UW’s Roaring Twenties, Dirty Thirties, and Fightin’ Forties

Arthur G. Crane, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. Photofile: Crane, Arthur. Negative #16253.

From 1922-1941, Arthur Griswold Crane was president of the University of Wyoming (UW).  His term saw many historical changes and challenges. The AHC holds the records from his presidency at UW, which contain not only the university’s financial and administrative records during this time, but also contain documents significant to state, national, and world history.  During my internship this summer in the university archives unit at the AHC, I was handed the privileged task of reviewing A. G. Crane’s materials to expand on the history and the scope and content notes in the finding aid describing these materials.  In just a few short days of research, I reviewed fascinating documents from the university’s early days and discovered that UW was affected by many major historical events throughout Crane’s presidency.  The following documents are only examples of the many interesting materials that can be found in the UW President’s Office records.

Upon beginning my research, I soon discovered that disciplinary issues were not an infrequent occurrence at the University of Wyoming.  An incident during the Prohibition era is documented, wherein two UW students, one a football star, were apprehended in Colorado with grain alcohol and fined. According to their excuse, Wyoming had a freer spirit than did Colorado at the time.

Student mischief during the Prohibition period, box 129, folder 29. University of Wyoming President’s Office, Arthur G. Crane records.

In 1926, the Ku Klux Klan reportedly requested permission from the administration to use UW’s Little Theatre for a lecture, as recorded in the minutes of the April 26 Executive Committee Meeting.  As you can see from the minutes, the committee deferred the decision to President Crane.  Whether or not he approved it is not evident from the records.

Excerpt of the minutes of the April 26 Executive Committee Meeting. Box 16, folder 4, University of Wyoming President’s Office, Arthur G. Crane records.

During the Great Depression, when universities across the country faced many hard choices, our own President Crane was forced to make a decision which seems quite old-fashioned now. It is recorded in a UW Board of Trustees meeting on April 20, 1932 that due to economic stress, contracts with married women employed by the university would no longer be renewed.  While this may seem unduly harsh, the justification for this decision was that married women were presumed to already have one source of income—her husband’s.  During a time of severe economic crisis, to have two incomes per family was perceived as an unseemly luxury.

Minutes from the UW Board of Trustees meeting on April 20, 1932. Box 10, folder 21, University of Wyoming President’s Office, Arthur G. Crane records.

Another major historical event that affected UW was World War II. Many of Wyoming’s students, and even some university administrators, were called to duty.  Crane’s collection includes correspondence between the president’s secretary, Faye Smith, and 1st Lieutenant John W. Himmelreich, a fellow Wyomingite, who served overseas flying medium bombers.  His letters to Smith describing a bit of the action he saw can be found in Box 37, Folder 16.

Front side of the letter, box 37, folder 16, University of Wyoming President’s Office, Arthur G. Crane records. [Click the image to view a larger version.]

and

Reverse side of the letter, box 37, folder 16, University of Wyoming President’s Office, Arthur G. Crane records. [Click the image to view a larger version.]

In addition to the Arthur G. Crane series of materials, the UW President’s Office records contains eleven other series including a “General Office Files” serieswhich has materials spanning several presidencies. A brief review of this series revealed documents dated back to 1887, the university’s inception. For example, I discovered student pledges written to the first UW President, John Wesley Hoyt, promising to behave in the future in accordance with university rules.  In this letter written by one of UW’s first students, Maude Wilson promises to “always be lady-like… and not court with the young men.”  There is a second letter in the same folder (Box 45, Folder 7) from Maude, apparently quite the trouble-maker!

Letter to the first University of Wyoming President John Wesley Hoyt from Maude Wilson. Box 45, folder 7, University of Wyoming President’s Office, Arthur G. Crane records.

Because I was constantly distracted by documents such as these, I have to admit that I did a slow job of research.  The amount of interesting materials did not allow me to search through the entire series. It is safe to assume that the Crane series, and entire UW President’s Office collection, contains many more gems waiting to be unearthed by the next researcher.

If you are interested in using this collection, please contact the AHC Reference Department at ahcref@uwyo.edu.  Access to this collection, and all AHC collections, are open to the public and free of charge.

Malissa Suek, AHC Intern

This entry was posted in newly processed collections, University of Wyoming history. Bookmark the permalink.

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