The Copper Kings of Montana

The Copper Kings of Montana

By Marian Place


Written for young readers

I picked up this book at the library from the children’s section. My wife and I have been planning a trip to visit old Butte and tour the uptown and mining districts for a couple years now, hence my interest.

I very much enjoyed reading this book. It only took a couple of hours. Youth books are good for a quick, human interest version of history.

The author glossed the history of fistfighting, making sound less like assault and more like wholesome recreation, feuds soon forgotten. As a youth in Deer Lodge in the 60’s, traveling to high school wrestling tournaments in Butte, church basketball, church stake conference and for Christmas shopping, the culture of fighting was intimidating to me. I had money stolen from my locker at a church basketball game held at one of the school gyms.

The author always called them “miners” never hinting that the strong arm of the unions was in force in the many miner actions fomented by Daly, Heinze or Clark.

I recognized names that were given to public places around western Montana. Carroll- Carroll College, Clancy- the town, Walker brothers from Utah-Walkerville,  and Kelleher- U.S. Senate Candidate, Sullivan- my employee Sully, Brent Sullivan. I understood the history of the Montana Standard which began as the Anaconda Standard. I delivered it in Deer Lodge. I understood the development of the various smelters. I was interested in the first clean air law in Butte and the livelihood, economic arguments against it.

This was a good intro to the rise of Daly and Clark, their personalities and their business and political strivings, the daily life and ancestries of the miners, the fabulous wealth generated, the history of the Anaconda/Helena for state capitol debate, the buying of the judge Clancy, the way mine law worked. Knowing all these things tells much about why Montana is still such a strong union state and the pride felt by Butte and Anaconda folks over their history. Butte was the center, economically, of the state for a long time. They had traditions, cohesion and alliances and loyalties.

Manipulating the political process for corporate gain was the subject of Atlas Shrugged. Here it was seen plainly. But livelihoods, large and small were also at stake, hence the appeal of government intervention. The desire to control monopolies, in Sherman Anti-Trust type actions could have been augmented by watching the machinations in Butte, though the Act passed in 1890 and the worst of the machinations wasn’t seen until 1898 and years immediately following.


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