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Great Falls Tribune and Great Falls Tribune
The first issue of the Great Falls Tribune appeared on May 14, 1885. It was edited by newspaperman, Will Hanks, who began his career in Sun River, Montana. In this issue, Hanks hailed Montana as “the paradise of sportsmen and stock growers,” as well as recognizing the Missouri River, which flowed through Great Falls, as a potential source of power. In a real estate ad, Hanks described the “falls of the Missouri” as the “greatest available water on the Continent.” The four-page, seven-column weekly newspaper also lauded the area’s mineral potential and specifically the Sand Coulee coal deposits.
The city of Great Falls emerged with the arrival of Jim Hill’s Great Northern Railroad in 1887 and following promotion by the city’s founder, Paris Gibson, a St. Paul businessman and sheepman. Real estate agents advertised in the fledgling weekly that Great Falls would soon be the “manufacturing metropolis” of Montana. One year later, Great Falls boasted its first silver smelter, the Montana Smelting Company, and by 1891 it had its first copper smelter at the Boston and Montana Company, located adjacent to the first hydroelectric dam on the Missouri at Black Eagle Falls.
On May 16, 1887, the Great Falls Tribune published its first daily edition in the same building that printed the weekly. The Tribune remained a Democratic voice throughout, supporting Joseph K. Toole for governor and Martin Maginnis for Congress. The newspaper, like the city’s founder, Paris Gibson, supported the opening of 18 million acres of Indian land to homesteading, while printing racist tirades against Native populations in Montana. During its first year of operation, the Tribune ran the following headline and story on its front page: “Lo the Poor Indian – Stories That Give Insight into the Character of the Red Man – The Indian is progressive. He is fast becoming civilized. An Indian shot and killed his squaw and then blew his own brains out.” What the story does not explain is the deplorable state of the reservation Indian whose source of livelihood, the buffalo, had been exterminated during the previous decade, and his land taken by the railroads and white homesteaders with the help of Congress. In 1889, the year of Montana statehood, the paper reported the great progress made by reservation Indians “who had given up horse stealing and the medicine lodge for domestic agriculture.” Of course, the Tribune was not alone in its depiction of Montana Natives.
In 1895, William Bole and Oliver S. Warden, both New England transplants, purchased the Tribune and quickly established the newspaper as a voice independent of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, which dominated Montana politics and the newspaper industry well into the 20th century.
Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT