Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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Learning from Historical Documents

Letters, diary entries, census records, newspapers, and photographs are all examples of "primary sources," material created at a particular moment in the past that has survived into the present. Primary sources can provide clues to the past. They are our windows into an earlier time. The Montana Historical Society contains thousands of primary sources. In the 1970s, archivists collected just a few snippets into a book, which they called Not in Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana. That book is now on the web in its entirety. Most of the material listed below was taken from Not in Precious Metals Alone. All relate directly to topics discussed in Montana: Stories of the Land, a textbook published by the Montana Historical Society. The material is organized by textbook chapter. You can read the chapters, and to find other teaching resources created for the textbook, at the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website.

Primary Sources by Chapter

Chapter 1: Montana: Where the Land Writes History

Chapter 4: Newcomers Explore the Region, 1742 - 1827

Chapter 5: Beaver, Bison, and Black Robes: Montana's Fur Trade, 1800: 1860

Chapter 6: Montana's Gold and Silver Boom

Chapter 7: Two Worlds Collide

Chapter 8: Livestock and the Open Range

Chapter 9: Railroads Link Montana to the Nation

Chapter 10: Politics and the Copper Kings

Chapter 11: The Early Reservation Years

Chapter 12: Logging in the "High Lonesome

Chapter 13: Homesteading This Dry Land

Chapter 14: Towns Have Lives, Too

Chapter 15: Progressive Montana

Chapter 16: Montana and World War I

Chapter 17: Montanans on the Move

Chapter 18: The Great Depression Transforms Montana

Chapter 19: World War II in Montana

Chapter 20: Building a New Montana

Chapter 21: A People's Constitution

Chapter 22: Living in a New Montana