Queer Spots In and About Butte : No. 39 Police Station 12-09-1906
In the spring of 1906, the Anaconda Standard initiated a new feature, “Queer Spots In and About Butte,” in its hefty Sunday newspaper. Focusing its editorial eye on such topics as ethnic enclaves, landmarks, nearby natural
wonders, and derelict industrial sites, among others, the series profiled a wide range of built environments and landscapes conceived to be “queer,” that is, interesting and singular in early twentieth-century parlance.
While there was no introduction or fanfare announcing the series, it must have been conceived as a continuing feature, given its semi-weekly regularity, its placement at the coveted top of the page, and the distinctive artwork that accompanied the copy. A calligraphic “Queer Spots/In and/About Butte” banner stretched from page edge to edge, flanked by line
drawings that often pertained directly to the story’s topic.
In Copper Chorus : Mining, Politics and the Montana Press, 1889–1959, Dennis Swibold has observed that the Anaconda Standard “owed its existence to Marcus Daly’s wealth, but editor John H. Durston made the paper excellent beyond its means.” Durston’s education (he possessed a Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg) and vision drove the content and the appearance of the newspaper. Additionally, the Standard employed the most advanced printing technologies available, and by the time “Queer Spots” first appeared, Swibold notes, “Montana’s premier daily was in its prime, its popularity resting on its muscular news and feature sections.”
This supremacy is evident with each “Queer Spots” feature, especially given the many non-stock photographs and drawings that accompany the dense writing. Subjects that initially appeared to be of little interest—or even provoke a flicker of repulsion—for some readers seemed to especially intrigue the uncredited reporter who urged the reader to look beyond the surface. The tone of these stories is a blend of stereotypes, racism, and
an acknowledgement of some quality indicative of their process toward Americanization.