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.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

100 years ago today

Photo from Library of Congress, HABS/HAER collection, 1979.
February 7 marks the centennial of Lutey’s Marketeria in the Stephens Block at Park and Montana. It was the first self-serve grocery store in the United States.

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.


  1. Dick great article! Very interesting Butte History, the locals learn something new everyday!!

  2. Thanks Cheryl! There's too much to learn - but it's fun!

  3. I know it's been a while. But I just tuned in. There was also a Booth's Market at 57 W Park. Considering the relative sizes of their ads in the Anaconda Standard in 1902, they were probably strong competitors. I think Booth's Market was operated by my great-grandfather Joseph S. Booth. Does anyone have an idea of how I could look up the history of Booth's Market.
    Thank you.
    Joe Booth
    Spokane, WA

    1. The best resource for such research is the Butte Silver Bow Public Archives (linked in thank-you note at top right side of the blog. You can glean a lot from City Directories - for example, I happen to have the 1900 directory, where I see that Joseph S Booth lived at 701 Colorado St., a building apparently still standing (thought it might be a newer house there - https://maps.google.com/maps?q=701+Colorado+Street,+Butte,+MT&hl=en&ll=46.004873,-112.535767&spn=0.001403,0.002682&sll=46.004373,-112.502593&sspn=0.718272,1.373291&oq=701+Colora&t=h&hnear=701+Colorado+St,+Butte,+Montana+59701&z=19 ) There was no Booth's Market listed in 1900, so it must have been pretty new in 1902. I'm not certain but I think 57 W Park is gone today - you'd have to check multiple directories because the address scheme changed over time.

  4. Thank you for that interesting article of my great great grandfathers store my grandfather was William Glen Lutey grandson of Joseph. Do plan on making a trip from Seattle to Butte one day to see the old store

    1. Tammy, thanks for stopping by and for your note. I hope you can come to Butte.

    2. Hi Tammy,
      I'm your cousin -- get in touch if you would like -- iolutey@gmail.com.
      Iona Lutey