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.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scrap Drives for the War

by Richard I. Gibson

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.


  1. My father joined the Army in Pennsylvania during the start of WW II. Because he had worked as a Coal Miner he was sent to Butte Montana to mine copper instead of overseas to fight. At the start of WWII the miners in Butte joined up in droves and there were not enough men to work the mines. He worked the Copper mines as an Army enlisted until he was almost killed in a cave in. I was born in 1943, my mother lived in Butte where she met my father. My father was sent to Butte Montana in the Fall, early winter of 1942. I was wondering where these Army Miners lived when not done in the mines. I have look for the history of this and I find nothing. martjj@gmail.com

    1. Most likely, they would have lived as other miners did - in boarding houses, hotels, spare rooms in peoples' homes, etc. Possibly they might have been billeted for some time in a place like the dormitories at the Montana School of Mines (Montana Tech) - I know that happened some.