – On this day in Montana history in 1949 the Montana Historical Society received one of the rarest books in the world of which only eight were printed. The Cheyenne-English dictionary was created by a Swiss Mennonite missionary who came to the West in 1880. The five-inch thick volume took 11 years to compile. It is still used by researchers today.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Aug. 2 – On this day in Montana history in 1917 labor organizer Frank Little was found hanging from a trestle under a bridge in Butte. A 3-7-77 vigilante warning was attached to his body. Although it remains officially an unsolved murder, thousands of workers turned out for Little’s funeral and had no doubt that the Anaconda Company was behind it.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Aug. 1 – On this day in Montana history in 1934 Robert Yellowtail was installed as superintendent of the Crow Reservation. What made the event unique was that Yellowtail was a member of the Crow Tribe, and it is believed that he was one of the first tribal members in the nation to become a superintendent.