New book traces the paper trail of Montana’s history

Collector and historian Thomas Minckler spent half a century collecting 19th and early 20th century letters and documents, old photographs, rare books and paintings. He shares these collections in his new book, Montana: A Paper Trail.

Nathaniel Des Marais, a veteran Western Americana specialist, wrote of the more than 10,000 articles, “Make no mistake, this is the finest collection of Montana source material ever assembled.”

Minckler’s decades of research and contextualization of items in his collection have unearthed countless valuable insights into Montana’s history. Each artifact’s unique paper trail reveals a journey that contributes to Montana’s fascinating history.

The extensive collection includes the only painting of James Kipp (1788-1880), the legendary builder of the fur trading posts on the Upper Missouri River. It also includes photographs of Ferdinand Hayden’s legendary 1871 Yellowstone expedition by Bozeman photographer Joshua Crissman, who produced the first images of Yellowstone Park and the only known photograph of the expedition’s wagon train. In addition, the collection includes outstanding unpublished material by Granville Stuart, Teddy Blue Abbott, CM Russell, Thomas Meagher, Father Pierre DeSmet and George Armstrong Custer.

“In this magnificent book, Tom lays out his treasures before our eyes and provides the context necessary to understand the demands that everyone has for his attention,” said noted historian and author Brian Dippie.

“Montana is known as The Treasure State for a reason. Gold flowed through its early history and gold dust still clings to the treasures in Tom’s collection. Appropriately, his record of his adventures on Montana’s paper trail is ambitious and full of rewards for those who would join him on his journey.”

Published by the Montana Historical Society Press, Montana: A Paper Trail will be released during a book launch on December 16 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Billings Public Library common room.

Diana Di Stefano, editor of the Montana Historical Society Press, said it was an amazing book.

“Rarely is a private collection of this caliber made available to the public; it’s rarer still that the objects are explained as skilfully and entertainingly as Minckler does in Montana: A Paper Trail,” she said. Montana: A Paper Trail can be ordered through the MTHS bookstore: or by calling 406/444-2890. 440 pages and 449 illustrations.

Additional book signings and readings will be held throughout Montana and across the country. For more information, contact Corby Skinner at [email protected]