Anaconda, Montana

Anaconda, Montana 1887
Anaconda, Montana 1887

Anaconda History

Anaconda was established in 1883 by Marcus Daly, one of the three "Copper Kings" of Butte, Montana, as a site for a new smelter to treat ores from his Anaconda mine. The town was originally to be called Copperopolis but that name was already in use by another Montana town so the name Anaconda was settled on.

Anaconda Montana
Anaconda, Montana Historic City Hall Building

Within a year, Anaconda featured an amazing array of businesses: four hotels, 24 stores offering anything from drugs and groceries to clothing and furnishings; three lumber yards, two blacksmiths, two liveries, two photographers, a bank, five barbers and an amazing 20 saloons.

There was even a skating rink. Two churches offered services. On the edge of town, the Chinese element quietly shared some buildings and operated a chop house and laundry.

Anaconda Montana
Montana Hotel at Anaconda ca. 1933

As of 1888, Anaconda's fire department was firmly in place, with a large reservoir feeding 25 fire hydrants. That same year, Daly built a horse racing track, while a grand, four-story hotel, The Montana, was being constructed to emulate New York City’s Hoffman House. The population of Anaconda was quckly growing, with 3,975 people living there by 1890.

Anaconda Montana
Downsized Montana Hotel - Anaconda, Montana

In 1891, Anaconda lost a political bid to Helena to become the new capitol of Montana. Helena's bid for capitol was supported by another of Butte's Copper Kings, William Andrews Clark, and the competition between the men was fierce both in business and in politics. Ultimately Clark would be victorious but Anaconda would nonetheless grow to be one of Montana's most important cities.

Anaconda did achieve some of its political ambitions however as it was named the seat of government for Deer Lodge County in 1896. In 1898 a stunning new county courthouse building was completed, which still stands today.

Anaconda Montana
The historic Deer Lodge county courthouse at Anaconda, Montana

After the turn of the century, labor disputes arose as miners across the west began complaining of low pay, long hours and hazardous working conditions. The Anaconda Copper Mining Company was no exception. By 1903, miners in western states were talking of going on strike.

Anaconda Montana
Anaconda Smelter 1903

Despite the Anaconda Company's firm grip on the local economy, the citizens of the city of Anaconda managed to vote in city officials of the newly-formed Socialist Party, which vowed to support members of various unions, social reformers, farmers, and immigrants. It was the party’s first victory west of the Mississippi.

The Socialist party were not the only reformers. In 1910 Carrie Nation, the hatchet-wielding, radical supporter of the temperance movement, announced she would be visiting both Butte and Anaconda. Red-light district and saloon supporters in both cities accordingly posted signs reading, “All Nations Are Welcome Except Carrie.”

Anaconda Montana
View of Anaconda, Montana in 1923

Unfazed, one of Ms. Nation’s stops in Butte included the parlor house with madam May Malloy. When she refused to leave, the madam popped her in the mouth and knocked her hat off. Several newspapers recounted the incident. Nation’s speech in Anaconda was well-attended, but the bawdy element behaved themselves.

The Washoe Smelter at Anaconda continued to expand capacity over the years. In 1919 a new 585-foot tall smokestack was added that today is recognized as the tallest surviving free-standing masonry structure in the world. A 1922 newspaper article describes the construction of the smokestack:

Washoe smelter smokestack at Anaconda Montana
Washoe Smelter at Anaconda, Montana 1925

There are some smokestacks that are unbelievably big—too big to be true—but the one recently completed for the reduction works of the Anaconda Copper Mining company, at Anaconda, Montana, sets up a new world record.

The concrete base on which this gigantic structure stands required 118 cars of crushed rock, 50 cars of sand and 20,800 sacks of cement to complete and weighs approximately 9,250 tons. The stack proper Is constructed of specially shaped blocks or bricks about two and one-half times the size of the ordinary brick and it took 2,404,072 of these larger units to complete the job.

Washoe smelter smokestack at Anaconda Montana
Washoe smelter smokestack at Anaconda, Montana

To make the mortar necessary to lay these brick required 77 cars of sand, 37 cars of fire clay and 41,350 sacks of cement. The estimated weight of the brick work is 23,810 tons. The exterior diameter of this smoke-and-gas elevator is 80 feet at the base, while the interior diameter at the top tapers down to 60 feet. The wall is 22 inches thick at the top.

The maximum height of the stack and Its base is 585 feet 1.5 Inches. Smokestacks of extreme size are desirable and in fact necessary, In connection with certain classes of mining operations, to prevent the destruction of vegetation by the extensive quantities of strong and poisonous fumes and gases which result from the reducing operations.

Harvesting wood for the Anaconda smelter
Approximately 50,000 cords of wood stacked for use at the Anaconda smelter and the mines at Butte

The last of the Anaconda smelters closed in 1980 putting the future of the city in doubt. Since then, the town has begun the difficult transformation to a tourist destination, and has developed a world class golf course and hosts several annual festivals. The Washoe smelter smokestack still stands and is preserved as part of the Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park.

Historical Buildings at Anaconda Montana
Historical Buildings at Anaconda, Montana

Principal Gold Districts of Montana

Principal Gold Districts of Montana

In Montana, 54 mining districts have each have produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold. The largest producers are Butte, Helena, Marysville, and Virginia City, each having produced more than one million ounces. Twenty seven other districts are each credited with between 100,000 and one million ounces of gold production. Read more: Principal Gold Districts of Montana.