Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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A Reexamination of the Granite Mountain-Speculator Fire

By James D. Harrington

Download and read the article in PDF format.


Unions and their effect on workers, companies, and industry as a whole

Mining regulations

The dangers of mining

The concept of memorializing an event- why we do it

The establishment of memorials/National Parks/monuments-- who deserves them, who determines who deserves them, who designs them, who determines what the design should be, who maintains them and provides for their upkeep.


1)      Why do people form labor and social organizations?

2)      Why did the Department of the Interior designate Butte a National Historic Landmark?

3)      Has Butte benefited from this landmark status? Why or why not?

4)       What caused the Granite Mountain-Speculator fire? How and why did it spread?

5)       Why was it so dangerous to make rescue attempts?

6)       What made the bodies of the dead miners so hard to identify?

7)       For what did the tragedy of the fire serve as a catalyst?


-          Design on paper and build a model of a memorial commemorating all of the people who have worked in Butte's mines for the past 100+ years, including the over 437 miners who died in industrial accidents.

-          Research the various labor, fraternal and women's clubs in your community.

-          Research the Congressional Act of 1966 that established the National Historic Landmark Program.

-          Examine the other causes of death in the Butte mines, besides fire, by looking at the State Mine Inspector Reports.   Research the impact of Silicosis on Butte miners during the 20th century by looking at reports from Galen Sanitarium and the Silver Bow County investigation of sanitary conditions in Butte's neighborhoods.

-          Divide the class into groups.   Each group becomes "experts" in mine inspection and safety regulations through research.   Each group then constructs a safety policy with steps to prevent another disaster such as the Speculator Fire.

-          Visit the following places in the "Richest Hill on the Earth" to learn more about the miners: the Granite Mountain-Speculator Fire Memorial and the cemetery.