How Montana Was Heavily Promoted In The Early 1900s
It seems that all we hear these days is that more people are moving to Montana from other states, seeking cheaper housing and jobs. It's changing our demographics, and our economy and putting stress on our infrastructure.
But did you know that people moving to Montana in droves is nothing new? There have been at least three population booms in Montana, but we'd like to focus on this one in the early 1900s:
This graph shows the population of Montana in blue and the changes in population percentage in green and red. Data goes back to 1900 since Montana wasn't admitted to the union until 1889.
The bump in population happens at the same time when a popular magazine of the day called The Western Homeseeker was actively publishing "puff pieces" on western territories like Montana, which come remarkably close to begging settlers to move here.
"An Opportunity In The West Magazine"
As far as we can tell, the Western Homeseeker has been largely forgotten about, with no further information available on who owned or ran it (though if you do have this infomration, please contact us). But we do have several of its surviving issues available courtesy of the University of Montana Mansfield Library, and combing through each one, you can tell it had a clear intention with each piece of enticing settlers to move to the western territories.
This piece was written by F.J. Erfert, who in addition to serving as the Missoula Chamber of Commerce Secretary also published in the Daily Missoulian and actively spoke in favor of the Montana Horticultural Society.
To give proper publicity to western Montana united action in all common interests is essential, the cities, towns, villages, commercial organizations and individuals must be united in one common cause to promote and improve, and give such publicity of these facts...we claim to have the very best fruit-growing localities, and justly so.
-F.J. Erfert, Daily Missoulian February 11th, 1909
The "Homeseeker" magazine also emphasized that the newly-formed Montana had assets that made it very attractive: plenty of land for farming and cattle, lots of silver to be dug up, and settlers could be assured protection "in the event of conflict with Western Montana Indian tribes" according to fortmissoulamuseum.org. Publications like the "Homeseeker" certainly contributed to the growth spurt.
"Honey, we're packing the wagons for Fergus!"
Articles like this one are riddled with superfluous adjectives, i.e. "extremely fertile, " "plentifully distributed," "magnificent crops" and are common in the content of these pages.
The Montana of the early 1900s was promoted, while the migrations of west-coasters to Montana post-COVID in 2022 are publicized. There is a difference. The Last Best Place is filling up without the expense and bother of heavy promotion.