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On September 4, 1889, on the eve of Montana statehood, Marcus Daly gave birth to Montana’s best financed and most prestigious newspaper, the Anaconda Standard. Just five years earlier, Daly had platted the town site of Anaconda, named for his extraordinarily rich copper mine located in Butte. The new town would house smelting operations for one of the world’s most successful metals corporations. To run the Anaconda Standard, Daly sought out John H. Durston, a former professor of philology from New York University and an editor of the Syracuse Standard. In 1888 Durston had brought his family west to operate a failing gold mine east of Butte, but he soon signed on with Daly to bring the newspaper to life. Daly’s initial investment of $30,000 provided for a state-of-the-art printing press, luxurious editorial offices, and the money to hire experienced editors, reporters, and graphic designers. The Anaconda Standard was to be the rival of newspapers in Minneapolis and the Pacific Northwest.

In its first issue Durston declared the Standard's philosophy: “Here goes for a daily newspaper. It is the vigorous child of a wide-awake town. It takes its place in the journalistic world with becoming modesty, yet it is a robust youngster and expects to make itself heard.” The Anaconda Standard remained true to this pledge and to its Democratic roots, especially in its political attacks against Daly’s bitter rival, William Andrews Clark. The scathing attacks began with Clark’s bid for Congress and later for the U.S. Senate, followed by the battle over the location of Montana’s capital; Daly promoted Anaconda as the state capital, while Clark poured his resources and editorial venom in support of Helena, through his mouthpiece, the Butte Miner. Prior to Daly’s death in 1900, both men purchased a number of newspapers, but by 1910, the Amalgamated Copper Company (heir to the Daly mining empire) acquired a number of the state’s largest dailies, and its offspring, the Anaconda Company, came to dominate Montana politics through the press. That dominance persisted up to 1959, when the Anaconda media empire was sold to Lee Enterprises, a Midwestern newspaper chain.

The September 1889 inaugural issue of the Anaconda Standard ran eight pages, divided into six columns and measuring 21 by 14.5 inches. The paper documented national events like race riots in Louisiana and a Boston lecture by Charles Dickens, as well as issues surrounding Montana’s bid for statehood and the events important to Butte socialites. Durston immediately hired his former student, Charles Eggleston, to gather and edit local news and to contribute his wit to the editorial page. Durston lured Wally Walsworth from Syracuse to manage the Butte news bureau and its regional offices. Daly’s fortune allowed Durston to attract the best and the brightest to the newspaper and to employ the latest in printing technologies. The Standard could claim the best advertising department in the Northern Rockies, and the editors packed the Sunday edition with serialized fiction, as well as articles about sports, fashion, and the arts. Durston remained with the Standard until 1912, when he departed to edit the Butte Daily Post. Although its “golden years” were past, the Standard continued publication until 1970.

Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT