|Photo from Library of Congress, HABS/HAER collection, 1979.|
Lutey’s stores were established initially in Granite (now a ghost town) in 1889. Joseph Lutey moved the operation to Philipsburg in 1895 and finally into Butte in 1897, where he and his sons built it into one of the largest grocery chains in Montana.
Joseph Lutey was a Cornishman, born in the village of Morvah, about 8 miles from Land’s End at the far southwest tip of Great Britain, on Christmas Day 1849. He came from a family of yeoman farmers and tinners, inasmuch as this part of Cornwall boasts both agricultural country and tin mines. Joseph’s own background was in mining; he came to the United States in 1868 (age 19) and worked the mines of New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and Nevada before landing in Montana at Granite in 1887.
The first Butte store was at 47 West Park (the Thomas Block). Joseph died in 1911 and the business continued under his sons until about 1924. The Marketeria was prominently located at 142-144 West Park, at the corner of Montana in the Stephens Block that still marks this corner (Hilltop Market today). The ghost sign shown here is on the south façade of that building.
The 2007 Chinatown Archaeological Dig (financial support from the Butte URA; exhibit at the Mai Wah supported by the Montana State Historical Society and Mai Wah volunteers) uncovered a large broken crock advertising Lutey’s “fine pickles and pure vinegar” from the c. 1920 Chinese trash midden at the dig site, in the vacant lot south of Mercury and east of Colorado Street.
The Lutey’s self-service grocery was the model for Piggly Wiggly stores, the first widespread self-service chain in the U.S. You’ll find rich detail on the Lutey’s stores in Kent Lutey’s article “Lutey Brothers Marketeria,” Montana: The Magazine of Western History 28 (1978): 50-57.