The Anaconda Copper Mining Company controlled much of Montana in the first half of the twentieth century, and many compared its grip to a giant snake coiled around the state.
"In the coils of the Anaconda," Butte Daily Bulletin, October 2, 1920
The company tried to soften that negativity by doing good works, especially at Christmastime. The three hundred children at the state orphanage at Twin Bridges especially benefited from the company’s public generosity. In 1934, at the height of the Great Depression, the company carried out what the Anaconda Standard termed its “annual task of love.” Children at the orphanage were asked to submit a first and second request from Santa Claus, and the list then went to the Anaconda Company offices in Butte. Secretarial staff then did the shopping, choosing gifts according to the list. Among the gifts in 1934 were sheepskin coats, doll buggies, pleated hip skirts, skates, tinker toys, Tarzan books, phonographs, sleds, leatherette helmets, wrist watches, Brownie cameras, and bamboo fishing outfits. Staff individually wrapped each gift and decorated it with ribbons, tinsel, and ornaments, topping the finished package with a Christmas card bearing the child’s name and cottage number. The children lived in cottages on the property and each cottage had its own individual tree. Late on Christmas Eve, the gifts, along with a generous supply of candy and nuts, were placed beneath the trees in their respective cottages. The Anaconda Company extended equal benevolence to the children at the State Tuberculosis Sanitarium at Galen and the crippled children of Butte. At least on Christmas morning, the coiled snake of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company directed its grip to a truly needy population and used its wealth to do something good.