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.



Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Eve, 1897

By Richard I. Gibson

The society corner in Victorian Butte newspapers recorded all and sundry events, including New Year’s Eve parties. The item here, from the Butte Bystander for January 8, 1898, reports such a gathering at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Erastus Thomas, 213 East Quartz (not West Quartz; the article is in error). East Quartz is one of the oldest parts of Butte, with the first cabin allegedly built there in the 1860s. By 1900, there were 58 dwellings in the block bounded by Granite, Quartz, Arizona, and Ohio Streets. Four were three-story boarding houses and six were two-story homes, four-plexes, and apartments, while the rest were single-story homes, but many of the latter had additional buildings that were likely inhabited. It’s reasonable to estimate that the population of this block exceeded 200 in 1900. Today, there are two houses in this area.

The narrow single-story Thomas home must have been crowded with 27 party-goers at a sit-down dinner. The house was built between 1888 and 1891 as part of the Thornton Addition, so it was fairly new in 1897. The location was convenient, just two blocks north of the site of the Washington School, two blocks east of the Butte Brewery, and immediately below the Parrot Mine complex where Erastus worked as an engineer.

The 1897 New Year’s Eve party list reveals the cosmopolitan nature of Butte. We can determine that the attendees came from all over Butte, and from all walks of life. Mrs. Ellof Peterson managed a boarding house at 10 E. Gagnon Street; Martin Brecke was a miner who lived at 725 N. Montana. Michael Geiger, who attended with his wife and daughter, lived at 1109 W. Woolman where he ran the Home Industry Publishing Company. The Bjorglums were probably Mr. and Mrs. Martin Bjorgum. He was a tailor with a shop at the northeast corner of Main and Mullins in Centerville; he and his family lived at #6 O’Neill Street in Walkerville. Another tailor, George Erickson, worked for Henry Jonas at 11 E. Granite Street, but lived at 503 S. Montana.

Mary Hoban, widow of John, boarded at 107½ West Quartz (The Sherman, which stood immediately west of the O’Rourke Building, in part of today’s jail/BSB parking lot). Another widow, Mrs. Albertine Minger, establishes a connection to the East Side: she lived at the boarding house at the northeast corner of East Galena and Shields Avenue, just below the looming Pennsylvania Mine headframe at the southern margin of the Butte Hill. The two-story building there also was home to party attendees David Trotter (a machinist), and Louis Demars, who both lived there and operated a grocery store at the same location. Demars also ran a confectionery at 323 S. Main (across from where Naranche Stadium is today). Today, the old corner of Galena and Shields is under the waste rock on the rim of the Berkeley Pit just a bit northwest of the viewing stand; Shields has been significantly relocated.

The party list gives a cross-section of Butte’s middle class, from tailors and grocers to engineers, publishers, machinists and miners, boarding-house mistresses and widows living (apparently) independently.

The Butte Bystander was a short-lived labor-oriented newspaper published from 1890-1898 (as the Butte Bystander, 1890-97, and just The Bystander in 1897-98).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fagan's Pharmacy, Meaderville

Labels from Dick Gibson's collection
by Richard I. Gibson

Fagan’s Pharmacy at 52 Main Street in Meaderville was managed by William F. Fagan who opened the store in 1922 following ten years as a pharmacist at various places in Butte. He dealt in “drugs, prescriptions, paints, and calcamine” – the latter was a white or tinted liquid containing zinc oxide, water, glue, and coloring matter, used as a wash or light paint for walls and ceilings. William appeared in Butte in 1913 when he was a druggist for Paxson and Rockefeller at 24 W. Park Street. With his wife Mathilda he lived at various locations around Butte—412 S. Dakota, 658 Travonia, 1109 W. Galena—before moving to 77 Main in Meaderville by the 1950s. He operated the pharmacy at least until 1954; the establishment continued as Farrens Village Drug and Sundries until the location was vacated in 1961. The Fagans relocated to 2209½ Cottonwood in 1963 as Meaderville was destroyed by expanding Berkeley Pit operations.

Fagan’s was at the corner of Main and Noble Streets, a few hundred yards from the Leonard mine, and the Combination Mine—not operating by 1916, but soon rejuvenated as the Reins Shaft of the Leonard—was even closer, up the street to the north adjacent to the Italian Mission at #76 Main. Two saloons flanked Fagan’s to the north; another stood to the east on Noble Street and yet another was across Noble to the south.

The large two-story building across Main from Fagan’s housed a saloon (#53 Main), a moving picture theater (#55), and a restaurant (#57-59), with a meeting hall above them in 1916. By the late 1920’s, Teddy Traparish, Peter Antonioli and Louis Bugni established the first Rocky Mountain Cafe at 53 Main. That building burned in 1940 and the Rocky Mountain Café was moved down the street where it enjoyed huge success and international renown. The Rocky Mountain Café closed in 1961 as the Pit grew, but the back bar survived: Traparish gave it to the World Museum of Mining. In 2011, the Mining Museum loaned it to Headframe Spirits distillery (21 S. Montana) where it returned to regular use once again.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas in Butte, 1911 – #7

by Richard I. Gibson

Newspaper delivery people have long been independent entrepreneurs, and Butte’s newsies were no exception. For Dec. 24, 1911, the Butte Miner gave its Christmas Eve edition to the “little fellows” at no charge as a Christmas bonus. Each delivery boy probably made 5¢ on each paper sold that day, instead of his usual 2½¢. That was a fairly big deal in an era when 50¢ bought a nice meal at a boarding house.

Skates and other sporting equipment were hot items for Christmas 1911. The Montana Hardware Company’s sporting goods department offered men’s skates at prices from 75¢ a pair to $5.00 for “American club hockey, hardened full nickel” skates. You could get a baseball for 5¢. Montana Hardware, initially run by W.A. Clark’s brother J. Ross, was at 30-40 West Park in 1911, the 3-story Pennsylvania Building that stood just west of where the F&W Grand Building is today (the Military Recruiting Building, which dates to the 1930s).


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.  


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas in Butte, 1911 – #5

by Richard I. Gibson

Everyone exploited the Christmas spirit—and associated spending—and saloons and cigar stores were no exception. The Atlantic Bar, “Longest Bar in the World,” at 56 West Park (near today’s bus stop), said they were the only house in Butte that handled the imported Muenchner Hofbrau and Pilsner Buergerbrau. Locally brewed Eureka Beer, from the Butte Brewery, was “golden in its color, golden in its worth. Golden are the hours if you drink the best on earth.”

Joseph Oppenheimer (see this previous post) offered Flor de Baltimore cigars from Havana, “the one gift that strikes the innermost chord of every man’s desire.” (See also Elisa Renouard’s ghost sign photo.)  The Butte Commercial Company wanted you to “Go Honest Old Quaker” with Old Quaker Whiskey.


If all this did bad things to your teeth, Dr. F.A. Ironsides at 20 N. Main, "The Dentist," suggested "What to buy for Christmas:" a gold and porcelain crown, regular $10.00, Christmas special, $5.00. His pink enamel sets of dentures were "as light as a feather." 



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas in Butte, 1911 – #4

by Richard I. Gibson

High-end everything was available in Butte, from the latest 1911 Everitt Automobile to train excursions around the country.

The Everitt, made only from 1909-1912, was named for Ontario-born Byron F. "Barney" Everitt. Everitt started his own auto body company in 1899, supplying Ransom Olds and Henry Ford with frames via the E-M-F Company (for founders Everitt, William Metgzer, and Walter Flanders). In 1909, E-M-F ranked number four in U.S. auto production, with 7,960 vehicles, but notorious poor quality issues—detractors said EMF meant “Every Morning Fix-it”—put them out of business in 1910 with a takeover by Studebaker, although the Everitt brand continued until 1913. Tom Angell sold Everitts at 10 North Wyoming, the same address as the Hat Box in yesterday’s post. I believe Tom was brother to Truman Angell, manager of the Hat Box.

Travel by train was the state-of-the-art in 1911. You could ride the rails to sunny California from Butte, taking “only” 42 hours, at a Christmas discounted fare of around $54. Local excursions were more economical: round trip fare to Salt Lake City was $17.35, or Dillon at $2.80 round trip.

December 1911, Butte Miner

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas in Butte, 1911 – #3

by Richard I. Gibson

It’s no stretch to say that what was available in New York and Chicago was available in Butte’s stores and shops. From silk stockings (6 pairs, $6.00 at Hennessey’s) to cashmere mufflers (50¢ to $1.00 at Wein’s Clothing Store, 33-35-37 East Park, the Owsley Block-Medical Arts building that burned in 1973), to state-of-the-art electrical appliances, Butte had it all. The Butte Business College, in the Owsley Block, even promoted their courses as an appropriate Christmas gift.

“Old Santa carries nothing but Butte made hats,” the Hat Box boasted. In 1911 they were at 10-12 North Wyoming, but in 1917 they moved to the alley behind the Clinton Drug Store at 106 North Main, and eventually in the 1950s the Hat Box occupied the Drug Store’s space briefly before going out of business in 1957.

For seamstresses doing their own work, 36-inch-wide all-silk black taffeta ran 98¢ a yard from Hennessey’s. Gamer’s Shoe Store, at 113 N. Main, offered “footwear for men, women, boys, girls, misses, the children, and the baby—we never forget the baby.” Gamer’s in 1911 employed 15-year-old Richard Liljemark as a messenger; he became a clerk there within a few years. Richard died in 1917 at age 21 after a two-week bout with pneumonia, and you can hear more of his story and see his name, inscribed in the basement of Gamer’s Shoe Store in 1911, on the Dellinger Block tour with Old Butte Historical Adventures.




Butte Miner, December 1911

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas in Butte, 1911 – #2


by Richard I. Gibson

In cosmopolitan Butte in December 1911 shoppers could find groceries from local suppliers as well as goods imported from all over the country. The Montana Cash “Pure Food” Grocery, at 108 West Park Street, carried Florida grapefruit (20¢ each), brie cheese (50¢ a pound) and Brussels sprouts at 20¢ a pound.

Washington Meat Market, just down the street from Montana Cash at 118 West Park, offered eastern dressed turkeys at 19½¢ a pound (Montana dressed ran 22½¢ a pound). I believe “eastern dressed” were frozen and shipped, while “Montana dressed” were fresh poultry. Pot roast of beef ran 7½¢/lb, and prime rib roast of beef was 10¢/lb.

Scandinavian specialties could be obtained at Tripp & Dragstedt Co. at 543-547 South Main Street. Among many other things, they offered Norway herring, lutfish, Swedish yellow peas, gaffelbitar (herring bits in sherry), and gammalost, a pungent traditional Norwegian cheese. And “skis, sleigh bells, etc.” 

Butte Miner, December 1911

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas in Butte, 1911 – #1

by Richard I. Gibson

Hennessey’s, Symons, and Connell’s, Butte’s largest department stores, typically all ran full-page ads in the run-up to Christmas a hundred years ago. Each also appears to have generated new original artwork every day of the season, at least in December.

While Hennessey’s offered real moving picture machines that “show pictures the same as in theaters … complete with films, for either oil or electricity, at $2.00 and up,” across the corner at Connell’s you could buy a four-volume leather-bound copy of Don Quixote at $5.85 for the set, or a pair of boys’ school shoes for $1.48.

Symons, the “economists for the people” and the “toy headquarters for all Butte” carried “splendid sleds, good and strong, nicely painted” for 45¢ (marked down from $1.00), while a discriminating lady could get a nice $50.00 velvet coat on sale for $29.50.

The ads below are from the Butte Miner, December 1911. Click to enlarge.



Friday, December 16, 2011

Hazel Earle, Clairvoyant

“In all ages and in all times man has sought to pierce the veil of the future, and with the advance of civilization and progress the occult exercises a still greater fascination for mankind…”



By Richard I. Gibson

In Butte, Rev. Hazel Earle practiced as a spiritual medium in her office at 47 West Park in 1901. She was an ordained minister, at least as far as the First Spiritual Progressive National Association of Utah was concerned – they gave her a diploma – and she was legally allowed to perform marriages and funerals. Her effort led to “no less than twenty-seven professional men, including lawyers and physicians” being converted to a belief in spiritual phenomena.

Rev. Earle reportedly pegged the time of Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 to within 75 minutes, two years before the fact. She conducted public meetings Sunday and Wednesday evenings, apparently including “life readings that would satisfy the most skeptical.”

The Thomas Block where Earle held forth (probably upstairs) burned down in 1912, but its 1913 replacement still stands on West Park Street. Some of her large public evening sessions were also conducted a few doors west, in room 36 at the Washington Block, which is gone today. Hazel Earle lived at 201 E. Granite Street, the Jacobs House on the corner opposite the Court House. Among her seven local competitors was Madame Vera Zazell, a clairvoyant and palmist who lived in Room 5 of the Stephens Hotel in 1902. She also reportedly assisted with mining exploration: she “is positively unexcelled and more than a few individuals have acquired large fortunes through following her advice.”

Earle practiced in Salt Lake City (258 Main Street, Room 2) in the summer of 1898 before coming to Butte. Uncertain records suggest that she was from Fayette, Iowa, and that she died in 1923. Despite her powers, she was only in Butte about a year, listed only in the city directory for 1901.


Image and quotes from Western Resources Magazine: Butte at the Dawn of the 20th Century (1901). Digitized by Butte Public Library, at Butte Digital Memory Project.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beer, copper, cigars, and golf

Click to enlarge
By Richard I. Gibson

I found a file folder with four old stock certificates from Butte in a basement in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1970, and I’ve been hauling them around ever since. Back then, I had no idea about the names – Butte-Argenta Copper Company, Montana-Continental Development Company, Keating Gold Mining Company. Butte Country Club was obviously the golf club. I kept them because they were cool, and they have been in a box buried in a closet until now. Now, with my “new” focus on Butte history, names like J.E. Oppenheimer and A.J. Davis and F. W. McCrimmon mean something to me: principal in the Symons Company, president of First National Bank, and a doctor with a fancy house at 313 W. Broadway, respectively. They’ve all signed one or more of these stock certificates, all of which are for shares owned by Joseph Oppenheimer.

The coolest one, in terms of appearance, is the certificate here, for 4,000 shares owned by Oppenheimer in the Butte-Argenta Copper Co. The company was organized Feb. 12, 1906 by Oppenheimer, Henry Mueller (president of the Centennial Brewing Co., and Butte mayor in 1891-92; his son Arthur had the Mueller Apartment building erected in 1917 as an investment), and others to exploit the old claims at Argenta, in the Pioneer Mountains northwest of Dillon.

The Argenta District is one of the oldest mining areas in Montana: mining started in 1865. Argenta had 1,500 people at its peak as well as the first smelter in Montana in 1866, but the town was essentially abandoned by 1874.  A short-lived rise in prices led Oppenheimer and company to invest in the Iron Mountain Mine in the Argenta District. Independent sources indicate that for a year or three, the mine yielded ore as rich as 16.5% copper, 18% lead, and 30 ounces of silver per ton (average, 12 oz). It also averaged $3 in gold per ton, and employed 35 men in 1909. Two shafts supported a 700-foot-long tunnel with two shorter crosscuts, mined using an 8-drill Ingersoll Rand air compressor. I have not verified the timing of the operation’s end, but it looks like the Argenta district was effectively abandoned again by about 1910.

The Butte-Argenta Company had its Butte offices at #3 Lewisohn Building, which stood along Hamilton Street and faced Granite. The parking lot there today resulted from the fire in 1978 that destroyed the Lewisohn and Silver Bow Blocks. Joseph Oppenheimer lived at 809 W. Broadway. Among his many interests in addition to being Treasurer of Symons Department Store and President of the Butte-Argenta Copper Company, Oppenheimer had his own J.E. Oppenheimer & Co., dealers in fine cigars. His corporate secretary in that venture was Sylven Hughes, who in 1899 had established the Olympia Brewery on Harrison Avenue where it crosses Silver Bow Creek. Joseph was the son of Elias and Mina Oppenheimer, commemorated in the stained glass of the B’nai Israel Synagogue. Thanks to Joseph’s sister’s marriage into the Symons family, the Oppenheimers established an important presence in the Symons merchant empire.

Andrew Jackson Davis, president of the First National Bank, countersigned the back of this certificate in 1908. He lived at 845 W. Granite Street, one of the “twin sisters” mansions.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

St. Paul's Hospital

Image from Western Resources Magazine, 1901


The short-lived St. Paul’s hospital stood at the southeast corner of Gold and Montana Streets, 502 S. Montana; the view here looks southeast. It was only listed in the city directories from 1900-1902, even though Western Resources Magazine in 1901 reported that “the sum of $500 has recently been spent in the operating room alone … For a dollar a month … one can have medical treatment, board, nursing and surgical attendance, and furthermore the choice of thirty doctors.” A dollar a month was pretty sparse revenue for any business, even in those days and even if their wards were full, so perhaps those glowing claims were what made the hospital short-lived.

Rev. J.M. Settle was President and General Manager of the place and it depended entirely on his personal credit. He lived about five blocks away, at 103 S. Idaho Street, a small 1-story home that stood on the south side of St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church (Omar Bradley Church, Beverly’s Bridal). Rev. Settle reportedly oversaw building of that church but soon abandoned his post there for the hospital, also known as Johnston House. The church and the hospital were both built in 1899-1900. The hospital, however, was “entirely non-sectarian, Jew or Gentile, Christian or unbeliever, all receiving the same skilled, considerate, conscientious care.” Sisters Hospital, which became St. James, was already in operation and was much larger, so it may have forced St. Paul’s hospital out of business.

Today, the entire east side of Montana between Gold and Platinum Streets is bare ground; a small modern structure stands near the corner where St. Paul’s Hospital once stood, across from the Corner Bar.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A copper letter

This 1930s letter promoting Butte was given to Robert Renouard in Seattle, because of his close connection to Butte: Robert’s ancestor Edward I. Renouard became vice president of the Anaconda Company and lived in the Superintendent’s Home at the Mountain Con. The return address is A.H. Heilbronner Co., “originators of copper novelties,” 212-214 N. Main, Butte, and it was sent to Miss Donna Jean Varner of Minneapolis. The souvenir was mailed in October 1936 with 3 cents postage (normal first class rate a the time, but inflation-adjusted equivalent to 48.3 cents) and it was 3 cents postage due.

In the letter, note that Butte was “Nearly a mile deep,” and the misuse of “your” for “you’re” apparently isn’t quite the recent development that it sometimes seems.

Heilbronner’s 1-story store on N. Main is gone today; it stood where the Wells Fargo Bank’s drive-through is located, three doors south of the ACM pay office which still stands at the corner of Main and Quartz. There were two narrow stores in one more building between Heilbronner’s and the massive, ornate Beaver Block (Marchesseau and Valiton) that stood on the Granite Street corner where the bank is today. Adolph Heilbronner lived at 901 W. Quartz, in a small miner’s cottage that still occpies the northwest corner of Quartz and Excelsior. I suppose that Mr. Heilbronner walked past my house (at Quartz and Crystal) on his way to work.

Images courtesy Robert Renouard (click to enlarge)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Who was Rose Rust?

Photo by Robert Edwards
By Richard I. Gibson

Rose Morrow Rust, "raised in Butte," was a Democratic candidate for the Montana legislature in 1916. The campaign card below was discovered by Robert Edwards in 2011. In the primary August 29, apparently the top 12 vote-getters went on to the general election in November; at the head of the list, it said "vote for twelve." Unfortunately Mrs. Rust came in 23rd in a field of 41, with 1,678 votes. The top vote getter got about 3800 votes and the 12th highest got about 2100. 

The general election of 1916 saw the first women elected to the Montana legislature, Maggie Smith Hathaway, Democrat from Stevensville, and Emma Ingalls, Republican from Kalispell. And of course it is well known that in that election Montana sent the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress, Representative Jeanette Rankin.

Rose Rust's home at 1124 Utah Avenue still stands.

Resources: Sanborn maps, city directories, newspapers of 1916.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Eureka Beer

Public domain image (Freeman, A Brief History of Butte, 1900), scan by Butte Public Library
I've been working on a map of historic breweries in Butte, for our own Quarry Brewing. Found a great advertising line from the Butte Brewery, which stood on North Wyoming Street where the Motel 6 (Capri Motel) is today. In 1917, when Montana's prohibition law had been passed but was not yet in force, they promoted their Eureka Beer as "Liquid food for temperate people."