From the sixth floor to the Copper Dome : 'the Company's' political influence in Montana, 1920-1959

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


This thesis deals with the Anaconda Company (ACM) and its relationship to the -political culture of the state of Montana. The thesis aims to test the validity of longstanding beliefs of “Company hegemony” over the state’s politics while also gauging the relative level of interest and participation in state politics by the industrial giant. In addition, the thesis probes the methods employed by the company in its efforts to influence Montana politics. It encompasses the 1920-1959 era, but focuses in depth on the progressive governorship of Joseph M. Dixon (1921-25), the challenge it represented to preferred Anaconda Company policies, and its response to that challenge. Dixon’s reelection campaign of 1924 provides a focal point for the study of the Anaconda Company’s electoral tactics and techniques. Among other resources, the author made use of old Montana newspapers, ACM records, the collected papers of Joseph M. Dixon, and a wide variety of secondary sources, in the course of compiling data for this thesis. The thesis finds that the Anaconda Co., along with its longtime partner the Montana Power Company, did in fact care deeply about the outcomes of Montana political contests. It played an extremely important role in affecting the state’s politics during the period under study. The Anaconda Co. generally advocated against “liberal” measures (e.g., increasing benefits for the state’s workers’ compensation plan), that would tend to increase its operating costs. It also worked to defeat “liberal politicians” who inclined to support such measures. The ACM compiled a daunting record of political success in the state; rarely was it defeated outright in a political battle during the period under study. Although unchallenged as the leading actor on the state’s political stage for much of this period, the Anaconda Co. falls short of being a true “political hegemon” or “industrial dictator” for the state of Montana. It had to rely upon too many uneasy political alliances and was seriously challenged by its political adversaries too regularly for such legendary titles to ring true.




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