in the photo above the additon of the tall, round stack to the
roof of the building. It was added in 1962 because rooftop drafts
caused by the effect of westerly winds on the elevator penthouse
were blowing down the original, shorter stack and extinguishing
the pilot flame in the heating plant. A dangerous situation.
M. Russell Room, 1950s
OF KENNON BAIRD
Marion Russell (1864-1926) have long been a major draw for
the Montana Historical Society. The postcard view above shows
the Russell gallery as it appeared in the 1950s. Your editor
spent many enoyable hours in this room. Russell was one of Montana's
great souls, and - in my opinion - the finest western artist
of all time.
1955 HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF MONTANA PROMOTIONAL PAMPHLET
interesting and nostalgic 33-page brochure details the functions
of the Historical Society, and abounds with photos of the current
museum as it was in the 1950s. It also has numerous behind-the-scenes
photos. This PDF download
is presented courtesy of the Montana Historical Society.
Click the brochure cover below...
OF KENNON BAIRD PUBLISHED HERE WITH PERMISSION
had numerous highly-detailed dioramas during the 1950s -70s,
illustrating various scenes from Montana history. The use of
perspective to create the illusion of depth was utilized
to great effect in most of the dioramas.
Jump" diorama has long been a favorite of museum visitors.
the Buffalo Jump Diorama, 1952
"MONTANA HERITAGE" - 1955 HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF MONTANA
Dano Christensen (1907-1991) working on the buffalo jump
diorama, 1952. State budget constraints forced Christensen to
leave the MHS in early 1953. The diorama was completed by artist
Depicting Seismic Oil & Natural Gas Exploration
OF KENNON BAIRD
This 1950s diorama
featured an African American figure.
OF KENNON BAIRD
of the Early Days of Copper Mining in Butte, Montana
OF KENNON BAIRD
Marcus Daly, Ben Ali Haggin and George Hearst.
Junction" was a mock frontier main street which occupied
part of the lower level of the Montana Historical Society in
the 1960s - 70s. It featured 13 stores and offices with authentic
19th Century fittings and artifacts. This exhibit has long since
Junction" Dentist's Office
"Territory Junction" Jewelry Shop
Back Bar of "The Mint" Saloon
OF KENNON BAIRD
bar of Great Falls' "The Mint" Saloon, which was once
frequented by Charles M. Russell. It is currently on loan from
the Montana Historical Society to the C.
M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, and may be seen there.
"Territory Junction" Newspaper Office
SACRED WHITE BUFFALO
Medicine", the sacred white buffalo (1933-1959). Although
"Big Medicine" can still be seen, he has been such
a memorable part of the Museum visit for so long that he is
of this white buffalo at the National Bison Range on Montana's
Flathead Indian Reservation was seen as an auspicious event
by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. He was well
cared for, and lived beyond the normal bison life span. While
he was still alive, preparations were made by the Montana
Historical Society to have his form preserved for future generations.
Montana Centennial Parade Passes the
Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building, 1964
OF TOM KILMER
Towe Antique Ford Collection
to the mid-1970s, the Montana Historical Society enjoyed the
loan of the Ed Towe antique Ford collection. From 1967 to
1970, the collection was on display at 1325 Helena Avenue,
where the above photo was taken. Upon completion of the south
wing of the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building in 1970,
the collection was moved there for several years.
was subsequently housed at the old State Prison in Deer Lodge,
until it was dispersed by an IRS sale in 1997. If anyone knows
when the Towe collection left the Montana Historical Society,
please drop me an e-mail.
in the basement of the Montana Historical Society, 1970
BY KENNON BAIRD
1973 Video Clip Featuring the Museum
OF KITTY ANN QUIGLEY TAALER
the 1973 promotional film "Helena-City of Gold", produced
by the Helena Chamber of Commerce. The Ed Towe antique Ford
collection and Territory Junction attractions mentioned in the
clip are no longer at the museum, but the institution has expanded
and improved greatly since the film was made.
Keelboat Mandan and the "Merci Train" French Boxcar
On Outdoor Display at the Museum Ca. 1959
OF KENNON BAIRD CLICK
ON IMAGE TO OPEN A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW
"Mandan" was built for use in the RKO motion picture
Big Sky", starring Kirk Douglas. The script was adapted
from Montanan A. B. Guthrie's novel of the same name.
was completed in Wyoming in 1951, the boat was shipped to the
Historical Society in Helena, and put on unprotected outdoor
display in back of the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building.
It was immediately vandalized. A fence was built around it (which
didn't keep kids off), and it remained on display for many years.
eventually loaned to the city of Fort Benton, and was officially
deaccessed by the Montana Historical Society in 2005.
Photo of the "Mandan" in Fort Benton, Montana
Train" Boxcar A Gift From the People of France
above, about 1959, is Montana's "Merci Train" boxcar,
in a sad state of neglect behind the Montana Historical Society
Building. When this photo was taken, the boxcar had only recently
been moved to the Museum grounds from the Northern Pacific railyard,
where it had languished for a decade. It was subsequently restored.
The Merci Train, also known as the French Gratitude Train or
the Forty and Eight. This train was sent in response to trains
full (over 700 boxcars) of supplies known as the American Friendship
Train sent by the American people to France in 1947.
were French 4-wheel covered goods wagons used as military transport
cars. The term refers to the cars' carrying capacity, said to
be 40 men or eight horses. Built starting in the 1870s as regular
freight boxcars, they were originally used in military service
by the French army in both World Wars, and then later used by
the German occupation in World War II and finally by the Allied
Composed of 49 cars and filled with "gifts of gratitude",
the Merci Train arrived in New York City on February 3, 1949,
and was divided amongst the 48 states with the remaining car
to be shared by the District of Columbia and Hawaii. The Train
and all 49 cars arrived aboard the Magellan bearing a
banner which read: "MERCI AMERICA" on February 3,
1949, with over 25,000 onlookers in attendance. Immediately
the trains were distributed amongst the states.
Boxcar Arrives in Helena
Train boxcar was exhibited for a time at the Civic Center, then
languished for almost a decade in the Northern Pacific trainyard.
The following .doc file from the Montana Military Museum tells
the story of the boxcar's movements around Helena, and its several
restorations. It is currently on covered outdoor display at
the Montana Military Museum at Fort Harrison, as seen in the
photo below. Thanks to Raymond Read of the M.M.M. for kindly
providing so much information about the boxcar.