1910s

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Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 10/21 at 09:36 PM
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©2007 Montana Heritage Project


The “boy problem” in 1910

The “boy problem” is not new. In a society that changes, it’s inevitable that ideals about gender roles will be changing--undergoing crisis--as well. For those of you interested in linking talk about masculinity to a 1910 Expedition, here’s an excerpt from an article about Normal Rockwell that provides plenty of food for thought on how an earlier age responded to its “masculinity crisis”:

Rockwell and Mencken were not alone in their concern over the sissy. The consolidation of masculinity in the disciplined and fortified male body at the turn of the century had displaced an earlier conception of masculinity premised on the cultivation of self as a creature of the business or spiritual world.(28) At the beginning of this century the pursuit of healthy boyhood, too, became a subject of national debate in response to fears that new family and professional roles for women, the close of the Western frontier, and the rise of urban living would drain the middle class of its vitality. Responses to changing social patterns and perceived threats were largely shaped by contemporary theories on adolescence.

At the turn of the century, against the backdrop of smaller middle-class families with fewer servants and with working fathers absent from the home, motherhood assumed increased importance in domestic and child-rearing matters. Some social commentators perceived the waning presence of fathers as an impediment to the healthy development of boys. If these critics looked to public schools to provide boys with a refuge from a domestic environment governed by women, they were disappointed there as well. Increasingly amongst the students girls outnumbered boys, while at the front of the classroom women superseded men as teachers.(29) The growing presence and authority of women in schools, according to these critics, supplanted male influence on boys, while the environment, premised on sedentary activities, weakened their young male bodies.(30) Sunday schools received still harsher excoriation: “real” boys were thought to resist sermons by squirming in class while harboring a “wholesome dislike for the youthful prig - especially if he was a religious prig."(31)

Other observers characterized city life itself as an enervating influence and a threat to masculinity. One commentator wrote in 1902 that urban parents “are frequently pained to find that their children have less power and less vitality to endure the rough side of life than they have themselves. . . . Families who live in the city without marrying country stock for two or three generations . . . later are unable to rear strong families."(32) New working patterns for urban industries drew middle-class men from the home, subjected them to enfeebling work environments, and interrupted traditions of father-son apprenticeships through the intervention of corporations. Medical discourse, too, substantiated fears of modern urban life, identifying neurasthenia as an affliction affecting both men and women of “the in-door-living and brain-working classes.” In boys the disorder was treated with outdoor physical exercise.(33)

To counter the influence of these perceived social developments, a variety of groups sought to shape the character of the nation’s youth, through the general rubric of boys’ work. Boys’ works organizations in American cities and towns included the popular Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), founded in 1851 to ease the transition of young men arriving for the first time in large cities, and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), formed in 1910.(34) Concerned adults - by profession “boys’ workers” - in urban, rural, and farming communities formed extrascholastic organizations to benefit and manage boys from various classes. Character building, a narrower term than boys’ work, focused specific attention on preparing white, middle-class boys to become responsible men. Through extrascholastic activity designed to discipline youths, character-building groups sought to instill in middle-class boys in particular probity, rectitude, and robust physical health. The YMCA began boys’ work in the 1870s and applied itself to character building in earnest in about 1900. The character builders recruited a “better class of boys,” avoiding the “rougher element”;(35) this was left to other organizations and clubs that specifically targeted working-class and street boys (perceived as a delinquent lot including newsboys, bootblacks, and scavenging urchins) and aimed merely to occupy the idle time and divert the dangerous excess energies of youths who would never amount to much.(36) Still other organizations dealt with farm and rural boys. Male character-building organizations, forged into discrete, reproducible units (as in the Boy Scout troop or the local Y), multiplied in cities and towns across the nation, drawing impressive numbers of adult leaders and young members.(37)

Character builders found legitimation and motivation for their cause in the first modern theoretical formulation of adolescence, lasting from the age of about thirteen until the early twenties, by the psychologist G. Stanley Hall. Hall - remembered today for bringing Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung to lecture at Clark University in 1909 - theorized adolescence as a distinct, extended, and precarious stage between childhood and adulthood. Though formulated for an academic audience, Hall’s theories, disseminated in popular abridged editions, resonated with popular conceptions and cautionary literature on adolescence and were eagerly embraced by general readers.(38) Hall, like the BSA and the YMCA, focused on middle-class youth as the most critical and promising social group through which to advance the development of Western culture, a project which would culminate by “ushering in the kingdom of the superman” so as to attain “the summits of human possibility."(39) His neo-Darwinian framework shifted attention to the middle class and away from “the undervitalized poor . . . moribund sick, defectives and criminals, because by aiding them to survive it interferes with the process of wholesome natural selection by which all that is best has hitherto been developed."(40)

Hall explicitly raised the specter of feminization in his description of male adolescent development involving successive, stratified phases through which a boy would pass, including a “generalized or even feminized stage of psychic development” which the adult male must outgrow.(41) His views on feminization and social institutions, expressed in various articles including “Feminization in School and Home” of 1908, drew angry criticism from educators, but also won the support of New York governor Theodore Roosevelt, who praised “the sound common sense, decency and manliness in what you [Hall] advocate for the education of children."(42) Both Roosevelt and Hall - the latter proceeding from the explicit assumption that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny - conceived of adolescence as a critical stage through which the vitality of “the race” might be enhanced by encouraging the appropriate habits and virtues.(43)

This “race,” for Hall as for Roosevelt, exhibited nationalistic as well as genetic components, referring to both Anglo-Saxon - sometimes Western European - ancestry and a unique, American mind-set. When Roosevelt advocated militarily supported expansionist policies in “The Strenuous Life,” he asserted that the “stronger and more manful race” must prevail in any conflict between nations. That such manfulness of the race was founded upon the character of the individual Roosevelt made evident in his aphoristic statement, “as it is with the individual, so it is with the nation."(44)

Having recognized the need to manage adolescence, and bolstered by a tenable theoretical framework, boys’ workers found further incentive for their mission in the nationalistic rhetoric of expansionism that followed the closing of the American frontier. F. J. Turner’s 1893 address, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” held that the unique national character of the American people was the product of their evolution in confronting the ever-present, though now bygone, frontier. In its place the city increasingly defined American social life at some peril to values established in the conquest of the frontier.(45) Echoing sentiments of the frontier thesis - its nostalgic acknowledgment of the passing of the untamed West and the consequent need for new kinds of frontiers to secure manliness - Daniel Carter Beard, an early BSA leader, argued:

The Wilderness is gone, the Buckskin Man is gone, the painted Indian has hit the trail over the Great Divide, the hardships and privations of pioneer life which did so much to develop sterling manhood are now but a legend in history, and we must depend upon the Boy Scout Movement to produce the MEN of the future.(46)

The Boy Scout movement, then, aimed to counteract the debilitating influences of women, the city, and modern life, taken to be the antithesis of the uniquely American experience of the frontier.

If the BSA was to fill the gap left by the demise of the American wilderness and the manly attributes instilled by the frontier, it was to do so in opposition to the excessive cosmopolitanism of Europe, an opposition implicit in the malediction “sissy” as in the images Rockwell would soon render.(47) Thus, James West, the first Chief Scout Executive of the BSA, wrote, “The REAL Boy Scout is not a ‘sissy.’ He is not a hothouse plant, like little Lord Fauntleroy."(48) In evoking Frances Hodgson Burnett’s enormously popular 1886 novel, West placed the Boy Scout in opposition to the title character, who wears a lace-collared velvet suit and long hair, thereby casting the “sissy” as a distinctly feminized clotheshorse who, though he might succeed abroad by good manners and charm, hasn’t the character of a real American boy.

Advice literature directed at middle-class mothers also recognized the connection between the figures of the sissy and Little Lord Fauntleroy in terms of their shared appearance. One such guide, implicitly intended for women as the dominant agents of child rearing in the family, cautioned that at the age when a boy departs the domestic sphere for school, “he desires above all other things to avoid the opprobrium of ‘sissy’ [and must not be dressed to] suggest a likeness to Lord Fauntleroy in his ruffles and long curls."(49)

The sissy, then, can be understood as a stigmatizing term, explicitly coercing conformity to normative masculine identities in terms of nationhood, middle-class unity, and gender. Frequently, but not exclusively, defined by dress, the sissy is a denigrated figure repeatedly deployed to differentiate the proper and acceptable from the degenerate and repulsive. Thus, the figure of Percy in the St. Nicholas illustration [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 3 OMITTED] provides regular fellows with the occasion to define their own identity against that of a vaguely alien, rich, effeminate snob.

In counterpoint to the sissy, the real boy enjoyed ennobling praise. This rough and tumble “manly little man,” as described in the copy of a Black Cat hosiery advertisement illustrated by Rockwell, possessed all the spunk and innate nobility of Roosevelt’s “American boy,” even under the watchful eye of a schoolmistress [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 4 OMITTED]. Like his clothes, he is emphatically “made-in-America,” rejecting the characteristics of “the Little Lord Fauntleroys you read about in storybooks.” This real boy - conventionally conceived strictly in terms of character and bodily fortitude - could equally exercise fashion sense and consumer savvy to effect his transition to manhood. This much is suggested by a clothing advertisement from the Post depicting a youth in his first suit - master of the young pup he grasps effortlessly in one hand - and headed, “Now he’s a man!” [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 5 OMITTED].(50)

Just as real boys might evolve into sissies under the undue influence of mothers and urban society, they might equally, according to the chief of the Scouts, age from “robust, manly, self-reliant boyhood into a lot of flat-chested cigarette-smokers, with shaky nerves and doubtful vitality"(51) - an apt description of the contrast between the admirably truant scamp and the gawking fop depicted in “‘Tain’t You,” Rockwell’s first cover for Life from 1917 [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 6 OMITTED].(52)

In this image, an impish boy with an open box of chalks protruding from his pocket stands with his back to a knotted wood fence bearing the stick-figure likeness of a gentleman with hat, eyeglasses, cane, gloves, lit cigarette, and mustaches.(53) His recreant companion disappears around the fence, but he remains, smiling affably at a dismayed man who leans forward, heels slightly raised off the ground, in an attempt to make out the drawing. The boy, caught in the act of caricaturing the fussy airs of this gentleman, perhaps his schoolteacher, boldly denies the resemblance, declaring, in the words of the caption: “‘Tain’t you.” But, of course, the chalk-scrawled inscription on the fence above the image, “MISS PERSEVAL,” insists upon the contrary, and the lanky man answers the figure in the drawing down to the smoke curling from his cigarette.(54) But how do we account for him as Miss? Turning the pages of the mass-circulation weeklies in order to examine male dress provides some answers.

Clothing advertisements in the Saturday Evening Post of the late teens typically depicted tall, slim men with aquiline features dressed in suits finished with tapered waists, mid-width lapels, and cuffed trousers slightly exposing the ankle.(55) The advertising copy accompanying these images emphasized appropriate male dress as an initiation into adult manhood, a profoundly national expression, or a recognizable characteristic of masculinity. The attenuated figures of the illustrations bear little relation to the physical masculinity one might expect from the copy of, for instance, a notice for Brandegee-Kincaid Clothes offering “Manliness which avoids that effeminate look upon which American taste frowns” [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 7 OMITTED]. Measured against this visual standard, Perseval can hardly be faulted for his unimposing figure or for the range of his accessories, with the possible exception of the glasses that betray his weak eyes. But he does bungle his appropriation of contemporary fashion, with his “high-water” pants, the absurd turn of the hat band, the loose cut of his jacket, and the color medley including a pink hat brim, blue striped shirt, red tie, blue-green suit, and orange socks.(56) In his hyperurbanism, Perseval overshoots appropriate dress codes and reveals himself a fop. “The fop,” a contemporary advocate of dandyism explained, “is a near relative of the fool and a pure dandy may never be that. . . . The fop lacks discrimination; he does not know when he has obtained his effect and continues blindly on till he has exposed all the machinery that might have mystified if properly manipulated."(57)

A distinction was also to be made between a legitimate masculine interest in sartorial matters and the effeminate implications of an overtly narcissistic investment in one’s clothing. This distinction was expressed in retail clothing trade handbooks and self-teaching manuals circulated to train sales staff (it would not be until 1933 that male clothing consumers would have their own publication in the form of Esquire). One such manual identified the values sought by male customers as serviceability, comfort, style or fashion, appearance ("a look of good quality"), a trade name, and becomingness.(58) “Talking points,” techniques for addressing individual customers’ concerns, treated the last value, becomingness, with circumspection.

As one expert salesman says, “Men are interested in whether or not a thing is becoming, but we don’t use that word. We tell a man, ‘This hat is good on you,’ or ‘This is better on you than that.’. . . Don’t you believe it when men say they are not interested in getting becoming clothes. They are, but they don’t use that word."(59)

Without clarifying why men might avoid “that word,” the section concludes by implicitly relegating it to a feminine lexicon. Unable to confess a personal interest in his appearance with regard to clothing - in other words, its becomingness - the customer ascribes responsibility for it elsewhere: he “frequently says his wife or mother does not like a certain thing on him."(60) Advertisements for men’s clothes, like the floorwalker or sales assistant of the department store and retail shop, emphasized the other talking points, leaving becomingness to the eye.

It would be interesting to examine images of masculinity in the ads in popular magazines with a class of high school students.


Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 03/27 at 07:30 AM
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©2006 Montana Heritage Project


Montana and Whitefish Politics in 1910

by
Dan Kohnstamm, Whitefish High School

On the national level, the United States faced such issues as immigration, the living conditions of the poor, political corruption, conservation of natural resources, women suffrage, child labor and labor working conditions.  William Howard Taft was president, having succeeded Teddy Roosevelt who was president from 1901 to 1909.  Taft, a Republican, lost his popularity due to his defense of the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909.  Tariffs were a leading political issue and the Republican platform in 1908 sought to lower tariff rates.  Big business favored tariffs because it protected their products.  Southerners and farmers in the Midwest wanted to lower tariffs so that their products would be more affordable.  Taft worked closely with Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island, the boss of the U.S. Senate, to create a bill that instead of lowering tariffs increased them.  In so doing, he alienated his party as well as the former president, Teddy Roosevelt.  Roosevelt was committed to regulating big business, also known as the Trusts, lowering tariffs and conserving the environment.  His platform was named, the “New Nationalism.” Taft, as a conservative Republican, turned his back on reform and in the process, helped precipitate a split in the Republican Party.  As a result, Teddy Roosevelt created the Bull Moose Party.  With this split, it ushered in Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson.

Wilson, a southerner who had been a professor and president of Princeton University, was running for governor of New Jersey in 1910.  He advocated reform of Princeton along the lines of the English university house system which became unpopular.  Therefore, he ran a successful race for governor where he pushed through important reforms such as a primary elections law, anti-corruption measures and employers’ liability.  In running for president, he consulted with Louis Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court and came up with the platform of the “New Freedom.” This platform advocated freedom from monopolies as opposed to Roosevelt’s attempt to regulate monopolies.  Later as president, Wilson accomplished much: three constitutional amendments that dealt with direct popular election of senators, prohibition and suffrage for women; the Clayton Antitrust Act, establishment of the Federal Reserve banking system, and the Federal Child Labor Law.

Teddy Roosevelt in 1910 was on safari in East Africa, enjoying his freedom from the strain of politics in the wake of his presidency.  Of note during his administration was the creation of the Panama Canal, his negotiations for a cessation of hostilities of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905, his Nobel Prize for Peace, the regulation of big business, and the conservation of national resources.  Teddy selected Taft, the secretary of war, as his successor for president.  However, Taft never enjoyed his job as president.  He would much rather have stayed with jurisprudence.  As a result, he lost his reelection bid and ultimately would become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1921-1930.

Eugene Debs, a socialist, had the most radical political outlook.  The national secretary and treasurer of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, he was a leader in the Pullman strike in 1894.  He later organized the Social Democratic Party of America and became the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party from 1900 to 1920.  He was imprisoned for three years, convicted and sentenced for violation of the Espionage Act of 1918. 

Debs was a champion of workers’ rights, especially of rail workers.  He was deeply involved with the Pullman strike that convinced him of the anti-worker, pro-business sentiment of the federal government.  The Pullman railroad strike resulted from layoffs, wage reductions and steep rents for rail construction workers of sleeper cars in Chicago.  The period of 1880 through the 1910s was a period of rapid business growth, primarily the railroads.  Immigrants played a large part of this picture because they provided the inexpensive labor that fueled the growth.  Imprisoned due to the Pullman strike, he saw that strikes were impossible in the face of corporations and government.  He was not a Marxist and believed that the masses would use the democratic system to promote socialism and provide the governmental framework to enable men to advance to their fullest abilities rather than repressed by huge corporations and their governmental cronies.  In running for president in 1900 he believed in a centralized, democratic bureaucracy that would run the economy for the benefit of humanistic mankind.  This was a message that appealed to both immigrants and native-born citizens.  His appeal was based on his view that society should be restructured to reflect the needs of its citizens, rather than the needs of business. He also called for the end of the control of the economy by the elite.  In 1912, Eugene Debs received six percent of the vote for the presidency.

In 1910, Montana, the state, was only twenty-one years old and its politics reflected its youth.  The state was in the midst of a growth boom.  The population increased from 39,000 in 1870 to 243,000 in 1900.  Homesteading was at its peak between 1910 and 1920.  Seventy- to eighty- thousand people migrated to central and eastern Montana during this period.  However, this was short-lived.  With the coming of drought, sixty thousand people left before 1922.  The fuel behind this growth was the Homestead Act of 1862.  With time, people found that 160 acres could not support a family and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 increased the allowable acreage to 320.  The population as of 1910 was 2.6 persons per square mile.

Montana’s geography dictated the wide economic differences in the state.  In western Montana, metal mining and timber harvesting dominated the economy.  In eastern and central Montana, beef, wool, and wheat dominated the economy. Nearly one-half million beef cattle, worth $27 million dollars dotted the landscape.  The average price of an acre of land doubled from $20 to $40.

Non-ferrous mining employed 20,000 wage earners who produced $55 million in wealth in 1910.  Copper was the largest of the mining industries.  Thirteen thousand people were involved with this industry, three-fifths of the state’s wage earners.  The Anaconda Copper Mining Company was the largest mining company.  With the huge profits and low wages came labor problems, especially in Butte.  Between 1908 and 1916, the International Workers of the World (I.W.W.) were advocates of class warfare and in favor or worker’s rights.  The mining industry steadfastly resisted the unions and violence erupted often.

One of the biggest political issues was the doubling of counties, from 28 to 56, starting in 1910.  With the county split came changes in representation.  Each county was to have one senator and at least one representative.  Unfortunately, this meant that more representatives made the legislature less responsive to the people. 

The state highway system expanded to enable farmers to go to market in regional centers.  In 1900, the highway system consisted of 15,000 miles of roadway.  In 1910, 23,000 miles of roadway existed.  However, stagecoaches were still in use: for example, a 120 mile trip from Great Falls to Lewistown took fifteen hours.

In 1902, Jeannette Rankin graduated as a biology major from Montana State University in Missoula.  She was one of eighteen graduates that year.  In 1909, she graduated from the New York School of Philanthropy.  She was a leading member of the successful 1910 Washington women’s suffrage campaign.  Only Idaho and Colorado had previously allowed women to vote.

After this victory, Jeannette worked for women in Montana to be able to vote.  One of the largest barriers to the women’s vote was the temperance group.  Men were afraid that if women were to vote, they would vote for prohibition.  This did turn out to be the case.  At the time, though, Jeannette was determined to keep the issues apart.  Her efforts paid off, though narrowly: the voting was 41,000 to 38,000 in favor of Montana women’s suffrage in 1914.  This decade also included victory for women’s suffrage in California, Arizona, Kansas and Oregon.  By 1920, a U.S. constitutional amendment enabled women to vote in every state.

An event that would have ramifications on both the state and federal level was the creation of Glacier National Park in 1910.  The driving force behind this act was George Bird Grinnell who had founded the Audubon Society and, with Teddy Roosevelt, organized the Boone and Crockett Club.  Grinnell argued that the lands nearby the Great Northern Railway should be protected in a similar manner as Yellowstone and Yosemite Parks in 1872 and 1890, respectively.  Grinnell also credited the Great Northern for its role in establishing the park.  President Taft signed the law establishing Glacier Park on May 11, 1910.

If Montana was a young state, the town of Whitefish was barely passed infanthood.  The town was incorporated in 1905 by a vote of 153 in favor and 64 opposed.  Two hundred and seventeen of the population of 950 people voted: the low number because women as yet could not vote in Montana.  Whitefish was on the map because of the Great Northern Railroad.  The division point changed from Kalispell to Whitefish in 1904 because the line was too difficult west of Whitefish, in Jennings, Montana.  By 1910, the town had a population of 2300.

According to Stump Town to Ski Town: The Story of Whitefish, Montana, 1910 was a memorable year, a year that the town became “modern.” The First National Bank had a new building that represented the stability and prosperity of the town.  In April, a $10,000 sewer bond issue was passed.  A franchise for a railroad between Polson and Whitefish was granted.  Unfortunately, this railroad never materialized. 

Of political note in 1910 was Carrie Nation’s visit to Whitefish.  Her visit was decidedly unpopular by the description in the local paper, the Whitefish Pilot.  The headline read: “Carrie Nation’s ‘Hatchetation.’” A prohibitionist, her trademark was a hatchet that she used in bars.  Since the saloons, which were zoned to north of Second Street, were a considerable part of the town, she did not make many friends on her brief visit.  She was also an advocate of women’s suffrage.  A small riot broke out when she slapped a gentleman and she was ushered quickly to the train station.  Dorothy Johnson, in her book, When You and I Were Young, Whitefish, makes a rueful note that she died the following year.

The city council did try to come to grips with the problems of the bars in Whitefish.  Hoping to clean up its image, the city ordered bars closed from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m., but only on weekends.

The Whitefish Pilot in those days was much more personal and opinionated.  For example, it describes the creation of Glacier Park in these terms, “President Taft has signed the Glacier Park bill and the big playground now actually exists as such.”

The Great Fire of 1910 affected Whitefish as well.  Part of Lion Mountain, which overlooks Whitefish Lake, burned.  The Great Fire reportedly burned for five months and it forced much of the smaller news from the front pages of the Pilot such as railroad wrecks, robberies, smallpox and polio outbreaks.  President Taft ordered thirty companies of regular soldiers to fight fires and the governor called out the National Guard.  It caused an estimated $45 million in timber damage in the region and 87 lives were lost fighting the fire.  In Whitefish, the 1910 fire was not as serious as the 1907 fire, but the 1910 fires created the will of the National Forest Service to protect our forests.

Development was evident by the drawing of names for Flathead Reservation lands and the completion of a new wagon road to Kalispell.  The tax levy was raised from 14 to 16 mills to fund street work and lighting of the streets.  A road to the North Fork of the Flathead River was being surveyed.

In September, a man tried to drive the town’s first automobile from Spokane but was stymied because of all of the burned out bridges.  The car had to be loaded onto a train to Plains and when they unloaded it, the clutch was broken.  Waiting for the part took a while and everyone was anxious to see what the new machine would look like.

Whitefish survived the year of the Great Fire to face a very harsh winter of 1911.  However, Whitefish was on the map to stay.

Bibliography

Chace, James. 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs—The Election that Changed the Country.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Crutchfield, James A. It Happened in Montana. Helena: Falcon Press, 1992.

Johnson, Dorothy M. When You and I Were Young, Whitefish. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 1982.

Schafer, Betty and Mable Engelter. Stump Town to Ski Town: The Story of Whitefish, Montana. Whitefish: Stumptown Historical Society, 1973.

Smith, Norma. Jeannette Rankin: America’s Conscience. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 2002.

Toole, K. Ross. Twentieth-Century Montana: A State of Extremes. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972.

August 2004. Written to contribute to the Montana Heritage Project’s Expedition to 1910.


Posted by Marcella Sherfy on 12/02 at 11:02 AM
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