Montana Historical Society

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Montana: Stories of the Land

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Chapter 10 - Politics and the Copper Kings, 1889-1904


Learning From Historical Documents


Letter from William Read to "Messrs. Walker Brothers," June 20, 1878. Alice Gold and Silver Mining Company records, 1877-1930. Manuscript Collection 57. [box 5 folder 1]. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives. Excerpted in Not In Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana (Helena, 1976): 130-31.


Context for William Read's Letter:

Formation of the Butte Workingmen's Union, in 1878, was labor's first major step toward organizing in Montana. Although it changed its name numerous times, for thirty-six years this miners' league and Butte itself, were known as the "Gibraltar of Unionism." Laborers formed their coalition on June 13, 1878, a week before William Read composed this account. They had allied to protest a threatened reduction in wages at the Alice and Lexington mines. As an Alice Mine official, Read reported daily to his superiors on the activities of the miners.


About Primary Sources:

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. The above sample from that book relates directly to this chapter.


Miner"He voted for Helena, likewise for Grover," Hamilton Western News, Montana, August 22, 1894, Montana Historical Society Library