The Montana Legislative Services Division announced today that the 2021 Lawmakers of Montana, better known as the Copper Book, is available in hard copy, and that past issues are now viewable in a digital archive. The books include professional and personal details about the men and women who have made legislative history in Montana since the middle of the last century.
The 2021 edition of the Copper Book is sponsored by Charter Communications. The digital archive of past Copper Books is available online thanks to the efforts of the Legislative Services Division and the Montana State Library.
The publication contains brief biographical sketches of legislators serving in each session.
Susan Byorth Fox, Executive Director of Legislative Services stated, "The Copper Book is a time-honored tradition we are proud to continue. To have them now available digitally allows everyone the opportunity to view the copies, as hard copies from the past are rare. It is especially rewarding if you have a relative that you think was in the Legislature. You can now look them up easily to complete your family tree."
For example, long before he became a U.S. Congressman, Pat Williams was a 30-year-old state representative from Butte with both glasses and hair that were dark and thick. The 1967 Copper Book notes his wife’s name is Carol and they had one child. By 2007, they had three children, three grandchildren, and Carol was featured in the Copper Book as the first female majority leader of the Senate. It noted her husband was named Pat.
Joining Pat Williams in the 1969 Legislature was Sen. Stan Stephens of Havre, a veteran of the Korean War who ran radio and TV stations. Twenty years later, Stephens became governor, incidentally the last Montana governor to date who once toiled in the legislative trenches.
The Copper Book is a must-read at the start of every session. Lawmakers and lobbyists scan it for personal tidbits that might come in handy during a hallway chat. Most sketches include year and place of birth, education, occupations, and names of spouses and children. Some offer other insights. Rep. Matt Regier in 2019 noted that he conquered Nintendo Super Mario Brothers 3.
History buffs hoard the hard copies. The Legislative Services Division also squirreled away copies every two years, all of which were recently scanned into a searchable format by the Montana State Library.
The Copper Book wasn’t always copper. The first edition in 1949 was light tan and proclaimed that it was “Compliments of Senator Hugo Aronson,” an oil producer from Cut Bank. It was compiled by an assistant sergeant-at-arms in the House. The Independent Record newspaper, owned by the Anaconda Copper Co. at the time, published the books in various metallic hues through 1959. There was no book in 1961 when the IR and other Anaconda Papers were sold to Lee Enterprises.
In 1963, the Copper Book as it is now known debuted. The cover noted that the Anaconda Co. furnished the guide. By 1965, the credit for the guide was moved to the back cover, but an inside page touts the company as “A Partner in Montana’s Progress” and lists the how much the company paid employees, as well as its spending for taxes, freight, and other equipment and supplies.
As Anaconda Co. gave way to Atlantic Richfield, the new company ceased sponsoring the Copper Book. In 1987, a group of trade associations joined forces. Gary Langley, a journalist turned lobbyist, spearheaded the effort. His wife Pam Langley, also a former journalist, took over. After her death in 2009, their daughter Kari Jane Langley Raines continued the legacy.
In 2014, the publication duties shifted to the Legislative Services Division. Charter Communications has paid for the printing since 2017.
Copies are available at no charge to the public. They can be picked up at the Information Desk in the Capitol, by calling the Legislative Services Division at (406) 444-3064, and by emailing LegPubSales@mt.gov.