Clio Logo

Dragstedt’s Department Store was a vital part of the Missoula community from its founding in 1926 until its closing in 1978. Dragstedt’s opened during the commercial boom of the 1920s, selling men's clothing for both blue and white collar workers. Under the ownership of Carl Dragstedt, the store maintained a profitable business for over 50 years, capitalizing on loyal customers, investing in the local community, and exemplifying the traditional hometown store.


  • Carlene Dragstedt-Johnson, Carl Dragstedt's daughter, surrounded by her grandchildren
  • 1955 Shriner's Parade featuring Dragstedt's in the background.
  • Carl Dragstedt's Senior Yearbook Photo in 1919
  • Dragstedt Family's first car from 1913. At the time, this was one of only 44 cars in the entire town.

The Dragstedt family moved to Missoula in 1918 after selling their stake in a successful grocery business and apartment complex in Anaconda, Montana. Carl Dragstedt graduated from Missoula’s only high school the following year. He worked at the Missoula Mercantile while studying economics at the University of Montana. Carl and his brother, Elmer, who also worked for the Mercantile, had a friendly contest to see who could earn more for a day’s work. Earnings were commission based, and sales clerks could choose their department. Carl opted to sell suits because they were a higher priced item, while Elmer chose to sell ties. Elmer won the contest by a landslide; Carl later attributed his success in sales with the lessons he learned during his time employed at the Missoula Mercantile.

After Carl Dragstedt earned his college degree in 1923, he went into business with a man operating out of China and moved to Shanghai. After his partner's sudden death in 1925, Carl returned to Missoula. In 1926, Carl his father Charles opened up a men’s clothing department store in downtown Missoula, just three years prior to the stock market crash that precipitated the Great Depression.

Dragstedt's survived the depression. Carl Dragstedt later said that he was fortunate in his business life because everyone knew that times were tough at that point and people just had to “tighten their belts.”(Carl Dragstedt Interview) Despite a lack of sales and a lack of revenue, the financial constraint did not cause the business to go under. Rather, the business adopted a credit arrangement for customers. Later, Carl Dragstedt acknowledged his good fortune that everyone was able to pay back their debt.

The Dragstedt family was committed to community service. The family partly owned the Tripp & Dragstedt Store in Anaconda, a business that was so integrated into its local community that it helped build churches and even supported local legislation. In Missoula, Carl continued the family tradition of contributing to the community by helping the University of Montana acquire the Prescott House and providing for an athletic scholarship to the school.

When Carl Dragstedt was ready to retire, he asked his grandchildren if they would like to have his store. All declined, so in 1978, Carl sold his business to a man who owned a second hand store. The original purchaser of the building still keeps in touch with Carl’s grandchildren, but the building has been sold several times and split into two commercial spaces. It now houses OZ architects and Pie Hole pizzeria.

Briggeman, Kim. “Of Christmas, Men's Stores and Tape Decks: Missoula 1968.” Missoulian, December 24, 2018. https://missoulian.com/news/local/of-christmas-men-s-stores-and-tape-decks-missoula/article_df0c18b0-c55a-578f-bccd-0323c2bbbbef.html.

Butte Daily Post. [page 6, image 6] (Butte, Mont.), 24 Jan. 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053058/1917-01-24/ed-1/seq-6/>

Daily Inter Mountain. [page 8, image 8] (Butte, Mont.), 12 May 1900. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053057/1900-05-12/ed-1/seq-8/>

Dragstedt, Carl, "Carl Dragstedt Interview, October 8, 1984" (1984). Depression Years in Montana Oral History Project. 20. 

https://scholarworks.umt.edu/depressioninmissoula_oralhistory/20

Morris, Patrick F. Anaconda, Montana : Copper Smelting Boom Town on the Western Frontier. Bethesda, MD: Swann Publishing, 1997.

Personal correspondence with Mark Johnson, 10/14/2019 and 11/2/2019.

University of Montana--Missoula. Office of University Relations, "Carl Dragstedt to receive UM service award" (1990). University of Montana News Releases, 1928, 1956-present. 11978. https://scholarworks.umt.edu/newsreleases/11978 

 “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012"; School Name: Missoula County High School; Year: 1919 Ancestry.com. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1999 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/interactive/1265/sid_8474_1919_0014/228894988?backurl=https%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestrylibrary.com%2fcgi-bin%2fsse.dll%3fgst%3d-6&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnSearchResults

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Dragstedt Family Reunion, August 2012, In Author's Possession.

“Shrine Circus Parade, North Higgins Ave, 1955” Photo Number 90.0486, Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana. https://um-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/rhcme1/01TRAILS_UM_CONTENTDMp16013coll27/4459

“U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012"; School Name: Missoula County High School; Year: 1919 Ancestry.com. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1999 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/interactive/1265/sid_8474_1919_0014/228894988?backurl=https%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestrylibrary.com%2fcgi-bin%2fsse.dll%3fgst%3d-6&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnSearchResults

“Dragstedt’s first car, 1913.” Photo Number 95.0508, Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana. https://um-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/frhcme1/01TRAILS_UM_CONTENTDMp16013coll27/6767