Butte’s copper contributed mightily to the U.S. war effort in both world wars. Shell casings (brass, a copper-zinc alloy), motors, and diverse war materiel all demanded copper, driving Butte to produce its most copper ever in 1917, at close to 180,000 tons.
During World War II, in Butte and across the nation, the public was actively involved in rounding up metal scrap to help with the war effort. While there is some evidence that the scrap drives didn’t really contribute all that much to the need for metals, there is no doubt that they contributed to morale, pride, and the sense of patriotic participation on the home front.
Scrap drives in Butte were documented well by the photographers of the Farm Security Administration--Office of War Information, the same photographers who had been recording the desolation of the Dust Bowl a few years earlier. All the photos below were taken by Lee Russell in October 1942. The school in the second photo is Webster, which stood where the intersection of Idaho and Aluminum is today (Idaho St. did not go through).
|Kids did a lot of the work.|
|In front of Webster School on Aluminum St.|
|Boy Scouts and other organizations were involved.|
|Beer (this barrel was from Butte Brewing Co. on N. Wyoming) was provided to scrap drive volunteers. |
They got free lunch, too.
|Montana Governor Ford addressing the crowd to kick off the scrap drive.|