Montana Historical Society

Big Sky. Big Land. Big History.

Montana: Stories of the Land

Companion Website and Online Teacher's Guide

Chapter 14 - Towns Have Lives, Too, 1870-1920


Learning From Historical Documents


"Report of Investigation of Sanitary Condition in Mines, and of the Conditions under Which the Miners Live in Silver Bow County." Silver Bow County (Mont.) Sanitary Conditions report, 1908-1912. Small Collection 89. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives. Excerpted in Not In Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana (Helena, 1976): 193.


Context for the Sanitary Condition's Report:

As the state's largest city, Butte possessed many of the social problems common to the nation's urban areas, as well as many unique to the city's economic base. In order to discover the reason for the high incidence of tuberculosis, Silver Bow County health officials examined the sanitary conditions in the mines and above ground from 1908 to 1912. Their report exposed the desperate conditions in which many Butte miners and their families lived.


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.


Cardell lumber company fire
Cardell Lumber Company fire, 1916, Billings, courtesy Western Heritage Center, Billings
Stringing the first electrical wires
Stringing the first electrical wires in Libby, MT, 1911, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives PAc 97-14.