Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Jeffrey Wiltse

Commitee Members

Harry Fritz, Raymond Ekness


Anaconda Company, Miner's Field Day, Miner's Union Day, welfare capitalism, William A. Clark


University of Montana


In 1899, William A. Clark, one of Butte, Montana’s famous “Copper Kings,” purchased 21 acres of land east of Butte, on which he created the Columbia Gardens amusement park. Clark ran his park at personal expense, refusing to charge admission and regularly offering special deals so that Butte residents, particularly children, could enjoy the park. After Clark’s death in 1925, his estate sold most of his Montana holdings, including the Columbia Gardens, to the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in 1928. Without the sentimental attachment to the park that Clark had had, the fact that the Columbia Gardens was not created or operated to turn a profit seemed to argue for the company closing it down. Yet the Anaconda Company continued to operate the park until 1973. Company executives did so not out of a sense of obligation to Clark or the people of Butte, but because they saw in it an opportunity to enact a program of welfare capitalism to promote a community ideal in which Butte workers believed that their interests overlapped with the interests of the company. That welfare capitalist program was largely successful until the Anaconda Company decided to close the park for good in 1973 to expand open pit mining into the area. Letters to the editor published in the Butte daily newspaper after the decision to close the park was announced, and the books and films created after the closing to commemorate the park, illustrate the emotional connection the people of Butte had to the park, their acknowledgement of Anaconda’s critical role in sustaining Butte and giving it its identity, and how the closing of the park symbolized the company’s steady and inexorable destruction of the community.



© Copyright 2011 Matthew R. Carl