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, January 29, 2015

Heaviest locomotive in the world - or maybe not quite!

By Richard I. Gibson

In February 1901, Butte and Anaconda were abuzz with the announcement of the arrival of a new engine for the Butte, Anaconda, and Pacific Railway. The “mastodon hog,” No. 19. was built by the Schenectady Company for the express purpose of hauling ore from Butte to the then new smelter being built in Anaconda.

Here are her specs:

Gauge: 4 feet, 8½ inches
Cylinders: low pressure, 34-inch diameter, 32-inch stroke
High pressure, 23-inch diameter, 32-inch stroke
Drivers: 56-inch diameter
Wheel base: 26 feet 9 inches
Engine weight: 110 tons
Water and Coal load: 54 tons (5,500 gallons of water, 10 tons bituminous coal)
Front sheet of steel boiler, 84-inch diameter
Boiler pressure: 210 pounds of steam per square inch
Boiler sheet thickness: one inch (average heretofore, five-eighths inch)
Boiler tubes: 414 1¼-inch tubes

The smokestack was cast iron, engine frames were hammered iron, and piston rods were made of Cambria steel hardened by the Coffin process. The tires were Krupp crucible steel four inches thick. The drive springs were installed by the A. French Spring Company. The cab was wood, with steel running boards. The whole engine was painted “B.A. &  P. standard black.” She had two Dressel headlights 16 inches in diameter.

The first test run, under the command of Engineer Tipton, was accompanied by the builder’s agent, L.S. Watres, Master Mechanic Harrity, and an Anaconda Standard reporter. The engine traveled from Anaconda to Rocker pulling 41 cars. The engine’s maximum capacity was rated at 60 cars of ore totaling 4000 tons, which it could pull at 30 miles per hour.

The engine came in on the Great Northern Line, and its size proved a problem in many places where bridges were too low for it to pass. They had to lower the stack in order to do so. It jumped the track at Minot, North Dakota, the only serious incident en route to Anaconda.

“Elaborate and complete in every detail, the new freight engine marks a new epoch in freight hauling in the United States, and especially in the transmission of ore in mining states to the smelters.”

But within a dozen years, the B.A. & P. was moving from steam locomotives to electrical systems, erecting the first heavy-haul electric railway in the world. No. 19 was sold to the General Equipment Company of New York City on July 24, 1917. General Equipment in turn sold it to the Peñoles Mining Company in Mexico. It was probably scrapped by the late 1940s.

Primary source: Anaconda Standard, February 3, 1901. See also Wired For Success, by Charles Mutschler (WSU Press, 2002).

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chastine Humphrey

These cabins and the tree were on the first block of West Quartz Street, where the old fire station (Butte Archives) stands today. The main cabin and tree were just west of the fire station, in today's parking lot. All these buildings are gone today. All but the left-most of the row of three cabins were gone by 1901. 

By Richard I. Gibson

The first boy born in Butte, Chastine Humphrey, was born April 16, 1868, in a three-room log cabin beneath the shade of a fir tree – the only tree in the townsite of Butte. The cabin stood on West Quartz Street at the later site of the Maryland Boarding House, which was located at 21 West Quartz, the parking lot immediately west of the Fire Station, today’s Archives building.

Chastine Humphrey, Sr., the boy’s father, laid out the townsite of Butte in 1866. The senior Humphrey’s bother, Oliver, passed through the Butte area in the early 1860s but ultimately settled in Helena. He wrote to his brother encouraging him to come to Montana, and in late 1864, Chastine, his wife and daughter (later Mrs. Nell O’Donnell of Walkerville) arrived in Butte. Mrs. Humphrey was reportedly the first woman in Butte.

Of the cluster of cabins Humphrey built, only one was still standing in 1901, just east of the then new fire station. That log cabin served as a barn and stable for Gilmore & Salisbury’s stage coach horses. Further east, another small cabin had been built by Ben Kingsbury. The 3-story Kingsbury Block was built about 1887 on the northwest corner of Quartz and Main, where it stood until it was demolished in the Model Cities program in 1969-70. Furthest east, probably the cabin in the lower left corner in the image above, William Matthews and Bryan Irvine shared the space. Matthews committed suicide by jumping from a window at the Insane Asylum at Warm Springs. Irvine was still in Butte 30 years after the date of the image above (circa 1868), living at 643 West Granite Street in 1895.

Other residents in the 1860s in this block included A.W. Barnard, on the south side of the street. The story went that when W.A. Clark first came to Butte, he spent his first night here in Barnard’s cabin. Barnard, like Kingsbury, became quite wealthy, and built the Barnard Block on the site of his original cabin.

The tree that sheltered the Humphrey house, the last one in the area, finally “yielded to the axe and fell like the gallant soldier on the field of battle, after all hope had gone.” The Humphreys burned the wood in their fireplace and kitchen stove.

Chas Humphrey, the son, took a job with the Butte Miner newspaper in 1879, at age 12. He eventually became a member of the International Typographical Union, working until automated machines – Mergenthalers – replaced him in 1895. He continued in the printing profession including typesetting for the Jefferson County Zephyr, in Whitehall.

Chastine Humphrey, Jr. died of pneumonia January 12, 1901, only 32 years old. The Humphreys are buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery.

On the occasion of Chas’s death, his sister Nell O’Donnell recounted the locations of the Humphrey cabins on West Quartz.
“Our house stood where the Maryland House now stands [i.e., the lot immediately west of the Archives building today]. It has been said that it stood upon the site of the new fire station. It is true a house belonging to father stood on the fire station site, but we did not live in it. The old tree stood on the slope almost where the kitchen of the Maryland house stands. [i.e., near the alley, just west of the northwest corner of the Archives building].”
The photo below is from 1875 and shows the Humphrey cabin and the tree at far right. Beneath it is the same photo, annotated to show buildings and Main Street.

Primary resource: Anaconda Standard, January 27, 1901. Also Sanborn maps and city directories. See also this post about the first house in Butte, on East Quartz St.  See also The Story of Butte, special issue of The Butte Bystander for April 15, 1897. Images of Butte in 1875 from A Brief History of Butte, Montana: the World's Greatest Mining Camp, by Harry C. Freeman, 1900, digitized by Butte Public Library, annotations by Gibson.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Robert Burns’ Birthday

Butte Inter Mountain, January 25, 1902. Vignettes are Butte Scotsmen.

By Richard I. Gibson

In Sweet Thunder, Ivan Doig describes a celebration of poet Robert Burns’s birthday, held at the Butte Public Library. Although that account was fiction, Scots and their friends in Butte did celebrate the birthday of one of Scotland’s favorite sons.

Bobby Burns was born January 25, 1759, near Ayr in southwest Scotland. Although he died at age 37, probably from a heart condition complicated by dental surgery, he left a legacy of well-loved songs and poems. Scotland voted him the Greatest Scot of all time in 2009.

In Butte, the Scottish community was small. In 1901, Burns’s birthday wasn’t a particularly grand event. The Royal Highlanders was an insurance organization of businessmen of many nationalities, but they sponsored a dance and show at the Auditorium (in the Public Library at Broadway and Dakota Streets) that included an opening bagpipe performance and dance exhibitions focused on Scottish traditions including music, dance, drama, and readings. Charles Brebner performed the caber feigh on the bagpipes, a traditional tune in which the dancers raise their arms in imitation of deer’s antlers. Christine Brebner, Lillie Skillicorn, and Tena McDonald all demonstrated the Highland Fling. Charles Brebner was an engineer on the Northern Pacific Railway and his daughter Christine taught at the Butte Conservatory of Music. They lived at 1033 Iowa Street. Lillie and Robert Skillicorn (he was a miner at the Rarus) lived at 308 East Quartz.

By 1902, the birthday party was a big event. “A night wi’ Burns” was organized by Butte Scotsmen with the intent to create a fraternal organization, the Sons of Scotland. Alex McDonnell, Alex McLean, Dan and Jack McDonald, Malcolm McPhail, D.C. Mather, and Duncan McGregor all donned traditional Scottish garb for the event. Their lives were as diverse as Butte – a saloon keeper at 124 S. Montana, a miner at the Little Minah who lived in the Southern Hotel on Broadway Street (still standing), a carrier for the Inter Mountain newspaper, a miner from Norris.

In 1904 the celebration moved to the Finlen Hotel (the old three-story Finlen) where 115 guests gathered for a banquet at 10:00 p.m. Alexander Macaulay (a harness maker at 526 Nevada Avenue) chaired the proceedings, which included piping and a sword dance by D.C. Mather. Mather’s pipes led the haggis in a parade around the room together with a barrel of Scotch whiskey.

Here’s the menu:

A Little Barley Bree
Scotch Broth
Finnan Haddies in Patties
Olive. Sweet Pickles.
A Wee Donald. Scotch Haggis.
Scones. Short Bread. Bannocks.
Ice Cream. Assorted Cakes.
Fruits. Nuts. Coffee.

Barley Bree is a whiskey; finnan haddies is smoked haddock. Bannocks are barley flatbreads, and haggis is sheep's organs mixed with vegetables encased in the sheep's stomach — the national dish of Scotland.

The meal was followed by an extensive program of literary and musical entertainments, ranging from bagpipes and violins to vocal performances. To start the festivities in a traditional manner, David Leys (clerk at Leys Jewelry in the Owsley Block) recited Burns’s “Address to a Haggis.” The guest list was noteworthy, including ex-Senator Lee Mantle, ex-Senator William Fisk Sanders, retired Judge John Lindsay, Postmaster George Irvin, Augustus Heinze, R.D. Leggatt, Andrew Jackson Davis, Charles Schatzlein, John McQueeney, and enough “Mac’s” and “Mc’s” and others to fill the hall.

You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery stuff,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But if you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her a Haggis!
—Robert Burns

Resources: Butte Inter Mountain, January 25, 1902; January 26, 1904; Anaconda Standard January 26, 1901; City Directories.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Walkerville, 1881

Walkerville, 1881. Photo by Charles Roscoe Savage. See bottom for annotated version.

By Richard I. Gibson

In a previous post we dissected a photo of Butte by Charles Roscoe Savage that was most likely made in 1881. Today I’m focusing on a second Butte photo in the Savage collection, digitized by Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library. This one is a remarkable view of Walkerville, presumably also from 1881.

Although Butte was taking off in 1881, rising from the population nadir in 1874, Walkerville had a more stable early history in part because of its silver. The Butte mineral district is zoned with concentric sections like a sliced onion, and the outer rings are more silver rich. The mines on the west side, including the Travona and Orphan Girl, were mined for silver much more than for copper, and the same was true on the north side, in Walkerville. Any silver on the south is buried beneath thick sediments on the Flats, and on the east side, the silver-rich zone was uplifted along the Continental and other faults and has been eroded away.

Marcus Daly famously came to Butte at the behest of the Walker Brothers of Salt Lake City to manage and develop the Alice Silver Mine in Walkerville. Daly brought his expertise in the Comstock Silver Belt of Nevada, but eventually made his real fortune in the copper mines of Butte.

Walkerville’s official population in 1880 was 444 (compare Butte at 3,364) but by 1890 it had quadrupled to 1,743 in the census, and nearby locations likely doubled that. The photo above, looking north, shows the heart of Walkerville, with buildings lining both sides of Daly Street across the foreground and Main Street running north on the right side of the photo. The big two-story building with three windows is the Caplice & McCune Store, a building that is still standing. Two buildings south from the store, the Rainbow Saloon, on the southwest corner of Main and Daly Streets, also offered boarding and lodging. W.H. Peck and H.J. Hurley managed it in 1885. By 1888 it was called the Light House Saloon.

The little shop on Daly with the front porch, in front of the left-most window of the Caplice & McCune Store, was a meat market in 1884. West (left) of it, the Head Quarters was another saloon. Further west on Daly, the three white-fronted stores were (from right to left) L.W. Fosters general merchandise, a saloon with billiards, and a boarding house with a large dining room in 1884.

New Alice Stamp Mill, 1884. Redrawn from Sanborn Map.
Click to enlarge.
The two big mine complexes at the top of the hill above Walkerville are the Moulton to the left and the Alice to the right. The Alice was connected by a tramway to the New Alice Stamp Mill. The old mill is the complex of buildings above the Caplice & McCune Store, in front of the hoisting works on the skyline. Both stamp mills would have been in operation when this photo was made (or maybe not literally in operation at this moment, given the lack of dust and smoke). In 1884 the Alice mine and mill employed about 65 men per shift, probably two shifts of 12 hours each (the 8-hour day and three shifts a day only became common in the early 1900s). In addition to the big stamp room, the Old Alice Stamp Mill buildings included a leaching room, a stone-walled retort, settling tubs, dryers, a dust house, and an engine room adjacent to the three boilers that generated 720 horsepower of steam energy. The new stamp mill added 6 boilers at 300 horsepower. The combined mills had 100 stamps and a processing capacity of 90 tons a day.

The Moulton Stamp Mill, in the buildings to the left (west) of the Moulton Mine stack, had 40 stamps and a 40-ton-per-day capacity, and 30 employees. There were “frequent strong winds from west and northwest” at the Moulton. Ya think?

We think the other photo of Butte by C.R. Savage was made about September, 1881 on the basis of under-construction buildings and the nature of the shadows, which suggests the autumnal equinox. If this photo was made about the same time, which is likely, the Alice was probably well lit by electric lights. The first electric light in Montana had been lit there November 17, 1880. When the City Council, Mayor Valiton, and a crowd of citizens (“some accompanied by ladies”) visited the Alice a few days later to see the sight, the Butte Daily Miner reported

“Notwithstanding a blinding snowstorm was raging, the entire party was treated to a most beautiful sight as they approached Walkerville. On top of the [Alice] hoisting works appeared a light which in the escaping steam seemed like a ball of fire rolling in the heavens, while through the windows of the mill the light shone beautifully distinct and cheerful.”

Resources: 1884 Sanborn map; Butte Daily Miner, November 24, 1880; November 18, 1880; city directory for 1885. See also these additional posts about Walkerville.

Annotated version of the photo. Daly Street in yellow.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Vice-Consul of Greece

by Richard I. Gibson

In 1900, Greece maintained nine consular offices in the United States – consuls in New York, where the Consul General was located; Chicago; Boston; Philadelphia; and San Francisco. Vice-Consuls provided services in Norfolk, Virginia; St, Louis, Missouri; Nashville, Tennessee; and Lowell, Massachusetts. On December 7, 1900, the King of Greece issued a decree naming a fifth Vice-Consul: George Scholomiti of Butte.

George Scholomiti was born in Kosmas, in the Parnonas Mountains of Greece, not far from Sparta. He came to Butte about 1890 and was connected to the restaurant business for most of his time here. In 1891 he was a clerk and cashier at the Theater Comique, on South Main Street where the southern part of the Metals Bank building stands today.

By the time he was appointed vice-consul, Scholomiti was operating a successful restaurant at 28 South Main Street. The two-story building there before 1900 contained two saloons and “female boarding” – meaning, a brothel, but I believe it was renovated or possibly replaced by another two-story building that housed Scholomiti’s restaurant by 1900-01. He maintained his office as vice-consul at 62 West Park, where he lived upstairs. That building was part of the complex of structures that housed Symon’s store until they burned down in 1905, and the Phoenix Building rose to replace them.

George and his bother Peter were operating two restaurants in 1907, a tiny one at 8 South Main (one of many small buildings that were replaced by the Rialto Theater in 1916, where the Wells Fargo Bank is today), and the one at 28 S. Main. The two-story building at 28 South Main, on the corner with Galena, was gone by 1951, replaced by the one-story building that houses the Butte Weekly and adjacent businesses today.

George appears to have died or left Butte by 1909. His brother and other relations (sons?) continued in the restaurant business, with one at 825 East Front Street (the Bennett Block, Brinck’s Building demolished in 2014), operated by Chris Scholomiti, and the Globe Café at 28 South Main where Chris, John, and Michael Scholomiti all worked. 

About 1915, Chris Scholomiti built a boarding house at 1100-1102-1104-1106 South Utah Street. It appears to have been an investment as no Sholomitis lived there, but it still stands today, with the name “Scholomiti” across the upper front facade. In 1928, it held Mrs. Duffy’s Grocery Store on the ground floor. Residents included Leo and Luella Lehti – he was a driver for the Western Creamery Company; Roscoe Baldridge, an engineer, and his wife Minnie; and Edgar and Margaret Price. Edgar was a switchman on the Great Northern Railroad. The last listing in the city directories for any Scholomiti is 1928.

St. George’s Day, England’s National Day, is usually identified with the British in Butte, and the Sons of St. George celebrated the day on April 23. But Greeks celebrated it as well, on May 6 – the same day, but according to the Gregorian Greek Orthodox calendar. The 100 or so Greeks in Butte in the early 1900s celebrated with a picnic at Nine Mile Canyon, with all expenses paid for by the three Greeks in Butte with the name “George” – George Scholomiti (at front center in the photo above), George Stamatiou, and George Buller.

Someone in Butte must have subscribed to the primary Greek-American newspaper of the day, the Atlantis, published in the Greek language in New York. Issues of the Atlantis from January 1921 were glued onto boards now in the basement of the Wah Chong Tai building in Butte's Chinatown to serve as minimal insulation. Were these just random pages of discarded newspaper that the proprietors of the Wah Chong Tai used? Or was there a closer connection between the Chinese family and the Greeks? The Scholomiti restaurant at 28 S. Main was just a short block and a half from the Wah Chong Tai. 

The last Greek store in Butte was probably Athens Grocery and Imports at 601 Utah, operated by Ernest and Georgia Pappas for 45 years. The Scholomiti legacy lives on in the building at 1100 S. Utah, and in connections around the world. A few years ago, Joel and Sheri Broudy (of Wein’s Men’s Store in Butte) were traveling on business to Chicago. A taxi driver picked them up at the airport, and inquired where they had arrived from. When he heard “Butte, Montana,” he told the Broudys that his grandfather had been the Greek Vice-Consul in Butte, Montana – George Scholomiti.

Resources: Anaconda Standard, January 21, 1901; May 8, 1905; Butte Heritage Cookbook; City Directories; Sanborn Maps. Thanks to Irene Scheidecker, Kim Kohn, Ellen Crain, and Sheri Broudy for guidance and information.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A picture tells a story

Charles Roscoe Savage photo of Butte circa September 1881. Mountain View Church at left; Timber Butte in right distance; Idaho Street heading down the hill along the right side.

By Richard I. Gibson

Click on images below to enlarge.

A picture tells a story, if only we can read it.

Recently on Facebook, Building in the Past, a wonderful page that shares great historic imagery from all over, shared a photo of early Butte that I had never seen, copied at the top of this post. Now, of course I haven’t seen every historic photo of Butte – but I’ve seen all the ones that are commonly reproduced, and so has my colleague, Nicole von Gaza-Reavis. She had not seen this one either, so we began a Facebook discussion of the photo, its subjects and its timing.

The main points of the photo are immediately evident to those who study historic Butte seriously. The church at left is Mountain View (the original church, built circa 1877 and replaced by the present one in 1899) at Quartz and Montana. That’s Timber Butte in the distance, and the dirt street heading downhill on the right of the photo is Idaho Street.

After that, identifying details takes a little more sleuthing.

Down Idaho Street, on the left (east) side of the street, the steep-roofed building is the original Presbyterian Church at the corner of Idaho and Broadway, replaced by the present building in 1896 (where the Covellite Theater is located). Nicole and I determined that you can see the Jacobs House at Granite and Montana – but only its roof, partly hidden among other roofs in the left portion of the photo. You can get a suggestion of a vacant lot across (left) from the Jacobs House – that’s where the original county court house would go up in 1884, a few years after this photo was made. The Jacobs House is probably the only building in this photo that still stands today.

Which leads us to the question of the timing. The original source is the Charles Roscoe Savage photograph collection, digitized by Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library. Savage worked as a photographer for various railroads and of course did additional photography as well. The original source gives the date as ca. 1880.

Caplice Block was at Park and Montana (SW corner)
When you get into the photo and keep track of where the streets are located – a challenge in places, because of the foreshortening in the view – you can recognize the Caplice Block as the largest single building in the photo. It’s just to the right of center in the middle distance, and it was located on the southwest corner of Park and Montana Streets. Its roof is not completed in this photo – the top was an ornate French Second Empire style, similar to today’s Finlen Hotel. With a Butte Miner newspaper article from May 14, 1882 that reported on the completion of the Caplice Block (except for some painting), I speculated that the photo would have been a few months prior to that May 1882 date. If you look at the shadows in the photo, it is clear that the photo was made late in the day – and the shadows are pretty close to east-west in orientation. In Butte, that only happens around the times of the equinoxes – March and September. So I concluded that the photo probably was made in March, 1882.

Caplice Block at right. Note 7 windows (as in photo above)
and completed Second Empire roof.
But Larry Hoffman pointed out the lack of snow anywhere – especially on the mountains, and argued for fall of 1881. The first railroad (Utah & Northern) arrived in Butte December 21, 1881, so if Savage was riding the train, he came after that. But there is no reason to think that he wasn’t here in Butte, perhaps scouting things for the coming railway, before the line was completed. So back to the research.

It turned out that while the Caplice Block was indeed “completed” in May 1882, it was definitely being used the previous fall and winter. A news report on September 1, 1881, said that its walls were “looming up in magnificent proportions” and it was at least partially occupied before Thanksgiving 1881. So, new conclusion: the photo probably dates to the Autumnal Equinox, September 1881. That fits better with all the knowns we have. We may figure out other lines of reasoning, of course, that may deny this conclusion, or give it more support. That’s how this process works, at least this far back when there is really very little clear information about Butte. Only in 1884 and later, when we have Sanborn maps, city directories, and the Bird’s-Eye View, can we really make definitive statements about most buildings. Even then, things can be murky and subject to interpretation.

Charles Roscoe Savage was a prolific photographer, best known for his pictures of the driving of the “golden spike” connecting the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869. He was English and became a Mormon at age 14, in 1846. When he emigrated to the United States at age 23, he eventually settled and made his studio in Salt Lake City. Many of his photographs were lost in a studio fire in 1883, which may explain why (so far as we know) there are only two extant from his visit to Butte in (we now surmise) 1881.

Bird's-Eye View (1884)
Circled house is the one across from
Mountain View Church (#2 here),
same as the house across Quartz in the photo above
(to right of church in photo)
Beyond the specific buildings mentioned above, this photo provides a wealth of information about early Butte. The sharpness of the photo is probably a result of its being an albumen print, a method that used egg whites (albumen) and was printed as a direct exposure, so there was no photo developing in the modern sense. That method gives the outstandingly fine grain seen in this photo, but I’m not entirely certain that that is the nature of this image.

This photo bears out the idea that the 1884 Bird’s-Eye View is an almost photographic rendering of the way Butte looked in 1884. Mountain View Church is faithfully drawn, and even the house across the street from it has the exact roofline shown in the photo above.

The second Butte photo in the BYU Charles Roscoe Savage collection is of Walkerville. That’ll be the subject of a future post.

Thanks to Nicole von Gaza-Reavis, Larry Hoffman, and everyone who contributed to the multiple Facebook discussions of this photograph, and to Paul Charron (Building in the Past) for the original posting.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cold wave, January 1902

By Richard I. Gibson

Obviously it’s not THAT noteworthy: It gets cold in Butte in the winter. The cold wave of 1902 made the news, though – one of the coldest late January cold spells on record.

Wagon wheels creak with the complaining whirl of extreme cold and windows are sheeted with ice. The big policeman shrinks one coil deeper into his big coon-skin coat and wishes somebody would start something in the near-by saloon.” —Butte Inter Mountain, January 25, 1902

The only colder temperature than Butte was at Fort Assiniboine, where -48° to -52° was recorded. The cold snap was statewide: 27 below at Helena, 35 below at Great Falls, 15 below in Billings.

“The hotel lobbies look inviting and travelers who come from sunnier climes postpone their business engagements and ask the clerk anxiously how long this is going to last.” Yes, some things never change.

At the busy corner of Main Street and Broadway, the “Ice Picture Man” entertained passers-by by reading Frostographs. The article from the Inter Mountain is quoted below in its entirety:

He came sliding down Main street with a festive air, whistling “When the harvest days are over, Jessie dear,” and occasionally balancing himself with the dexterity of a circus rope walker on the icy pavement until he reached the little knot on the corner, who were studying the thermometer and agreeing that it was much colder than the register indicated.

“Say,” said the gentleman with the whistle, who moved as if he had learned to walk on a pair of Norwegian skis, “did any of you fellows ever notice the peculiar designs on the windows here in Butte when the weather gets very cold? Now, it is a well-known fact that frost reflects the surrounding objects on the window panes, and that when you see trees and plants on the glass they are simply reproductions of the trees and shrubs in the neighborhood. These pictures are scientifically known as ‘frostographs.’

“If you notice the pictures on the Butte windows, however, you will see that there are very few of these beautiful trees and designs on the window panes, and I believe this bears out the theory that they are really reproductions.

“Now I have a theory.” Here half the audience slipped quietly away. “These pictures that you see on hear are photographic reproductions of familiar objects around the city.

“Let me show you,” and the stranger assumed the attitude and tone of the professional dime museum conductor. “On the right you see a faithful representation of the shafthouse of the Gagnon mine. Ah, I see you recognize the similarity. Over here you can observe readily a very excellent reproduction of the Hennessy building. Here, partly blurred by the melting ice, and yet readily recognizable, are the smoke stacks on the hill. See, there are the stacks of the ‘Anaconda’ and ‘Neversweat,’ and away up on top of the pane you find the shafthouse of the ‘Mountain View.’

“Now, note the perspective, how much larger in comparison these buildings are than the reflections of the works on the hill. The new Hirbour building takes up about half the pane, and even the city hall looks twice as large as the Hennessy building.”

“Say, mister,” said a street urchin, who happened along at that moment, “what do you call that mixed-up-looking mess there, close to what you call the city hall?”

“That,” said the professor, without a moment’s hesitation, “is a remarkable picture: that is a flawless frostograph of the police disturbance in Butte,” and before the crowd could catch its breath he was sliding down the hill with an easy swing that would make a Norwegian ski-runner ashamed of himself.

Source: Butte Inter Mountain, January 25, 1902

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Meagher Guards

By Richard I. Gibson

The Meagher Guards of Butte, “perhaps the most unique military organization of its kind in the country,” was formed in 1895. It was a completely independent military unit, not beholden to either the State of Montana or the United States government, formed by prominent Butte Irish-Americans including Captain William McGrath, W.E. Deeney, Steve Holland, and Michael Joy. 

The Irishman is by natural instinct a first-rate fighting man. Some of the best soldiers the world has ever seen have come from the little green isle across the sea.” —Butte Inter Mountain, January 25, 1902

Sixty-two volunteers joined and named the group for Thomas Francis Meagher, the Civil War veteran who was Montana Territory’s Acting Governor in 1865-67. They were self-disciplined, under the captaincy of William McGrath. When the Spanish-American War began in 1898 they were mustered into the U.S. Army as Company B of the First Montana regiment. The Second Montana regiment drew heavily on Butte and the new Meagher Guards that succeeded those who had already headed to war.  Company B fought with distinction in the Philippines during the war. “More than a few are now sleeping the honored sleep of the patriot dead over the sea in the far-away Philippines.”

When the war ended, the Meagher Guards ceased to exist, but some of its members joined the Butte company of the National Guard – Company B.

Following their service in the Meagher Guards, returning veterans took up various professions. Captain William McGrath, who lived at 744 South Main, became a sergeant in the Butte police force. William E. Deeney, who had been a major in the Second Montana regiment, returned to Butte to live at 1009 West Granite Street, and ran a saloon at 43 West Broadway (Williams & Deeney). Michael Joy, First Sergeant in the First Montana, was a miner after the war at the Diamond Mine and lived at 11 West Agate. Captain John Cleary, seen in the photo at top, worked in the Anaconda Mine and lived at 739 Maryland. S.G. Jeans became a clerk after the war, and roomed at 23 West Quartz.

Other names in the Meagher Guards read like a litany of Irish Butte: McMahon, Mahoney, Hayes, Conlin, Maher, Kelly, O’Malley, Crowley, Gallagher, McGarvey, Murphy, McManimon, McCartin, Burns, Donovan, McAuliffe, McCann, McBride, Byrne, Ryan, Shannon, Doyle.

Sources: Butte Inter Mountain, January 25, 1902; City Directory for 1900.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Butte’s first motorized postal service

Butte Inter Mountain, January 20, 1902

By Richard I. Gibson

Butte wasn’t always first in the nation or the world at everything, much as we’d like to think so. But as one of the largest and richest cities in the west, Butte was usually pretty close to the cutting edge.

Test operations had been run in Detroit, Cleveland, Washington D.C., and Elizabethport, New Jersey in 1899-1900, but the first motorized delivery of the U.S. mail on a regular contracted run was an electric car in Buffalo, New York, in the summer of 1901 for the temporary post office at the Pan-American Exhibition. In October 1901 in Minneapolis, the Postal Service let the first contract for five electric vehicles and operators to handle the mail.

Butte was ready to help lead the way. In January 1902 the announcement came that Butte would have two vehicles for rural mail delivery beginning the following summer. The car in the photo above is a Winton Electric Car. In 1900, automobiles were rare, with about a third of all that were produced electric, another third steam powered, and the rest gasoline powered. It wasn’t until 1912-13 that the demand for gasoline reached the point where it surpassed kerosene as a petroleum product. Winton actually pioneered gasoline engines, and was among the first regular producers of cars in the United States. They sold 22 cars in 1898, and more than 100 in 1899. In 1901 they began producing high-end touring cars and the 1-cylinder, 9-horsepower mail delivery vans. A Winton was the first car to make a drive from coast to coast across the U.S., in 1903 (it took 64 days). They were out of business as car makers in 1924, but their engine branch continued, ultimately becoming part of General Motors in 1930. 

The automobile will revolutionize mail-delivery.
—Butte Postmaster Irvin, January 20, 1902

Butte’s Postmaster Irvin expected two vehicles to arrive in Butte by July 1902 for use mostly on rural routes across the state, not just in the Butte area. The speed of the mail cars was to be 10 miles per hour, and the cars weighed 2,330 pounds and could travel 40 miles on one electric charge. The Post Office Department had awarded Butte a “liberal appropriation” for the rural delivery service - $6,000,000 for fiscal year 1903 vs. $2,000,000 for the previous year, meaning that “in all postoffices of the first, second, third, and fourth-class, automobiles will be used where the service warrants it and the nature of the country will permit.”

Sources: Electric Vehicles in the Postal Service, by Historian, USPS, April 2014; Butte Inter Mountain, January 20, 1902; Winton Motor Carriage Company; photo of 1901 car from USPS photo collection