Briefly Noted: ‘Montana’s Charlie Russell’

It’s difficult to read about Montana without coming across Charlie Russell sooner or later. He’s the state’s most celebrated and most widely known artist. This book offers a view of Russell’s work in the collection of the Montana Historical Society in Helena. Nothing is better than seeing the paintings up close. If you can’t do that, this book is a fine introduction.

CharlieRussellFrom the Publisher: Montana’s Charlie Russell brings to life the Montana Historical Society’s world-class collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, bronzes, and illustrated letters by the Treasure State’s famed “Cowboy Artist.” Using advanced digital technology, each of the 230 pieces in the Society’s permanent collection has been meticulously photographed to bring to life, in vivid color, Russell’s artistic mastery. Carefully researched scholarship illuminates the stories behind each artwork. The result is a catalog of Russell’s art as you’ve never seen it before.

From the Montana Historical Society Press Release


“In 1952 the Montana Historical Society acquired the Malcolm Mackay family collection of the artwork of Charles M. Russell that became the heart of its unmatched assemblage of the famed Montana cowboy artist’s masterpieces, paintings, illustrated letters, sketches and sculpture.

“Since then, it has been the dream of many to reproduce the entire MHS Russell art collection in a high-quality book that would celebrate the artist’s vision of Montana and the breadth of his amazing career — that took him from cowboying in the Judith Gap to one of the best loved artists of the West…

“…K. Ross Toole, MHS director in 1952, said while raising funds to acquire the Mackay collection: ‘If Montana has contributed one thing to the heritage of the whole West, it is Charles M. Russell’s paintings …. It was Montana that inspired him; it was Montana that he painted.'”

With this book on your coffee table, you can turn off the TV for the Winter.


Seeker for promo 1Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Seeker,” a book about mountains, first loves and betrayal set partly in Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Briefly Noted: Charles M. Russell: Photographing the Legend

“Charles Marion Russell (1864–1926) was many things: consummate Westerner, historian, advocate of the Northern Plains Indians, cowboy, writer, outdoorsman, philosopher, environmentalist, conservationist, and not least, artist.” – Charles M. Russell Museum

Charles M. Russell: Photographing the Legend, by Larry Len Peterson, University of Oklahoma Press (March 20, 2014), 329 pages, photographs

charlierussellFrom the Publisher: Almost as familiar as the images of the American West he painted and sculpted is the figure of Charles M. Russell himself. Standing or mounted, in boots and wide-brimmed hat, sash knotted at his waist, gaze steady under a hank of unruly hair: he is the one and only “Cowboy Artist.” What is not so well known is the story that unfolds in the myriad photographs of Russell, pictures that document a remarkable life while also reflecting the evolution of photography and the depiction of the American West at the turn of the twentieth century. This biography makes use of hundreds of images of Russell, many never before published, to explore the role of photography in shaping the artist’s public image and the making and selling of his art. More than that, the book shows how the Cowboy Artist personified what he portrayed.

About the Author: “A two-time Western Heritage Award winner for best art book of the year and recipient of the Scriver Award, Larry Len Peterson is an acknowledged expert on art and art history of the American West. His publications include Charles M. Russell, Legacy (1999); A Most Desperate Situation (2000, 2001); Philip R. Goodwin: America.” – Mountain Press Publishing

If you’re a fan of Charles M. Russell, you’ll find a large selection of his works in the Montana Historical Society Museum in Helena, Montana. According to the society, “This collection (numbering over 200 pieces—24 major oils, 33 major watercolors, 40 pen and inks, 15 original models, 60 bronzes, and 34 illustrated letters) is one of the most significant collections of Russell art anywhere. ” Click here for information about the collection and the society.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels, including three set in Montana: “The Seeker,” “The Sun Singer,” and “Sarabande.”

Briefly Noted: ‘Badluck Way’ by Bryce Andrews

Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West, by  Bryce Andrews, Atria Books (January 7, 2014), 256 pages

badluckwayAn “Indies Introduce” selection on the January Indie NEXT List, Badluck Way is a memoir about a 23-year-old Seattle man’s work experiences on the Sun Ranch in southwestern Montana.

Writing in the Missoula Independent, Kate Whittle notes that a lot of “starry-eyed men and women” visit Montana, can’t fit in, and soon leave.

“Author Bryce Andrews,” she says, “is one of these adventurers who found a better fit in the West, and learned to love it for things that even native Montanans might not appreciate…

“He’s become a 21st century kind of cowboy, one who’s studied environmental science and conservation, understands the importance of riparian habitats, and he can ride an ATV, rope a heifer, fix a fence and knock back a few beers at the saloon afterward. He can read landscapes like some of us read a street map; he prefers the habitat of open spaces and jagged peaks.”

From the Publisher

Andrews - Simon & Schuster photo. Click on the photo to see the book video on Andrew's author's page.
Andrews – Simon & Schuster photo. Click on the photo to see the book video on Andrew’s author’s page.

In this gripping memoir of a young man, a wolf, their parallel lives and ultimate collision, Bryce Andrews describes life on the remote, windswept Sun Ranch in southwest Montana. The Sun’s twenty thousand acres of rangeland occupy a still-wild corner of southwest Montana—a high valley surrounded by mountain ranges and steep creeks with portentous names like Grizzly, Dead Man, and Bad Luck. Just over the border from Yellowstone National Park, the Sun holds giant herds of cattle and elk amid many predators—bears, mountain lions, and wolves. In lyrical, haunting language, Andrews recounts marathon days and nights of building fences, riding, roping, and otherwise learning the hard business of caring for cattle, an initiation that changes him from an idealistic city kid into a skilled ranch hand. But when wolves suddenly begin killing the ranch’s cattle, Andrews has to shoulder a rifle, chase the pack, and do what he’d hoped he would never have to do.

From the Book

“On my first morning in the bunkhouse, I woke up shivering and listened to the harsh squalling of magpies. Through a little window, past trim boards cracked and shrunken by age and exposure, a handful of stars still pocked the predawn sky. I lay motionless as they faded into the daylight. An insistent, hissing wind slipped through gaps in the window casing. The Madison wind is pitiless. It is a sandblasting, constant presence, meant for howling around the eaves of broken shacks and the scattered bones of winter-killed cattle. Passing cold and dry across my skin, it reminded me how far I was from Seattle.”

97% of the ranch is protected by conservation easements.
97% of the ranch is protected by conservation easements.

Author Interview

In a Bookselling This Week interview, Andrews talked about the challenge of looking after dumb, slow livestock on a vast range with quick-witted predators.  “I hope that Badluck Way conveys a deep appreciation for the work of ranching and an equally strong sympathy for wild animals, like the wolf,” he said.

This book brings readers lyrical prose, common sense, violence and a growing appreciation for the continuing need for understanding in the co-existing world of rangers and wild animals.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s contemporary fantasy novels, including “The Seeker,” “The Betrayed,” and “The Sun Singer,” are set in northwestern Montana.

Book Note: ‘More Montana Moments,’ by Ellen Baumler

moremontanamomentsHistorian Ellen Baumler (“Montana Moments: History on the Go,” April 2012) returned six months later with another book of Montana vignettes originating from her “History on the Go” radio program in Helena, Montana. Published by Montana Historical Society in October 2012), the 220-page book is available on Kindle and in paperback is aptly titled More Montana Moments.

The cover art, “Laugh Kills Lonesome,” comes from Charlie Russell. The text is supplemented with illustrations.

From the Publisher

Forget dreary dates and boring facts. More Montana Moments serves up a fresh batch of the most funny, bizarre, and interesting stories from Montana’s history. Meet the colorful cast of the famous and not-so-famous desperadoes, vigilantes, madams, and darned good men and women (and a few critters) who made the state’s history. Best of all, each vignette takes about two minutes to read. So have fun exploring Montana—and enjoy a little history as you go.

From the Montana Historical Society Bookstore

When Evelyn Cameron first rode into Miles City in the dark blue divided riding skirt she had ordered from California, oh, the scandal it caused. Ellen Baumler tells that story and more in More Montana Moments, a collection of more of the most funny, bizarre, and interesting stories from Montana’s history.

From the Book

“Artist Charles Marion Russell carefully chose the subjects of his art based on personal experience. He, more than any other western artist, painted what he knew with great longing and nostalgia for the cowboy way of life he lived and loved so well. In 1925, a year before his death, Russell painted “Laugh Kills Lonesome,” a tribute to this vanishing cowboy lifestyle…He painted himself into the picture as an old cowpoke stoppping by the warm and friendly circle fo a cup of coffee by an a hearty laugh at the end of a long day in the saddle.”

You can keep up with Ellen Baumler at her Montana Moments site.


Set in Montana, Malcolm R. Campbell’s contemporary fantasies include “The Seeker.”

Review: ‘Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years’ by Christine Barnes

Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years, by Christine Barnes, photography by Fred Pflughoft, David Morris, and Douglass Dye, Farcountry Press (May 2013), 64 pages.

GlacierParkLodgeThe Swiss-style Glacier Park Lodge on the eastern side of Montana’s Glacier National Park was built by the Great Northern Railway (now BNSF) one hundred years ago as a tourist destination for railroad passengers. While the railroad sold its lodging facilities in 1957 and ended its passenger service in 1971, the rustic hotel with its central roof supported by massive Douglas firs has endured through the years as the “Gateway to Glacier.”

Christine Barnes has captured the spirit of the historic hotel with an accurate overview of “Big Tree Lodge” accompanied by an extravagant collection of archival and color photographs in Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years.

If the Great Northern Railway’s transcontinental route from Minnesota to Washington was the grand dream of tycoon James J. Hill in the late 1800s, the hotels and chalets built by the railroad at the dawn of the new century were the great vision and legacy of Hill’s son Louis W. Hill.

“Louis had taken over from his father, James J. Hill, in 1907, but temporarily stepped down in December 1911 to devote his time to railway-financed projects in and around Glacier National Park,” writes Barnes. “‘The work is so important I am loath to [entrust] the development to anybody but myself,’ he explained to the press.”

As a book of memories, Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years describes the establishment of the park in 1910, the building of the hotel in 1912 and 1913, the railroad’s back-country chalets, and the area’s mountains and wildlife. The book includes a bibliography of standard Glacier references, recipes from the hotel dining room and travel information.

With the help of three talented photographers, Barnes’ experience as a veteran chronicler of old hotels allows her to distil salient facts and images into this small-format book in an accessible style. Her other books include Great Lodges of the West, Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park and Great Lodges of the Canadian Rockies. She was the senior consultant and historian on the PBS series Great Lodges in the National Parks which included two companion books.

Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years is a perfect introduction to the hotel for first time visitors and a keepsake for long-time hikers, climbers and other enthusiasts of the Crown of the Continent.

In addition to three novels partially set in the park, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Bears; Where they fought: Life in Glacier Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley and “High Water in 1964” in the National Park Service’s Glacier centennial volume A View inside Glacier National Park: 100 years, 100 Stories.

Briefly Noted: ‘I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings’

“A young and plucky eastern girl moves to the Wild West to be swept off her feet by a handsome and muscular cowboy: it’s the stereotypical plot of countless romance novels set in Montana.” – Montana Historical Society Press

We’ve all seen wedding stories like this in movies, novels and television shows. Some of those stories might even be real. However, historian Martha Kohl, a fifteen-year specialist at the the Montana Historical Society in Helena, found that the reality of Montana weddings over a 150-year period was every bit as romantic and absorbing as the fiction.

If you live in or near Helena, you can meet the author and enjoy the society’s new exhibit “And the Bride Wore…Montana Weddings, 1900-1960” on January 10th, between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at the MHS headquarters at 225 North Roberts.

IdoFrom the Publisher:

Through engaging stories of romance, insightful analysis, and historic intriguing photographs, I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings provides an intimate and surprising look at an important tradition. I Do journeys through the last 150 years of Montana history, from the 1860s gold rush to the internet age, to reveal the lives of ordinary people, from Finnish homesteaders, Chinese restaurateurs, and Métis fiddlers to struggling miners, Blackfeet students, and Jewish merchants.

About the Exhibit:

MHSlogoThe Montana Historical Society’s newest temporary exhibit, will examine how history has shaped weddings—and particularly wedding fashion—during the first half of the twentieth century. Sixteen delightful and diverse dresses will be on display, including a hand-stitched dress made of white lace and yellow silk ribbon (worn in Butte in 1907), a Crow elk-tooth dress (worn in Lodge Grass in 1945), and a ballerina-style white dress of synthetic satin, lace and tulle (worn in Hardin in 1957). An opening reception will be held January 10, 2013, from 6:30-8:00. The opening will feature a wedding dress fashion show, a 1950s style cake and punch reception, a book signing by Martha Kohl, author of I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings, and Slovenian wedding dance music. Don’t miss the fun! Viewers will be asked to participate in the exhibit by voting for their favorite ensemble and trying their hand at an old-fashioned Singer treadle sewing machine. The dresses will remain on exhibit through November 2013.

The exhibit is listed on line here with contact information and other details.


A long-time member of the Montana Historical Society, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels partially set in Glacier National Park, including “The Sun Singer,” “Sarabande,” and the upcoming new adventure, “The Seeker.” Watch the trailer.


Knowing the history of your favorite states makes your stories better

I have been a member of the Montana Historical Society for at least 25 years even though I live in Georgia. Why? I fell in love with the state after working two summers in Glacier National Park. Since the state’s history and environment fascinate me, I look forward to each new issue of the Society’s award winning Montana The Magazine of Western History.

The places where my novels are set always figure strongly into their plots and themes. Much has been written about the Rocky Mountains and Glacier National Park. I try to keep up so I can make my descriptions as accurate as possible and to ensure that my plots are viable within those settings. Even though I don’t write historical novels, I also feel that knowing the history of an area adds to my understanding of a state or region and enriches my storytelling.

Unlike many of our high school and college history classes that focused a great deal on remembering dates, reading the articles and reviews in a historical magazine is a joyful experience. There’s no pressure to take notes and/or to guess which five facts will be on a pop quiz or the final exam. In the  Summer 2012 issue of Montana The Magazine of Western History, the lead article “The End of Freedom: The Military Removal of the Blackfeet and Reservation Confinement, 1880” by William E. Farr features the Indian reservation on the east side of Glacier National Park.

One can hardly visit Glacier without learning about the tribe’s association with the park. If you reach the park by car or train from the east, you’ll pass through the Blackfeet reservation. This well-written article definitely increases my sense of place and the people who are important there.

As a writer, I want to know what I’m writing about—in depth. Obscure facts come to mind long after I read an article and influence plot development in ways I can never predict when each issue of the magazine arrives. My membership in the Montana Historical Society has, I think, been an important component in shaping my three novels set partly within the state: The Sun Singer, Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey, and my recent contemporary fantasy, Sarabande. I always hope that readers, especially those who live in the places I write about, will think that I live there, once lived there, or have spent a great deal of time seeing the sights on multiple vacation trips.

Most states have state, county and local historical societies, tourism departments, and preservation groups that are worth their weight in gold for writers who see place almost like another character in each story.

Table of Contents – Current Issue

  • Protest, Power, and the Pit: FIGHTING OPEN-PIT MINING IN BUTTE, MONTANA, by Brian Leech
  • Building Permanent and Substantial Roads: PRISON LABOR ON MONTANA’S HIGHWAYS, 1910–1925, Jon Axline
  • REVIEWS:  Jiusto and Brown, Hand Raised, reviewed by Jon T. Kilpinen / Hedren, After Custer, reviewed by James N. Leiker / Courtwright, Prairie Fire, reviewed by Sarah Keyes / Schackel, Working the Land, reviewed by Susanne George Bloomfield / Wood, Hunt Jr., and Williams, Fort Clark and Its Indian Neighbors, reviewed by Steven Reidburn / Pasco, Helen Ring Robinson, reviewed by Alexandra M. Nickliss / Flint and Flint, eds., The Latest Word from 1540, reviewed by Thomas Merlan / Harvey, Rainbow Bridge to Monument Valley, reviewed by Lawrence Culver

For me, such articles grab my attention like a page-turner novel. Since the reading is fun, I tend to remember it later on when I’m telling another story about the state.


A contemporary fantasy set in Montana, and available on Smashwords in multiple e-book formats.

Montana’s Uncommon Critters Posters

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has four great posters featuring the burrowing owl, paddlefish, cutthroat trout, and coeur d’alene salamander. As you can see from the salamander art shown here, artist Peter Grosshauer uses vivid colors to bring these critters alive for your PC’s wallpaper or as illustrations for your next nature talk or hike.

You can find these posters ready for download on the Glacier Park Fund’s “Just for Kids” page. (I hope it’s legal for adults to enjoy these posters as well.)

You May Also Like: Good Nature Stories Make Good Earth Stewards posted yesterday on Magic Moments.

Coming June 22: An interview with author Smoky Trudeau Zeidel, who will be talking about her new novel The Storyteller’s Bracelet.

Coming Soon: Author Melinda Clayton will stop by to talk about her new novel Entangled Thorns.


Historic Newspapers on line help researchers and hobbyists

Nothing is more frustrating to an author, researcher or individual with a passion for a place or a historical period than to discover that the records they want to see are stored in a university or historical society library where they are classified in terms of linear feet. Internet searches that yield such hits are a real barrier to learning more, finding family histories, or finishing a book.

Fortunately, more and more organizations and units of government are funding the creation of searchable databases of digitized records. If you know anyone searching for their great great grandparents on, then you’ve probably heard that new material is becoming available daily.

Now, Chronicling America is bringing old newspapers into the modern world by scanning them into a publicly accessible database with full-text search capabilities via names, topics, places and keywords. Called the National Digital Newspaper Program, the project represents a joint effort of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC).

The Montana Historical Society noted in the current edition of “Montana, the Magazine of Western History,” that issues of the Anaconda Standard, Butte New Age, The Colored Citizen, Daily Yellowstone Journal, Fergus County Argus, Helena Independent, Mineral Argus, Montana News and Montana Post in the late 1800s are now available. Many more papers and issues will come online between now and 2013.

As a fan of Glacier National Park, I found an immediate number of hits for materials I’d never had access to before unless I was willing to pay a researcher or staff member at a library several dollars per page to Xerox and snail mail me materials out of a collection—and then hope I guessed right about the dates and page numbers.

Your special places may be covered by newspapers that are already available. The searches are easy and free. Of, if you’re just browsing, the site’s homepage displays old newspapers from the current date.


Time to pick up a 2012 Montana Calendar

I look forward to my yearly calendars from the Montana Historical Society that come as part of my membership. They are filled with western scenes from the society’s photographic collection. Calendars are 8.5 x 11 inches and feature black and white photography.

The front of the 2012 calendar features a historic photo of Mt. Wilbur and Swiftcurrent Lake from Glacier National Park. If you love western history, you can join the MHS by calling 406-444-2918 or heading out to their website at www.montanahistoricalsociety.0rg. Memberships are $55 per year and include a subscription to the quarterly Montana The Magazine of Western History. Or, you can buy the calendar alone for $8.50, order from the museum store.

Maybe the 2012 calendar will inspire me to get started on my next novel set in Glacier National Park. Maybe it will inspire you to think of wild places in the Rocky Mountains.

Ledger Art by Curly, Crow - MHS

New Museum Exhibits: Two exhibits open tonight (December 1, 2011)  from 6-8 p.m. at the Montana Historical Society’s museum at 225 North Roberts in Helena, The Art of Story Telling: Plains Indian Perspectives and Mapping Montana: Two Centuries of Cartography. Wish I could be there.

The drawing pictured here is an example of “ledger art,” a transitional approach to recording stories and events by plains Indian nations between 1860 and 1900 as artists switched from the traditional paints and hides to ledger paper with crayon, colored pencils and water colors. The new exhibit will include the Walter Bone Shirt ledger book, on loan to the society.

According to the Plains Indian Ledger art Project, “Changes in the content of pictographic art, the rapid adjustment of Plains artists to the relatively small size of a sheet of ledger paper, and the wealth of detail possible with new coloring materials, marks Plains ledger drawings as a new form of Native American art.”  For more information about ledger art, click here.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s contemporary fantasies “Sarabande” (new) and “The Sun Singer” are set in the Swiftcurrent Valley of Glacier National Park.

a young woman's harrowing story