Lost Butte, Montana, a book by Richard I. Gibson, is in stores and museum gift shops around Butte. Or order from the publisher. It's also in E-book formats at all the usual places. And read an interview with Gibson, here, and on KXLF here. The Facebook page has many historic photos of Butte, and the Butte-Anaconda NHLD project showcases many historic buildings. Location-oriented posts can be found on HistoryPin. On Mondays beginning in January 2016, look for Gibson's "Mining City History" column in the Montana Standard.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in Butte, 1911 – #6

Orton Brothers Music Store and Heilbronner's, circa 1959.
by Richard I. Gibson

North Main Street has harbored music stores for more than a century. Today’s Len Waters building (119 N. Main) has been there since before 1884. In 1928 Leonard Waters was a Department Manager for the prestigious Orton Brothers Music Co., a block north and across the street, at 216-218 N. Main (next door to Heilbronner’s). In 1911 Orton Brothers stocked the largest number of pianos in the state, including a Chickering parlor grand in mahogany for $550. Second-hand pianos could be had for as little as $100, but at prices like that, pianos were obviously for the upper crust. The miner’s wage was still $3.50 a day, as it had been since 1878.

Butte Miner, December 1911
General furniture was much cheaper, and at Hennessey’s you could buy on time—creating some of the first credit purchases in America. Lauder Furniture and Carpet offered a leather couch, in solid oak with gold finish for $12.95. Some chairs cost as little as a couple dollars.

Musical entertainment centered on the theaters, where live bands supplied the accompaniment to silent movies as well as to near-continuous vaudeville performances. “Dante’s Inferno” was touted under the banner “Know Ye That the Greatest Moving Picture Production Ever Gotten Out Begins Today at The New Orpheum Theater.” Because there was only one set of reels anywhere in the United States for this “film of the century,” the Orpheum raised its admission to 25¢ for adults and 15¢ for children under 14—who were apparently admitted despite the film's reputation as the first in history to feature male frontal nudity.

Ad from Butte Miner, December 1911. Photo from Butte-Silver Bow tax assessment cards at Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, digitized by Don Plessas.  

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