International Holocaust Remembrance Day

January 27th marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which coincides with the date that the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945. In that vein, we will delve into two World War II era collections at the American Heritage Center – those of Murray C. Bernays and Grace Robinson. Murray Bernays was an American lawyer who served in the U.S. Army during both World Wars. In 1945 he became a colonel with the U.S. Army General Staff Corps. It was in this role that Bernays helped to develop the legal procedures and framework for the international military tribunal that conducted the Nuremberg War Crime Trials.

Colonel Murray Bernays (left) and Colonel John Amen preparing for the Nuremberg Trials, 1945.
Box 6, Murray C. Bernays papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

During World War II, the Nazis committed genocide and other horrific war crimes. But until the Nuremberg Trials of 1945 and 1946, never had an international court of law been convened to try war criminals. Twenty-four high ranking Nazi leaders were called before a court of judges. The governments of the United States, Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union each designated a prosecutor. Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson was tapped by U.S. President Harry S. Truman to serve as the American prosecutor. Murray Bernays was Justice Jackson’s military advisor.

Nuremberg, Germany, was chosen for the site of the trials, as the city had been the symbolic home of the Nazi Party. It was considered fitting that Nuremberg would also be the place where the Party leaders met their fates. The crimes committed by the Nazis were so reprehensible they were categorized as crimes against humanity. It was posited by the Allied legal community that Germany had engaged in an unprovoked aggressive war, and that aggressive war was a crime against civilization. The defendants in the Nuremberg trials were accused of violations of the rules of war as regulated by the Hague Conventions. Interestingly, the German Military Code recognized that the criminal law applied, even in case of war, stating: “If the execution of a military order violates the criminal law, then the superior officer giving the order will bear responsibility therefor.”

There were some who questioned the need for any trial at all – they favored punishment by decree. But Murray Bernays argued that democratic traditions required the kind of integrity and justice that a courtroom offers. Following his involvement in preparations for the trials, Bernays published articles in Reader’s Digest and Survey Graphic magazines explaining his thinking and analysis behind the structure and justification for the trials. Bernays pointed out that while the Nuremberg trials were unprecedented, they were merely ensuring that war criminals be tried “pursuant to recognized law.”

Draft of an article about the Nuremberg Trials for Reader’s Digest magazine written
by Murray Bernays, November 25, 1945.
Box 6, Murray C. Bernays papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

As the Nuremberg Trials progressed, New York Daily News reporter Grace Robinson found herself in the courtroom in Nuremberg. She had been assigned to report on post-war Germany. Robinson was present in court on June 20th, 1946, to witness the prosecution of some of the most infamous Nazi leaders, including Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Albert Speer and Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Hearing the testimony of Albert Speer from the witness stand made a lasting impression, even on Robinson who had nearly thirty years of reporting experience under her belt. She called it the “most interesting assignment of my life”.

Grace Robinson’s press passes for the Nuremberg Trials, June 1946.
On the back, Robinson had noted “save – valuable”.
Box 32, Grace Robinson papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Map of the German courtroom used for the Nuremberg Trials, June 21, 1946.
Box 32, Grace Robinson papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Hermann Goering was the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany, after Hitler. Responsible for the creation of the Gestapo – the official secret police – he was also commander in chief of the Nazi Air Force (the Luftwaffe). Goering personally confiscated the property of Jews and over the course of the war was able to amass a sizeable fortune. At Nuremberg he was sentenced to hang but committed suicide by swallowing a capsule of cyanide just hours before his execution. Rudolf Hess, a Deputy Fuhrer appointed by Hitler, was another one of the leaders of the Nazi Party tried at Nuremberg. Hess was sentenced to life in prison in Berlin and died while still in custody at the age of 93. Albert Speer was an architect who became the Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production. It was under his authority that Jews and other prisoners of the Nazis were used as slave labor. Speer was the only defendant to take personal responsibility for his actions. But he claimed to have no knowledge of the Holocaust. Still, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Ernst Kaltenbrunner was the most senior member of the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel) to face trial at Nuremberg. Loyal to Hitler and virulently anti-Semitic, he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and executed in October 1946.

Newspaper photograph of the German courtroom used for the Nuremberg Trials, November 27, 1945. The handwritten notations on the page are Grace Robinson’s. She pointed out Hermann Goering and the spectator section (which was mostly press).
Box 32, Grace Robinson papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

If you are interested in learning more, you can visit the American Heritage Center to access the Murray C. Bernays and Grace Robinson papers. A portion of the Grace Robinson papers are also digitized and available online in Luna. In Bernays’ collection you will find information on the structure of the trials and files pertaining to witnesses and evidence compiled by the prosecutors in advance of the trials. The Robinson papers include a collection of newspaper clippings covering the Nuremberg Trials from various newspapers dated 1945 to 1946.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


Posted in Holocaust Days of Remembrance, military history, Political history, Uncategorized, World War II | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day

Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day falls on the third Monday in January. It marks a time of remembrance and reflection on the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his relentless quest for equality, human rights and respect for human dignity. King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in the segregated south on January 15, 1929. By the time he was in high school, he had begun to hone his skill as a public speaker. In 1944, at the age of 15, he was on the debate team and winning oratorial contests. By the time he was 26, he had earned two bachelor’s degrees and a Ph.D. degree in systematic theology from Boston University.

King went on to become a Baptist church minister and civil rights activist. He was also a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The SCLC helped to coordinate local organizations as they fought for Black equality. It also sponsored voter registration drives and job creation programs. King sent out regular letters with updates on SCLC activities and fundraising requests.

Fundraising letter from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., October 1967.
Box 1, Lewis L. Gould papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

King took inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi’s approach to agitating for change saying, “The Gandhian philosophy of nonviolence is the only logical and moral approach to the solution of the race problem in the United States.” In 1955, King led the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott – a social protest campaign against the policy of racial segregation on Montgomery public transportation. The boycott received the attention of the national press and King suddenly became the very visible face of the civil rights movement. Then, in ensuing years, he led marches and demonstrations for voting rights, desegregation, labor and fair housing rights.

In addition to his work as a civil rights leader and minister, King became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War. On April 15, 1967, he led a march and rally of 125,000 people against the war at the United Nations in New York City. King said, “As long as the war in Vietnam goes on, the more difficult it will be to implement the programs that will deal with the problems that Negro people confront in our country…”

Flyer organizing Connecticut protesters to join Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s anti-Vietnam War march
on the United Nations, April 1967.
Box 1, Lewis L. Gould papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

King faced animosity from the very beginning. His activism earned him harassment, threats and physical violence. In 1956 a bomb was thrown onto the front porch of his home, and he was stabbed in the chest in 1958. King was jailed repeatedly as he participated in nonviolent protests, demonstrations and even prayer vigils. Despite this, King continued to speak out. His skill as an orator was legendary. He inspired others with the power of his speeches and his pen. His “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C, and his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” are studied even today by students all across the world. In 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as the leader of the American movement for nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice.

Tragically, King’s life was cut short. In 1968, at the age of 39, he was assassinated. His murder led to race riots in major cities across the U.S. At the University of Wyoming, campus minister Reverend Dick Putney and some students organized a silent vigil in front of the student union in King’s honor. According to Putney’s remembrances in an American Heritage Center oral history interview, only about 20 students showed up. Soon “a couple of pickups with guys with cowboy hats and beers in one hand and a couple of long guns came and just harassed” the group. Although the vigil-goers hoped that campus police would arrive and intervene, they never appeared. Instead, the harassers eventually lost interest when they ran out of beer.

The path to establishing a day in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s honor was long and circuitous. In the 1970s, King’s reputation as a “trouble-maker” and “agitator” among the white majority still prevailed. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, faced an uphill battle convincing federal legislators to designate a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day federal holiday. President Ronald Regan eventually signed a bill honoring King in 1983 and by 1986 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day began being celebrated at the federal level.

It was another fourteen years before all fifty states officially recognized the day. In Wyoming, the acknowledgement came in 1990 after nearly ten years of tireless work by State Senator Harriett Elizabeth “Liz” Byrd. Even then, the recognition was a compromise, as the holiday’s name was amended to include the words “Wyoming Equality Day”. Legislators at the time argued against naming a day for King, pointing out that King was one of many civil rights activists, and that Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were not honored with holidays in their names. In 1989, Governor Mike Sullivan signed an executive order declaring January 15, 1990, to be Martin Luther King, Jr. Equality Day. Then, during the 1990 Wyoming congressional session, the bill was passed making the third Monday in January an official Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day state holiday.

Page of a speech given by Wyoming Governor Mike Sullivan in honor of
Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day, January 14, 1990.
Box 8, Michael J. Sullivan papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In 2002, the University of Wyoming Student Affairs Office launched an event known as the Martin Luther King, Jr. “Days of Dialogue”. The goals of “Days of Dialogue” included providing a positive environment for Black-identified students to celebrate their culture and encouraging individuals to engage with racial justice issues. From 2002 through 2021 the “Days of Dialogue” were held during the third week of January, coinciding with Martin Luther King, Jr. /Wyoming Equality Day. Regular features of the event’s programming included a march from the Albany County Courthouse to the UW Union, speeches by activists, townhall meetings and panel discussions.

Schedule of events for the 2002 University of Wyoming Martin Luther King, Jr. & Days of Dialogue,
January 21, 2002.
Box 1, University of Wyoming Multicultural Affairs records, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

If you are interested in learning more, the American Heritage Center has six collections that contain materials related to Martin Luther King, Jr. The Jack Casserly papers include a short audio tape interview with King. The Richard S. Putney Oral History includes a brief remembrance of Reverend Dick Putney’s experience leading a silent vigil at the University of Wyoming honoring King after his assassination. The Lewis L. Gould papers include fundraising letters from King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The University of Wyoming Multicultural Affairs records contain material related to the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. “Days of Dialogue” held on the UW campus each January. The Harriett Elizabeth Byrd papers include materials related to establishing Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day as a Wyoming holiday. Finally, the Michael J. Sullivan papers contain documents related to Wyoming’s official recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day in 1990.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


Posted in African American history, Martin Luther King Jr., Political history, Social justice, Uncategorized, University of Wyoming history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

More Bang for Your Buck: Jesse James and the James-Younger Gang

The name “Jesse James” conjures up the quintessential images of the Wild West—dusty towns, saloons with creaky floorboards, gun fights, and a sheriff’s posse chasing outlaws across the rugged landscape. As one of the most infamous outlaws of all time, the story of Jesse James and his gang is quite the colorful tale.

Jesse James’ story begins on September 5, 1847 in Clay County, Missouri. He was born on a hemp farm and lived there with his parents, older brother, and younger sister. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Jesse and his brother Frank sided with the Confederates and joined a group of guerillas known as Quantrill’s Raiders, led by Charles Quantrill. Quantrill was dubbed “the bloodiest man in American history.”

After the war, the facts around Jesse and Frank get a little fuzzy. Although they allegedly helped rob banks in multiple Missouri towns over the next few years, there is no concrete evidence for this. The first robbery that the James brothers are definitively tied to occurred in Gallatin, Missouri, in 1869. The news coverage from this robbery marked Jesse as an outlaw.

Following this robbery, Jesse and his brother Frank formed a gang with the Younger brothers and other former Confederates. Together, the James-Younger gang robbed banks and stagecoaches all over the country. There is even anecdotal evidence for the gang committing crimes as far west as Wyoming. The stories place the James brothers near Big Horn, Wyoming, and the infamous Hole-in-the-Wall hideout.

Eyewitness account of Jesse James by a Wyoming resident.
Box 15, National Outlaw & Lawman Association records, Collection #9030, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

On July 21, 1873 near Adair, Iowa, the James-Younger gang staged the world’s first robbery of a moving train. The gang derailed the train by prying the spikes out of the rails and collected roughly $3,000 from the train’s safe and passengers. In today’s money, that’s roughly $65,000. In their 17 years, the gang’s robberies netted more than a quarter of a million dollars. Although Jesse James is often portrayed as a sort of Robin Hood, there is no evidence that the James-Younger gang ever shared any money they stole outside of their gang.

Modern copy of wanted poster for Jesse James.
Box 52, National Outlaw & Lawman Association records, Collection #9030,
American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The James-Younger gang continued their outlaw ways until a robbery went wrong in September, 1876, in Northfield, Minnesota. After the failed robbery attempt, members of the gang started to slowly drop out until it was only Frank and Jesse again. The brothers decided to give up crime and move back to Missouri.

In January of 1882, Robert and Charles Ford, two brothers who had been newer members of Jesse James’ gang, were arrested in their home in Clay County, Missouri. The Ford brothers made a deal with the Kansas City Chief of Police that if they could capture Frank or Jesse James dead or alive, they would receive a full pardon. If not, they were to be hanged.

Robert Ford. Image courtesy of St. Joseph Museums Inc.

In April 1882, The Ford brothers travelled to St. Joseph, Missouri, where Jesse was living and asked to have dinner with him. Since they were trusted friends, Jesse readily agreed. While examining a painting after dinner, Jesse was shot in the back of the head by Robert Ford. His tombstone reads “Jesse W. James, Died April 3, 1882, Aged 34 years, 6 months, 28 days. Murdered by a traitor and a coward whose name is not worthy to appear here.”

Five months after his brother’s death, Frank gave himself up at a prearranged appointment with Missouri Governor Thomas Crittenden, reportedly saying to the governor, “I have been hunted for twenty-one years, have literally lived in the saddle, have never known a day of perfect peace. It was one long, anxious, inexorable, eternal vigil.” He ended his statement with, “Governor, I haven’t let another man touch my gun since 1861.” He was later acquitted after only being tried for two of his alleged crimes. He went on to live thirty more years, performing odd jobs. He died at age 72 on February 18, 1915, at the James Farm in Missouri leaving behind a wife and a son.

The American Heritage Center holds collections pertaining to Jesse James as a figure in history as well as in popular culture, including the papers of Samuel A. Peeples, George Hart, and Henry King as well as the Larry C. Bradley Jesse James film collection and the National Outlaw & Lawman Association records.

Post contributed by Sarah Kesterson, Archives Aide, AHC Reference Department.


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Mrs. Money – Nellie Tayloe Ross

While Nellie Tayloe Ross is often remembered for being Wyoming’s first and only female governor, it is lesser known that she spent most of her career as the Director of the U.S. Mint. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her to the position in 1933.

Director of the Mint Nellie Tayloe Ross and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, ca. 1940.
Box 24, Nellie Tayloe Ross papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Ross had been the Vice Chairman of the Women’s Division of the National Democratic Committee. As such, she had led the campaign for the women’s vote for F.D.R., demonstrating both her organizational skills and her loyalty to the President-elect. A lobbying effort had been launched by women all across the U.S. to get Roosevelt to consider a woman for his cabinet, and Ross’ name was put forward for the Secretary of the Department of the Interior. A supporter pointed out that “Governor Ross has shown her ability to meet new situations masterfully, and I am convinced that she could cut this new path for women with distinction and without any fuss.”

Roosevelt took note but decided to nominate Frances Perkins as the first ever woman on a Presidential cabinet. He had another role in mind for Ross – Director of the U.S. Mint.

Newsreel clip of Nellie Tayloe Ross speaking following her appointment as Director of the Mint.
Nellie Tayloe Ross digital collection, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
(Luna link: ahcav_00948_001)

At first, some of the 500 mostly male Mint employees rebelled at the idea of a female director. But Ross brooked no nonsense and quickly got to work proving her competence.

The responsibilities of the Mint Director were enormous. In addition to overseeing the Bureau of the Mint in Washington D.C., she managed the operations of three far flung Mints in Denver, San Francisco and Philadelphia and two U.S. Assay Offices in Seattle and New York City. The U.S. Bullion Depositories also fell under her domain. It was there that billions of dollars of the Government’s gold and silver stocks were held. The gold was kept at the famous Fort Knox, in Kentucky, while the silver was secured in New York at West Point.

Managing all of these various sites meant that Ross travelled frequently at first by train, and then later by plane, checking in with her many employees. By all accounts she was both a personable and effective manager. As the country emerged from the Great Depression, increased demand for coinage put pressure on the Mint to expand operations. Ross oversaw the construction of new Mint buildings in San Francisco, West Point and Fort Knox. She became the first woman in U.S. history to have her name engraved on not one, but three cornerstones of Government Mint buildings.

Director of the Mint Nellie Tayloe Ross at the opening of the West Point, New York
Silver Bullion Depository Building, 1937.
Box 24, Nellie Tayloe Ross papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

During World War II, Ross spearheaded a Mint campaign to encourage Americans who had been saving pennies in jars and piggy banks to return those coins to circulation by buying War Stamps and Bonds. The country was experiencing a shortage of pennies and the copper usually used by the Mint to manufacture the coins was in scarce supply. Copper, which was needed for tanks, planes and ammunition, had become more valuable than diamonds, as far as winning the war was concerned.

In addition to minting coins and managing gold and silver stocks, the Mint produced Congressional commemorative medallions, millions of military combat award medals and billions of foreign coins.

Commemorative medallion honoring Nellie Tayloe Ross.
Box 18, Nellie Tayloe Ross papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Ross modernized Mint processes, equipment and hiring practices. She encouraged employee innovation. At the peak of operations, her staff grew to 4,000 employees, with the three Mints producing billions of coins 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She became conversant with the technologies and processes of minting and spoke with pride of her many dedicated and efficient employees. They, in turn, praised her as the best Director who had ever served. One said, Mrs. Ross “never misses a thing” and others thanked her for her dedication to her “Mint Family.” Politicians appreciated Ross for her fiscally responsible approach to managing the money the government appropriated for Mint operations.

Photos from a magazine article about Nellie Tayloe Ross, July 1950.
Box 18, Nellie Tayloe Ross papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Nellie Tayloe Ross was so accomplished in her role as Director of the Mint, that she served for twenty years under three Presidents, both Democrat and Republican. When she retired in 1953, she was a spry seventy-six years old. To this day, no other Mint Director has had such a long and distinguished tenure. Her capable service opened the doors wider for other women seeking high level policy-making posts in Government.

You can learn more about Nellie Tayloe Ross by viewing some of her papers and photographs in the Nellie Tayloe Ross digital collection at the American Heritage Center or visit the AHC to see the complete collection of the Nellie Tayloe Ross papers.

Post submitted by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


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Howard Hays: Impresario of the Parks

Howard H. Hays (1883-1969) was an entrepreneur whose career ranged from driving surreys in Yellowstone National Park to running a newspaper publishing company in Riverside, California.

Howard Hays, ca. 1940
Box 5, Howard Hays papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

A native of Metropolis, Illinois, Hays attended college in his home state before moving to Montana in 1905 to “seek healthful outdoor employment.” After securing a position on a ranch in the Gallatin Valley, Hays found himself feeling hale and hearty once more.

Hays’ interest in nearby Yellowstone National Park led him to William Wallace Wylie who developed a system of permanent camps throughout the park. Hays soon joined the Wylie operation, and this opportunity launched the young Hays into a lifelong role as a national park concessioner and promoter of travel and tourism for America’s scenic treasures.

This is a postcard a visitor could send their friends that promotes the Wylie Permanent Camping Company’s accommodations in Yellowstone National Park, ca. 1914. A blurb on the back of the postcard reads: “Dear [insert name], I am entering ‘Wonderland’ today the ‘Wylie Way’ which means an ideal coaching and camping tour. They will send you a beautiful hand-book if you will address Wylie Company, Gardiner, Mont.”
Box 5, Howard Hays papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

From 1906 to 1916 Hays served as the traveling passenger agent for Wylie. He left Yellowstone for about three years to take a job elsewhere, but by 1919 he was once again in the national park, this time as president of the Yellowstone Park Camps Company.

Tourists traveled in style during their Yellowstone stay in a Wylie Permanent Camping Company coach, ca. 1910.
Box 5, Howard Hays papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Another spate of ill health forced him to sell the company in 1924, but the indomitable Hays was back to work by 1927, this time organizing and serving as president for Montana-based Glacier Park Transport Company, among other interests. Howard Hays’ son Tim recalled, “My early memories of the Transport Company are dominated by the eleven-passenger, convertible buses, painted red like the present buses, that carried thousands of tourists, noisily but safely, throughout the park, over many years. Their engines were started with a crank (at the front of the bus), the proper settings of the choke and the spark, and a prayer. Their air horns were a loud delight.”

The three photographs below from the Hays papers illustrate one of the problems he dealt with on muddy dirt “roads” in Glacier National Park. These tourists look like they want their money back.

At the time he formed this company, tourist roads in Glacier were limited to the east side of the park. The Going-to-the-Sun highway and Logan Pass would not exist for many years. On the west side of the park the only road ran from Belton to Lake McDonald. Hays also initiated international bus service beginning in 1927 with bus service running between Glacier Park and the new Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes Park, Alberta, Canada.

While operating the Glacier Park Transport Company, Hays was also president of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Company and had purchased and operated the Press-Enterprise Company in Riverside, California. He died in Riverside at the age of 85.

The Howard H. Hays papers at the American Heritage Center contain materials relating to his business in Glacier including operating statements, contracts, and correspondence for the Glacier Park Transport Company from 1927-1954 and some biographical items. The Yellowstone portion of the collection contains scrapbooks, photographs, and business receipts.

Post submitted by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.


Posted in National Parks, Recreation, Tourism, Uncategorized, Western history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

It’s December in Wyoming, so there is undoubtedly snow in the forecast. For some, flurries of white mean fun and games, while for others snow poses challenges, or is downright deadly. The American Heritage Center’s Digital Collections has more than three thousand images of snowy scenes. Let’s take a look at a selection over time.

A Laramie street after a blizzard in 1897. That’s a lot of snow to hand shovel!
Photo File: Wyoming – Laramie – Blizzard 1897, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In the 1930s, Laramie’s Historic Ivinson Mansion housed a girls’ boarding school. Girls attended Laramie’s University High School for most of their classes, but had lessons at Ivinson in deportment, religion and physical education. The photo below shows the “Ivinson girls,” as they were known around town, in the midst of a snowball fight. Perhaps lobbing balls of snow at one another counted for P.E. credits? One wonders what the deportment instructor’s opinion on the matter might have been.

“Snow Day at Ivinson Hall,” 1938. Ivinson Hall was originally a mansion built for prominent Laramie resident Edward Ivinson in 1892. At the time of this photograph it was a boarding school for girls, which lasted until 1953. It is now home to the Laramie Plains Museum.
Box 35, Negative Number 30266D, Ludwig & Svenson Studio Photographs, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Heavy snowfall also brings with it the opportunity for building snowmen. The two children in the photo below are certainly smartly dressed for having built not one, not two, but three snow people.

Two children posing with their snowmen, 1935. The photo was taken by Vera Shultz.
Box 18, Lora Webb Nichols papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Snowfall for some regions of the state means the opportunity to ski – whether it be cross country or downhill. The photo below was taken on “Ruth Hanna Simms Ski Hill,” which is now part of Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole. Simms had donated money to build a ski jump on what had previously been known simply as “Town Hill.”

Three young men ready to hit the slopes in Jackson Hole, ca. 1932.
Box 82, S.N. Leek papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 

People on skis gliding across the snow are a common wintery sight in the mountains, but a house on skis gliding across the plains was a spectacle in 1925. A snowy day made this move possible and the team of horses pulling this house surely had their work cut out for them!

Team of horses pulling a house across a snowy landscape at Faerie Fait, 1925.
Box 20, Lora Webb Nichols papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Wyoming snowfall near Cody in 1942 was a new and sometimes difficult experience for the Japanese Americans interned during World War II at Heart Mountain Relocation Center. The majority of those held at Heart Mountain were from warmer areas of California and coastal Oregon and Washington. Many of them lacked sufficient warm clothing for the Wyoming winters. The War Relocation Authority issued clothing allowances for each family to help address the need for coats, hats and gloves, but there was a great deal of demand and a scarce supply. Internees who could afford it ordered clothing from the Sears and Roebuck catalog.

Japanese American internee Arthur Ishigo with his dog and a young boy at Heart Mountain, circa 1942-1945.
Box 1, Estelle Ishigo Photographs, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Just a few years after the Japanese Americans of Heart Mountain were learning to endure the snow and cold, a terrible blizzard struck Wyoming. It began on January 2, 1949, when subzero temperatures and high winds blew the rapidly accumulating snow, creating snow drifts as deep as ten feet. Hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle froze to death in the snow. Some unfortunate motorists and homeowners had to dig out, probably by hand.

Yes, there is a house under all that snow. We wonder how these Rawlins residents managed to escape.
Photo File: Wyoming-Rawlins – Blizzard of 1949, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

With winter weather close at hand, enjoy the beauty of the snow, but don’t forget about its dangers. Stay warm and if the mood strikes you, you can scroll through more snowy scenes in the American Heritage Center’s online digital archive.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington and AHC Archivist Leslie Waggener.


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Happy Birthday, National Guard

December 13th commemorates the birthday of the National Guard. On that date in 1637, the Massachusetts General Court established an official militia for the first time in the American Colonies. The resolution stated that all able-bodied men from age 16 to 60 were to join. Today, this military organization is the National Guard.

First muster of the East Regiment (present-day Massachusetts Army National Guard) in Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony, spring 1637. Wikipedia. Public domain image.

Each state established a similar militia after the United States formed and the country grew. However, it wasn’t until 1933 that Congress made the name “National Guard” official.  A component of the U.S. Army, the National Guard is largely made up of citizen-soldiers. Thus, the men and women who serve also hold down full-time civilian jobs, attend school, or both. The role of the National Guard is to provide support and protection for the states’ civilians or be called for military operations at a national level.

All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the territories of Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands maintain both an Army National Guard and an Air National Guard.

The Wyoming Army National Guard was established in 1870 while Wyoming was still a territory. Governor John A. Campbell authorized the division of territory into three military districts. The next year, a law passed by the Wyoming Territorial Assembly giving legal sanction to volunteer militia companies of not less than 40 men.

Organized in 1888, Company A, 1st Wyoming Regiment known as the “Laramie Grays” was the first federally recognized Wyoming unit. The same year Company B: The Cheyenne Guard was established. Once Wyoming became a state in 1890, constitutional provisions allowed for the formation of units in Buffalo, Evanston, Douglas, Green River, Rock Springs, Rawlins, and Sheridan.

The caption for this photo reads: “I believe this was taken of the Albany County National Guards when they were shipped during the Spanish American War.” This would have been 1898. The caption may have been written by Laramie businessman Elmer Lovejoy from whose papers the photograph came.
Box 2, Folder 2, Elmer F. Lovejoy papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The Wyoming National Guard was first federally mobilized during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Since then, the Guard has seen active service in many conflicts including World War I, World War II, and the Korean Conflict. Wyoming Guard units have also served in Desert Storm, the Bosnia peacekeeping force, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the Hurricane Katrina response.

National Guard, 115th Cavalry, activated shortly after December 7, 1941. Photograph taken by Hugo G. Janssen, who owned a photographic studio in Lovell, Wyoming. Box 1, Folder 13, Hugo G. Janssen Photographs, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

Today, about 350,000 men and women serve in the National Guard and the Air National Guard, which forms 39% of the Army’s operational force.

Take time to recognize a National Guard soldier or airman you know. Use #NationalGuardBirthday to post on social media.

Post contributed by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.


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Pearl Harbor’s Role in Popularizing Surfing

We all have our hobbies, ranging from knitting to metalworking, reading the classics, or computer programming, and many, many more. However, we do not always know the origins of our hobbies. Granted, the majority probably emerged in mundane circumstances, but not all have such simple beginnings.

Clay Blair Jr. was a renowned journalist from the mid to late 20th century as well as a military historian and author. Before Blair became an author and journalist, he volunteered in the submarine service during World War II. It was at this time he and his friends picked up a hobby with an interesting history.

During and after World War II, Blair took many photographs illustrating his love for surfing. He wasn’t the only American to have picked up the hobby after the war, either. Thousands of Americans started surfing after the war ended and that number can be attributed to Pearl Harbor.

Clay Blair Jr. surfing in Hawaii, ca. 1944
Box 341, Folder 3, Clay Blair papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 

Pearl Harbor is not normally associated with surfing, but there is actually a close relationship. Prior to the second world war, surfing was a small hobby practiced by a handful of Polynesian individuals on the island of Hawaii. This changed during World War II. There were 35,000 soldiers stationed at Pearl Harbor, and it was the largest military post in the army. This number does not include the thousands of Navy men stationed in the area. Due to its size, it became a popular meeting place.

Soldiers and military officials from all over the United States travelled to Hawaii. As a result, thousands of people experienced Hawaiian culture firsthand. Polynesian activities and cultures spread throughout the United States as these soldiers returned home or moved to different posts. Pearl Harbor was the experience of new cultures, and California became an infusion of said cultures into the population. There was one activity in particular that caught the attention of continental Americans: surfing.

Clay Blair Jr. looking to catch a wave, ca. 1944.
Box 341, Folder 3, Clay Blair papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.  

Like Clay Blair, many Americans formed an avid interest in surfing. However, America did not keep surfing as a secret for very long. As soldiers migrated posts within America and into Europe, surfing spread with them. In the fifty years following World War II, surfing advanced from a hobby mostly practiced by a small group of islanders, to a professional competition sport taking place all over the world. Today, surfing is an Olympic sport with dozens of smaller competitions held every year.

Yes, we all have our hobbies, but not all hobbies have such a fantastic origin story. Pearl Harbor is directly responsible for the growth of surfing, not only throughout the United States, but the world. Without Pearl Harbor’s historical significance, surfing might never have been as popular of an activity nor have gained Olympic status. Clay Blair’s papers offers a look at those World War II-era years of surfing.

Today, between 17 and 35 million people surf, both professionally and as a hobby. Look into the origins and histories of your hobbies and you might just find something interesting.

Post contributed by AHC Photo Archivist Nora Plant and AHC Audio/Visual Archives Aide Kenzie McPhie.


Posted in Authors and literature, Pacific Islander history, Sports and Recreation, Uncategorized, World War II | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Frank Scully and Flying Saucers

Merriam-Webster defines an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) as “a mysterious flying object in the sky that is sometimes assumed to be a spaceship from another planet.” Although unidentified phenomena in the skies had been reported for much of human history, it was the Cold War era beginning in the late 1940s when mysterious lights and flying objects generated an intense scientific and amateur quest to understand the frontier beyond the earth’s orbit.

Tensions after World War II between the United States and the Soviet Union fueled the space race as well as fears of a nuclear apocalypse, turning American eyes – and fears – to the skies. The much-publicized sighting of UFOs in 1947 by pilot Kenneth Arnold, who described what he saw as saucer-shaped, prompted clever journalists to come up with the term “flying saucer.”[1]

In this 1947 Associated Press file photo, Kenneth Arnold holds a movie camera in front of his CallAir, after he reported seeing nine alleged UFOs near Mount Ranier, Washington. Little did he know he would change the world when he reported the sightings.

Unidentified flying objects in the heavens became a worldwide sensation within months. Reports of sightings proliferated, and UFO organizations were even formed by a fascinated public. The newly established U.S. Air Force was even tasked with investigating whether the phenomena were a national security threat.

Into this exciting new sphere of inquiry came journalist and author Frank Scully who wrote a regular column for the entertainment trade magazine Variety. From his friend Silas Newton, whom Scully knew as a wealthy Denver oilman, he learned that in 1948 at least three saucers carrying crews of tiny humanoids had landed in Aztec, New Mexico, and that the Air Force had captured the crews but was hushing up the big story. Newton supported his tale by citing “evidence” given by a mysterious scientist whom he called “Dr. Gee.”[2]

Newton (center) and Scully (right), Denver Post, October 19, 1950
Courtesy Denver Public Library.

Scully immediately assigned himself the task of publicizing the story through his Variety column and his 1950 book Behind the Flying Saucers. Unfortunately for Scully, before long Newton and “Dr Gee” (identified as Leo A. GeBauer) were exposed by San Francisco Chronicle reporter John Philip Cahn as con artists who had hoaxed the author. But not before sixty thousand copies of the book were sold.

Cover of Frank Scully’s book published by Popular Library in 1951.
Box 28, Folder 15, Frank Scully papers,
American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Scully’s account refuses to die. In 2011 UFO enthusiasts claimed proof of the 1948 UFO crash when the FBI added a mysterious memo to their online repository of public records termed the “FBI Vault.”[3] The 1950 memo written to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover by agency official Guy Hottel states that an FBI agent heard through an informant that three flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico. According to the FBI, the second- and third-hand claims were never worthy of investigation.[4]

Once Frank Scully had made a name for himself as a UFO researcher, he began to receive letters, photographs, and drawings from people who had purportedly witnessed UFOs. This letter dated 1954 is from a couple in Redondo Beach California.
Box 2, Folder 4, Frank Scully papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

As for Frank Scully, a look at his papers at the American Heritage Center reveals that he never lost his belief in extraterrestrials. In 1963 he wrote an autobiographical book In Armour Bright which included a reiteration of his belief in the 1948 saucer crash. For him and many others, UFOs represent fascinating possibilities of life outside the Earth’s boundaries and into the frontiers of the imagination.

Post submitted by AHC Archivist Leslie Waggener.


[1] Editors. “Kenneth Arnold,” History, originally published 22 February 2010, updated 25 December 2018, Accessed 12 October 2021.

[2] “The Press: Flying Saucer Men,” Time, October 27, 1952,,33009,890410,00.html. Accessed 12 October 2021.

[3] The FBI Vault can be found at

[4] FBI. “UFOs and the Guy Hottel Memo,” FBI News, published 25 March 2013,

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Whet Your Appetite for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving means tables groaning with food, and families and friends gathered in fellowship. So, in that spirit, let’s delve into a sampling of the cookbooks that are part of the American Heritage Center’s Toppan Rare Books Library.

Fannie Merritt Farmer’s 1911 cookbook, Catering for Special Occasions with Menus and Recipes provides some food for thought.

Front Cover of Catering for Special Occasions with Menus and Recipes, 1911.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Fannie Farmer was one of the pioneers of modern American cooking. She is credited with the invention of the format for the modern recipe. Her cookbooks championed the use of standardized measuring cups, tablespoons and teaspoons. Farmer wrote “correct measurements are absolutely necessary to ensure the best results”. Earlier cookbooks had often specified a pinch of this or a handful of that, but Farmer’s recipes instructed cooks to measure out ingredients in leveled off cups and spoons.

For Thanksgiving, Farmer developed two elaborate menus, each with more than a dozen dishes.

“Thanksgiving Dinner Menu No. 1” from Catering for Special Occasions with Menus and Recipes, 1911.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

While modern readers will recognize the classic roast turkey and stuffing, there are also recipes for “Puritan Pudding” and “New England Thanksgiving Pudding” – both variants on bread pudding. The recipes call for “common crackers”, but Farmer didn’t mean Ritz or Saltines. “Common crackers” were a food staple of the 1800s and 1900s. More closely resembling hard tack than modern era crackers, “common crackers” were round and thick and could be split in half like an English muffin or crushed using a rolling pin.

Recipes for “Chiffonade Dressed Lettuce”, “Chiffonade Dressing and “Puritan Pudding” from Catering for Special Occasions with Menus and Recipes, 1911.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Thanksgiving desserts featured in Farmer’s recipe book include the classic pumpkin pie and also a recipe for “French Vanilla Ice Cream” to be served with a liquor laced “Dewey Sauce”. Perhaps the most impressive Thanksgiving dessert recipe in the book is for “Mince Pie”. It is a hearty dish, involving 3 pounds of sugar, a quart of brandy, and 4 pounds each of lean beef and raisins. Preparing such a pie was surely a labor of love – in 1911 the raisins had to be seeded by hand.

While Fannie Farmer was helping cooks plan a feast for multitudes, Amelie Langdon’s 1907 Just for Two cookbook, pared down recipes for wives cooking only for their husbands. But even Langdon’s “Thanksgiving Dinner” menu included a dozen dishes.

A “Thanksgiving Dinner” menu from Just for Two – A Collection of Recipes Designed for Two Persons, 1907.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Curiously, while the menu begins with “Cream of Carrot Soup”, careful perusal of Langdon’s cookbook reveals no such recipe included. Celery, on the menu as an appetizer, is an interesting choice – Langdon writes “Nervous persons, for instance, should eat lots of celery for celery is the best nerve tonic in the world.” Her cookbook provides detailed instructions for roasting a turkey and offers a helpful page titled “How to Carve a Turkey”. Langdon’s menu counsels “Plum Pudding or Pumpkin Pie”, leaving the possibly nervous homemaker to choose.

Ann Batchelder’s Own Cook Book, published in 1944 offers an eclectic approach to both cooking and Thanksgiving. Ann Batchelder, a suffragette and Vermont’s first female attorney seems an unlikely figure to pen a cookbook. However, she was also the food editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal where she had the attention of hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Her cookbook includes essays, reflections and even her own poetic homage to Thanksgiving, which she declared to be her favorite holiday:

Thanksgiving is the day for me,

From twelve o’clock to twelve o’clock;

(My, the food I’ve lived to see!)

Next day I simply sit and rock.

When it came time to select a turkey, Batchelder opined somewhat cryptically “Choose your turkey as you choose your best friend – with affinity of tastes in mind. A somewhat young and non-dieted bird is best, with an admirable figure, but not streamlined.” Batchelder’s Thanksgiving menu is less elaborate than Farmer’s or Langdon’s, perhaps because her cookbook was published during World War II when homemakers were challenged with rationing of foodstuffs like sugar and canned goods. Vegetables, which often would have come from war time home victory gardens, feature heavily in the Ann Batchelder’s Own Cook Book Thanksgiving menu.

“Thanksgiving” menu from Ann Batchelder’s Own Cook Book, 1944.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

We hope this peek into of some of the cookbooks from the Toppan Rare Books Library has whetted your appetite for a feast. Happy Thanksgiving from the American Heritage Center!

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


Posted in Cooking, Holidays, Uncategorized, women's history | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment