Washakie: Through the Lens of Time

Today we commemorate Chief Washakie, a leader of the Eastern Shoshones from the 1840s until his death on February 20, 1900 who embodied all the traits of great leadership. He exhibited bravery, skills as an orator and diplomat, and a belief in the importance of education. He is often noted for his friendship with the whites and for having the best interests of his people as his primary motivation.


Washakie, ca. 1880. Baker & Johnston Photograph Collection,  Box 1, UW American Heritage Center

In 2001, retired AHC Associate Director Rick Ewig curated an exhibit about the Native American leader, Washakie: Through the Lens of Time. It is now an AHC traveling exhibit that presents different images and impressions of Washakie throughout history and into more modern times.

Washakie was born in the early 1800s. His father was a Flathead Indian and his mother Shoshone. He joined the Eastern Shoshones as a young man and rose to a leadership position in the early 1840s.

During this time of increasing Euro-American migration to the West, Washakie chose alliance with the United States, instead of opposition, and looked to the U.S. for assistance against the Shoshones’ traditional enemies, the Sioux, Blackfeet, Crow, and Cheyenne. He told his people to “learn all they can from the white man, because he is here to stay, and they must live with them forever.”

Upon his death, Washakie was buried with full military honors and with a funeral train that stretched for miles.


Washakie’s funeral held at the Wind River Reservation, Reverend John Roberts presiding. Reverend John Roberts Papers, Accession Number 00037, Box 3, Folder 10

Washakie became Wyoming’s second representative in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in September 2000, joining Esther Hobart Morris, the first woman to serve as a justice of the peace.

Washakie statue

Statue of Washakie given to the National Statuary Hall Collection by the State of Wyoming in 2000. Artist: Dave McGary. Photograph courtesy of Architect of the Capitol.

Washakie: Through the Lens of Time consists of 17 framed items (1 crate). There is no charge for the traveling exhibits. Each participant must provide wall-to-wall insurance upon receipt and throughout the exhibition period. Each exhibitor pays one-way shipping to the next institution.

If you are interested in hosting this exhibit at your own awesome institution, you can contact Mary Ann Meyer.



Posted in American Indian history, Eastern Shoshone Tribe, Uncategorized, Under-documented communities, Western history, Wyoming history | Leave a comment

Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Celebration

It’s Susan B. Anthony’s 198th birthday, which is a perfect opportunity to remind everyone that Wyoming is rapidly approaching its 150th anniversary of granting women the right to vote – the first government in the world to do so unconditionally.

To celebrate the event, Governor Matt Mead established the Governor’s Council for the Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Celebration in 2019 and 2020. The council has 13 members, including representatives from the League of Women Voters, the Wyoming Humanities Council, the Louisa Swain Foundation, the University of Wyoming, and several state agencies among others.

AHC Archivist Claudia Thompson is one of the women representing UW on the council. She has researched and published on the life of Wyoming suffragist Amalia Post (1826-1897).


Amalia Post. Photo courtesy Wyoming State Archives

The League of Women Voters is cooperating with the AHC to compile and organize materials pertaining to women’s suffrage.


Mrs. D.S. Sonnesberger commemorating the right to vote in a photograph. Mrs. Sonnesberger moved to Johnson County, Wyoming in 1878 with her husband and children. Photofile: Sonnesberger, (Mrs.) D.S., American Heritage Center

Events and programs will be held from December 10, 2019 to September 6, 2020. The council is also encouraging you to develop events and programs under your own funding and management.

Information about the Suffrage Celebration is on a League of Women Voters website and email inquiries can be sent to wyowomensvote150@wyominglwv.org.


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“Wild Bill” Carlisle: Last Train Robber of the American West

Train passengers leaving Green River, Wyoming, on February 9, 1916 riding the Union Pacific Railroad’s Portland Rose found themselves confronted by a young man hiding his face with a white kerchief who demanded their money at gunpoint. But the youngster had a courteous streak. He bowed to a lady who tried to take his gun and, from his stolen loot, gave the porter coins to cover his lost tips and a silver dollar to pay for another man’s breakfast. The culprit leaped from the train about three miles from Rock Springs, Wyoming. He only gleaned $52.35 from his caper, but news quickly spread of a “White Masked Bandit.” Luck seemed to follow the young man, at least for a time, when a posse followed the wrong trail. After eluding capture, he actually returned to Green River to buy a train ticket, this time to Wheatland, Wyoming.

Who was that masked man? He was William L. “Wild Bill” Carlisle (1890-1964), one of the last train robbers of the American West. Orphaned and destitute, he left home in Pennsylvania barely out of his teens and rode the freight trains searching for work. By age 15, he was a hobo. With only itinerant work available, he found in 1916 that he had only a nickel in his pocket. The quickest way to get some needed cash, he figured, was to hold up a train.

That first robbery in February 2016 was so easy that it seemed only natural to the “Robin Hood of the Rails,” as he came to be known, to continue this potentially prosperous line of work. Over the next two months, he held up two more trains. His luck ran out when he was caught on April 22, 1916, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins, despite not shooting anyone during his robberies and never taking money from women or children.


Bill Carlisle, right, and his captor Sheriff Rubie Rivera, on the steps of the Carbon County courthouse in Rawlins, 1916. Courtesy Carbon County Museum.

He was a model prisoner and, by 1919, his sentence was commuted to 25 to 50 years. But he wanted out. He escaped from the Rawlins prison by hiding in a carton of shirts made by prisoners.

Still in the familiar position of being short on cash, he resorted to his customary scheme. On November 19, 1919, he robbed the Overland Ltd near Rock River, Wyoming, which was full of World War I veterans returning from France. He refused to take their money, saying, “I would have been over there with you had they let me go.” He managed to make off with $86.00, but didn’t have much time to spend it. He was arrested two weeks later.


“Wild Bill” Carlisle, from a wanted poster, 1919. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Carlisle was imprisoned in Rawlins for 16 more years. While there, he met Reverend Gerard Schellinger, a local Catholic priest who encouraged the outlaw to go straight. Carlisle earned parole and was released on January 8, 1936.

The reckless young man had now settled into middle age. Carlisle opened a cigar shop and newsstand in Kemmerer, Wyoming. While recuperating from a ruptured appendix, he met Lillian Berquist, the superintendent of the local nursing home. They married on Dec. 23, 1936. Abandoning the cigar store, Carlisle moved to Laramie and worked at a filling station in Laramie for about a year. In 1937, the Saratoga Sun reported that Carlisle had leased Spring Creek Camp east of Laramie to open “a lunchroom and a filling station.” It was located on the present site of The Wild Rose floral shop near the intersection of Grand Avenue and 30th Street.

Carlisle sold his Laramie business in 1956. After his wife died in 1962, he moved to Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where he lived with his niece. He died on June 19, 1964.


Bill Carlisle in his later years. American Heritage Center, Photograph file: Carlisle, Bill.

The American Heritage Center has an oral history interview with Bill Carlisle. It is part of the AHC’s Wyoming Pioneers Oral History Project. The collection contains audio interviews with people who were early residents of Wyoming. Interviews were conducted between 1947 and 1956 by employees of the American Heritage Center. Interviews were recorded using a new technology at the time: SoundScriber discs. SoundScriber was a dictation machine introduced in 1945 that recorded sound with a groove embossed into soft vinyl discs with a stylus. The format remained popular for two decades before it was superseded by magnetic tape recorders.

The recordings were digitized by the AHC in 2016. Unfortunately, many of the SoundScriber discs had deteriorated by then and sound can be hard to hear. On these particular recordings of Carlisle, there is at times an echo effect. Six SoundScriber discs were used to conduct Carlisle’s interview of 57 minutes. You can listen to that interview and hear “Wild Bill” Carlisle talk about his adventurous life riding, and sometimes profiting, from the rails.

– Submitted by Leslie Waggener, Associate Archivist, American Heritage Center

Posted in Digital collections, found in the archive, Local history, oral histories, Outlaws--West (U.S.), Railroad History, Transportation history, Uncategorized, Western history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mileva Maravic remembers Prohibition in Gebo, Wyoming

The coal-mining town of Gebo was established in 1907 about twelve miles north of Thermopolis in Hot Springs County. It was named after Samuel Wilford Gebo who established the Owl Creek Coal Company and the first mine in the area after immigrating to America from Canada. By 1929, there were about 1,200 employees and family members, with over 600 employed in the coal mines. Mining remained active until 1938.

Gebo in 1920s

Gebo in the 1920s. Mileva Maravic papers, Collection Number 6309, Box 1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

Mileva Maravic (1912-2003) spent her childhood in Gebo. Her papers at the AHC contain historical materials she collected about the town. There are also reminiscences by Maravic and other Gebo residents.


Mileva Maravic

The excerpts below are from Mileva’s reminiscences titled “The Roaring Twenties and Prohibition in Gebo”:

“At age fourteen I knew how wine was made and how to cook whiskey. I loved September. September meant a new year at school. It also meant we would have all the fresh grapes to eat when they came from California. In August one of the miners went around camp taking orders. How many boxes of grapes and what kind red or white did they want? My step-dad ordered many boxes mostly the red, some white grapes for the white wine. I remember people talking about ordering one ton, half a ton of grapes. It took many boxes to fill the fifty gallon wooden barrels. Several boxcars of grapes came to Kirby from California. The grapes were brought to Gebo by truck.

When it was wine making time my step-dad [Eli “Smokey” Talovich] ordered us kids not to bring any of our friends home from school. They may see the wooden barrels, the grapes, or smell the odor coming from the dirt cellar under the house. It wasn’t an easy thing to do to keep our friends away. The friends may tell their parents, who might report it to the Revenue Officers in Thermopolis. To me that was a bit puzzling as our friends had the same thing going on at their house.

Smokey Talovich and Ray Dickey blacksmiths Gebo 1927

 “Smokey” Talovich and Ray Dickey, Gebo, 1927. Both men were blacksmiths for the mines.  Mileva Maravic papers, Collection Number 6309, Box 1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

A funny story went around camp what a miner said to the Revenue Officers when they came to his house asking what he was going to do with all the grapes he had. He said: ‘the wife she is going to make a little jelly for the kids.’

When I left home for the University of Wyoming and heard whiskey was made from corn, wheat and potatoes, I was shocked [and] thought how awful that stuff must be. I assumed all whiskey was made from grapes like we made it in Gebo. I learned it was Brandy we made when it came from grape mash.”

– Submitted by D. Claudia Thompson, Processing Supervisor, UW American Heritage Center

Posted in Economic Geology, Family history, Local history, mining history, newly cataloged collections, Prohibition, Uncategorized, Western history, women's history, Wyoming history | Tagged | Leave a comment

Celebrating Black History Month: The June Vanleer Williams Story

African-American journalist and editor June Vanleer Williams is not necessarily well-known, but what a rich life she led. Williams was an actress, a casting director, a journalist, a playwright, a poet, and an active member in Karamu House, which is the oldest Black theater in the United States. Although she spent much of her life in Cleveland, Ohio, she did not limit herself geographically or experientially.

Last year AHC intern Rebecca Goodson, a UW American Studies graduate student, created a wonderful Story Map about Williams’ life and career.

Rebecca describes Story Map as:

…an exciting new format online to tell and share stories. It is a free format that helps you mix media, texts, videos, maps, images, and webpages into one cohesive format. The Story-Map website is fairly accessible, and can be a fun and new way to think about sharing information and telling stories out of archival material, and more.

We invite you to take a look at the June Vanleer Williams Story Map that Rebecca so skillfully created. As Rebecca notes:

June Vanleer Williams, and her papers at the AHC, offer a wealth of insights into her perspectives and experiences, into the history of black theater in the United States, actors and actresses, playwrights, into the history of female journalists, black journalists, authorship, community membership, and more.

The June Vanleer Williams papers contain biographical information; diaries; scrapbooks; poems, articles, and scripts written by Williams; photographs from the early 1900s-1974; and personal and professional correspondence concerning Williams’ involvement in the Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio. The collection also contains books, newspaper and magazine clippings, pamphlets, periodicals, programs, and other related material concerning June Vanleer Williams, her columns, the theatre of Karamu House, and photos and resumes of various actors from 1951-1973.





Posted in African American history, Authors and literature, Current events, found in the archive, Journalism, Motion picture actors and actresses, motion picture history, popular culture, Uncategorized, Under-documented communities, women's history | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

David Brown and Steven Spielberg: Through Thick and Thin

Film producer David Brown (1916-2010) began his career in 1951 heading the story department at Twentieth Century Fox. His success began early through his involvement with The Robe, an American Biblical epic film that received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture in 1953.

All through the 1970’s Brown made a name for himself, founding a film production company with Richard D. Zanuck and producing one of the highest-grossing films of all time, Jaws.

In 1973, he hired Steven Spielberg to direct Spielberg’s inaugural film The Sugarland Express. At the end of filming, Spielberg noticed a copy of the novel Jaws by Peter Benchley in the producers’ office. He asked to borrow it, read it, and was so captivated that he asked to direct the movie. Before the release of The Sugarland Express, he was hired to direct Jaws.

StevenspielbergGoldie Hawn1974IMDB

Goldie Hawn and Steven Spielberg on set of The Sugarland Express, 1974.          Source: IMDB (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072226/mediaviewer/rm1640303104

Pressrelease jaws box 23

Press release announcing the hire of Steven Spielberg as director of Jaws. David Brown papers, Collection #5574, Box 23, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The filming of Jaws had many complications. It went over budget and past schedule for more than three months, but in the end “…Jaws became the highest grossing film of all time until the release of Star Wars in 1977.  Jaws won several awards for music and editing.

Premiere magazine interview p.88 box 41 jaws on location

Excerpt from Premiere Magazine. David Brown papers, Collection #5574, Box 41, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Along with Star WarsJaws was pivotal in establishing the modern Hollywood business model, which revolves around high box-office returns from action and adventure pictures with simple “high concept” premises that are released during the summer in thousands of theaters and supported by heavy advertising. It was followed by three sequels, none with the participation of Spielberg or Benchley, and many imitative thrillers. In 2001, Jaws was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Almost two decades later, when Schindler’s List debuted, and even though David Brown was not involved in the movie, he appreciated and praised Spielberg’s directorial work, and sent this message:

Letter Schindler box 46

David Brown’s prediction to Steven Spielberg. David Brown papers, Collection # 5574, Box 46, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.


Letter from Spielberg to Brown about Schindler’s List. David Brown papers, Collection # 5574, Box 11, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

David Brown supported Steven Spielberg’s projects, no matter what turn they took. A few years after making Schindler’s List, Spielberg founded the Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, a nonprofit organization at the University of Southern California dedicated to making audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides. David Brown was a financial contributor. Also, in 1994, David Brown was co-chair for Steven Spielberg’s tribute from the American Museum of the Moving Image. In 1995, they teamed up again to produce Deep Impact, for which Spielberg was executive producer.  The movie came out in 1998.

From the beginning, there was a mutual admiration, but also a friendship that endured for three decades.

daily variety reference box 46

Daily Variety Magazine ad bought by David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck, December 7, 1993. David Brown papers, Collection #5574, Box 46, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.


Thank you note from Steven Spielberg. David Brown papers, Collection #5574, Box 11, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

To learn more about Brown’s career, see the David Brown papers at the UW American Heritage Center.

– Submitted by Alexandra Cardin, Processor, Arrangement and Description Unit, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

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Wyoming Senator Edward Crippa in the McCarthy era

Though a small collection, the Edward D. Crippa papers are of historical interest.  Crippa (1899-1960), who had served in World War I and been Wyoming state highway commissioner from 1941 to 1947, was appointed to represent Wyoming in the U.S. Senate following the death of Lester Hunt.


U.S. Senator Edward D. Crippa, 1954. Photo courtesy U.S. Senate Historical Office

He was in the Senate for only five months, but his papers during that time show that he dealt with both local concerns and issues of national concern.  Local concerns included reclamation projects regarding the Echo Park Dam, the Glendo Dam, the Missouri River, and the Upper Colorado River, the closing of the Alumina Plant in Laramie, the need for light fixtures at a post office in Rock Springs, and the 1954 drought that affected much of the Midwest, including Wyoming.

On the national front, Senator Joe McCarthy’s continuing investigations of alleged infiltration by communists into the federal government led, in 1954, to criticisms of his methods and to the Army-McCarthy hearings.  By the time that Crippa got to the Senate, there were increasing calls for the Senate to censure McCarthy, and Crippa received letters from citizens of Wyoming and other states regarding the possibility of censure.


Letter from a geologist with Sun Oil Company supporting Sen. McCarthy while also stating that Sen. McCarthy may deserve some condemnation, 1954. Edward D. Crippa papers, American Heritage Center University of Wyoming

Most of the letters that Crippa received (or at least those that he kept) recommended that Crippa vote against censure, and in his replies to some those letters, he stated that he would do so.  In the end, he did not do so—he left the Senate four days before the censure vote, which passed 67-22.


Letter from a man in Missouri in support of Sen. McCarthy, 1954. At the time the letter was written, Missouri had two Democrats in the Senate. Sen. McCarthy was a Republican. Edward D. Crippa papers, American Heritage Center University of Wyoming

Among other materials in the collection that relate to the Cold War and the communist scare are a document produced by Senate Republicans that is titled “Communism – Republicans!   Wake Up! – Don’t Let the Democrats Get Away with This One!”


First page of a document produced by Senate Republicans regarding Communism, 1954. Edward D. Crippa papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

There is also a letter that Crippa received regarding Joseph C. O’Mahoney, the Democrat who was running for Crippa’s seat.  In the letter, the writer noted that O’Mahoney had participated in the defense of Owen Lattimore, who was prosecuted in federal court for perjury before the Senate McCarran Committee’s investigation into communism in the United States.  (The trial judge eventually threw out the charges against Lattimore.)


Letter from Payson Spaulding, an attorney in Evanston, Wyoming, to Sen. Crippa regarding Joseph O’Mahoney’s participation in the defense of Owen Lattimore, 1954. Edward D. Crippa papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

Finally, the collection also contains a resolution from the Wyoming Reserve Officer’s Association criticizing the U.S. Congress.  The language of the resolution is vague, but its assertion that “the world’s greatest army is being subjected to undeserved humiliation which is destroying that respect” suggests that the resolution was aimed at McCarthy’s investigation of the U.S. Army.


A resolution from the Wyoming Reserve Officer’s Association criticizing the U.S. Congress, 1954. Edward D. Crippa papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming


To learn more about Edward D. Crippa’s career and about this time period in congressional history, take at look at Crippa’s papers at the American Heritage Center.

– Submitted by Roger Simon, Processing Archivist, Alan K. Simpson Institute for Western Politics and Leadership, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

Posted in Alan K. Simpson Institute for Western Politics and Leadership, Cold War, Communism, Politics, Uncategorized, western politics and leadership, Wyoming history | Tagged , , | Leave a comment