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Great Falls native writes book about Montana history

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Posted at 6:37 PM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-10 11:43:50-05

GREAT FALLS — Thomas Minckler has spent half a century collecting 19th and 20th century artifacts, such as written documents, old photographs, classic paintings, and many more.

Growing up in Great Falls, he spent his earlier days collecting a variety of historical items. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Montana. He then operated an art and book gallery in both Missoula and Billings, where he of acquired and sold historical items procured from around the country.

Not only does Minckler continue collecting and sharing the fascinating history of Montana, he decided to put it into one giant book, consisting of the things he collected over the years.

The book is titled, "Montana: A Paper Trail."

"In 2015, I decided after close to 50 years of collecting historic documents, letters, photographs, paintings and books, to put my collection into context and make sense of it," Minckler said.

Telling the stories of those such as Granville Stuart and Teddy Blue Abbot, as well as the likes of Charlie Russell and Thomas Francis Meagher, Minckler uses visuals such as past documents, photographs, to tell the colorful and fascinating history of Montana.

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"This book covers a broad range," Minckler said. "I'm often asked what's my favorite item in the collection, but it's impossible for me to answer that question. One of my favorite sections is the one on Teddy Blue Abbot and the tragedy of his great book being delivered to him on his death bed."

Minckler also spoke of Great Falls icon Charlie Russell, describing him as "the ambassador to Montana." Photographs, books, and pencil sketches of Charlie Russell are shown in parts of the book, along with notes that Charlie would send to deaf artist, Joe De Yong. Yong was known to be a protégé of Charlie Russell.

Montana historian Ken Robison spoke highly of Minckler's book. He said, "The book is kind of the heart and soul of Tom Minckler laying out rare documents one-by-one, and then putting them into historical context. It's something that I've never seen done in a book before. It's great fun to not only see a rare document of the city of Great Falls in the summer of 1883, a year before they started construction, and there was supposed to be a university and industrial area in Black Eagle ... You not only get the joy of seeing rare documents,  but you also learn a lot of history and background, and how that fits into Montana history."

Thomas Minckler and Ken Robison will be hosting a presentation at the Great Falls Public Library where they will discuss Tom's new book and share their insights about Great Falls history. The presentation will take place on Wednesday, March 15th at 6pm. To purchase "Montana: A Paper Trail," click here or click here.

Questions or comments about this story? Contact Cade by clicking here.


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