Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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Montana: Stories of the Land

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Chapter 6 - Montana's Gold and Silver Boom, 1862-1893

Learning From Historical Documents

Letter from E.W. Knight to U.S. Attorney General, February 7, 1882. Edward W. Knight letters, 1882. Small Collection 946. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives. Excerpted in Not In Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana (Helena, 1976): 158.

Context for E. W. Knight's Letter:

Western immigrants brought their prejudices with them. In Helena, the issue of integrating the public schools prompted school board member E. W. Knight to request an opinion from the U.S. Attorney General. Perhaps Knight's inquiry stemmed from a sense of fairness or from the political realities of his forthcoming campaign for mayor. Whatever the cause or the reply, Knight won the election and Helena residents voted that spring to integrate their schools.

About Primary Sources:

Letters, diary entries, census records, newspapers, and photographs are all examples of "primary sources," material created at a particular moment in the past that has survived into the present. Primary sources can provide clues to the past. They are our windows into an earlier time. The Montana Historical Society contains thousands of primary sources. In the 1970s, archivists collected just a few snippets into a book, which they called Not in Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana. That book is now on the web in its entirety. The above sample from that book relates directly to this chapter.

Pioneer City
Detail of photograph of Pioneer City, M.T., 1883, photo by F. Jay Haynes, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives, Haynes Foundation Coll. H-1098
Indian Camp
Indian Camp with Mt. Helena in the distance, ca. 1874, photo by Bundy & Train, Helena, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 953-370