Montana Historical Society

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Montana: Stories of the Land

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Chapter 16 - Montana and World War I, 1914-1918

Learning From Historical Documents

Letter to Charles Greenfield, State Defense Committee, from Terry, MT. 1918. Montana Council of Defense records, 1916-1921. Record Series 19 . [box 2 folder 22]. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives.

Context for Charles Greenfield's Letter:

In 1917 American entry into World War I led to an extreme nationalism that would have been humorous had it not been so destructive of individual liberties. The Montana Council of Defense, authorized by federal directives to root out pro-German sentiments on the local level, proved to be one of the most zealous such organizations in the nation. The Montana Sedition Act of 1918 served as a model for similar federal legislation. By the winter of 1917-18 the state was so well organized that even the smallest community had its local council and the public, generally favorable to the growing disregard for civil rights, had learned to be alert for the enemies within.

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. The above item from the Society's collection relates directly to this chapter.

Hazel Odegard
Hazel Odegard, 1919, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives PAc 88-100 F2/5
Machine Gun Crew
Machine gun crew, MT National Guard, Butte, Sept. 1, 1914, photo by King, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 958-184