Dec. 31 – On this day in Montana history in 1918 the Helena Independent had a front page story bemoaning the death of “King Barrleycorn.” The town was abuzz with people marking the end of legal liquor and the beginning of prohibition. It was reported that most saloons had sold out their liquor supplies even before they had to close their doors at midnight.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Dec. 30 – On this day in Montana history in 1905 the dedicated the current Montana Club in Helena, replacing the former home of the exclusive club that burned two years before. It cost $117,00, which was a hefty amount in those days. Ironically, given the host of wealthy men who belonged to the club, it took nearly 40 years to pay off the new building.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Dec. 29 – On this day in Montana history in 1927 prohibitionists meeting in Helena were outraged at what they claimed were rampant violations of the national Prohibition Law by doctors and druggists. The law allowed permits to be issued to doctors and druggists to provide drinking alcohol to patients. It wasn’t clear exactly who was “drinking” to their health, but prohibitionists found it a sobering problem.
Monday, December 28, 2015
Dec. 28 – On this day in Montana history in in 1889 Ella Louise Knowles Haskell became the first woman admitted to the bar to practice law in Montana. She had already become the first woman to be a notary public. In 1892 she ran unsuccessfully for the office of state attorney general. Throughout her life she was a major voice for the right of women to vote.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Dec. 27 – On this day in Montana history in 1894 the famous outlaw known as Kid Curry killed his first man, Pike Landusky, at Jake Harris’ saloon in Landusky. The details are sketchy, but most accounts say Landusky’s last words were: “My God, Kid, let me up. I have enough, Kid, I never done anything to you.” Curry went on to ride with the famous Hole in the Wall Gang.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
Dec. 26 – On this day in Montana history in 1928 one of the most important photographers in Montana and western history died. Evelyn Cameron. She came to Montana in 1890 leaving behind a comfortable life of British gentry. She took up photography and took an incredible collection of life on the Montana frontier from a woman’s perspective. The collection and her diaries are at the Montana Historical Society.
Friday, December 25, 2015
Dec. 25 – On this day in Montana history in 1856 came a lesson of what Christmas is. Frank Woody had come into the Missoula Valley from Ross’ Hole. Fort Benton was the nearest established town. On Christmas day he and six other men worked on their cabin in the morning and then took time off to celebrate the season. “All we had to drink that day was water, coffee,” he wrote later. They sat on a cured buffalo hide. “There was no linen and no silver, but it was a merry meal, and we all enjoyed it.” They had some laughs and told stories about Christmas past.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Dec. 24 – On this day in Montana history in 1874 the bachelors on Bozeman Creek in the Gallatin Valley were given the “Christmas party of their lives.” The Montana Daily reported that Mrs. James Mardis and Mrs. Ada Alexander were talking about their upbringing in Iowa when Mardis said she wished she could “see a man in a white shirt once more.” It led to the idea to invite bachelors to a Christmas party only if they wore a white shirt. It was a rousing hit, and forever became known as the “boiled shirt” Christmas party.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Dec. 23 – On this day in Montana history in 1971 advertisements in the Helena Independent Record show that Christmas gifts really were simpler and cheaper in the “old days.” Play-Doh was selling for 59 cents, slinky toys for 88 cents, Radio steel wagons for $7.77, and even a “delicious” box of Brach’s chocolates for $3.99. Santa must look back nostalgically.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Dec. 22 – On this day in Montana history in 1930 famous author Ernest Hemingway was dismissed from St. Vincent’s hospital in Billings after being hospitalized for more than a month from injuries suffered in an automobile accident while returning to Billings from Red Lodge.
Monday, December 21, 2015
Dec. 21 – On this day in Montana history in 1863 outlaw George Ives was hanged from a log beam in a cabin in the rough and tumble Montana mining town of Nevada City near Virginia City. He was hanged for the murder of Nicholas “Dutchman” Tiebolt. A short “trial” was held on the street and presided over by Wilbur F. Sanders. When Tiebolt asked for time to write his mother before they hanged him, a member of the crowd shouted out: “How much time did he give the Dutchman!” Not much.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Dec. 20 – On this day in 1985 the Montana Standard proclaimed “ ‘Lady’ Mission Accomplished.” The “Lady of the Rockies” statue -- with the help of a helicopter -- was in place high above the city after a project that lasted five years. It was reported that fire engines sirens, honking horns and shouting people all welcomed the 90-foot-high “Lady” to the mining city.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Dec. 19 – On this day in Montana history in 1919 the Rev. W.W. Van Orsdel, known fondly as “Brother Van” across Montana, died in Great Falls. Brother Van arrived in Montana in 1872 and held his first services on the steamboat dock at Fort Benton. During his life he traveled the state preaching the gospel and helping organize churches and other civic missions. He was widely mourned throughout the state.
Friday, December 18, 2015
Dec. 18 – On this day in Montana history in 1876 the final battle of what was known as the Great Sioux War occurred. Lt. Frank D. Baldwin, who was a Civil War veteran and holder of two Congressional Medals of Honor, and 140 troopers attacked and destroyed Sitting Bull’s camp of 122 lodges and about 1,000 Native Americans on Ash Creek, a tributary of the Redwater River south of Brockway. The weather was bitter cold, and surprisingly neither side suffered any casualties in the encounter. But the action forced most of the Native Americans back to reservations and ended the conflict that included the famous Battle of the Little Big Horn.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Dec. 17 – On this day in Montana history in 1920 the state was mourning the loss of pioneering leader Paris Gibson who was called the “Father of Great Falls.” Gibson laid out the city of Great Falls and took great pride in the trees, boulevards and spacious streets and parks he created. He also worked tirelessly to attract new people and commerce to Montana. The Montana Historical Society has in its collection a beautiful, hand-drawn map of Montana that Gibson used to show his vision for all that Montana could be.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Dec. 16 – On this day in Montana history in 1961 Santa used a helicopter to come to Great Falls where he landed on the roof of the downtown O’Haire Manor Motel. It brought thousands of people to see the spectacle and do some shopping. Santa noted that he wasn’t giving up on his traditional Christmas transportation: “Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer are home resting up for Christmas Eve,” he said.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Dec. 15 – On this day in Montana history in 1893 the North West Tribune proudly proclaimed that Stevensville had been “lit up by electricity amid much rejoicing, band playing and whistles blowing.” Montana towns were racing to enter into the modern age of electricity.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Dec. 14 – On this day in Montana history in 1924 the temperature at Fairfield, Montana, dropped from 63 degrees at noon to -21 degrees at midnight. The 84 degree change in 12 hours still stands as the greatest 12 hour temperature change recorded in the United States. Proof to the adage if you don’t like the weather in Montana wait a few hours – it could get worse.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Saturday, December 12, 2015
Dec. 12 – On this day in Montana history in 1965 Montana rodeo star and rodeo producer Oral Zumwalt was one of eight people honored as the first inductees into the Rodeo Hall of Fame at the Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City. Zumwalt lived for many years in the Wolf Creek and Augusta area and later moved to Missoula where he headquartered his rodeo production company.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Dec. 11 – On this day in Montana history in 1900 the Billings Gazette had a story that proves entrepreneurs are nothing new. Under a headline “Competition in Popcorn Selling,” it reported that two brothers age six and seven had talked their mother into popping corn for them that they would sell on the streets after school. Things went great for a while, but as with all new business ideas competition soon set in with other young boys copying them. “The business is so overdone now that hardly any of them are making enough to pay for their trouble,” the paper said.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Dec. 10 – On this day in Montana history in 1934 chemist Harold Clayton Urey was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of heavy hydrogen. He is the only University of Montana graduate to ever receive the prestigious honor. During WWII Urey went on to head a team of scientists researching heavy water and other elements for the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. Most importantly his team found a way to separate uranium 235 from uranium 238.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Dec. 9 – On this day in Montana history in 1866 legendary cattleman Nelson Story arrived in Virginia City with supply wagons for the booming mining town. Story had made it up the “bloody” Bozeman Trail with a herd of Texas cattle and the wagons. He had left the cattle that were to stock his new ranch at what was then Bozeman City. He lost only one man as he fought his way up the trail against Red Cloud’s Sioux warriors.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Dec. 8 – On this day in history in 1951 the Daily Missoulian had front page stories on the new United Nations including an initial General Assembly vote against accepting “Red China” as a member. On the inside was a Christmas advertisement for an RCA Victor Console Radio that also had a Victrola phonograph with a “Concert Hall” sound system offering “thrilling realism all for $274.95.” Sometimes things don’t change much. Relations with China (minus the Red) remain strained, and electronics remain popular holiday gifts.
Monday, December 7, 2015
Dec. 7 – On this day in Montana history in 1941 Montana Representative Jeannette Rankin listened to fragmentary reports on the radio of the attack on Pearl Harbor as she packed her bag for a trip to Detroit to deliver a speech on international peace and nonintervention. Ironically, her lone vote against entering World War Two would force her from office.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Dec. 6 – On this day in Montana history in 1878 the first woman ever incarcerated in the Montana Penitentiary, Felicite Sanchez of Deer Lodge, was getting used to her new surroundings and starting a three-year sentence for manslaughter. As officers delivered her to the pen, Sanchez “put her feet on the stove and proceeded to roll a cigarette, which she fabricated with great skill and smoked with manifest enjoyment.”
Saturday, December 5, 2015
“Dec. 5 – On this day in Montana history in 1908 the Little Rockies Miner in Zortman, Choteau County, had a front page headline proclaiming “The Home of Divorce.” In a strangely competitive lead, the paper took issue with South Dakota claiming to be the national leader in divorce rates. “Statistics recently made public by the Department of Commerce and Labor show that, instead of South Dakota being the whole thing in the matter of divorces, Montana is holder of the belt and is in a class by herself.” South Dakota’s rate was 95 per 100,000 and Montana’s was 167 per 100,000. It’s more difficult to determine who was the real winner, socially speaking.
Friday, December 4, 2015
Dec. 4 – On this day in Montana history in 1931 the Circle Banner carried a story had been heard all the way from Butte: “Drys Plan Long Stay in Butte.” It reported that the Mining City’s bootleggers had been “startled” that federal prohibition agents were going to be quartered in the community for the winter. Agents were using crowbars to break locks and barricades set up in speakeasies. Feds were quoted as saying they had never seen a town so wide open and licensed by a city as “soft drink parlors.”
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Dec. 3 – On this day in history in 1932 the newly formed Irrigation Committee of Montana was saying that irrigation offered a “new frontier.” The committee said the state had 5 million acres that could be irrigated providing homes for up to 50.000 new farm families. Irrigation in Montana could create “an agricultural empire comparable to that in the central Mississippi valley.”“
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Dec. 2 – On this day in Montana history in 1941 The Billings Gazette was filled with Christmas advertisements even though Black Friday had not been invented yet. The Hart-Albin offered Satin Quilted Robes for $6.95, 3-strand pearls for $1.25, silk stockings $1 a pair and Christmas dolls from $1 to $7.95. Prices worth lining up for today.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Dec.1 – On this day in Montana history in 1921 the State Highway Commission was touting its efforts in constructing bridges across the state. Officials reported that 26 bridges of various types had been built in the preceding two years at a cost of $700,000. Officials said “Montana is particularly fortunate in having several bridge erection companies within the state who bid with a small margin of profit and do not slight the workmanship.” Infrastructure was not a word in vogue then, as it is today.