Jack & Dorris Kinney
Prolific Helena Sign Painters, Decorators and Muralists
Active 1940s - 1990s
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF Kathleen Kinney, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED

Jack Kinney (1922-2002) and Dorris Kinney (1928-1974)


Studio Door, 415 N. Oakes Street

Helena area Baby Boomers grew up surrounded by Jack Kinney's art, even if they weren't always aware of it. Jack was much in demand as a sign painter, muralist, and decorator. With his wife Dorris, Jack "set the stage" for many Helena businesses and special events.

Jack N. Kinney was born July 25, 1922, in Virginia, Minnesota. He learned to ski at a very young age from Finlanders and step-grandfather who had been a ski-jumper in Norway. Jack moved to Helena, Montana in 1935. He studied art at Helena High School, and was active in designng posters for school events. Jack grauated in 1941.

Jack and his brother Ken Kinney were early members of the Belmont Ski Club, which began in 1941.

For a time after graduating High School, Jack was employed at assistant advertising and display manager at Fllgelman's department store.

In 1943, Jack enlisted in the U. S. Army ski troops. During part of his service he was assigned as an Instructor with the ski troops at Camp Hale, Colorado. He was discharged in March of 1946, with the Good Conduct Medal, Infantry Badge and American Theater Medal.



Helena Newspaper Ad, 1946

Jack returned to Helena after the War, and set up a sign shop with Bill Daniel. In November of 1946, Jack married Dorris Matzich, a native of Ennis, Montana.

As well as running a successful sign business, Jack, assisted by Dorris, was instrumental in creating decorations and set pieces for numerous Helena charity functions.




"Needlework Fair" Window Display at Fligelman's, 1953


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From 1954 to 1956, Jack took a job in Great Falls, Montana, as advertising and promotional director for the Paris of Montana department store. During his Great Falls stay, Jack also operated a sign shop.

In 1956, Jack returned to Helena to once again work as display manager for Fligelman's, a position he would hold until 1962, when he opened a full-time sign shop at his 415 North Oakes home...

For the remainder of his career, Jack Kinney was the "go-to" man in Helena for any sort of commercial (or charity) visual presentation work.

 

A Small Sampling of Kinney Signs
Do You Know of Others?

 

 

Kim Kinney




One of two truck signs painted for Howard Beer, about 1970. The original price was $20 per cord.
COURTESY OF RALPH BEER



The Kinney Murals

Beginning in 1958, Jack and Dorris began painting wall murals in business and private homes. A few still survive, but most have now been lost. If you know of any not listed or shown here, please let us know.


Lambkins of Lincoln - 1959 - Still Existing


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Sportsman's Lodge, Ennis, Montana
Lodge Destroyed by Fire, January 20, 2015

 

 

Imperial Lanes Murals, Helena - 1959 - Building Demolished, 1980s

Between 1959 and 1963, Jack and Dorris painted a sereis of murals inside Imperial Lanes, 607 N. Roberts. Now demolished, Imperial Lanes was Helena's largest bowling alley for many years. Does anyone have photos?


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FROM THE 1962 HELENA HIGH SCHOOL 'VIGILANTE' YEARBOOK

 


Bair's Den at Bair's Truck Stop and Cafe, Helena
Mural Lost - Building Remodeled

 

 

Walt and Millie's Diner - 1960 - Fate of Mural Unknown


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This image of the Walt and Millie's Diner mural was created by combining two snapshots.




Other Kinney Murals - Lost or Condition Unknown


 

 

Rosie's Barber Shop, 22 North Main, 1960 - Mural Lost
Building destroyed by fire, 1965

Other Kinney murals: The Capri Lounge, Main at Lawrence, 1958; Home of John Morgan, 1122 Peosta, 1961; Helena Senior Center, 1421 Roberts, 1968. Does anyone have photos or knowledge of these or other Kinney murals?



Restoration Work in the Montana Capitol, 1967

The Kinneys also painted hundreds of seasonal and special event motifs on store windows. They were also known for the imaginative Christmas displays they would install on their front lawn, at 415 N. Oakes.

Jack began slowing down when his health declined in the late 1980s. He passed away at the VA Hospital in Columbia Falls, Montana, June 19, 2002.

My thanks to Kathleen Kinney for so generously sharing these images and information.