Friday, 10 January 2014


Montana, state in the western United States, the northernmost of the Rocky Mountain states. Montana is called the Treasure State because of its mineral wealth. The name Montana comes from the Spanish word meaning “mountainous” and was first used when the area was designated a territory in 1864. Montana entered the Union on November 8, 1889, as the 41st state. Helena is the capital. Billings is the largest city.
Although many people consider Montana completely mountainous, two-thirds of the state is part of the Great Plains. From the majestic peaks of Glacier National Park in the northwest to the comparatively level terrain near the eastern border the Montana landscape is one of great beauty, an ever-changing panorama of forest and prairie, highland and broad valley.
Montana’s history has been turbulent. The region experienced an early and active fur-trading era. With the discovery of gold it developed a vigorous and wealthy mining frontier and later saw a brief but exciting period of the open-range cattle industry. Eventually, dryland and irrigated agriculture spread into many parts of the state. Today despite the arrival of urbanization and modern society, much of the old flavor of the frontier West survives in Montana.
Montana is bounded on the north by the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan; on the east by North Dakota and South Dakota; on the south by Wyoming and Idaho; and on the west by Idaho. Montana is the nation’s fourth largest state, covering 380,837 sq km (147,042 sq mi), including 3,859 sq km (1,490 sq mi) of inland waters. The land area of Montana is more than three times that of Pennsylvania and about the same as that of Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana combined. The state’s extreme dimensions are 517 km (321 mi) from north to south and 877 km (545 mi) from east to west. The mean elevation is 1,040 m (3,400 ft).
A Natural Regions
Included within Montana’s boundaries are parts of two of North America’s major physiographic provinces, or natural regions. First is the Rocky Mountains, of which there are two subdivisions in Montana, the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Middle Rocky Mountains. The second natural region, the Interior Plains, is represented in a section of the Great Plains lying in eastern Montana. The Rocky Mountains in Montana, which cover the state’s western third, extend in a belt about 300 km (about 200 mi) wide from the Canadian border to the Wyoming border. In several places east of this line isolated groups of low mountains rise above the general level of the plains.
Montana’s Northern Rocky Mountain province varies topographically. The majority of this spectacular natural region is classified as open mountains, a globally distinctive and very rare setting with high detached mountain ranges separated by broad, smooth-floored valleys. These valleys range from about 900 to 1,500 m (about 3,000 to 5,000 ft) above sea level and are ringed by mountains that rise to elevations of 2,400 to 3,000 m (8,000 to 10,000 ft). Important valleys in this region include the Flathead, Bitterroot, Deer Lodge, Helena (or Prickly Pear), Beaverhead, Big Hole, Madison, and Gallatin. The surrounding highlands include the Beaverhead Mountains, Mission Range, Tobacco Root Mountains, Bridger Range, Big Belt Mountains, and Crazy Mountains.
The two prongs of Montana’s Columbia Rockies, which include the highlands along the Montana-Idaho border from the Bitterroot Valley northward, and east of Flathead Lake, Glacier National Park, and the adjacent highlands on the south, contain classic mountain landscape. Here, individual ranges usually are closely spaced with narrow and restricted valleys. The Cabinet Mountains, Purcell Mountains, Whitefish, and Flathead ranges and the Lewis and Swan ranges are some of the landmark highlands within this rugged section of Montana’s Northern Rockies. Interestingly, this mountain-dominated region claims the state’s lowest elevation of 550 m (1,800 ft) above sea level, where the Kootenai River flows into Idaho.
The small section of the Middle Rocky Mountains in Montana consists of the high and rugged Absaroka and Beartooth ranges north of Yellowstone National Park. Within this province is Montana’s highest elevation, 3,901 m (12,799 ft), at Granite Peak.
Many Montana highlands were glaciated during the Pleistocene Epoch (2.5 million to 10,000 years ago). The sharpened alpine glacial landforms conspicuous in the crest areas of these mountains are best developed in Glacier National Park.
The eastern two-thirds of Montana is part of the Great Plains. This region, known as the Missouri Plateau, is divided into two segments, the glaciated section in the north and the unglaciated section in the south. Both sections are generally flat or gently rolling, but the glaciated north has numerous lakes while the unglaciated south is somewhat drier and smoother. The general elevation of the Great Plains decreases from about 1,200 m (about 4,000 ft) at the edge of the mountains in the west to about 600 m (about 2,000 ft) near the eastern boundary, although the descent is so gradual that it is scarcely noticeable. Rising above the plains surface are several prominent Rocky Mountain outliers, the Sweetgrass Hills, the Bear Paw Mountains, the Little Rockies, the Highwood Mountains, the Judith Mountains, and the Little Snowy and Big Snowy mountains.
Over thousands of years, most of the streams and rivers of eastern Montana have cut valleys below the level of the plains. Along the middle Missouri River and in the southeastern section, an irregular badland topography was cut by water and wind erosion.
B Rivers and Lakes
Montana’s two main river systems are the Missouri River and its tributaries, which flow east to the Mississippi River, and tributaries of the Columbia River, which flow west into the Pacific Ocean.
Trending southward across the western part of Montana, the Continental Divide separates the state’s two major watersheds. West of this continental backbone are the Clark Fork and the Kootenai River, important tributaries of the Columbia River. The Clark Fork originates within Montana and has as its primary tributaries the Flathead, Blackfoot, and Bitterroot rivers. The Kootenai River rises in Canada and traverses a small area in northwestern Montana.
The Missouri and its major tributary, the Yellowstone River, are the principal rivers in eastern Montana. The Missouri begins at the confluence of the Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson rivers, near the town of Three Forks. Other tributaries below Three Forks include the Sun, Teton, Marias, Smith, Judith, Musselshell, and Milk rivers. The Yellowstone rises south of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, flows north into Montana and diagonally across the southeastern part of the state before joining the Missouri in North Dakota just east of the state border. Main tributaries are the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone, the Bighorn, the Tongue, and the Powder rivers, all of which also originate in Wyoming.
A tiny area of Montana is drained by the Belly and Saint Mary rivers, which, rising in Glacier National Park, flow northeast out of the state and into the Saskatchewan River in Canada. Their waters eventually reach Hudson Bay.
Montana has numerous lakes and reservoirs. Most of the natural lakes are in the mountains of the western third of the state. Flathead Lake, with an area of 495 sq km (191 sq mi), is Montana’s largest lake, and the largest natural freshwater lake in the contiguous states west of the Mississippi River.
C Climate
Climatic regions in Montana coincide roughly with the two major physiographic regions. In western Montana, as compared with the eastern plains area, winters tend to be milder while summers are cooler. Precipitation is more evenly distributed throughout the year in the west, and it is cloudier and somewhat more humid in all seasons. In addition, the growing season is shorter in the west, where some intermountain areas experience only 50 to 100 days without frost a year. Eastern Montana has colder winters, warmer summers, less cloudiness, the heaviest precipitation in late spring and early summer, and considerably higher average wind velocities. Frost-free periods in the east and in the state’s low-lying river valleys range from 120 to 150 days per year.
Climatic extremes in Montana are great. The lowest official temperature on record, -57°C (-70°F), occurred in 1954. In 1937 the warmest temperature of 47°C (117°F) was recorded. July mean temperatures range from about 22°C (about 72°F) in southeastern Montana to about 16°C (about 60°F) in the higher southwest. January means vary from less than -14°C (6°F) in the northeast to about -4°C (about 24°F) in the valleys of western Montana.
Most of the eastern plains section and the larger valleys of the west average about 380 mm (about 15 in) of precipitation a year, while the higher mountain districts can receive more than 1,300 mm (50 in). Snowfall normally is heaviest in the mountains of the west, with as much as 7,600 mm (300 in) falling in some years. Storms of several types occur in Montana. Summer hailstorms may cause severe crop and property damage.
D Soils
Mountain soils in western Montana consist primarily of only partially decomposed rock. Many of the mountain soils are thin and poorly developed. In much of eastern Montana the soils are considerably richer. Where the land is generally flat, humus, or decomposed organic material, from the grass cover of the plains has accumulated in the soils. Most of these soils have a dark surface layer that has proved to be very fertile when sufficient moisture is available.
Extensive areas of alluvial soils are found along the Missouri, Yellowstone, and Milk rivers in the east. Alluvial soils are also widely distributed in the west, primarily in the larger river valleys. When irrigated, these soils are usually very productive.
E Plant Life
In western Montana small slow-growing trees, such as the subalpine pine and whitebark pine, are found in the higher mountainous areas. Below this zone the Douglas fir is very common, with widespread expanses of spruce, particularly in the north. At these mid-mountain elevations in the northwest corner of the state, trees requiring a wetter environment thrive, including the lodgepole pine, mountain hemlock, western red cedar, western white pine, grand fir, and the western larch, or western tamarack. On the lower drier slopes of the western mountains the ponderosa pine, the state tree, grows in stands mixed with Douglas fir.
Most of the northern and eastern parts of the Great Plains are dominated by various types of mid- to short-height grasses, including western wheatgrass, blue grama, bluebunch wheatgrass, needle and thread, and three species of blue-stem. In the rugged country along the Missouri River in central Montana is a discontinuous zone of scattered ponderosa pines, which line the low-lying drainages. This open woodland area is used mainly for grazing.
Wildflowers grow in abundance in Montana. In the higher mountains, especially in the ranges of the west, are found the Indian paintbrush, glacier lily, and aster. On the lower mountain slopes, foothills, and valleys in western Montana the balsamroot, shooting star, mariposa lily, bear grass, and bitterroot, the state flower, grow in profusion. Wildflowers common to the plains, or prairies, include the purple coneflower, varieties of aster, and the pasqueflower, or wild crocus. The four different types of prairie cactus that grow in the state are less common, as is the buttercup, which is more common along stream beds. The plains give way to a steppe environment as the elevation rises gently to the west, where various shrubs such as sagebrush become more prevalent.
F Animal Life
Montana’s animal life is extensive, with more than 500 different species appearing within its borders. Among the approximately 100 species of mammals are larger animals such as white-tailed deer, mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, black bears, grizzly bears, antelope, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, caribou, and mountain lions. Bison can be found today on Native American reservations, in private reserves, and in the Yellowstone National Park region. In the 1980s and 1990s the wolf returned to Montana’s backcountry. Within the state 19 species of smaller fur-bearing animals also occur, including beavers, fishers, lynx, bobcats, and wolverines.
In the mid-1990s a tremendous variety of birds, about 390 species altogether, either lived in or migrated through Montana. Of these birds, 248 species nested in the state, and 151 species inhabited the state as a wintering ground. Montana had 3 species of swan, 5 species of goose, and 29 species of duck. Upland game birds included the ring-necked pheasant, Merriam’s turkey, chucker partridge, and the ruffed, sage, blue, and sharp-tailed grouse species. Some of the raptors found in the state were the marsh hawk, Swainson’s hawk, American bald eagle, golden eagle, kestrel, and, in lesser numbers, the peregrine falcon.
The waters of Montana are home to 86 species of fish, of which at least 53 species are native to the state. Yellow perch, walleye, whitefish, kokanee salmon, arctic grayling, and bass all appear in number, along with paddlefish, three species of sturgeon, and at least five species of trout.
G Conservation
Montana’s farmers learned by experience the need for conservation measures. The droughts of the 1930s brought economic ruin to many ranchers and farmers, who for years had overstocked the ranges and plowed grasslands suitable only for grazing. Since then, strip farming, contour plowing, and other soil-conservation practices have been widely adopted.
Forest fires, wasteful logging, and unrestricted hunting also helped deplete Montana’s resources. Extensive reforestation, watershed management, fire protection, and other conservation efforts began with the creation of national forests and, later, state forests. State and federal game refuges, preserves, and ranges are found throughout Montana, and the state fish and game department is active in wildlife management.
With limited rainfall, Montana depends on irrigation for a substantial part of its crop production. First practiced in the western valleys in the 1840s, the use of irrigation has extended to 10 percent of Montana’s croplands. In 1940 the United States Army Corps of Engineers completed Fort Peck, one of the largest earthfill dams in the world. With a surface area of 982 sq km (379 sq mi), the resulting reservoir, Fort Peck Lake, combines facilities for irrigation with flood control, electric power, and navigation. Other multipurpose dams in Montana are the Libby on the Kootenai River, the Tiber Dike on the Marias River, the Hungry Horse on the South Fork of the Flathead River, the Fresno on the Milk River, the Canyon Ferry on the Missouri, the Yellowtail on the Bighorn River, and the Sherburne Lakes on Swiftcurrent Creek.
In 2006 Montana had 14 hazardous waste sites on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. Montana was one of the few states in the nation where the amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment actually increased in the period 1988-1995.
Montana’s economy traditionally has been based on its natural resources. Fertile soil in the eastern two-thirds of Montana supports agriculture. Other major economic activities—mining, tourism, and lumbering—take advantage of the state’s mineral deposits, scenic beauty, and forestlands. Most manufacturing is concerned with processing the state’s agricultural and forest products. Today, the service sector contributes the most value to Montana’s economy, accounting for three-quarters of the gross state product. The fastest-growing contributor to the state’s income in 1997 was construction.
Montana’s labor force in 2006 was 494,000 people. The largest share of them, 39 percent, worked in the services sector, doing such jobs as providing services to tourists or working in hospitals. Some 19 percent were employed in wholesale or retail trade; 19 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 7 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; 5 percent in manufacturing; 7 percent in construction; 14 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 21 percent in transportation or public utilities; and 2 percent in mining. In 2005, 11 percent of Montana’s workers were members of a labor union.
A Agriculture
Cattle ranching was well established in Montana by the late 19th century and wheat farming on the prairies was expanding. But during the 1920s and 1930s drought and lowered prices dealt agriculture a serious setback. The completion of the Fort Peck Dam in 1940, which provided both irrigation and low-cost power, restored Montana’s agricultural economy.
The total number of farms and ranches has generally decreased in recent decades, while the size of the average unit has increased. The average size of Montana’s 28,000 farms and ranches in 2005 was 868 hectares (2,146 acres). Altogether there were 24.3 million hectares (60.1 million acres) of farmland in 2005, about two-thirds of the state’s total land area. Cropland occupied 19 percent of Montana’s land area, while rangeland and pasture accounted for another 51 percent.
Wheat is Montana’s leading crop in terms of sales. Most of the high-quality wheat is grown in the plains section, with winter wheat being grown mainly in the area north of Great Falls and spring wheat in the area bordering Canada. In 1997 Montana ranked third among the states in wheat production, behind only North Dakota and Kansas.
Other important grain crops include barley and oats. In 1997 Montana trailed only one other state, North Dakota, in the production of barley, Montana’s third most valuable farm product. Hay was the fourth most valuable farm commodity and is grown throughout the state. Feed corn is raised in eastern Montana. Alfalfa, flaxseed, and mustard are also important crops.
Sugar beets are raised on irrigated lands around Billings and Sidney. Potatoes are grown in many parts of the state, and truck gardens near the larger towns supply part of the local need for vegetables. Beans are raised in large quantity near Billings. Cherry orchards are found in the Flathead Lake region, and apples are grown primarily in the valleys of western and south central Montana.
Cattle and calves play a central role in Montana’s farm economy and in 1997 were the second most valuable agricultural commodity. Beef cattle are raised in many parts of the state, while dairying is important in several western valleys. Some hogs are raised in the eastern areas. Montana raises a large number of sheep.
B Forestry
Forest lands in Montana cover 25 percent of the state’s area. Commercial timber grows mainly in the mountainous west and supplies Montana’s chief industry, timber processing.
Most of the lumber produced is softwood. Major species include the ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, western white pine, spruce, lodgepole pine, and western larch. The forests provide wood pulp for paper, lumber for construction, mine timbers, telephone and telegraph poles, railroad ties, and fuel. Montana is also a major producer of Christmas trees, harvested both in the wild and on plantations.
C Mining
Although gold was discovered in the 1850s, it was a successive series of placer gold strikes beginning in the 1860s that brought the first significant number of white settlers to Montana. Since then, mining has remained an important activity.
Fuel resources, including petroleum, coal, and natural gas, are largely found in eastern Montana. Metallic minerals, including copper, silver, gold, lead, zinc, and tungsten, are found mainly in the western mountains. Nonmetallic minerals, including sand and gravel, limestone, phosphates, bentonite, fluorite, vermiculite, and gemstones are widely distributed, although more are found in the central and western regions.
The extraction of fossil fuels provides the largest share of Montana’s mining income. By far the most valuable fossil fuel is coal, which accounted for one-half of the state’s total energy production value. The petroleum produced in 2006 amounted to 36.3 million barrels. Production of natural gas remains important and totaled 3.2 billion cu m (113 billion cu ft) in 2006. Petroleum and natural gas deposits are found in several areas of the plains region, including the Bell Creek field in southeastern Montana, the Pine and Pennel fields in eastern Montana, and the Cut Bank field in the northwestern corner of Great Plains Montana. The major coal mines, located in south central Montana, are surface strip-mining operations that produce low-sulfur coal used for coal-fired electricity generation, especially in states in the Midwest.
Metallic minerals provide the largest share of Montana’s nonfuel mining income, with copper and gold leading the list of important metals. Most of the state’s metallic mineral production comes from mines which began operation since the early 1980s. Such mines include those producing gold and silver located near Whitehall, east of Butte; at Jardine, north of Yellowstone National Park; and north of Lewistown. The state’s largest producer of precious metals is a mine in Stillwater County near Nye that extracts platinum, palladium, rhodium, and gold. Montana was the only U.S. state mining platinum and palladium in the late 1990s, and in the same period its production of zinc intensified. After several years of absence, copper mining began again in 1986 at the historic mining town of Butte. Other relatively large mines were in various development stages in the mid-1990s.
Portland cement is an important nonfuel mineral commodity. Montana leads the nation in the production of talc. Sand and gravel are obtained in all parts of the state. Phosphate rock is mined in several western and southwestern counties. Montana produces significant quantities of industrial-grade garnet.
D Manufacturing
The principal manufactures in Montana are wood products, foodstuffs, printed matter, and electrical and electronic devices. In the late 1990s the lumber and wood products industry provided more than one-fourth of the state’s income from manufactures. Lumber industries are concentrated in the mountainous west, where most of the commercial timber grows. Four large sawmills are situated at Bonner, Columbia Falls, Kalispell, and Libby. There are many small sawmills. Wood products are made in Missoula, Frenchtown, Libby, Kalispell, Thompson Falls, Whitefish, and Bonner. Most of Montana’s lumber and wood products are sold in other states or exported to foreign countries.
Food-processing plants provide about one-tenth of the manufacturing income in Montana. The plants are widely distributed in the state. Flour mills are located in Billings and Great Falls. Billings and Sidney have sugar refineries. Vegetable and fruit canneries are situated in the Bitterroot Valley. There are dairies throughout the state. The printing and publishing houses provide another one-tenth of Montana’s manufacturing income.
Large-scale metals processing is limited to two facilities, both of which process mostly ores produced in other countries. At Columbia Falls an aluminum reduction facility converts alumina from Australia and other countries to aluminum ingots. In East Helena a lead smelter processes ores mostly from South America.
A number of other raw materials, especially building materials and fuels, are processed in Montana. Cement is produced at Trident and Montana City. Petroleum refineries are located in Billings, Laurel, and Great Falls.
E Electricity
Montana’s vast power resources include swiftly flowing rivers, as well as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. In 2005 some 65 percent of Montana’s electricity was generated in power plants burning fossil fuels. Hydroelectric facilities were the other major source of power, providing 34 percent of the state’s total electricity. The first important hydroelectric plant was built at Black Eagle Falls, on the Missouri River near Great Falls, in 1890.
F Tourist Industry
Tourism is a leading source of income, contributing $2 billion to Montana’s economy in 2002. Easterners were attracted to Montana as early as the late 19th century, and Montana’s dude ranches have been popular since they first opened in 1920. Today, Yellowstone and Glacier national parks are leading summer attractions, as are the numerous state parks and recreation and wilderness areas. More than 6 million tourists visit Yellowstone and Glacier national parks annually. The state has many popular winter ski resorts, including Red Lodge Mountain; Big Mountain, near Whitefish; Montana Snow Bowl, near Missoula; and Big Sky and Bridger Bowl, near Bozeman.
G Transportation
Montana’s highways are difficult and expensive to maintain, in part because of the state’s size. In addition, the alternate freezing and thawing during winter months cause bad breaks in highway surfaces and make recurrent major repairs necessary. In 2005 Montana had 111,590 km (69,339 mi) of municipal and rural highways, including 1,918 km (1,192 mi) of the national interstate highway system.
Montana contains 5,261 km (3,269 mi) of railroad track. Some 71 percent of the railroad freight originating in the state is coal, with farm products representing 11 percent, lumber accounting for 5 percent, and petroleum products another 5 percent .
The principal airports in Montana are at Billings and Great Falls. None of the state’s 11 airports are considered busy by national standards.
A Population Patterns
Before the arrival of European settlers the present-day state of Montana was thinly populated by numerous Native American tribes. Among those who lived in the western valleys were the Flathead, Kalispel, and Kootenai. East of the Continental Divide there were Plains groups, including the Blackfoot, Crow, Sioux, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, and Cheyenne. With the gradual white settlement of the area the Native Americans were eventually forced onto reservations supervised by the federal government. There were 56,100 Native Americans in the state in 2000.
Many of the first Europeans in the area were French-Native American fur trappers from Canada. Although there were fewer than 100 settlers in the region in 1860, the steady stream of hopeful prospectors from the East and Midwest increased the number to 20,595 in 1870, the year of the first census. Later the silver and copper mines drew Irish, Cornish, and many other immigrants to Butte. A few blacks migrated from the South after the American Civil War (1861-1865). With the settlement of the eastern section by northern European and Slavic groups, most parts of the state were occupied and the population reached 548,889 in 1920.
Although Montana ranks fourth in size among the states, it was 44th in population, with 902,195 people, according to the 2000 census. The 1990 census counted a population of 799,065, giving the state a growth of 12.9 percent in ten years. The state has a population density of 3 persons per sq km (6 per sq mi), as compared with the national average of 33 persons per sq km (86 per sq mi).
Whites constitute 90.6 percent of the population in Montana. Native Americans are 6.2 percent, one of the largest percentages of any state, while Asians are 0.5 percent, blacks 0.3 percent, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders 0.1 percent, and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race 2.3 percent. Hispanics, who may be of any race, are 2 percent of the people.
B Principal Cities
In the middle years of the 20th century there was a gradual shift in population away from the farms and a corresponding increase in the number and size of the cities. Urban dwellers out-numbered the rural population for the first time in 1960. During the 1980s, however, the percentage of the population living in urban areas began to decrease, falling to 53 percent percent by 1990. The largest cities in 2006 were Billings, with 100,148 inhabitants; Great Falls, with 56,215; Missoula, with 64,081; Bozeman, with 35,061; and Helena, the state capital, with 27,885. Other important Montana cities include Kalispell (19,432) and Havre (9,451). Communities that are the product of a consolidation between city and county jurisdictions include Butte-Silver Bow, with 32,982 residents, and Anaconda, with 8,948 inhabitants.
C Religion
More than one-quarter of religious adherents in Montana are Roman Catholics. Of the large number of Protestant groups, Lutherans and Methodists are the most numerous.
A Education
Montana’s first schools were operated by religious missions to Native Americans. The state’s first non-mission schools were opened in the mining towns of Bannack and Nevada City in 1863. Two years later the first territorial legislature established a free elementary school system. Public schools were soon organized, the first in Virginia City in 1866. Free county high schools were established after 1897. County junior colleges were founded in Miles City in 1939 and in Glendive in 1940. Public schools are maintained on the Native American reservations, a few of which also have mission schools and federally funded tribal schools.
School attendance is compulsory for children ages 7 to 16. Of the students in the state, 6 percent percent attend private schools. In the 2002–2003 school year Montana spent $8,100 on each student’s education (the national average was $9,299). There were 14.4 students for every teacher in 2003 (the national average was 15.9). Of those older than 25 years of age in the state, 90 percent had a high school diploma, placing Montana in the top one-fourth of the country.
A1 Higher Education
State-supported higher education developed after the legislature provided for a college in Bozeman and a university in Missoula in 1893. These institutions were later combined with teachers’ colleges and a school of mines to form the state university system. Montana’s system of public higher education was reorganized in 1994, creating a two-university system with all campuses merged under Montana State University and the University of Montana. The system includes Montana State University-Bozeman; Montana State University-Billings; Montana State University-Great Falls College of Technology; Montana State University-Northern, in Havre; University of Montana-Missoula; Western Montana College of The University of Montana, in Dillon; and Montana Tech of the University of Montana, in Butte. In 2004–2005 Montana had 18 public and 5 private institutions of higher education.
B Libraries and Museums
Montana is served by 79 tax-supported public library systems. The libraries each year circulate an average of 5.7 books for every resident. The libraries of the state university system, particularly those in Missoula, Bozeman, and Butte, have large collections on all subjects. Rural library services have developed substantially with the wide use of bookmobiles and interlibrary loans to local libraries. Recently, these services have been further enhanced by the creation of service regions, each with a lead library, and a statewide network for book loans.
A special research library, state archives, and a historical museum are maintained by the Montana State Historical Society in Helena. The museum contains displays illustrating Montana’s settlement history and development. It also has a collection of paintings and sculpture by Charles M. Russell, as does the C. M. Russell Museum at the historic home and studio of the artist in Great Falls. The Museum of the Plains Indians in Browning has exhibits showing the life of the Plains Native Americans. Billings is home to the Western Heritage Center, and Missoula is the site of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. The Mineral Museum and World Museum of Mining are both located in Butte. The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman has evolved into one of the nation’s centers for dinosaur research and display, as well as becoming a major tourist destination.
C Communications
Journalism in Montana dates from the publication of the Montana Post in Virginia City in 1864. In 2002 Montana had 11 daily newspapers. The Montana Standard of Butte, the Billings Gazette, the Missoula Missoulian, and the Great Falls Tribune are among the leading publications.
In 2002 Montana had 30 AM and 35 FM radio stations and 17 television stations. The state’s first radio station was licensed in 1922. KXLF-TV in Butte, Montana’s first commercial television station, began operation in 1953.
D Music and Theater
Since early mining days, when touring companies visited the boomtowns, interest in the theater has been kept alive through active community and university drama groups. Acclaimed national touring groups based in Montana include the Montana Repertory Theatre, in Missoula, and the Missoula Children’s Theater. Two other dramatic groups that perform regionally are Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and the Vigilante Theatre Company, both headquartered in Bozeman. The Myrna Loy Center coordinates diverse artistic events in the capital city. The larger cities of Montana, including Billings, Great Falls, Missoula, Bozeman, Helena, and Butte, all sponsor community symphony orchestras.
Montana’s spectacular natural features offer vacationers a wide choice of year-round recreation. The scenic mountain country provides challenging ski slopes in winter and footpaths and bridle paths in summer. Montana has thousands of miles of streams, hundreds of lakes, and several reservoirs for fishing and water sports. Since before the arrival of Europeans wild animals and game birds have been hunted in the state’s plains and forests. Camping, mountain climbing, prospecting, and fossil hunting are also popular forms of recreation.
A Parks and Forests
Among the major tourist attractions in Montana are Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. Although only the extreme northern and a section of the far western part of Yellowstone extend into Montana, three of the five entrances to the park are located in Montana. Glacier National Park straddles a wild rugged section of the Rockies in northwestern Montana. Covering 410,178 hectares (1,013,572 acres), it is noted for the spectacular scenery carved by the ancient glaciers. Although the Going-to-the-Sun Highway crosses the park, most of its nearly 50 glaciers, bedded high in the mountains, are accessible only by trails. Montana’s ten national forests contain more than 7.7 million hectares (19.1 million acres). Flathead is the largest national forest in the state.
Montana has several areas set aside to preserve its wilderness character. While motor vehicles are prohibited, the areas are accessible by pack horse or foot and afford some of the nation’s most spectacular scenery. One of the largest in the country is the Bob Marshall Wilderness, which, when combined with the Great Bear and Scapegoat wilderness areas, forms a contiguous wildlands of more than 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) straddling the Continental Divide. Wildlife is also protected in several areas, including the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, which extends for about 200 km (about 125 mi) along the shores of Fort Peck Lake.
Montana’s more than 40 state parks provide a variety of recreational facilities. Flathead Lake, West Shore, and Yellow Bay state parks encircle Flathead Lake, one of the largest lakes in the West. Other waterside state parks are found at Whitefish Lake and Salmon Lake. Water sports are enjoyed on the reservoir formed by Fort Peck Dam at Hell Creek State Park, as well as at other reservoirs, including the popular Canyon Ferry Lake. Eroded by wind and rain, fantastically shaped sandstone ridges tower above the plains near eastern Montana’s badlands in both Makoshika and Medicine Rocks state parks. Other tourist attractions are the Lewis and Clark Caverns, where underground passageways are studded with stalactites and stalagmites.
B Historic Monuments
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, near Hardin, is the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and all his command were killed by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors in 1876. Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, near Deer Lodge, was the headquarters area of one of the largest range ranches in the country in the 19th century. The Big Hole National Battlefield, near Wisdom, marks the site where on August 9, 1877, United States troops were defeated by Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce followers during their march to refuge in Canada.
The scene of Chief Joseph’s surrender is marked at Bear’s Paw Battleground, south of Chinook. Bannack State Park, near Dillon, was once a gold-rush town and Montana’s first territorial capital. The site of Fort Owen, near Stevensville, a trading post in pioneer days, is a state monument. The arrival of members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition at the source of the Missouri River is commemorated by the Missouri River Headwaters State Park, near Three Forks.
C Other Places to Visit
Giant Springs, in Great Falls, spews forth about 1.5 million cu m (about 52 million cu ft) of water daily. Noted by Lewis and Clark, it is one of the world’s largest freshwater springs. Nearby are the scenic Rainbow Falls and Great Falls, the largest waterfall on the Missouri River. Herds of bison, elk, deer, and antelope are protected on the National Bison Range, a federal preserve near Moiese.
Among the frontier towns that have been restored or partially preserved in Montana are Elkhorn, Garnet, Granite, Nevada City, and Virginia City, the second territorial capital.
D Annual Events
The rodeo season in Montana begins in June, and almost every town has a rodeo sometime during the summer. Rodeos include intercollegiate competitions at the Big Sky Rodeo in Billings and competitions among high school students such as that in Hamilton. Other rodeos include the Livingston Roundup and Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede, both in July. Montana residents frequently design festivals around their community’s major occupation, such as the Great Falls Railroad Show in June, Libby Logger Days in July, or the Threshing Bee in Choteau each September. Other events are constructed around the ways state residents have fun, such as the walleye fishing tournament in Havre in June or the Winter Fair in Bozeman each January. The Montana State Fair is held in early August in Great Falls.
Montana is governed under a constitution adopted in 1972. This constitution went into effect in 1973, replacing the state’s original constitution, in effect from 1889. An amendment to the constitution may be proposed by the legislature, by initiative, or by a constitutional convention. To be ratified, an amendment must be approved by a majority of the people voting on the issue in a general election.
A Executive
The executive officers are the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, attorney general, and superintendent of public instruction. All are elected for four-year terms.
B Legislative
The Montana legislature consists of a Senate with 50 members and a House of Representatives with 100 members. All legislators are elected from single-member districts. Senators serve four-year terms and representatives two-year terms. The legislature convenes in odd-numbered years in January. Special sessions may be called by the governor or a majority in each chamber of the legislature itself.
C Judicial
The judiciary is headed by a supreme court of seven justices elected on a nonpartisan ballot for eight-year terms. The judiciary also includes district courts and justices’ courts. A sheriff and county attorney enforce the laws of each county.
D Local Government
Since the new Montana State Constitution took effect in 1973, localities in the state have held a rather unique position in the nation in terms of self-governance. The state constitution stipulates that every ten years the state legislature must provide the means for all 182 local governments to reassess their governmental organizations. Each local electorate then has the chance to propose alternative styles of government and to vote for the system it desires for the next decade. As a result, local forms of self-government often vary considerably from city to city, county to county, and decade to decade. Executive and legislative functions are typically shared between commissions, managers, local parliaments, and town meetings.
The self-governing Native Americans on the reservations have their own police and judicial systems, and are not subject to state laws. Major offenses on the reservations are tried in federal courts.
E National Representation
Montana elects two senators and one representative to the Congress of the United States, giving the state three electoral votes in presidential elections.
A Early Inhabitants
Montana’s Native American population can be divided into two regional groups: those who lived in the Great Plains in eastern Montana, and those who lived around the Rocky Mountains. The Kootenai (also spelled Kutenai) and the Salish lived primarily in the western part of the state. The Blackfoot, Flathead, Assiniboine, and Crow lived primarily in the eastern part of the state. Many other Native American groups, such as the Sioux, Gros Ventre, and Cheyenne also spent time in Montana; however, their territory fell generally more to the east. In addition, nomadic tribes, including the Nez Perce from the west and the Arapaho and the Teton from the south and east, wandered in and out of the state.
Bison dominated the lives of the Native Americans of the Great Plains, an area with a climate too dry for farming, few lakes carrying fish, and a limited amount of wild vegetables and nuts. The Native Americans ate bison meat, made clothing from its skins and used its bones for tools. In order to trap the animals, some Native American groups built corrals made of brush and poles near step bluffs or ravines. Then they drove bison herds toward the corrals. When the bison entered the corrals, men hiding behind the corral walls chased the bison over the cliffs.
The Blackfoot Native Americans began using horses in the middle of the 18th century. The horse had a dramatic impact on their lives, allowing these nomadic people to travel farther, carry more food, clothing, and shelter, and keep tribal groups together because the elderly and children could ride the horses.
In the 19th century when bison hides and buffalo tongue became fashionable among whites, hunting parties killed up to 200 bison at one time. The bison were close to extinction at the end of the 19th century. This, along with the arrival of white settlers, changed the Plains peoples’ nomadic lifestyle.
B Early European Contact
During the 18th century, European fur trappers traveled inland from the East Coast in search of precious beaver pelts. French trappers, or coureurs de bois, and adventurers monopolized the region around Lake Superior, and some may have ventured as far west as Montana. In 1743 the fur-trading sons of French Canadian Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye—Louis-Joseph and François—wrote in their journals about the “Shining Mountains,” which some historians have attributed to the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming, seen from the Great Plains in Montana.
Although present-day Montana had not been formally explored, France claimed all the land lying to the west of the Mississippi River, including Montana. Colonial rivalry had gradually developed between France and Great Britain over lucrative fur-trading posts and land west of the Appalachian Mountains. In 1754 the French and Indian War broke out between the French and the British. As the war progressed, the British gained a superior position, and the French asked for aid from the Spanish. In return for Spain’s aid, in 1762 France ceded its ally land, which included Montana. With the rise of Napoleon in France at the end of the 18th century, France reclaimed the land ceded 38 years earlier through the Treaty of San Ildefonso. In 1803 in a transaction called the Louisiana Purchase, the United States acquired this territory from France. The Louisiana Purchase was roughly bounded by the 49th parallel to the north, the Rocky Mountains to the west, the Mississippi River to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south.
C Lewis and Clark Expedition
After the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson sent out an expedition to explore the land acquired in the purchase and to search for a water route to the Pacific Ocean. Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left from St. Louis, Missouri, on their historic quest in May 1804 (see Lewis and Clark Expedition). On April 26, 1805, they entered Montana above the mouth of the Yellowstone River and followed the Missouri River westward. When the expedition reached Great Falls, the explorers had to carry their canoes and gear over about 29 km (about 19 mi) of treacherous cataracts and rapids. Next, Lewis and Clark entered the steep canyon that they named the Gates of the Mountains. In July 1805 the expedition reached the headwaters of the Missouri River, called the Three Forks. They named the branches of the headwaters the Jefferson, the Gallatin, and the Madison rivers. They continued their journey on the Jefferson River. By a circuitous route they crossed the Rocky Mountains, and in mid-September they traversed Lolo Pass into Idaho and left Montana. The following spring the Lewis and Clark Expedition reentered Montana and separated so they could more fully explore and chart the area. Lewis took a northern route along the Blackfoot, Marias, and Missouri rivers, and Clark went southeast along the Jefferson and Yellowstone rivers. On August 12, 1806, they met again below the mouth of the Yellowstone, and they left Montana.
D Fur Trade
Although a few French and American fur traders may have come into Montana before the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the main wave of traders came after the explorers returned East with their reports of abundant beaver. For the next 40 years, fur traders and trappers—representing the North West Company, the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Missouri and Rocky Mountain Fur companies, and the American Fur Company—roamed throughout Montana. Competition was fierce among fur traders, and the different companies maneuvered to establish trading territories in the region. Montana’s first fur-trading post was established in 1807 by Manuel Lisa on the Bighorn River. It was known by a variety of names, including Fort Remon, Lisa’s Fort, and Fort Manuel. From this outpost, trappers traded with the Crow. David Thompson, a Canadian explorer and trapper for the North West Company, established a fort near Libby, Montana. Trappers traded successfully with the Kootenai and Salish people. The American Fur Company eventually dominated fur trade along the Upper Missouri River. In the late 1840s as fur resources dwindled and silk hats replaced beaver hats in popularity, the trappers and traders largely abandoned Montana. Fort Benton on the Missouri River was the only remaining trading post, and it was thereafter the debarkation point for Missouri River steamboats in the 1860s.
The fur trade had a strong impact on Native American populations in Montana. Trappers introduced Native Americans to alcohol, in spite of a federal law passed in 1832 that prohibited the transport of liquor into Indian country. Diseases, such as smallpox, spread through the region, killing thousands of Plains people. The influx of trading goods also changed the power structure among some tribes. Those who were able to trade effectively with the white trappers controlled these new trading commodities and had higher social status.
E Missionaries and Surveyors
After the decline of the fur trade, few people came to visit or settle in Montana. About the only outsiders to come to the area were missionaries and railroad surveyors. In the early 1830s the Flathead and Nez Perce sent delegations to St. Louis to request that missionaries give them religious instruction. The first to respond were Methodists and Presbyterians; however, these missionaries settled farther west in Oregon. In 1841 the Jesuit priest Pierre Jean de Smet established Saint Mary’s Mission among the Flathead in the Bitterroot Valley. The missionary promoted agriculture and built a sawmill and a primitive flour mill. In 1846 de Smet began missionary work with the Blackfoot people. The Flathead, who were fierce enemies of the Blackfoot, felt betrayed by the Jesuits. Relations between the Flathead and Jesuits deteriorated, and in 1850 the Jesuits sold their mission to entrepreneur John Owen, who turned the mission into a trading post. In 1853 the United States War Department made surveys for the construction of a railroad that would connect the Pacific Coast with the East.
F The Discovery of Gold
The discovery of gold in Montana brought many white settlers to the region. The first recorded evidence of the presence of gold in Montana was written in John Owen’s diary in 1852. However, it was not until James and Granville Stuart and Reece Anderson found gold at Gold Creek in 1858 that prospectors began coming to Montana. The gold rush began in full force in 1862, when strikes were made on Grasshopper Creek. Hundreds of miners poured into Montana. Boomtowns thrived and declined as new discoveries of gold were made and as the old sites became depleted. Bannack, the first of the boomtowns, had a population of about 500 in 1862. It changed its name to Bannack City in 1864 when its population reached 1,000. Virginia City was founded on the site of a sizable 1863 strike, and it quickly grew to a city of about 10,000 people. Helena was founded at Last Chance Gulch after strikes were made there in 1864.
The boomtowns were characterized by makeshift dwellings and transient, sometimes lawless inhabitants. Henry Plummer, whose career as an outlaw began in California, established a criminal gang in Montana that attacked travelers and stole gold deliveries. Plummer’s gang may have been responsible for the death of more than 100 people. To cope with lawlessness the mining towns developed their own law enforcement methods. In 1863 Virginia City organized a vigilante committee to combat Plummer’s activities. The vigilante committee enlisted close to 2,000 men. By 1864 the vigilantes had hanged 24 members of the Plummer gang, including Plummer himself.
Transportation routes quickly developed to link mining towns with the outside world. In 1862 John Mullan, a representative of Washington Territory, started developing a primitive road linking Fort Benton to Walla Walla, Washington. Starting in 1859, steamboats from St. Louis carried passengers up the Missouri River to Fort Benton on the spring and early summer floodwaters. From there the miners went along Mullan Wagon Road to the mining districts. A number of freight companies also transported goods to and from the mining camps.
G The Montana Territory
Before the influx of settlers, the vast and largely uninhabited region of Montana had been administered as part of seven different U.S. territories: Louisiana, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, Nebraska, Dakota, and, finally, Idaho. In the early 1860s, the growing population in Montana demanded a more centralized form of government. In 1863 Idaho Territory was created, including present-day Idaho, Montana, and most of Wyoming. This territory proved too difficult to manage, and in 1864, Sidney Edgerton, a justice of the Idaho Territory, went to Washington, D.C., to petition the government to create a new territory. Montana was made a territory on May 26, 1864. A popularly elected bicameral legislature was given the authority to make laws, and the legislators sent one non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives to speak for Montana’s interests. From 1864 to 1875, Virginia City acted as the territory’s capital. In 1875 the capital was moved to Helena.
H Conflict with Native Americans
In 1851 United States government officials met with Great Plains tribal leaders in Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and negotiated the Fort Laramie Treaty, which was meant to resolve conflict among hostile Native American groups and between Native Americans and whites. This treaty established territorial claims for the Blackfoot in north central Montana, for the Crow in the Yellowstone Valley, and for the Assiniboine in northeastern Montana.
Four years later, Washington territorial governor Isaac Stevens opened negotiations with the Flathead, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille (primarily in Idaho), and later with the Blackfoot. Stevens intended to remove Native Americans to reservations. In exchange for ceded lands, Stevens promised the Native American groups improvements to reservations and annuities. The Flathead, Pend d’Oreille, and Kootenai agreed to share the Jocko Indian Reservation, which covered about 518,000 hectares (about 1,280,000 acres) to the south of Flathead Lake. The Flathead, who were reluctant to leave the Bitterroot Valley, inserted a clause into the treaty that allowed them to stay in their home for a temporary period. The Blackfoot also signed a treaty that bound them to a region in northern Montana. By 1868 nearly one-quarter of Montana had been set aside for reservations. However, whites frequently violated the treaties by using Native American land.
As Montana became more populated during the gold rushes in the 1860s, white settlers and Native Americans clashed. Although the incidents were generally minor—a stolen horse or missing livestock—occasionally settlers or Native Americans were killed. In response to these incidents, the white immigrants demanded federal protection. In 1866 the army established Fort C.F. Smith, its first post in Montana. Later forts were built along the Mullan Road, near the Bozeman Trail, and to the east of Helena.
In 1869 a series of attacks on white settlers and on Native Americans drove the settlers from around Fort Benton to demand military action. Major Eugene M. Baker, who believed that the Blackfoot were responsible for the violence, led an attack on an innocent Blackfoot camp. This offensive left 173 Blackfoot dead. The Blackfoot, who were divided about how to react to the massacre, did not mount a counterattack.
The gold rush also provoked conflict between the Sioux in Montana and the white settlers. The Sioux were opposed to settlers using the Bozeman Trail, which crossed Sioux territory in the Great Plains region, to reach mining districts. The federal government attempted to negotiate with the Sioux at Fort Laramie in 1866, but the Sioux broke off the talks. Throughout the next few years, the Sioux regularly attacked settlements and travelers along the Bozeman Trail. In 1868 the government and the Sioux met at Fort Laramie again and signed a treaty, which closed the Bozeman Trail and provided a reservation for the Sioux in the Black Hills in Dakota Territory.
Some Sioux were dissatisfied with this agreement, including Sioux leaders Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. This group continued to live near the Bozeman Trail. In 1874 gold was found within the boundaries of the reservation in the Black Hills, which brought in white prospectors. Some Sioux left the reservation to join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. In 1876 the United States government sent troops, including Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and his regiment, to relocate this group to the reservation. On June 25, 1876, a Sioux force under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeated Custer’s troops at the Little Bighorn. Although the Sioux were victorious in this famous battle, the United States sent reinforcements, and Crazy Horse gave up his arms in 1877. Sitting Bull conceded victory to the United States in 1881.
I Raising Livestock on the Open Range
Early settlers in Montana raised cattle, and the influx of prospectors during the 1860 gold rushes increased the demand for beef. Some settlers decided that raising livestock on Montana’s open ranges was more lucrative than prospecting for gold. Ranchers such as Nelson Story drove Texas longhorn cattle into Montana to graze on the rich prairie grasses before sending them to market. Montana ranchers drove their cattle to Wyoming to sell them in Cheyenne. From the mid-1860s to mid-1880s the cattle market was highly inflated, so that a shrewd rancher could realize a large profit on his investment. In 1883, when the Utah and Northern and the Northern Pacific railroads were joined near Gold Creek, ranchers had an easy and economical method of shipping their herds to market. Successively, Billings, Miles City, Culbertson, Havre, and other cities developed as shipping points and stockyards.
Sheep, which survive drought better than cattle, were first brought into the Bitterroot Valley in 1857. Later, sheepherders moved their flocks onto the open range and began to challenge cattle ranchers, who had freely used the eastern plains of Montana. Sheep need large grazing areas and graze so closely to the ground that cattle cannot feed where sheep have been. The cattle ranchers fought the sheepherders to control the range. In addition, a boom in the cattle industry led to large herds, which resulted in overgrazing. In 1886 poor grazing conditions combined with severe weather caused up to 60 percent of the cattle herd to die.
Ultimately the cattle ranchers were forced to give up the open range. Eventually, at the end of the 19th century, the range was fenced in with barbed wire. The long Texas-to-Montana cattle drives came to an end, and the cattle ranchers and the sheepherders both adopted scientific breeding and feeding methods.
J Silver and Copper
Although prospectors in Montana found silver mixed in with gold deposits in the 1860s, silver remained largely untouched because it was less valuable and harder to process than gold. Prospectors filtered gold chunks from the water of streams, whereas silver had to be dug from underground mines. Then, separating the silver from other materials required a stamping mill and smelter. Furthermore, silver could only be exploited effectively where good transportation was available. In 1875 rich silver mines were discovered at Butte. William Andrews Clark bought Butte’s first silver mine and completed construction of the first smelter and stamping mill in 1876. A year after the silver discovery, Marcus Daly, an experienced miner, bought his first silver mine. The growing silver industry was boosted by the arrival of the railroad in Montana. Processed silver was easily transported to national markets, and by 1883 the Montana Territory had become the second largest silver producer in the nation, a position it maintained until the 1890s.
Daly purchased the Anaconda Mine, near Butte, where copper, not silver, was discovered. The Anaconda Mine had one of the world’s richest copper veins. Daly developed a copper treatment center and expanded his operations regularly. Due to the proximity of natural resources such as water and timber and the availability of inexpensive labor, the Anaconda Mine soon became one of the leading copper producers in the country. The copper industry was extremely competitive. In 1898 Daly’s Anaconda Copper Company became embroiled in litigation about mining with Fritz Heinze, the owner of the Montana Ore Purchasing Company. Heinze, who had first worked for Daly as an underground surveyor, purchased the rights to land bordering Daly’s mines and laid claim to rich veins of copper he had seen inside Daly’s mines. The law permitted a mine owner to follow an ore vein under the land of another owner. In 1899 the Standard Oil Company bought control of Anaconda and incorporated it into a holding company, Anaconda-Amalgamated. Anaconda-Amalgamated filed suit against Heinze; however, Heinze’s influence over local judges and newspapers prevented a judgment against him. In 1903 the state legislature bowed to the pressure of Anaconda-Amalgamated and passed a change-of-venue law, enabling judges in other districts to hear controversial cases. This ended Heinze’s influence, and in 1906 he sold his Butte holdings to Anaconda-Amalgamated and moved to New York.
K The Road to Statehood
Montana’s 25-year-long territorial history was marked by conflict, including wars with Native Americans and disputes among mining interests. The federal government, which appointed territorial officials, contributed to the disorder by appointing mainly Republican governors, although most Montanans were Democrats.
In 1866 Montana’s acting territorial governor, General Thomas Francis Meagher, held the first constitutional convention and made the first petition for statehood. However, Montana’s population was still too small to change its territorial status. A second constitutional convention was held in 1884, but the Congress of the United States refused to consider statehood for Montana. Finally, in 1889 a third constitutional convention was held, and Montana was admitted to the Union as the 41st state on November 8, 1889. Montana’s constitution of 1889 limited the authority of the governor and granted each county one state senator. Although larger counties complained that more rural areas were getting a high level of representation, rural communities argued that they needed the voice to counteract the mining lobby.
L Early State Politics
The first decade of Montana’s statehood was dominated by a rivalry between the mining magnates, who were known as the copper kings. Marcus Daly’s Anaconda Mine had one of the world’s richest copper veins. When William Clark began to have copper interests in addition to silver, he and Daly clashed over control of the industry. Clark unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1890 and again in 1893. In 1894 when Montana voters were given the opportunity to choose the state’s permanent capital, Daly campaigned in favor of moving the capital to Anaconda, while Clark maintained that Anaconda was ruled by mining interests and that the capital should remain in Helena. The people voted to keep the state capital in Helena. In 1900 Clark ran for senator and was elected. Nonetheless, Daly charged that Clark had run a corrupt campaign, which led to an investigation by the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections. The committee found wrongdoing and voted unanimously to deny Clark his seat in the Senate.
In 1873 the United States, which had previously issued money in silver and gold, stopped minting silver coins. As a result, silver prices dropped and silver miners suffered. In the 1890s, the Populist Party, or People’s Party, gained a following in Montana because they campaigned for the minting of silver coins. Populist issues such as the free coinage of silver, government ownership of train and telegraph lines, and a graduated income tax appealed to the mining industry, which had suffered during an economic depression in 1893. In 1896 Populist Robert B. Smith was elected governor of Montana. The Populists passed mining safety reforms and established the eight-hour workday. They were also successful in instituting political reforms, such as the referendum and initiative, which allow citizens to pass laws by popular vote.
Women in Montana had more rights than in most of the country. The territorial government had permitted women to vote in some local and school elections, beginning in 1869. In 1914 women were granted full suffrage. In 1916 Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives and Maggie Hathaway became the first woman appointed as the minority leader in the state legislature.
M Economic Growth and the Homesteader Boom
Montana attracted many immigrants. Its population grew from 39,159 in 1880 to 142,924 in 1890 and to 243,329 in 1900. The population growth was made possible by the completion of the railroads. In 1893 the University of Montana was chartered, and six years later the capitol, appropriately bearing a copper dome, was dedicated in Helena. Many of the state’s newest citizens were lured by the silver and copper operations, coal and lead mining, and the development of the lumber industry.
In the early 1870s small farms had been developed in the mountain valleys to feed the mining communities and boomtowns. Farming spread slowly, until the U.S. Congress passed the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909. This legislation provided 130 hectares (320 acres) of public domain land in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming to settlers who pledged to cultivate half the land. Immediately after the passage of the act, land offices processed between 1,000 and 1,500 homestead land claims per month. Thousands of merchants, farmers, and professional people entered the state to acquire cheap land.
Montana’s rich soil produced some of the nation’s best wheat. From 1909 to 1916, Montana was blessed with above-average rainfall and saw its wheat production rise from 11 million bushels in 1909 to more than 42 million in 1915. In addition, wheat prices increased during World War I (1914-1918), which increased demand for wheat, and Montana farmers prospered.
In 1917, however, this prosperity was suddenly reversed by a ruinous drought. The farmers compounded the effects of the drought by planting crops on lands better suited to grazing. The soil, dry from lack of rain, turned to dust and blew away; in addition, hordes of grasshoppers appeared and ravaged the remaining crops. To make matters worse, international wheat prices fell after World War I. In the early 1920s land values dropped, half of the farm mortgages were foreclosed, and 20 percent of farms were abandoned as families sought better opportunities elsewhere.
N The Great Depression
During the Great Depression, the international economic decline of the 1930s, the copper industry suffered extensive losses. Inexpensive copper from Africa and South America flooded the market; Montana mines cut back production significantly and thousands of miners lost their jobs. Agriculture also suffered; prices dropped, and drought hit Montana again.
After Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president of the United States in 1932, he initiated a number of domestic programs, called the New Deal, to help the nation recover from the depression. Farmers from Montana benefited from programs that subsidized crops, offered low interest loans, and brought electricity to many rural areas. The Silver Purchase Act of 1934 helped raise the price of silver and stimulated the mining industry. Many water-control and irrigation systems were constructed by the federal and state governments. The most significant was the Fort Peck Dam on the Missouri River, a New Deal project completed in 1939.
O Recent Economic Developments
World War II (1939-1945) brought renewed demand for the state’s agricultural products and also for raw materials such as minerals and lumber. A number of military bases were also opened in Montana, including a training site for fighting in arctic conditions.
During the postwar building boom, Montana’s lumber industry, which previously had accounted only for a fraction of the nation’s lumber production, grew considerably.
Oil production also increased after the war; in 1949 oil production was worth more than copper production in Montana. Oil production had played a part in the economy since 1915, when the Elk Basin field, near the Wyoming border, was opened. In the beginning, Montana’s oil production, like its timber industry, was insignificant compared to national production. Postwar prosperity, however, stimulated exploration of additional oil sites. In 1951 oil was found in the Williston Basin in eastern Montana, and in 1967 relatively shallow low-cost fields were opened up near Broadus. This discovery inspired drilling in many areas of Montana east of the Rocky Mountains. Natural gas became important after the discovery in 1967 of a major gas field in the Bear Paw Mountains. The oil and gas industries prospered during the 1970s when worldwide energy shortages drove up prices and led to further exploration and drilling. During the 1980s energy prices dropped and Montana’s oil and gas production decreased dramatically. Montana, which relies heavily on taxes on natural resources, was unable to collect as much tax during the 1980s. As a result, starting in 1986 the government cut back on spending.
Tourism has played a role in Montana’s economy since 1872, when Yellowstone National Park was created. It received a further boost in 1910, when Glacier National Park was established. In the early days trains carried tourists to see Montana’s natural beauty and to experience life on dude ranches. However, after World War II tourism became an important part of the state’s economy. By the 1960s out-of-state tourists spent about $72 million per year in Montana; by 1990 tourism was the second most important industry in the state following agriculture. In the 1970s developers constructed the first large multipurpose vacation resorts in Montana, but these facilities remain small compared to similar developments in Colorado or Idaho. The Montana government has been slow to take advantage of this growing industry and did not initiate a hotel tax until 1987. As the importance of mining to the state’s economy declined in the 1980s, the importance of the tourism industry increased.
P Recent Political Trends
Politically, Montana generally remained fairly evenly divided between the two major parties during the 1970s and 1980s. Voters consistently preferred conservatives in local elections and liberals in national ones.
In 1972 Montana adopted a new state constitution, which took effect in 1973. The new constitution made major changes in the state government, including establishing single-member legislative districts, a statewide tax assessment so that properties of equal value would be taxed at the same level, and strengthening the powers of the legislature and the executive. Inspired by a growing environmentalist movement, the new constitution also guaranteed “the right to a clean and healthful environment” and the right to individual privacy.
In 1973 the government passed legislation that required the restoration of mined land. In 1975 the legislature passed a 30 percent coal severance tax, which established an endowment for when coal supplies were depleted. This law was challenged by mining interests as interfering with interstate commerce, but was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1981.
Since the 1990s, Montana politics have become more conservative, highlighted by tax protest movements, the election of Republican Marc Racicot as governor in 1992, and a Republican sweep of the state legislature in 1994. After reelecting Racicot in 1996, voters elected the state’s first female governor, Republican Judy Martz, in 2000. The statehouse returned to the Democratic column in 2004 with the election of Brian Schweitzer, a farmer, as governor.
The History section of this article was contributed by Michael P. Malone. The remainder of the article was contributed by John Arnold Alwin.

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