65 Years Ago: Ellis Armstrong and America’s Interstate Highway System

Described as the largest public works project in the history of the world, the monumental Federal-Aid Highway Act that finally made possible the building of a planned super highway system was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 29, 1956.

This map shows the National System of Interstate Highways. Note the original plan shows Denver as the I-70 terminus. Additional mileage was later added to the system, which allowed I-70 to continue west to I-15 in Utah. Box 112, Folder 1, Ellis Armstrong Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Wyoming was eager to begin construction on its 914 miles of Interstate. Soon after the federal highway act was passed, the Wyoming Highway Commission approved its first highway project, and construction commenced in September 1956 on a 13-mile section of I-25 north of Cheyenne between the U.S. 85 Exit (Torrington Highway) and Whitaker Road. This was one of thousands of sections of Interstate to be constructed across the nation.

The 1956 highway act expanded the national Interstate Highway System to 41,000 miles. Overseeing such a massive and coordinated building project would require the efforts of many individuals, including Commissioner of Public Roads Ellis Armstrong. Armstrong, who donated a large set of his professional papers to the American Heritage Center, was one of only four individuals to hold the position of Commissioner of Public Roads. The commissioner was the executive director of day-to-day operations within the Bureau of Public Roads. Thomas MacDonald (1939-1953), Francis du Pont (1953-1955), and Charles Curtiss (1955-1957) previously held this position. Armstrong was the last to hold the position.

Though the position that Armstrong held from 1958-1961 was abolished when a change in organization occurred in the Federal Highway Administration in October 1961, Armstrong left the position in March to become the president of the Better Highways Information Foundation. This organization was dedicated to public information with the goal of promoting the highway program across the nation with a focus on active state and local support for highway development.

Ellis Armstrong, November 1969.
Box 2, Newcomb B. Bennett Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Ellis Leroy Armstrong was born in Cedar City, Utah, on May 30, 1914. He remembers the days in the rural West where automobiles and improved roads were rare. In a March 8, 1961 address to the Fourth Annual Highway Conference, Armstrong said, “As a youngster, I remember our mode of transportation was the wagon and the old white-top buggy and that we’d clop, clop, clop to town every week or so for necessities.” He set that in contrast to the reality that came with the automobile and the national roads system of the 1950s and early 1960s, stating. “Summer before last, my family and I took a 6,000 mile trip across America during our two-week summer vacation.” He went on to describe this incredible evolution in transportation:

“The changes that are occurring are not the slow, comfortable changes of the past, but are sudden, and rapid, and often they are violent. And they are affecting everybody, everywhere in this world of ours grown small.”

He described the effort to transition as an, “accelerated highway program (that) is an attempt to catch up with the needs of our present automotive society. We got way behind during the War, when highways were expendable and expended and unfortunately, no one quite appreciated beforehand the highway problems created by the more and more and more cars that flooded our highways when civilian operations resumed following the War.”

The major response to this challenge was the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act. Armstrong said of the act,

“After extensive investigations, studies, deliberations, and review, the (highway act) launched the world’s greatest public works construction program to catch up with our needs.” He then went on to describe how the nation must view this massive program: “This is a program that requires a broad perspective to appreciate. Planning, designing, and construction of highways has become complex. Highway building and operation has become (one of the) biggest single operations of State governments.”

From “Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Highway Conference,” Box 110, Folder 4, Ellis Armstrong Papers.

In his leadership role with the Better Highways Information Foundation, he described the activities of the organization, which included, in part, ensuring that each state had at least one good-roads organization to disseminate information; working closely with each state highway department offering information that could be used in press releases, speeches, and radio spots; and traveling around the nation speaking at major conventions and to regional groups.

Armstrong was described as, “one of a vanishing breed that believes an engineer is a public servant” (January 3, 1988 Denver Post newspaper clipping, Ellis Armstrong Biographical File.) Armstrong lived to see the completion of the entire Wyoming Interstate System and the majority of the Interstate Highway Project across the nation. After a long career that also included serving as Director of the Utah Highway Department and as the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, Ellis Armstrong passed away at his home in Utah on January 26, 2001.

In Wyoming, the majority of the 403-mile-long I-80 was completed on October 4, 1970, when the Laramie-Rawlins section opened. The final link, a nine-mile section east of Cheyenne to Archer opened on May 4, 1977. The 301-mile I-25 was completed on February 2, 1982, when a section near Kaycee was completed.

Completed sections of I-80, shown in red, in 1966, in the southeast corner of the state.
Source: 1966 Official Wyoming Highway Map.
Completed sections of I-25, shown in red, are featured on the 1966 Official Wyoming Highway Map. Significant progress had been made just ten years after the signing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act.
Source: 1966 Official Wyoming Highway Map.

The 209-mile I-90 was completed on October 10, 1985, marking the end of Wyoming’s portion of the Interstate Project. The final section to be completed was between Ranchester and the Montana border. The project was held up for several years, due to Montana’s delay in selecting the location of the highway near the state line. Today, thousands and thousands of cars and commercial trucks travel daily on Wyoming’s 914 miles of Interstate Highways. 

Progress on I-90 as of spring 1966 is shown in red.
Source: 1966 Official Wyoming Highway Map.

Post contributed by AHC Reference Archivist John Waggener.

#alwaysarchiving

Posted in Transportation history, Uncategorized, Western history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating the Stars and Stripes – Flag Day

June 14th marks the celebration of Flag Day in the United States. The date is significant in that the Second Continental Congress had, on that day in 1777, adopted the “Stars and Stripes” as the flag of a budding nation. The assembled body resolved “that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

As the nation grew, there were more stars added to the flag, but the thirteen stripes remained. Interest in honoring the flag grew as well. By the latter half of the 19th century, schoolteachers in Wisconsin and New York had begun arranging patriotic days for their pupils. Celebrations became grander and more elaborate. In 1894, 300,000 children participated in a day to honor the flag in parks across Chicago. President Woodrow Wilson established an official Flag Day by proclamation in May 1916. Not long after that, the United States entered into World War I. Patriotic sentiments were running high.

Here in Wyoming, University of Wyoming professor Grace Raymond Hebard took patriotism and respect for the flag seriously.

Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard with a small American flag.
Photo File: Hebard, Grace Raymond, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Dr. Hebard taught free ten-week long citizenship courses to prepare immigrants to become naturalized citizens. It was a progressive, and perhaps somewhat controversial, act which fell under the umbrella of Americanization. Her courses were held in her University of Wyoming classroom, against a backdrop of the American flag. All of her lessons included some aspect of the patriotism that was expected of the future American citizens. Immigrants who completed Hebard’s evening classes were recommended for citizenship without having to complete any additional exams. After the naturalization ceremony at the courthouse, Dr. Hebard pinned a small silk American flag to the coat of each new citizen.

Hebard and students from her naturalization class, March 8, 1917.
Box 21, Grace Raymond Hebard papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Following one such ceremony at Laramie’s courthouse, a lawyer present at the event said to Hebard, “Although you have no sons to send to war, you certainly have made three patriotic loyal citizens out of that number of aliens.”

Students of Dr. Hebard learned “The American’s Creed,” which was based on a statement written by William Tyler Page in 1917. Page had served as the President General of the United States Flag Association and was also the 28th Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. Referring to the Creed, Page said “It is the summary of the fundamental principles of the American political faith as set forth in its greatest documents, its worthiest traditions, and its greatest leaders.”

This copy of “The American’s Creed” was taken from a draft of a civics textbook written by Hebard, 1926.
Box 48, Grace Raymond Hebard papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Dr. Hebard’s patriotic endeavors extended beyond the classroom. She served as the State Historian of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In that role, she assisted in the erection of monuments and markers across the state of Wyoming commemorating the route of the Oregon Trail.

Hebard beside a monument marking the Oregon Trail, east of Fort Laramie, 1914.
Photo File: Hebard, Grace Raymond, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Whether it was in the classroom or in the community, Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard never shied away from waving the flag. You can pour through the papers of this patriotic University of Wyoming professor at the American Heritage Center.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.

#alwaysarchiving

Posted in Holidays, Immigration, Immigration Policy, Political history, Uncategorized, women's history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opening Chutes and Closets – Gay Rodeo

The chute flies open and out comes a bucking bronc, with a rugged cowboy astraddle, trying their best to stay mounted – this iconic image is associated with rodeos across the West. And since 1975, a similar scene has played out in gay rodeo. Conceived as a fundraiser for a Reno senior citizens’ Thanksgiving dinner, the Gay Rodeo originated in Nevada.

Facing discrimination, the rodeo organizers were initially unable to find any farmers or ranchers to lease them the necessary livestock. But they persevered. Interest in the rodeo spread across the U.S., first to California and then to Colorado and Texas. For LGBTQ farmers and ranchers, the rodeo offered a vital social outlet and an opportunity to meet other likeminded rodeo competitors.

In 1985 the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) was formed to provide some standardization of rules across the various state rodeos that had sprung up. Wayne Jakino, the founding president of the IGRA described the rodeo community as one that lets “competitors feel good about themselves and open closet doors.”

Gay rodeo events include everything in a traditional rodeo, from calf roping and pole bending to bull riding. Events are equally open to all genders and the competitors are entirely amateur. There are also a few events unique to the IGRA, known as “camp” events. These include steer decorating and goat dressing. There is also the “wild drag race” during which one of the three team members must dress in drag.

Shortly after the founding of the IGRA, Blake Little, an award-winning portrait photographer, began shooting photos of gay rodeo. Little’s black and white images captured candid scenes in and around rodeo arenas across the country.

Photograph of cowboy Jerry Hubbard taken in Burbank, California by Blake Little, 1989.
Box 9, Gregory Hinton papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Blake Little became so enamored with gay rodeo that he learned to ride steers and bulls, eventually being named the Bull Riding Champion of the Year in 1990 by the IGRA. Little continued to take photographs between competitions, in part to steady his nerves and distract himself from overthinking his next bull ride. His photos raised awareness and opened doors. Little remarked, “The gay rodeo pictures are of a community that tends to be in a more conservative environment because Western culture just tends to be more conservative. It’s a powerful thing for people in Western culture that are straight or have more conservative views to see these people as real, as essentially just like them.”

Eventually Little’s photos ended up on display in an “Out West” exhibition, which was conceived of in 2009 by author, playwright and filmmaker Gregory Hinton. The exhibition included art and memorabilia that highlighted the presence of the LGBTQ community in Western culture. Little’s photos were compiled into a book.

Cover of Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo, 2016.
Box 13, Gregory Hinton papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Today, IGRA events are held across the U.S. from Little Rock, Arkansas to San Diego, California and in Canada at the Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, near Calgary. The rodeo season ends with World Gay Rodeo Finals. Charitable giving continues to be a part of Gay Rodeo, with more recent rodeos donating to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and AIDS foundations.

Flyer for the World Gay Rodeo Finals, sponsored by the International Gay Rodeo Association, October 2013.
Box 1, Gregory Hinton papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

While the bulk of the International Gay Rodeo Association’s records are archived at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, you can learn more about gay rodeo, the “Out West” exhibition and the contributions of the LGBTQ community to the American West in the Gregory Hinton papers.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.

#alwaysarchiving

Posted in Agricultural history, LGBTQIA+, Out West in the Rockies, Sports and Recreation, Uncategorized, Western history | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Preserving History, One Negative at A Time

The American Heritage Center is home to nearly 90,000 cubic feet of historically significant collection material, representing centuries of cultural heritage within a wide range of subject matter. Whether it be a paper document, work of art, three-dimensional artifact, analog photograph, born digital media, or something else, collection material in any format presents unique challenges to archival preservation. Among the most troublesome of formats is nitrate film.

Cellulose nitrate-based films were produced from the late 19th century until 1952. Nitrate was the first flexible film base, developed to replace glass plate negatives, and was widely used for photographic film negatives, motion picture film reels, and medical X-rays. Though its invention marked a significant step in the evolution of photography, its risk quickly became apparent, as nitrate film is highly unstable and prone to combustion at as low as 104°F. Once ignited, nitrate film burns hot and fast, off-gassing oxygen and poisonous gases, fueling its own fire and making it extremely difficult to extinguish. Nitrate has even been known to explode or burn underwater. To address the risk of catastrophic fires in darkrooms, movie theaters, and hospitals as a direct result of nitrate film, cellulose acetate film was developed in the early 20th century and marketed as “Safety Film,” eventually replacing nitrate as a safer alternative.

Severely deteriorated nitrate film, photographed prior to deaccessioning in 2011. AHC photo.

Nitrate film can be kept safely in a cold storage vault, which protects the negatives from fire and significantly slows its deterioration. Over time, nitrate film will turn yellow and brittle, release harmful fumes of nitric acid, and the emulsion on the negative will decompose into a flammable powder, by which time the photographic content is lost forever. Acetate, or safety film, is not flammable like nitrate but does also deteriorate over time, so it is often kept in cold storage as well.

The first nitrate negative digitized with the AHC’s 100 MP camera: Lincoln County Wyo. Students at State Fish Hatchery. Undated, but circa 1919.
Ah04459_0002, Box 4, Roland W. Brown Papers, Collection No. 4459, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

One of the ongoing projects within the AHC’s Photographic Lab seeks to address these preservation issues. We start by pulling a box of negatives from the Cold Vault and appraise each negative individually, identifying its photographic content, condition, and level of deterioration. The next step of the project is to digitize each negative in order to preserve the historic content while allowing us to dispose of the original negatives as hazardous materials. Because our intention is to dispose of the originals, it is crucial that we digitize them to an extremely high quality. As recommended by federal archival guidelines, the AHC recently obtained a 100 MP digital camera which will allow us to digitize these film negatives in accordance with the highest current archival standard. This investment has significantly increased our ability to deal with the preservation issues previously outlined, with the additional benefit of making the photographs more accessible to our patrons.

To achieve preservation quality, the negative is carefully placed between a light table and a piece of specialized glass, then photographed in quadrants using an overhead camera stand. The images are stitched together and inverted in post-processing to create a positive master scan.

In the past two years, the AHC’s Photographic Lab has individually appraised 2,006 nitrate and acetate negatives across 12 collections. So far in 2021, we have digitized 393 of these negatives to preservation quality using the new camera. The subject matter of these negatives include University of Wyoming botany class field trips led by Dr. Aven Nelson in 1919, a Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo held approximately a century ago, landscapes and portraits taken in the Himalayan Region in the 1920s-1930s, the aftermath of the Holliday fire which destroyed several blocks of downtown Laramie in 1948, and various other scenes illustrating life in Laramie and the surrounding communities in the 1910s-1950s.

An original nitrate film negative is visually compared with its preservation-quality positive scan.

The issues surrounding nitrate and acetate film are quite vexing, but the American Heritage Center is committed to preserving our share of photographic history for generations to come. The recent advancements of our digitization capabilities are exciting, and we are looking forward to sharing more of these photographs as the project progresses.

Post contributed by AHC Archives Specialist Hanna Fox.

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Posted in 19th century, Archival preservation, behind the scenes, Photographic collections, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Year in a Pandemic: COVID-19 in Wyoming

Curious about what happened during COVID-19 in Wyoming? For over a year, the American Heritage Center has been gathering the stories of people living through the pandemic all across the state. We are very excited to show some of what we have so far with our new COVID-19 in Wyoming website: https://sites.google.com/wyo.gov/covidinwy/home.

The COVID-19 in Wyoming website is a joint project that brings together the many wonderful COVID-19-related donations cared for by the AHC, the Wyoming State Archives, and the Wyoming State Museum. Since March 2020, all three organizations put the call out to Wyoming residents to share their thoughts, observations, memories, creative pursuits, and experiences. The AHC’s COVID-19 Collection Project encouraged people to get creative, and there has been a tremendous response.

On the online platform you’ll see Governor Gordon’s press conferences, video messages from theatre studios, photos from downtown Laramie and Cheyenne, students’ reflections, and much more. There are stories of struggle, coping, and worry about what the future will hold. One University of Wyoming student said how hard it is visiting her grandma – “I’m just used to…sitting right next to her and giving her a hug when I leave, and that’s something I can’t do and that just breaks my heart.”

But there are also stories of hope and optimism. Many businesses in downtown Laramie had cut-out hearts on their storefronts with inspiring messages, like “in this together” and “#notmeus.” One UW student said, “it’s been pretty amazing to see gas under $2.00.”

Rostad Law storefront in Laramie with heart cut-outs.
American Heritage Center COVID-19 Collection Project, Collection No. 560006, ahcdm_560006_002, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

There are some of lighter moments, too. Richard Travsky took a photo of the famous T-Rex statue outside of the UW Geological Museum wearing a cloth mask.

T-Rex statue outside of the UW Geological Museum wearing a cloth mask.
American Heritage Center COVID-19 Collection Project, Collection No. 560006, ahcdm_560006_002, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

And there’s also a photo of the Ursus the bear sculpture wearing a mask at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens.

Ursus the bear sculpture at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens wearing a mask.
American Heritage Center COVID-19 Collection Project, Collection No. 560006, ahcdm_560006_002, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

These personal stories help shape our understanding of this dramatic and disruptive time. They provide glimpses and visuals into what people felt and what they observed, and give a depth to how we remember the past.

If you have a story to tell and want to get involved, visit our COVID-19 Collection Project website: https://www.uwyo.edu/ahc/covid-19-collecting.html. All donors can elect whether to remain anonymous and even to keep their contributions from being viewed for up to five years.

Help us make history! #COVIDWY #alwaysarchiving

Post contributed by AHC Digital Archivist Rachel Gattermeyer.

Posted in Collection donor, community collections, Current events, Pandemics, Uncategorized, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Connecting Wyoming at 41th Annual Wyoming History Day

Thirty-seven students across Wyoming will represent the state at the National History Day Competition this June.

The 41th Annual Wyoming History Day kicked off with its first ever fully virtual state competition on April 22. And on May 3, the American Heritage Center hosted its first fully virtual award show connecting 120 students across 97,818 square miles in a singular virtual space.

This year’s history day theme invited students to explore and experience communication in history.

Screenshot from 2021 WHD Virtual Award Show Recorded on May 3, 2021.

Wyoming History Day was able to award thousands of dollars in cash awards to students with the support of the American Heritage Center, the Wyoming State Historical Society, the Wyoming Humanities Council, Wyoming State Bar, the AHC’s Alan K. Simpson Institute, the UW Global Engagement Office the Wyoming Association of Professional Archaeologists, Wyoming Society of Archaeologist, the Cheyenne Frontier Days™ Old West Museum, the Hopkins Family, the Sommers Family, the Joseph Stepan’s family and Brigida Blasi.

Official 2021 Wyoming History Day Poster Created by Jessica Perry.

Additionally, AHC Paul Flesher announced that the AHC will support all students moving on that national competition with $100 in scholarship funds towards their entry fees for the national competition.

For more about Wyoming History Day 2021, including contest winners, see the History Day page at https://www.wyominghistoryday.org/

Post submitted by Wyoming History Day Coordinator Cameron Green.

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Posted in announcements, Current events, K-12 education, Uncategorized, Wyoming History Day | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Eat What You Want Day!

May 11 is “Eat What You Want Day.” What does that mean? Well, it means for one day you can forget your diet and, health permitting, treat yourself to a favorite food. Today, you can say “Yes-Yes” to that slice of cheesecake or that mile-high burger and say “No-No” to them tomorrow.

It’s important to note that it’s not intended as an eat-as-much-as-you-want-day. Rather, it’s to eat something you otherwise wouldn’t. Maybe you want to eat just a small amount of that treat. But make it a treat.

Personally, when I think of a treat, cake is the first thing that comes to mind. Thanks to the AHC’s Digital Collections database, there is no shortage of images. To whet the appetite of fellow cake lovers, I present a photo of the interior of Laramie’s beloved Home Bakery.

In this photograph of Laramie’s Home Bakery, a customer could not only treat themselves to a delicious cake, but choose from cookies, pies, and more! Photo taken in December 1924.
Box 6, Negative No. 11709.2A, Ludwig & Svenson Studio Photographs, Collection No. 167, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

This lovely and intricate cake was made in honor of an April 1928 wedding reception for photographer Hugo Janssen and his wife Jessie. Unsuspecting cake lovers may have been disappointed, however. The cake was made of wood by A. E. Longfellow, who managed American Telephone in Lovell, Wyoming.

Wooden model of wedding cake for Hugo and Jessie Janssen’s wedding reception in Lovell, Wyoming, April 1928.
Box 2, Folder 24, Hugh G. Janssen Photographs, Collection No. 11712, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

A cake on wheels? I don’t think I can run that fast. How did the driver see out the window? Members of the Theta Eta chapter of Delta Delta Delta “baked” the cake for the University of Wyoming’s Homecoming parade in 1936. The Tri Delta sorority has part of the UW community since 1913.

A mobile birthday cake sponsored by the Theta Eta chapter of Delta Delta Delta, Homecoming Parade in Laramie, November 5, 1936.
Box 119, Samuel H. Knight papers, Collection No. 400044, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Why should cake be limited to humans? That’s what Topper seems to be saying. Topper was the horse ridden by childhood hero Hopalong Cassidy, aka William S. Boyd, “the good guy in the black hat.” Topper remained Boyd’s favorite horse because he was a trustworthy not only with Boyd but also with children who would sometimes pull on his mane and other such things. Topper lived to a ripe old age of 26 years of age. Perhaps treating yourself to cake once in a while isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Fans loved Topper as much as they did Hopalong Cassidy, ca. 1950.  
Box 115, Folder 2, William Boyd papers, Collection No. 8038, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Deep Thought for the Day: “My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four, unless there are three other people. ” — Oscar Wilde

Post contributed by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.

#alwaysarchiving

Posted in Animal actors, community collections, Current events, Digital collections, Local history, Motion picture actors and actresses, Photographic collections, Uncategorized, University of Wyoming history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Hair-Raising Ascent – Free Soloing the Grand Teton

Today’s mountain climbers would call it free soloing, but in August 1923 it was simply three college students who were short on equipment. Brashly, they believed they could summit the Grand Teton.

David DeLap had taken up mountain climbing on a whim while a student at the University of Montana in Missoula. It was there that he met more experienced climbers Quin Blackburn and Andy DePirro. The trio set out in a Ford Model T with failing brakes they had purchased for seventy-five dollars. The goal: Climb to the top of the Grand Teton.

Photograph of Andy DePirro and Quin Blackburn as they begin their road trip to Yellowstone, August 18, 1923. Box 1, David F. DeLap papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Blackburn had procured an outdated topographical map from the geology department at the university but had no other knowledge of the mountain. They only allotted one day to make the climb, and when they arrived at the base of the mountain, they were equipped with small day packs containing chocolate bars, raisins and bacon sandwiches. DeLap’s climbing shoes were football cleats that had been retrofitted with three quarter inch steel spikes. Blackburn carried a geologist’s hammer which was to serve as an ice axe. None of the climbers carried a rope.

Photograph of the top section of the Grand Teton taken by W.O. Owen, showing the Grand Teton from a point about 1/2 a mile East of the base of the peak proper. In this view you are looking right across the glacier on the North East side of the peak. The view is taken just at above timberline at about 10,000 feet, July 1923.
Box 1, David F. Delap papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Not long after heading up Bradley Canyon they got drenched by a rainstorm. Soaking wet, they traversed a glacier and then they came across an area of rockslide. They built stone cairns to mark the route of their climb. The group found ledges and crevices and eased themselves along, sometimes crawling across the mountainside.

Photograph Andy DePirro & David DeLap climbing above the glacier toward the saddle between Middle Teton and Grand Teton, August 25, 1923.
Box 1, David F. DeLap papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 

Soon they came to a boulder eight feet above them. Below them was a canyon more than a thousand feet deep. A slip up would be a disaster. By then, it had begun to snow, and a cold wind was blowing. Blackburn climbed up on the shoulders of DeLap and DePirro, then DeLap boosted DePirro up. Soon DeLap was standing alone on the ledge, with no obvious way up. Improvising, DePirro was persuaded to take off his trousers and lower them down to DeLap as a makeshift rope.

Eventually the group came to a chimney coated in ice. Blackburn, using his geologist’s hammer, chopped footholds going 50 feet up. The three men clambered over each other in a human chain, only to discover another chimney to ascend. They repeated their human chain climbing technique, known in mountaineering circles as a three-man courte-échelle.

At last, they had reached the top, at 13,747 feet. To their surprise there was a large cairn of rocks with a metal banner imprinted with words “The Rocky Mountain Club.” Embedded in the ice at the top of the cairn was a cannister, left there in 1898, with the names of the original party which had ascended the Grand Teton. DeLap, DePirro and Blackburn marveled that they were the first party to summit the mountain in twenty-five years. They took photos at the summit using a Kodak Brownie camera.

Photograph of David DeLap and Andy DePirro at the summit of the Grand Teton, August 25, 1923.
Box 1, David F. DeLap papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

DeLap took a blank check from his pack, noted their three names, the date and time and added it to the cannister in the rock cairn. By then it was 6:30pm and the group realized they would have to make their descent in darkness.

Climbing down two ice chimneys and from boulders to narrow ledges was even more hazardous than the ascent, but there was no other way down. Once again, they clambered over each other’s bodies. Thankful for glimpses of moonlight between the clouds and for the rock cairns they had built along the trail, the trio make their way back across the rockslide and the glacier until they reached the tree line. Exhausted, lacking sleeping bags or tents, they built a fire and huddled around it, eventually falling asleep.

DeLap, in reflecting on his experiences during the climb, remarked “there isn’t enough money in the world to take the risk of climbing back up there again.”

You can listen to David DeLap reminisce about his hair-raising 1923 climb of the Grand Teton in the digital collection of the David F. DeLap papers at UW’s American Heritage Center.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington

#alwaysarchiving

Posted in Digital collections, Grand Tetons, Mountaineering, Uncategorized, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Groundbreaking Character Actor Richard Loo

To celebrate May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the AHC would like to feature the life and career of Chinese American actor Richard Loo.

Loo was born in Maui, Hawaii, in 1903. As a young man he moved to the mainland to continue his education, studying foreign trade at the University of California at Berkeley. Upon graduation, he pursued a career in an import-export business, but his company met hard times and failed during the Great Depression.

Loo turned his attentions to the stage, with his first acting job at a small theatre in San Francisco. His role was as a Chinese-speaking rickshaw driver, but he knew no Chinese. He overcame this obstacle by memorizing a Chinese menu, shouting out the names of Chinese dishes in his scene.

Loo’s first speaking role on film was as a farmer in The Good Earth. The movie was an adaptation of Pearl Buck’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel by the same name. The 1937 drama followed the lives of Chinese farmers struggling to survive.

Photograph of Richard Loo on the set of The Good Earth, 1937.
Box 6, Richard Loo papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

During and after World War II, Loo made a name for himself playing Japanese villains in film. His next major success came in the movie The Purple Heart, where he was cast as Japanese General Matsubi, a part for which he had to shave his head. It was a significant role for Loo and at the time, considered a breakthrough in casting an Asian for an Asian role. Often, white actors were made up in yellowface to appear Asian, taking on Asian character roles.

The Purple Heart was part of a series of wartime propaganda films that portrayed the Japanese in stereotypical fashion. It was loosely based on the capture, trial and execution of eight U.S. airmen by the Japanese during World War II. The movie was released in 1944 and was controversial for the degree to which the storyline followed the harsh interrogation and torture techniques employed by the Japanese. The U.S. government feared retaliation by the Japanese military over the content of the film.

Photograph of Richard Loo as Japanese General Matsubi and his American prisoners of war from the film The Purple Heart, taken from the Hollywood Citizen News, February 25, 1944.
Box 6, Richard Loo papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Following the war, Loo had so many requests to play the role of a Japanese villain that he had to turn down parts. His daughter, Beverly Loo, recounted that her father “was known as the man who died to make a living. He was always stabbing himself or committing hara-kiri or kamikaze”. Despite his typecast roles, Loo took a patriotic pride in his performances in his many war-themed films.

From the 1940s through the 1970s, he appeared in more than 200 movies and added television performances to his repertoire. If an Asian character was called for, Loo was usually the one the producers phoned. In the 1968 comedy western TV series Here Come the Brides he was cast alongside a young Bruce Lee. Loo took the role of the aged patriarch, Chi Pei, of the Chinese Green Lantern Society.


A page from the script of the televised series Here Come the Brides, November 12, 1968.
Richard Loo played the Chinese character Chi.
Box 1, Richard Loo papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
 

Loo’s last film was The Man with the Golden Gun, a 1974 James Bond movie. He played the role of a Thai capitalist, Hai-Fat, who bankrolled the villain, Francisco Scaramanga. Like many films, it was shot abroad. Loo’s work as an actor took him around the world, from Los Angeles, to London and Bangkok. Loo remarked “I have learned the value of travel… have learned to know and understand people living in other parts of the world. No other profession could provide the same wide experiences.”

Following his death in 1983, Loo’s papers were donated to the American Heritage Center. You can visit the AHC and pour through hundreds of film and television scripts where you can learn more about the many characters played by Richard Loo.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.

#alwaysarchiving

Posted in American Perspectives on Asia, Asian American history, Current events, Motion picture actors and actresses, motion picture history, Pacific Islander history, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Margaret Bryan: A Scientist Ahead of Her Time

April 23rd, World Book Day, is an ideal opportunity to showcase one of the AHC Toppan Rare Book Library’s books. Lectures on Natural Philosophy by Margaret Bryan is but one sample of the many rare books the AHC has to offer. Published in 1806, it is an unusual treatise on a subject that few women at the time pursued – science. The book itself is handsome, with gold tooled binding and marbled edges. It features a frontispiece portrait of Bryan.

Portrait of Margaret Bryan from Lectures on Natural Philosophy.
American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The year of Bryan’s birth is unknown, but likely to have been before 1760. In addition to being a published author of scientific literature, she also ran a school for young ladies at Blackheath, a village south-east of London. Bryan began her publication with an open letter to her pupils, which included her own two daughters, entreating them to apply the lessons towards bettering themselves. She dedicated the book to “Her Royal Highness, The Princess Charlotte of Wales.” In 1806, the date of publication, Princess Charlotte was ten years old, granddaughter of the King and third in the line of succession to the throne in the United Kingdom.

Introductory page and dedication to The Princess Charlotte of Wales, from Lectures on Natural Philosophy.
American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The book itself is a compendium of thirteen lectures based on eight years of study and seven years of practical experience as a scientist, in an era in which it was remarkable for a woman to pursue scientific interests. The lectures had been previously distributed singly to subscribers – lords, ladies, dukes and bishops as well as university professors and booksellers. Lectures on Natural Philosophy was intended to instruct pupils and interested readers in the fundamentals of physics alongside a brief study of astronomy. The lectures are supplemented with questions and exercises designed to test her students’ knowledge of geography and astronomy.

Bryan’s first chapter addresses gravity and the contributions to science of Newton and Galileo. It moves on to the study of fire, the science behind the mercury thermometer and evaporation as a key to understanding the function of the steam engine. Bryan believed that science was intertwined with religion and that God had granted humans with the intellect needed to study and appreciate science. Her discussion of mechanics reads like a modern-day Physics book, with examples of pulleys, levers, screws and springs. She segues seamlessly into a study of man as a machine and the human physiology that makes breathing possible.

Bryan illustrated her lectures with experiments and diagrams, explaining the function of pneumatics and the mechanics of an air rifle, an unusual topic of study for young women. She summarized the physics behind both the hot air balloon and the diving bell.

Illustration of various experiments including the diving bell, from Lectures on Natural Philosophy.
American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

At the time, the scientific study of electricity was in its infancy, so Bryan outlined the two competing theories of the day. One of the two theories was Benjamin Franklin’s. Bryan’s book outlines more than forty experiments that her pupils could perform to illustrate the merits of both theories of electricity. She did caution them, though, not to repeat Franklin’s famous kite, key and lightning experiment, as the electricity in the atmosphere was known to be so powerful “as to destroy animal existence.”

Bryan concluded her book with a fifteen-page glossary of terms, including the forward-thinking aeronaut, defined as “a person sailing through the air” and corpuscles, described as “small bodies or atoms.”

Learn more about the remarkable Margaret Bryan and scientific understanding at the beginning of the 19th century by viewing Lectures on Natural Philosophy in the American Heritage Center’s Toppan Rare Book Library.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.

#alwaysarchiving

Posted in Authors and literature, Science, Uncategorized, women's history | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment