Kato and U.S.- Asian Relations

This is Kato, as played by Chinese American actor and martial arts expert Bruce Lee in the 1966-67 television series, The Green Hornet. The series featured the adventures of Britt Reid—rich newspaper publisher by the day, masked crime-fighter by night—assisted by Kato, his valet and driver.

Lego Kato on the first page of Alexander Russo’s article appearing in Radio Reader: Essays in the Cultural History of Radio (2002).

It was Lee’s introduction to American audiences, though he had been a child actor in the Hong Kong film industry. Lee declined the “sloppy punching” that the script called for; Lee used his martial arts training instead. The results were electric. As noted in a 2020 AHC blog post regarding The Green Hornet, “Younger viewers were astonished by what they saw. Bruce Lee’s Kato became the series’ real star, and he was soon making personal appearances across the country.”

Van Williams played the Green Hornet/Britt Reid and Bruce Lee played Kato. The Green Hornet television series ran from 1966 to 1967 and was produced and narrated by William Dozier.
Box 18, William Dozier papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Kato was, in fact, Filipino. At least for a few years.

The Green Hornet began as a radio program in 1936, made into two movies in the 1940s, and would run on and off until around 1952. “The Adventures of the Green Hornet” is a story complete, each broadcast depicting the life of a young newspaper publisher who is devoting his life to the breaking up of ‘rackets’ and underworld doings,” a 1936 press release said. It was patterned after The Lone Ranger, which had also been produced by the same station in Detroit, according to Catholic University media studies professor Alexander Russo. “The two programs shared a basic template,” Russo wrote, “a courageous white hero, a faithful sidekick of a different race, a classical music theme in the public domain to avoid royalty payments, and a deeply corrupt setting.”

Kato was first introduced as Japanese. “The Green Hornet (Britt Reid) is assisted by his faithful Japanese valet, Kato,” the Battle Creek Enquirer in Michigan announced in 1936. Echoing popular stereotypes of “Japanese loyalty and industriousness”, Russo said, Kato’s Japanese identity was vital to his role as valet. A few years later, however, there were references to Kato’s Filipino ancestry. “In my native Philippines, we have a saying, ‘It is easier to drown in a little wave than a big one,” Kato said in a June 1941 episode (as quoted by Russo). “Ably assisted by his Filipino servant, Kato, the Green Hornet fares forth again tonight to wreak more havoc among denizens of the underworld,” the Capital Times wrote in 1942. “Only Kato, his Filipino valet, knows [Reid] in his after-dark role,” the Shreveport Times wrote in 1947. Oddly, Kato was also, at least for a time, Korean. “Reid’s accomplice on his midnight forays is his Korean valet and chauffeur, Kato, the only person who knows his dual life,” the Pensacola News Journal wrote in 1939.

Reid/The Green Hornet might have had a dual life; Kato had several ethnic identities.

The radio series originated on January 31, 1936, on WXYZ in Detroit. Kato is referred to using a term that came to reflect anti-Japanese sentiment, especially after the Pearl Harbor Attack.
Image: Green Hornet Wiki

What might explain Kato’s switch in ethnicity? One version claims that this happened during the Second World War, as Japan became a US enemy. “In the early days of radio Kato was identified as a Japanese but during the war he suddenly shifted nationalities and emerged as a Filipino,” according to the Rapid City Journal. Some thought it happened immediately after Pearl Harbor, in December 1941 (“quickest change of nationality in the history of broadcasting,” George McEvoy said, writing for The Palm Beach Post).

But the dates of the articles cited above indicate that the shift took place much earlier, though the reasons were largely the same. Russo suggests that deteriorating public opinion of Japan beginning in the late 1930s might have prompted the change. In particular, the Japanese attack on China in 1937—84 years ago last July—and the atrocities that followed were condemned widely. Popular support for China soared in the US as support for Japan crashed. But because Kato’s Asian identity was essential to the program, this created a problem for the show’s producers. Filipino Kato was the solution (and, it seems, at least briefly, Korean Kato). “The Green Hornet was able to use a reconfigured Orientalism to respond to the military threat posed by Japan and internal fears about distinguishing ally from enemy,” Russo wrote.

Chinese-born actor Keye Luke played Kato in the 1939–1941 Green Hornet film serials.
Luke was also a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild.
Image: University Studios.

More than a pop culture icon then, Kato has arguably been a barometer for US-Asian relations and popular American attitudes towards Asia, including stereotypes and prejudice.

(Interestingly, Kato was played by a relatively unknown Hong Kong Chinese American actor in 1966 and Lee’s films in the 1970s were not seen in mainland China until much later. “Films like Enter the Dragon and Fists of Fury were banned by Mao as spiritual pollution and rightist sentimentality,” according to Clifford Coonan in the Irish Times. In contrast, in the recent 2011 film remake of The Green Hornet, at a time when Japan is a strong US ally, Kato was played by Jay Chou, a Taiwanese singer who has sold some 30 million records, according to his Wikipedia page, and is popular in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. “The Green Hornet represents the intersection of race, citizenship, and the public sphere,” Russo wrote. To this we might now add—global commerce. But we leave this for another post.)

In 1966, Lee was asked about Kato’s ethnic identity. “Speaking for myself, I am Chinese,” he answered, according to The New York Times. “Would some knowing Oriental protest since Kato was after all a Japanese name?”


“I am a karate expert, black belt class,” Lee said. “Anyone object, I put them on their back.”

To learn more about The Green Hornet television series, see the William Dozier papers at University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center.


Plot twist(s):

(1) A Filipino American supposedly introduced Bruce Lee to nunchucks (shown in the first photo). https://iexaminer.org/uncovering-bruce-lees-public-school-years/

(2) Bruce Lee has become, in a sense, an Asian American–not just Chinese American–role model (“He was an ethnically Asian male role model in a Western society where so few existed, before or since,” Kevin Wong recently wrote.)

And though, as Russo explained, a “universal Oriental” wasn’t a solution to The Green Hornet producers’ Asian dilemma in the late 1930s, one might argue that what eventually became Bruce Lee in popular imagination might be close–though so much more independent and defiant than the producers ever imagined, upstaging even The Green Hornet himself, the white hero.

Reflections for another post.


Post contributed by Erwin R. Tiongson, co-founder of The Philippines on the Potomac Project (POPDC) (https://popdc.wordpress.com/). The text for this post originally appeared on POPDC’s Facebook page. It is included in AHC’s Discover History blog with permission.


Clifford Coonan, 2008, “New generation of kung fu crazy Chinese discovering Bruce Lee,” The Irish Times, October 16. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/new-generation-of-kung-fu-crazy-chinese-discovering-bruce-lee-1.896517

Alexander Russo, 2002, “A Dark(ened) Figure on the Airwaves: Race, Nation, and the Green Hornet,” in Michele Hilmes and Jason Loviglio, eds., Radio Reader: Essays in the Cultural History of Radio (New York: Routledge), pp. 257-276.

Various newspaper articles as indicated.

Posted in Asian American history, Hollywood history, International relations, television history, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating Homecoming with Cowboy Joe – A Wyoming Icon

October 1922 is attributed as the first officially documented date of the University of Wyoming’s homecoming. Celebrations included class reunions, open houses, a homecoming dance, parades, and of course, the homecoming football game.

Wyoming football origins date back as early as 1893 when games were played in Prexy’s Pasture; however, the first official homecoming game was the inaugural game played in 1922 on the new Corbett Field thanks to intensive community fundraising efforts led by UW’s own Dr. Samuel H. Knight.

Corbett Field, ca. 1930. Negative Number 19371.1A, Box 17,
Ludwig & Svenson Studio Photographs, Collection No. 167, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

An alumnus of the University of Wyoming and professor of geology, Dr. Knight served as the president of the Alumni Association from 1921 to 1924 and on the athletic committee. Knight was keen on the national movement of the time to coincide football festivities with homecoming celebrations and was instrumental in collaborating with the Alumni Association to move the date of previously established alumni celebrations from the summer months to align with the first football game of the 1922 season, starting the tradition of UW Homecoming in October marked by a home football game.

As University of Wyoming Homecoming fast approaches its 99th year, UW football looks a little different. The homecoming football game is still regarded as one of the most Poke Pride-filled games of the season, second only perhaps to the Border War with Colorado State University. But it’s been a long time since UW football played its final game on the old Corbett Field, which is now occupied by the College of Business and the Wyoming Union parking lot.

In Spring 1950, construction of what is now War Memorial Stadium began and was completed in time to host the Cowboys that fall. The stadium wasn’t the only addition to UW that year though. 1950 also marked the beginning of perhaps the University of Wyoming’s tiniest and most beloved tradition – Cowboy Joe.

Cowboy Joe and one of his handlers, March 1951.
Photo file: College and Universities-University of Wyoming-Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Generously donated by the Farthing Family of Cheyenne, the young Shetland pony became Wyoming’s mascot. From the very beginning, Cowboy Joe was adored by the community and became a staple of UW pride representing the University of Wyoming and UW athletics in parades, tailgates, and, of course, the end zone after UW touchdowns! Accompanied by Cowboy Joe, the 1950 Cowboys football season played one of their best seasons, going undefeated in the regular season and winning the Gator Bowl hosted in Jacksonville, Florida, 20-7.

Cared for lovingly by his handlers, Cowboy Joe V is now a fifth generation Wyoming mascot and has become such an icon, he even has his own social media platforms. Today, he stays closer to home, no longer flying with the team across the country but rather making regional appearances around the state and trotting the field at every home game. According to the Cowboy Joe Handlers website, “Cowboy Joe’s handlers have the privilege of working with and grooming Joe before events, trailering him to events, and showing him off at home football games and other community and university functions. Handlers have the unique opportunity to spend time with Cowboy Joe and express the deep-rooted passion for the history of the University of Wyoming.”

Cowboy Joe V is shown during a touchdown celebration at War Memorial Stadium on Sept. 14, 2019 when the Wyoming Cowboy Football team defeated the Idaho Vandals 21-16. UW Photo.

Much about homecoming and UW football has changed over the years but Cowboy Joe represents a long-standing tradition and brings a special joy to adults and children alike.

You can learn more about Cowboy football history at the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center.

Views of the stands at War Memorial Stadium for the Stripe Out game against Montana State on Sept. 4, 2021. UW Photo.

Post contributed by Archival Processor Emily Hakert, AHC Accessioning Unit.


Posted in Athletics, Homecoming, Uncategorized, University of Wyoming history, Wyoming History Day | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

National Taco Day – Celebrating Taco John’s “West-Mex” Cuisine

As lovers of Mexican food celebrate National Taco Day on October 4th, it seems an appropriate time to delve into the papers of Taco John’s International. The American Heritage Center has collaborated with Taco John’s to preserve their corporate history since 2004. The origin story of Taco John’s dates back to 1968, when John Turner opened his “Taco House”, a humble stand selling five tacos for a dollar to budget conscious Cheyenne diners. While Mexican food was a rarity in Wyoming, Turner’s “Taco House” soon had an appreciative customer base. Cheyenne businessmen Jim Woodson and Harold Holmes approached Turner about franchising the business, and Turner agreed to sell the rights to them for $10,000. Woodson and Holmes lacked experience in the restaurant industry, but that didn’t stop them from building a quickly expanding franchise business. They named their restaurant chain Taco John’s.

Menu from two of the original locations featuring a drawing of the prefabricated building design for the early units.
Box 7, Taco John’s International records, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The first one hundred restaurants were prefabricated modular buildings of plywood and aluminum constructed in Cheyenne and trucked to places like Rapid City, Scottsbluff and Torrington. None of them had seating for customers, who all got their food “to-go”. John Turner provided the restaurants with tortillas and his proprietary blend of seasonings and spices. The company’s original logo was a fiendish devil proclaiming Taco John’s as the “Hottest Spot in Town.”

Takeout bag, featuring the original Taco John’s devil logo, 1969.
Box 7, Taco John’s International records, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The success of the concept exceeded Harold Holmes and Jim Woodson’s expectations. Holmes was a private pilot and he and Woodson often traveled by small aircraft, approving sites for new restaurants and assisting franchisees in their openings. They found hundreds of individuals located in smaller cities in the West and Midwest with an entrepreneurial spirit who wanted the chance to own a quick-service restaurant. Restaurant design evolved to include seating and drive-throughs. Innovative products were added to the menu, like the Potato Olés and the Taco Bravo. The company coined the phrase “West-Mex” and trademarked “Taco Tuesday”.

Advertising for the Super Taco Bravo.
Box 7, Taco John’s International records, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Eventually, expansion put the chain in 22 states with nearly 400 locations. The company is still headquartered in Cheyenne and unlike their competitors, remains privately owned. Today, Taco John’s serves its namesake tacos, alongside burritos, quesadillas, nachos and breakfast items. It continues to be known for bold flavors, fresh ingredients and friendly customer service. Sixty-five percent of the business is drive-through, a factor that has helped the company manage through the challenging times of COVID-19.

Promotional flyer advertising Taco John’s “Taco Tuesday”.
Box 29, Taco John’s International records, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

You can learn more about the history of Taco John’s and whet your appetite for a taco or two in the Taco John’s International papers at UW’s American Heritage Center.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


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Meat, Manliness, and Marketing: The National Live Stock and Meat Board

“Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.” So, Sam Elliot in his deep, husky drawl immortalized one of the most famous meat slogans in recent memory. The National Live Stock and Meat Board invented this piece of Americana and linked meat-eating to manliness for over seventy years. Now nearly forgotten, in its heyday, the Meat Board was the nation’s leader in meat advertising and much more.

I used my American Heritage Center travel grant to explore the Meat Board records for a book project tentatively called Cattle Cartel: How Big Cattlemen and Packers Harnessed the Meat Industry, 1916–1933. In it, I explain the origin of cooperation between these two groups and the many ways in which they reshaped the cattle industry. The Meat Board, I argue, embodied this new era of cooperation. It consisted of representatives from livestock associations, packers, retailers, and livestock exchanges. Surprisingly, its influence has remained largely hidden in historical literature. In the following paragraphs, I’ll tell a little bit about the Board and highlight some of its more amusing initiatives on the theme of meat and masculinity.

In 1922, industry leaders created the Meat Board to promote meat consumption. At the time, Americans ate less meat for various reasons, one being the popularity of breakfast cereal—pioneered by John Harvey Kellogg—which had replaced the traditional hearty morning meals. The Board struck back with studies on the healthfulness of meat and used that information to create all sorts of promotions. The pamphlet pictured here is called “Meat builds better Breakfasts—Better Breakfasts build better Bodies,” and it drew inspiration from eugenic contests like “Fitter Families for Future Firesides.” In its promotions like this one, the Meat Board often reinforced the age-old connection between meat and strength. The “’He-Man’ breakfast,” for example, explicitly tied a meat-centered meal to manliness.

Undated pamphlet titled “Meat Builds Better Breakfasts – Better Breakfasts Build Better Bodies.”
Box 263, Folder: Meat Board research program, 1924-1984, National Live Stock and Meat Board records, Collection #11744, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The outbreak of WWII provided the Meat Board another opportunity to show off meat’s mettle. The Board used high school poster contests, usually directed at home economics students, to spread knowledge about meat. The annual contest themes were designed to indoctrinate students about the latest findings on meat. The posters shown here drew on the idea that meat imparted virility, more so than other foods, and was, therefore, more necessary for men on the front lines. These heavy-handed prints suggested that meat, like some sort of drug, created super soldiers. In “Meat behind the Man behind the Gun,” a steak with little arms and legs literally ran behind a soldier. Subtlety was not a virtue in meat poster art.

The National Meat Board held a contest for high school students to point out the benefits of meat. Shown are a selection of the posters.
Box 393, Folder: Annual Reports 1943–1944, National Live Stock and Meat Board records, Collection #11744, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Meat also had a softer side, according to the Meat Board. In 1940, the Board released “Meat and Romance,” an educational and purportedly entertaining film. Intended for home economics classes, it featured newlyweds Peggy and Bill—played by Alan Ladd of Shane fame—who received a visit from Bill’s Dad, a physician, and his sister, a home economist. As Peggy, “the typical young housewife, inexperienced but eager to learn,” prepared for dinner she was given a lesson by these experts and others in meat selection, cooking, and nutrition. The local meat retailer even gave her an economics lesson on the price fluctuations of meat. The film is typical of the Meat Board’s view of “housewives” as uninformed and in need of advice. “Romance,” it appeared, was between Peggy and meat.

Pamphlet titled “Meat and Romance,” 1940.
Box 289, Folder: Meat and Romance – Movie, National Live Stock and Meat Board records, Collection #11744, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The Meat Board often cast women—like Peggy—as preparers of meat and “He-Men” as consumers. The Board reinforced this “separate spheres” notion about meat throughout its existence. Though the Meat Board broke up in the mid-nineties, groups like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) still carry on the spirit of the Board’s promotional work. In early 2021, for instance, the NCBA sponsored a NASCAR race called the Daytona 300 and renamed it the “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner. 300.”

Post contributed by AHC 2020 Travel Grant recipient Dr. Daniel T. Gresham, Professor of History, St. Mary’s College.


Posted in Agricultural history, Cattle industry, Foodservice industry, Meat industry and trade, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Comic Books: A Continuing Work in Progress

Although comic books depict the exploits of characters who possess “powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary mortals” the medium itself stems from very humble beginnings. 

Comics as a print medium have existed in the United States since the printing of The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck in 1842. Funnies on Parade was published in 1933 and established the size, and format of the modern comic book. However, it was Dell Publishing’s 36-page Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics that is recognized as the first true newsstand American comic book. 

Gradually, the reprinting of newspaper comic strips gave way to original material presented in the same format. In 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman was published in Action Comics #1 and not only originated the archetype of the “superhero”, but also made comic books into a major publishing industry and ushered in what became known as the Golden Age of Comics. 

This was followed by the Silver Age of Comics beginning in October of 1956 with the debut of The Flash, and the Bronze Age beginning in the early 1970s.  The current Modern Age of Comics runs from the mid-1980s to the present day.

As with any endeavor that has lasted so long and affected so many, the comic book industry has a fascinating history of triumph, tragedy, and controversy that has ultimately led to the present day when the characters it created and nurtured have become a dominant force in American cinema and culture. 

Cover of Superman #25, which was published on August 24, 1943.
Box 10, Folder 1, Mort Weisinger papers, Collection No. 7958, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Few who were involved in the medium during its beginnings realized the significance of what they were doing, nor would have ever predicted the impact it would have on future generations. For instance, the first inklings of the influence comic books have on society came from their attempted censorship by concerned citizens which led to hearings in front of no less than the Congress of the United States in 1954. The Comics Code Authority, a self-governing body within the comic book industry, was a defensive mechanism created in response to those hearings which hampered the creativity of the industry for decades to come.

The American Heritage Center is fortunate to have amongst its collections the personal and professional papers of two of the most notable figures in comics history: Stan Lee, who created such characters as The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Spider-Man, and a host of others, and became the public “face” of Marvel Comics and DC Comic’s Mort Weisinger who not only co-created such characters as Aquaman, Green Arrow, and Johnny Quick, but was the editor of the Superman titles in the 1950s and 1960s, and story editor for the television series The Adventures of Superman which aired from 1952 to 1958. 

Additionally, the AHC holds a number of collections which relate either directly or indirectly to the history of this important aspect of American culture. We invite both the curious and the researcher to come and explore these fascinating collections.

Post contributed by William L. Hopkins, AHC Assistant Director and Collections Manager.

#always archiving

Posted in Artists, Comic book history, Fantasy, popular culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Laramie’s Latin American Club

September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Wyoming has a historically significant Hispanic and Manito population, some of whom came and went for work while others made Wyoming their home. Spanish-speaking people from northern New Mexico, called Manitos and Manitas, left their native land in the late 19th through mid-century 20th century seeking work. “Manito” is a term of endearment and kinship derived from the Spanish word hermano, “brother” or “sibling.”

During the 1930s and 1940s there was also a wave of immigrants from Mexico, resulting in part from the Bracero Program, a government program that encouraged legal immigration from Mexico to bring in workers during World War II.

Other Latinas/os moved to Wyoming from the San Luis Valley in Colorado seeking work in the state’s industries such as herding, ranching, farming, mining and lumber extraction, and the railroad.

Group portrait of Union Pacific Railroad Company employees at the railroad yards in Laramie, Wyoming, 1930. Although the employees shown are mostly white, people of color are also seen in the photograph.
Box 15, Negative # 17514A, Ludwig & Svenson Studio Photographs, Collection No. 167, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Possibilities of employment, especially railroad jobs, brought a number of these migrants to Laramie. Another big employer was the Monolith Portland Cement Company (today Mountain Cement Company) established in 1927. Discrimination in housing and employment meant that the town’s Hispanic population was unofficially segregated on the town’s West Side. Many West Side residents suffered from prejudice. They were generally not welcome in restaurants, movie theaters, stores, and other establishments east of the railroad tracks. They were equally unwelcome in Laramie’s fraternal halls such as the Elks Club, the Moose Club, and the Masonic Temple.

A glimmer into housing conditions on Laramie’s West Side can be found in a 1946 unpublished University of Wyoming master’s thesis by Ernest Press regarding the Mexican and Mexican American population in Laramie, “The two blocks on Railroad Street north of the [University Street] viaduct are definitely overcrowded…On several of the lots there is not only the house on the street front but as many as two or three shacks built on the rear of the lots. There is also a long cabin like house, which is inhabited by six families, each having two rooms and sharing one bath and toilet.” Press noted too that the company houses of the Union Pacific Railroad were particularly bad. Additionally, at this point in time, steam engines were still in use by the Union Pacific Railroad meaning those closest to the tracks were subjected to a high amount of smoke and cinders.

Map indicating where the Mexican and Mexican American population were living in Laramie in 1943 and 1945. The viaduct crossing the tracks was still at University Street as the Clark Street Bridge was not built until 1963.
From page 22 of the unpublished thesis of Ernest Press, “The Mexican Population of Laramie,” 1946, held at Coe Library, University of Wyoming.

The need for a communal place they could call their own was not unique to Laramie. In 1927 Lovell’s Hispanic population form an organization, the Comision Honorifica (Honorary Commis­sion), for both social and political reasons. In 1948 the Latin American Federation formed in Cheyenne to provide a club and social organization for that city’s Hispanic community. During the 1950s Latin American Clubs opened in Rawlins and other Wyoming towns to provide a social and cultural center for the Hispanic communities.

Laramie’s Latin American Club formed in 1956 as a non-profit, fraternal organization. In addition to the school, it was the central organization for the city’s Hispanic population.

Latin American Club of Laramie Board Officers, 1966.
Box 3, Latin American Club of Laramie records, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The club hosted regular meetings and a variety of activities to support and foster community. They held charitable events, scholarship fundraisers, potluck suppers, and regular dances typically based on a holiday. They brought awareness to the community’s issues and concerns and became a forum to mobilize advocacy.

In 1960, the club was able to purchase a tract of land and a house south of Laramie. The next year, the Wyoming Federation of Latin American Groups was formed, and the Laramie group became a member. They hosted some of the meetings and conventions, as they were the only members to have their own clubhouse. By 1965, a National Latin American Federation had been formed and the Laramie group became a member of that as well, with members traveling to the conventions and even hosting a few conventions.

Program from the National Latin American Federation Annual Convention, hosted in Laramie, August 16, 1975.  Box 4, Latin American Club of Laramie records, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

An electrical fire burnt down the clubhouse in 1968 and Laramie residents turned out to help raise $3000 to rebuild. More land was donated by a club member the next year and an old Union Pacific washroom was purchased and moved to the land to serve as a more spacious clubhouse.

The 1970s brought the Chicano movement to Laramie and the University of Wyoming. UW students formed a group called the Chicano Coalition, which became Movimiento Estuduantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) and still exists on campus today (provide link to AHC’s MEChA collection). By 1998 a Chicano Studies Program was formed in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Wyoming. Wyoming’s economic booms in the 70s and early 80s and the early 2000s brought good paying jobs for the state’s residents, including Hispanics and Manitos. All of these advancements assisted them in gaining some access to status they were previously denied and lessened their segregation.

By 2004, Laramie’s Latin American Club had disbanded, and the land and the clubhouse sold. Proceeds from the sale were used to set up a scholarship endowment for Latina/a high school graduates, as continuing education had always been a priority for the group.

Latin American Club of Laramie scholarship recipients, printed in The Laramie Daily Boomerang, October 7, 1995. Box 2, Latin American Club of Laramie records, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The American Heritage Center holds official Latin American Club records including board minutes, annual membership lists, and newsletters. There are many newspaper clippings of club event announcements and community recognition of club members. Photographs of past presidents and board members are also included in the collection. The club charter and a laminated poster of newspaper clippings regarding the rebuilding campaign of 1968 and a contribution chart from the same event can also be found.

Post contributed by the AHC’s Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.


Posted in Immigration, Laramie, Local history, Manitos, Mexican-American history, Uncategorized, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time Warp: The Back to the Future Film Trilogy

Time travel behind the wheel of a nuclear-powered DeLorean is the premise of the 1985 hit movie Back to the Future. The film follows the comedic adventures of Marty McFly, a high school student who is accidentally transported back thirty years in time. McFly visits his hometown, Hill Valley, and encounters his parents as teenagers, well before his own birth.

Marty McFly meeting his future parents in Back to the Future, 1985.
Box 150, Herbert G. Luft papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the movie almost wasn’t made. Reaction to the script was discouraging – more than 40 studios and producers turned it down. Most said the film’s humor wasn’t raunchy enough, while Disney was critical of a scene in which Marty was to have an awkward, incestuous kiss with his future mother.

The film provided a breakout movie role for actor Michael J. Fox, who played McFly. Fox was not originally cast for the part, as he was busy filming the hit television show Family Ties. Production began with Eric Stoltz as McFly. It soon became apparent that Stoltz lacked the comic timing needed for the role. Director Zemeckis approached Fox and negotiated a deal in which Fox would film Family Ties during the day and Back to the Future at night. Reports at the time indicated that replacing Stoltz added four million dollars to production costs. The filming schedule was grueling. Fox barely slept during the production but said that Zemeckis’ enthusiasm for the project and the fun he was having on set kept him going.

Fox’s favorite scene from the film takes place in 1955, when he performs the classic Chuck Berry song “Johnny B. Goode” for his future parents’ high school dance, three years before the song’s actual release.

Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly performing “Johnny B. Goode,” 1985.
Box 3, Herbert G. Luft papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Despite the early skepticism, Spielberg, Zemeckis and Gale’s confidence in the screenplay was vindicated. The movie Zemeckis had described as a “comedy-adventure-science-speculation-coming-of-age-rock-and-roll-time travel-period film” was the top grossing film of 1985. The musical score included two original songs, written by Huey Lewis and the News. One of them, “The Power of Love,” shot to the top of the charts, driven by the popularity of the movie.

Plans were soon afoot to write Back to the Future Part II and III. Fans sent in thousands of letters making suggestions as to what adventures the future movies might incorporate. Christopher Lloyd was to reprise his role as Doc Emmett Brown, the mad scientist inventor of the DeLorean time machine. Michael J. Fox was to return as Marty McFly. Back to the Future Part II had McFly and Doc Brown travel forward in time thirty years, to intervene in the lives of McFly’s fictional children.

Publicity for Back to the Future Part II, 1989.
Box 3, Herbert G. Luft papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The storyline, again written by Zemeckis and Gayle, was also set in Hill Valley, only this time McFly had to appear in 1955, 1985 and 2015. Audiences were on the edge of their seats. As actor Michael J. Fox said, “Every time you think the characters have rescued themselves from their current predicament, and you think you can relax for a minute of two … BAM! – you run into something else.”

Back to the Future Part III led the film series in an entirely new direction, although still driven by DeLorean time travel. Fox and Lloyd take a giant leap backwards in time, from 1985 to 1885. In the final scenario, Doc Brown has transported himself into an old west version of an only recently settled Hill Valley. Marty McFly must race back to the past to save Doc from an untimely end.

On the set of Back to the Future Part III, 1990.
Box 3, Herbert G. Luft papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Back to the Future Part III provides a satisfying end to the saga, wrapping up loose ends. Doc Brown sums it up, saying “You are in charge of your own destiny. The future is what you make it. So go out and make it a good one.” In total, the three films grossed nearly one billion dollars in worldwide box office receipts and left an indelible impact on American popular culture.

For more about the Back to the Future film franchise see the Herbert G. Luft papers, where you can pour through production notes, photographs and other press materials.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


Posted in Fantasy, Hollywood history, Motion picture actors and actresses, motion picture history, science fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

University of Wyoming’s Afghanistan Mission, 1953 to 1973

The current troubling events in Afghanistan brings to mind the bond that the University of Wyoming once enjoyed with that country.

Under George “Duke” Humphrey – UW’s president from 1945 to 1964 – the university began developing international programs to aid in its academic and scholarly expansion. One of the first programs to provide international student and faculty exchanges involved the U.S. State Department’s Agency in International Development (USAID) and the Royal Government of Afghanistan. At that time Afghanistan was a monarchy ruled by King Mohammed Zahir Shah.

During the 1950s and 60s, Afghanistan’s government was quite outwardly facing, making strides toward a more liberal and westernized lifestyle. In fact, at Zahir Shah’s behest a new constitution was introduced in 1964 which made Afghanistan a modern democratic state by introducing free elections, a parliament, civil rights, women’s rights, and universal suffrage. His wife, Queen Humaria Begum, created the Women’s Welfare Association in 1946, which was the first-ever women’s institute in Afghanistan. Afghan women were able to wear pencil skirts if they liked, attend school with no problems, and mix freely with men. They did not require a male guardian to travel.

Afghan women browsing in a record store, ca. 1955. Image from a photobook published by the Afghan planning ministry in the 1950s and republished by Mohammed Qayoumi in a photo essay that appeared in 2010 in Foreign Policy magazine. Qayoumi grew up in Kabal in the 1950s and 60s.
Afghan women in a biology class at Kabul University, ca. 1955. Attribution above.

USAID chose the University of Wyoming to consult in Afghanistan due in part to physical similarities of the two places—high, dry, mountainous, and never easy to farm.

The agreement initiating UW’s involvement in Afghanistan was signed in 1953, the program was underway by 1956, and the first nine Afghan students—the original class—graduated from Kabul University in 1959 with B.S. degrees in agriculture. The program included exchanges as well; male Afghan agriculture students studied on the Laramie campus during these years.

Page 215 of the University of Wyoming’s 1956 WYO Yearbook.

More than 30 UW professors spent varying amounts of time in Afghanistan. It wasn’t always easy. There were conflicts, UW historian Deborah Hardy notes, over personnel and staffing, there were housing and communications difficulties, and the underlying mission of the program was often unclear. “Politics, too, intervened,” she writes in her history of UW, without elaborating further. “Few complained,” she notes, “although conditions were far from ideal.” She explained further that the UW program “surged and wobbled” and finally was phased out in 1973.

A high point came in September 1963, when President Humphrey and a cohort of Afghan exchange students welcomed Queen Humaira and King Zahir Shah to Laramie. Here are photographic highlights from that visit. Additional images from the visit can be found at the American Heritage Center.

Photo is captioned: “During the welcoming ceremonies King Zahir shook hands with Mr. G. W. Arnold, director of the Afghanistan program at the University of Wyoming. In the center of the picture is the smiling face of His Majesty King Zahir, Mrs. Hilston, Mrs. G. W. Arnold, and Arnold.
Photo File: Afghanistan, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Photo is captioned: “His Majesty (center) reached for a sample of wool as the royal tour paused briefly by the sheep pens on the University of Wyoming livestock farm.”
Photo File: Afghanistan, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Photo is captioned: “King Zahir (fifth from left) exhibited keen interest in dairying as he examined one of the top University of Wyoming milk cows. On the King’s right and facing the camera is [College of Agriculture] Dean Hilston.”
Photo File: Afghanistan, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Photo caption: “Queen [Humaira] (R) asked that her picture be taken with Miss Tierney who helped serve the tea at the Lembcke ranch home.
Photo File: Afghanistan, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Photo is captioned: “King Zahir visited intimately with some Afghan subjects who are students in the United States, mainly at the University of Wyoming.”
Photo File: Afghanistan, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Photo is captioned: “President Humphrey conferred upon the King of Afghanistan, the University’s highest tribute, the honorary Doctor of Laws degree. The King dressed in full academic regalia graciously received the printed citation.” Standing left to right are President Humphrey, College of Engineering Dean H. T. Person, King Zahir Shah, and Professor of Geology Samuel H. Knight
Photo File: Afghanistan, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Photo is captioned: “Assembled luncheon guests listened attentively to the royal message from the
King of Afghanistan.”
Photo File: Afghanistan, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Photo is captioned: “President Humphrey presented Queen [Humaira] with a bouquet of roses as the Queen prepared to leave Cheyenne aboard the U.S. Air Force jet transport.
Photo File: Afghanistan, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Photo is captioned: “Afghan nationals, students enrolled in the U.S. universities, wave good-bye to their King at the Cheyenne airport as he starts on the next leg of his tour that will take him to San Francisco.” Photo File: Afghanistan, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Some months after the royal couple left, a UPI story in the Casper Star-Tribune noted that two Wyoming state troopers, Sgt. J.D. Maxted of Laramie and Lt. A.D. Reese of Cheyenne, had received solid gold medals of honor, the “highest awards given civilians by the government of Afghanistan,”  from the king for “services rendered.” Perhaps the troopers had acted as security for the royals when they were here.

Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, was deposed in a bloodless coup in 1973, which may explain why the UW-Afghan partnership ended at that time. He had reigned since 1933, making him longest serving ruler of the country since the 18th century. In late December 1979 the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, beginning decades of conflict that continue today.

The American Heritage Center houses a number of collections pertaining to UW’s Afghanistan mission. They include the papers of F. Paul Baxter, Robert D. Burman, Dale and Muriel Fritz, Gerald A. Nielsen, Wilhelm G. Solheim, Grace Willard, and the University of Wyoming President’s Office records.

Post contributed by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener. Thanks to Tom Rea and Rebecca Hein of WyoHistory for text included in this post.


Posted in Afghanistan, Agricultural history, Agriculture, Political history, Uncategorized, University of Wyoming history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The End of the Line for George Parrott

George Francis Warden, aka “George Parrott” and “Big Nose George,” was an outlaw in Wyoming and Montana in the late 1800s. Although he wasn’t a very successful bandit, he became famous in Wild West history due to how his outlaw ways ended.

He began his career by robbing stagecoaches between Deadwood and Cheyenne. Following a few failures there, he took up with a group of outlaws and plotted in August 1878 to rob a Union Pacific train carrying payroll as it traveled through southeastern Wyoming. Near Medicine Bow, Wyoming, the gang sabotaged the track and laid in wait for the train to be derailed.

Portrait of George Parrott.
Box 2, Tom Bohnsack papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

However, the track was repaired before the train came along and Carbon County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Widdowfield and Union Pacific detective Henry “Tip” Vincent rode out from Rawlins to investigate the situation. They picked up the bandits’ trail and set out after them. In less than a day, the two men had caught up to the outlaws, who had seen the men coming and hid. As the two men were investigating the outlaws’ recently abandoned camp, the outlaws fired on the men, killing both. The bandits looted their supplies, hid the bodies, and split up to leave the area.

A search party was sent out after the two men whey they didn’t return to Rawlins. The bodies were found, and the identities of the killers were discovered. In June of 1880, George Parrott was located in Miles City, Montana. Carbon County’s new sheriff, Joseph Rankin, traveled to Montana, apprehended Parrott, and began the journey back to Rawlins so Parrot could face trial. The only reason that Parrott was caught was due to his bad habits of drinking too much and talking even more.

Poem about George Parrot attributed to Jean Curtis Osborne, the only child of Gov. John Osborne and his wife Selena Smith.
Photo File: Parrott, George, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

On the train ride to Rawlins, the train stopped in Carbon County to resupply. An angry group of coal miners boarded the train, restrained Sheriff Rankin, and dragged George Parrott from the train with the intention of lynching him for the murder of the two men. They carried him to the same telegraph pole where another of Parrott’s outlaw group, “Dutch” Charley Burris, had been hanged a year ago for the same crime.

As the mob prepared to lynch Parrott, he caved and confessed to every crime he had committed. With a full confession from Parrott, the mob decided it would be best to let the court in Rawlins handle his punishment. The miners returned Parrott to the train and Sheriff Rankin departed again for Rawlins with his prisoner. Parrott was soon safely in a Rawlins jail cell. Parrott was convicted of the murder and sentenced to hang.

He sat in his jail cell for a few months before attempting to break out. His breakout attempt was unsuccessful due to the brave actions of the jailer’s wife, and a crowd of people arrived at the jail soon after the attempt with Parrott’s name on their lips.

The mob attempted to lynch him from a telegraph pole, but the rope broke. Shortly, they returned with a new rope and strung him up again as he begged to be shot instead. This time, when someone kicked the ladder from beneath him, Parrott managed to grab hold of the telegraph pole and forestall his death for a couple minutes. But it was futile because death reached him at the end of his rope regardless.

Artist Thomas Rooney’s interpretation of the lynching of George Parrott drawn in 1929.
Box 2, Tom Bohnsack papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Parrott’s story doesn’t end there, however. Parrott’s body was eventually given to Union Pacific surgeon John Osborne and Rawlins physician Thomas Maghee. Dr. Osborne made a death mask of Parrott’s head and preserved his body in a salt solution to be used for scientific study. Osborne did more than just use Parrott’s body for anatomical study, though. He removed skin from the thighs of the outlaw, tanned it, and made a pair of two-tone dress shoes from the leather. He also made a medical bag of leather from Parrott’s chest.

These two photos show the plaster death mask and dress shoes.
Box 2, Tom Bohnsack papers and Photo File: Parrott, George, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Dr. Osborne wore the shoes for many years, including, allegedly, at his inauguration as Wyoming’s third governor. The shoes are now housed in the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins, Wyoming, along with the plaster death mask. The medicine bag was never found. Dr. Maghee gave the top half of Parrott’s skull to his protégé Lillian Heath, who later became Wyoming’s first woman physician. This memento was kept in the Heath house for many years and used as a doorstop, ashtray, and rock holder. Parrott’s body wasn’t found until it was accidentally excavated in 1950. The remaining artifacts were split up among different historical institutions.

Post contributed by Archives Aide Sarah Kesterson, AHC Reference Department


Posted in 19th century, outlaws, Uncategorized, Western history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Suffrage for Women – The Push to Ratify the 19th Amendment

On August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified, guaranteeing American women the right to vote. Before that date, Wyoming women had long been known for leading trailblazing efforts towards women’s rights. In 1869, the territory was the first in the United States to grant universal suffrage to women. The rest of the country was slower to adopt such a progressive attitude towards extending the voting franchise. But by 1916, the National Committee of the Republican Party had gone on the record favoring women’s suffrage. The National American Woman Suffrage Association, headed by Carrie Chapman Catt, was actively engaged in organizing suffragettes who were lobbying politicians across the country. One of those suffragettes was University of Wyoming Professor Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard, a professor of Political Economy.

“Votes for Women” ribbon.
Box 77, Grace Raymond Hebard papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Thirty-six states were needed to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Wisconsin began the process, becoming the first state to ratify in June 1919. By January 1920, pressure mounted on Wyoming. Opponents of suffrage pointed out that Wyoming’s delay in ratification implied that suffrage had failed in Wyoming. Governor Robert Carey and Wyoming senators, eager to disprove the naysayers, unanimously ratified the 19th Amendment in a special legislative session on January 26, 1920. Dr. Hebard presented the senators with roses to celebrate the occasion. The next day, the Wyoming House of Representatives followed suit, also unanimously voting to ratify. Again, Dr. Hebard brought out the flowers, this time presenting a red carnation to each member.

Dr. Hebard’s work towards ratification was not done. In April 1920, suffragist leader Carrie Champan Catt recruited Dr. Hebard to join her “Emergency Corps.”

Telegram from Carrie Chapman Catt to Grace Raymond Hebard urging Hebard to join the national effort
towards ratification of the 19th Amendment, April 13, 1920.
Box 21, Grace Raymond Hebard papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

By the time the telegram from Catt to Hebard arrived in Wyoming, thirty-five of the needed thirty-six states had voted to ratify. Urgency to get the 19th Amendment fully ratified reached a fever pitch. Women across the nation were eager to have the right to vote enacted before the November presidential election of 1920.

Catt’s “Emergency Corps” of women from 47 states was summoned to Connecticut in May of 1920. Their objective – persuade the people of the state to prevail upon their governor, Marcus H. Holcomb, to call a special session of the state legislature. The Republican-dominated legislature had already signaled they would vote in favor of ratification. But Governor Holcomb was reluctant to reconvene the legislature. Dr. Hebard and the other women from the “Emergency Corps” were dispatched across the state of Connecticut to give speeches in favor of the special session and an immediate ratification. Hebard said to the people of Connecticut, “I am not making a plea for myself. I have voted for 38 years. What man in the audience has for 38 consecutive years voted for every state, county and municipal election, and during 10 years of that time traveled 104 miles every time he voted?” When Hebard was invited to address Governor Holcomb, she came bearing flowers. Unfortunately, even with roses and forget-me-nots, Holcomb could not be persuaded to call the special session.

Flyer for the rally on the steps on the Connecticut Capitol, May 1920.
Box 21, Grace Raymond Hebard papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

All was not lost on the ratification front. In the end, it was Tennessee that became the 36th state to vote in favor of passing the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920.

When Dr. Hebard received the news of ratification by telephone at her home in Laramie, she burst into applause, surprising the telephone operator. She is said to have “rejoiced more than words could say.” Hebard helped with the ringing of celebratory bells at Laramie’s Episcopal Cathedral honoring the long sought-after enfranchisement of women.

In theory, there were now 26 million adult American women eligible voters. In practice, Native American women were excluded as they were not considered to be American citizens at the time. And other non-white women faced impediments to voting including Jim Crow era poll taxes, literacy tests and voter ID requirements.

If this post has piqued your interest, you can learn more about the role University of Wyoming Professor Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard played in lobbying for ratification of the 19th Amendment by researching in her papers at UW’s American Heritage Center.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


Posted in Politics, Uncategorized, women's history, Women's suffrage, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment