Is Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday or the Last Thursday of November?

A Random Thanksgiving Fact:

This year Thanksgiving Thursday falls on November 23, 2017, but did you know that Thanksgiving wasn’t always the fourth Thursday of November? Occasionally November has five Thursdays. This year is one such year.

Another November with five Thursdays happened in 1876. Wyoming was still a territory. Secretary of the Territory George W. French, who was serving as acting governor at the time, issued a proclamation in accordance with President Ulysses S. Grant to designate Thursday, the 30th day of November, 1876 as a day of Thanksgiving.

A document from 1876 declaring that Thursday, November 30, 1876 would be Thanksgiving. The proclamation was issued by acting territorial governor George W. French. The proclamation states that President Ulysses S. Grant had declared the day to be Thanksgiving and goes on to state that the people of Wyoming have many reasons to be thankful for.

1876 proclamation issued by acting territorial governor, George W. French, declaring Thursday, November 30, 1876 Thanksgiving. From the AHC subject file: Proclamations.

In 1923 there were five Thursdays yet again and Thanksgiving fell on November 29th.  President Calvin Coolidge issued a proclamation for the holiday.

Newspaper clipping from November 7, 1923 that reports on President Coolidge's Thanksgiving Proclamation. The Proclamation discussed the death of President Harding and a Japanese earthquake as difficulties the nation faced in 1923. The Proclamation then outlined reasons for the U.S. to be thankful including material prosperity and the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving. The Proclamation also designated Thursday, November 29, 1923 as Thanksgiving for that year.

Newspaper article reporting on President Coolidge’s 1923 Thanksgiving Proclamation that designated November 23, 1923 as Thanksgiving and outlined some of the reasons for the U.S. to be thankful that year. Clipping is from an unidentified newspaper; from the AHC subject file: Proclamations.

as did Wyoming’s governor William B. Ross.

Newspaper article that contains the text of Wyoming Governor William B. Ross's 1923 Thanksgiving Proclamation. Ross mentioned tragedies at the Frontier Mine and a railroad wreck near Casper as tragedies from the past year. He then outlined reasons why the people of Wyoming should be thankful. Ross affirmed that President Coolidge had designated Thursday, November 29, 1923 to be Thanksgiving and encouraged the people of Wyoming to take the day off to celebrate. Ross signed the proclamation on November 14, 1923.

Newspaper article that contains the text of Wyoming Governor William B. Ross’s 1923 Thanksgiving Proclamation. Ross affirmed that November 29, 1923 was declared to be Thanksgiving by President Coolidge and encouraged the people of Wyoming to take the day off to be thankful. From an unidentified newspaper; from the AHC subject file: Proclamations.

Which is it? The fourth Thursday or the last Thursday? It wasn’t until 1941 when Congress passed a law ensuring that all Americans would celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

-Meghan Monahan, Accountant

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Terror in the Theater – Fifties Fears

Science fiction films of the 1950s commonly expressed several themes: fear of technology leading to unintended consequences; invasion of the planet by aliens; and the effects of atomic radiation. Because science fiction movies were not constrained by reality, more imaginative outcomes and plot lines could be addressed in creative ways.

Forbidden Planet, one of the best science fiction films of the Fifties, illustrates that if the advanced race, the “Krel,” could not control their technology, what hope did humans have of controlling theirs.


In 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, Captain Nemo, hoping to abolish war among the world’s nations, realizes the world is not ready for his advanced technology, which he then destroys by what appears to be an atomic blast.

20000 leagues

The fear of the effects of radioactivity was a common science fiction movie theme during the Fifties. Strangely, the effects of exposure to radiation often did not include becoming radioactive, but might lead to the shrinking or enlarging of humans or the creation of monsters dangerous to human life.

The main character in The Incredible Shrinking Man is exposed to a radioactive cloud, which causes him to shrink.  The movie can be interpreted as an example of the paranoia of the Cold War era, as familiar surroundings, such as his wife, the neighbors, and the pet cat, become threatening to his existence.

Shrinking man

Lesser imitations of The Incredible Shrinking Man followed, such as The Amazing Colossal Man, which, instead of shrinking after being exposed to radiation, the main character grows to an immense size.  Unable to cope with his new reality, he goes on a destructive rampage which leads to his own destruction.

Colossal man

Godzilla, one of the more popular movie monsters, is awakened by an atomic explosion and then attacks Japan.


One of the most well-known science fiction films of the Fifties is Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  A story about an alien invasion, the movie is often seen as a commentary about the threat of Communism.  The pod people, which replace the humans of the movie, are emotionless with little ambition or desire, attributes Americans associated with Communists during the Cold War.  The film ends with the main character shouting: “Look you fools.  You’re in danger.  Can’t you see?  They’re after you.  They’re after all of us.  Our wives, our children, everyone.  They’re here already.  You’re next!”

Body Snatchers

The posters seen in this post are from the papers of Forrest Ackerman (1916-2008), a collector, editor, and writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. His collection at the AHC is full of memorabilia from many movies in this genre from the silent era through the late 1980s.


Forrest Ackerman, ca. 1955

Also called “Forry,” and “The Ackermonster,” Ackerman was central to the formation, organization, and spread of science fiction fandom, and a key figure in the wider cultural perception of science fiction as a literary, art and film genre. He’s also famous coining the nickname “sci-fi”. Now you can quiz your friends and family about who coined that famous phrase!

Posted in Cold War, Fantasy, Horror, motion picture history, Politics, science fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Commemorating UW Veterans

Being a land-grant university, the University of Wyoming is no stranger to military service. Currently home to the Army ROTC Cowboy Battalion and the Air Force ROTC 940th Cadet Wing, military service at UW stretches back to the university’s early days including a School of Military Science and Tactics established in 1891 and the establishment of ROTC on campus in 1916.

As early as the Spanish-American War, students from UW served their country in war. With the onset of both World War I and World War II, military training that occurred on campus changed to deal with the necessities of war time. The campus reflected this change as more of those that walked campus made their way overseas.

UW, proud of the men and women that represented the brown and gold, recognized those that had served their country through pamphlets released on campus.

543001 Box 3 Folder 4-page-001

Dedication to UW’s World War I military personnel by UW President Aven Nelson, University of Wyoming Department of Military Science Records, Accession #543001, Box 3, Folder 4, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

The pamphlets created for both World Wars included brief histories of the conflicts.

300002 Box 27 Folder 10.1-page-001

Pages from a UW pamphlet regarding American entry into World War II and subsequent UW reaction, University of Wyoming War Activities Council Records, Accession #300002, Box 27, Folder 10.1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

300002 Box 27 Folder 10.2-page-001

Pages from a UW pamphlet regarding American entry into World War II and subsequent UW reaction, University of Wyoming War Activities Council Records, Accession #300002, Box 27, Folder 10.2, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

The pamphlets also included a listing of every student, professors, and alum that had served in any capacity with special recognition for those that paid the ultimate price.

300002 Box 27 Folder 10.3-page-001

List of UW students and personnel who died in World War II, University of Wyoming War Activities Council Records, Accession #300002, Box 27, Folder 10.3, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

While these pamphlets serve as reminders of those that served their country with ties to UW, on Veteran’s Day we celebrate those from across the country that have donned the uniform in the name of the United States Armed Forces.

– Submitted by Katey Myers, American Heritage Center employee in the Accessioning and Reference Units

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Crow Indian Photographer Richard Throssel

There are many images of Native Americans in modern photographic archives, but very few that have been taken by photographers who were themselves Native Americans. Richard Throssel (1882-1933) is one of those few American Indian photographers.


Richard Throssel, ca. 1915. 

He distinguished himself among the many photographers and artists who came to the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana in the early 1900s by identifying himself as a photographer who was Indian.

Throssel, a Native American of French Canadian and Cree Indian descent, lived on the Crow Reservation from 1902 to 1911 where he worked in progressive roles as a clerk for
the Indian Services and as a field photographer for the reservation assigned to take
documentary photographs of the Crows in a campaign against tuberculosis.


An Indian without a tribal homeland, Throssel was adopted by the Crow people in 1906 and given the name Ashua Eshquon Dupaz or “Kills Inside the Lodge (or Camp).” This name commemorated an event in the life of the man who named him.

Because Throssel was an accepted member of the Crow community, he was able to depict the Crow and nearby Northern Cheyenne from the perspective of a near insider.


Throssel’s images are distinctly different from those of contemporary Anglo photographers. He captured his images of Indian life in a seemingly unobtrusive way in the midst of private, religious, and secular events.



Throssel was one of the earliest North American Indians to use a camera to document his local community. Most of his photographs depict the Crow as they were trying to make the adjustment to reservation life.


Throssel left the Crow reservation in 1911 to open his own photographic studio in  Billings, Montana. The foundation of his business was his personal collection of nearly one thousand photographs built during this time on the Crow reservation. His collection was largely documentary in nature, recording day-to-day and cultural life of the Crows in casual snapshots and formal and informal portraits.


Wolf – Crow, ca. 1915

However, Throssel also created dramatic, nostalgic images of Indian life. He called these images the “Western Classics” and promoted them to a mostly non-Indian audience. Edward Sheriff Curtis, who visited the Crow reservation several times as he prepared his monumental work, The North American Indian, influenced Throssel’ss sentimental portrayal of Indian life.


The Richard Throssel Collection at the AHC contain materials relating to Throssel’s photographic work with the Crow and Northern Cheyenne from 1902 to 1933. The collection contains nearly 2,500 photographs, glass plate negatives, and lantern slides of daily life, ceremonies, portraits, and village scenes. Also included are images of what is now the Little Bighorn National Monument, daily life in Billings, Throssel and his family, and ranching and scenic views of southern Montana and northern Wyoming.


Posted in American Indian history, Crow Indians, Northern Cheyenne Tribe of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Montana, Throssel, Richard, Western history | Leave a comment

Nellie Tayloe Ross: The (First) Governor Lady

On Nov 4, 1924, Nellie Tayloe Ross was elected governor of Wyoming, and became the first woman governor in the United States. Ross was elected a month after her husband, Governor William B. Ross, died suddenly of appendicitis.

On the day of her husband’s burial, the chairman of the state Democratic Committee asked a delicate question: Would Mrs. Ross consider running for governor herself? The election was a month away. Her supporters thought it was fitting that the first state to allow equal voting rights (Wyoming passed women’s suffrage in 1869) would also be the first to have a woman governor.

Over the next few days, as she and her brother George Tayloe went around and around on the question of whether she should run, he came to know his sister better. She was shocked and sorrowful over her husband’s sudden death, but she was also ambitious. “No one ever wanted it more,” George wrote to his wife. If she did run, she understood that ambition was a quality she would have to disguise. It just wasn’t seemly for a woman to look ambitious.

Nellie Tayloe Ross was a southern woman and, as an archetypal southern woman, she was gracious, funny and strongly loyal to her family and friends. She was also very intelligent. She came from Missouri, the border South, a complicated place for people like her who were born not long after the Civil War. Nellie came out of that place and time a complicated woman.

Nellie Tayloe Ross in Cheyenne home.jpg

Nellie Tayloe Ross in her home in Cheyenne, ca. 1910. Nellie Tayloe Ross Papers, American Heritage Center

Her opponent in the election, Republican candidate Eugene J. Sullivan, a Casper lawyer, campaigned hard. Nellie, still deep in grief, did not. Her campaign was conducted by her backers who spoke widely and took out ads on her behalf. Despite her backseat approach to campaigning, she won the election. Ross was inaugurated on Jan. 5, 1925 as the first woman governor by only a few days—Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, who had also been a state First Lady, was sworn in as governor of Texas just over two weeks after Ross took office.

Eleven days later after inauguration, now Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross appeared before the Legislature to review the progress of her late husband. The New York Times ran the headline, “Mrs. Ross Wears Hat Before Legislature,” and noted that she “defied precedent” by “wearing hat and gloves.” Other contemporary media accounts noted that she had “not lost her womanliness” and remained “ever feminine, never a feminist,” as noted in her Times obituary when she died in 1977. “Really, I dropped accidentally into politics,” she told the Times in 1926, saying she preferred taking a stroll along the boardwalk to discussing rumors of a 1928 bid for the Vice Presidency (which never materialized).

Ross as governor 1924-1926

Nellie Tayloe Ross during her tenure as Wyoming governor, 1924-1926. Nellie Tayloe Ross Papers, American Heritage Center

More than ninety years later, women politicians are still struggling with the balance of femaleness, ambition and power. As much as we may want to think we’re past caring how female politicians look, the 2016 election in which presidential candidate Donald Trump commented at the first debate that Hillary Clinton “…doesn’t have the look [to be president]” is an indication that looks are still a weapon to be wielded by the opposition. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) commented at the Real Simple/TIME Women & Success Panel in 2014, “When [a woman]’s appearance is commented on publicly during a campaign, it undermines her; it actually hurts her. And it doesn’t matter if the comment is positive or negative. It undermines her credibility.”


Ross also had to dispel the idea that she would use her power to rid the Wyoming government of men, and create an all-woman government (a 1925 man’s worst nightmare). Here’s what Time magazine reported in 1925 that she told the Associated Press when asked about her view of women in politics:

“It is most amusing and amazing to me, for example, to be asked, as I was soon after my election, whether I expected to appoint any men to office? This question, telegraphed to me from the East by a well-known metropolitan newspaper, had every indication of being quite sincere, and was apparently inspired by the fear that the elevation of women to executive office was likely to be followed by the dismissal of all men and the substitution of women in their places.”

Despite Nellie’s election as the first woman governor in the nation, at least one Wyoming woman of her time criticized Ross for not going far enough. In the papers of suffragette Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard of the University of Wyoming faculty there is a letter to national women’s suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt declaring that the “outstanding reason” Nellie was defeated “was due to the advisors that Governor Ross selected, all men.”

But woman’s rights in the political arena were not Nellie Ross’ main concern. According to a article about Ross by Tom Rea, “She cared about her family, but she also cared deeply about getting things done in the public sphere. She followed her ambition, saw her opportunities, took up the power available to her, and used it.”

Nellie Tayloe Ross’s papers, including correspondence, news clippings, and photographs are at the American Heritage Center. Much of the material has been scanned and is available for browsing as part of the AHC’s online digital collection.

Credit is given to Tom Rea’s article “The Ambition of Nellie Tayloe Ross” on and Time magazine article (Nov. 4, 2014), “What We Can Learn From Nellie Tayloe Ross, America’s First Female Governor” for supplying text for this post.

Posted in Politics, Ross, Nellie Tayloe, western politics and leadersip, women's history, Wyoming history | Leave a comment

Jean Howard, Photographer for the Glamorous Hollywood Set

Jean Howard parlayed her extraordinary beauty, ethereal glamour and light-hearted intelligence to become a Ziegfeld girl, a Hollywood starlet, a legendary hostess and the “house photographer” of the film colony.

Her circle included Tyrone Power, Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Cole Porter and Marilyn Monroe. They mingled at Howard’s Spanish-style home on Coldwater Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills; she and her first husband, Charles K. Feldman, who used his success as the first super-agent to become a producer, bought it for $18,000 in 1942.

Everywhere, Howard snapped pictures. One shows Marlene Dietrich almost touching heads with Ann Warner, wife of Jack Warner, as they intensely discussed never-to-be known secrets over a smoky table at the Trocadero nightclub in Los Angeles.

Marlene Dietrich and Ann Boyer Warner

Marlene Dietrich and Ann Boyer Warner, 1940s. Jean Howard Papers, American Heritage Center

Another is a scene from a 1950s garden party at the home of Clifton Webb. Humphrey Bogart is sitting in Webb’s lap chatting with an inscrutable Laurence Olivier.

Humphrey Bogart, Clifton Webb, Laurence Olivier at Webb's garden party, ca. 1950

Humphrey Bogart, Clifton Webb and Laurence Olivier at Webb’s home, 1950s. Jean Howard Papers, American Heritage Center

Still another shows James Dean as he was about to begin filming for East of Eden. It was Dean’s first major screen role and the actor is seen here on the verge of stardom. This photo and others of Dean were shot in Howard’s backyard.


James Dean, 1954. Jean Howard Papers, American Heritage Center

Jean Howard was born Ernestine Hill in Longview, Texas, and grew up in Dallas. Her father took her to Hollywood one summer in the late 1920s, as a coverup while he was on a two-week spree with a girlfriend behind her stepmother’s back. She later returned to Hollywood and, in 1930, landed a contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer as a chorus girl in Eddie Cantor’s Broadway hit, Whoopee. She also caught the eye of Louis B. Mayer who proposed marriage, promising to divorce his wife. In 1934, when she instead became engaged to Charles Feldman, Mayer threatened to torpedo Feldman’s career, although the threat never materialized. While Feldman and Howard later divorced in 1948, the two remained close friends and even continued to share a home.

Jean Howard with Cole Porter (right of Howard) and Howard Sturges in Athens, 1955

Jean Howard with Cole Porter (right of Jean Howard) and Howard Sturges, Athens, 1955. Jean Howard Papers, American Heritage Center

Howard got serious about photography in the 1940s by studying the art and then began to receive assignments from magazines like Life and Vogue. Her photographic work coalesced into a picture book published in 1989 titled Jean Howard’s Hollywood: A Photo Memoir.

Many of her original photographs were stored in shoe boxes until being willed to the American Heritage Center upon Howard’s death in 2000. It is almost accidental that her photographs and other papers were received by the AHC. Originally AHC Director Gene Gressley wrote to Howard in 1980 asking for Charles Feldman’s papers. After finding that Feldman’s papers had already been donated to the American Film Institute, Gressley casually mentioned an interest in her materials, not realizing the treasure trove that would come to the AHC twenty years later.

Jean Howard’s collection consists of biographical materials regarding Howard and Feldman, correspondence, and subject files about her books, but mostly her celebrated photographs and their negatives. Howard’s personal photographs and negatives are also included.




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Halloween with Edith K.O. Clark

Edith K. O. Clark, who served as Wyoming’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction beginning in 1915, not only had a long career in the field of education, she also homesteaded in the state, operated a tea house in Cheyenne, and volunteered for canteen service in Europe with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) at the end of World War I. Clark’s diary of 1918-1919 includes memorabilia from her service with the YMCA.

She was a diarist for most of her life, and documented many aspects of her day-to-day life, national events, weather, and holidays in her daily diary.


Diary page from October 31, 1908. Note Clark’s sketches of Halloween pumpkins. Edith K.O. Clark diaries, 1904-1936, UW American Heritage Center

Edith Clark not only used sketches, but also paper cuttings of black cats and witches and newspaper notices to document her Halloween adventures, as seen below in diaries from 1910, 1911, and 1920.

She often included place cards from dinner parties, newspaper articles about social events, dried flowers, and ephemera such as American flags, and sometimes her own sketches. Her friend, the artist Bill Gollings, even made some sketches in one of her diaries.

Clark was also a photographer and many of her own photos are included in her diaries, too.

Edith K.O. Clark’s diaries dating from 1906 to 1924, 1931, and 1934 to 1936 are part of the holdings of the American Heritage Center. Her collection also includes a notebook, autograph album, and some biographical material.

How will you record your own Hallow’s Eve this year?

– Submitted by Ginny Kilander, AHC Archivist and Reference Department Supervisor

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