William “Bill” Cottrill and his wife reminisce about the Leo M. Goldberg Fur and Wool House, Inc. of Helena, Montana, and the fur trade in Montana from 1914 to 1968. Bill recalls beginning work for Goldberg’s on October 17, 1928, as a messenger boy, and soon after acquiring greater responsibility as a cow hide buyer. He notes that he excelled as a buyer and began splitting this responsibility with Leo’s brother, Ervin. Bill talks about the fall of fur prices in the late 1930s, and how that affected the industry. Mrs. Cottrill discusses keeping the company’s accounts, working in the shop, and buying furs on her husband’s behalf when he was away on business. Bill mentions that he specialized in buying beaver skins and how he learned to assess the quality of individual pelts. He tells how the fur business was an attractive career option when he started. Bill recalls an incident with a federal agent and Montana fur buyers, but asserts that he always had a positive relationship with Fish and Game. He describes Goldberg’s marketing strategies, which included a 250,000-person mailing list, and the dissolution of the Goldberg Corporation.
Fur trade; Trapping; Helena, Montana; Leo M. Goldberg Fur and Wool House, Inc., Helena, Montana; Goldberg Fur and Wool House; Fox and Mink Farms; Castor Oil; Ronald Reagan; Mail Marketing; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Montana Fish and Game; Furriers, Montana
Twentieth Century Montana Fur Trappers Oral History Project, OH 099, Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula
University of Montana-Missoula. Mansfield Library
Copyright to this collection is held by the interview participants and by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula. Permission may be required for use. For further information please contact Archives and Special Collections: (406) 243-2053 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Oral History Number
OH 099-011, 012
1 sound cassette (01:00:00 min.) analog + 1 transcript (42 p.: 28 cm.)
Cottrill, Bill, "William E. "Bill" Cottrill Interview" (1981). Twentieth Century Montana Fur Trappers Oral History Project. 10.