[Editor’s note: The AHC invited UW students enrolled in Professor Rick Ewig’s Archival Methods course to contribute a post for the AHC blog. Here is one such entry! Enjoy!]
One of the most underused collections at the American Heritage Center has a gold mine of information (some on an actual gold mine) spread across dozens of boxes and hundreds of folders. Titans of industry in the waning Gilded Age are highlighted in correspondence and business contracts, deeds, and minutes. Such men could be staying at a swanky hotel in our nation’s capital while sending and receiving letters from venture capitalists in London, cattle foremen in New Mexico, estate lawyers in Iowa, and desperate hucksters, inventors, and panhandlers from areas in between. Such was the lot of James and Helen Bosler of Carlisle Pennsylvania, and their heir apparent, Frank Bosler.
Frank Bosler, along with a few other notables such as Edward Ivinson, would become the closest thing Wyoming had to a Rockefeller or a J.P. Morgan. A level-headed businessman who made decisions by the numbers rather than by personal feelings, ran what amounted to a minor business empire that comprised large tracts of Southeast Wyoming, land and cattle in Iowa and New Mexico, and mine deeds in Colorado. His holdings included a dizzying array of companies that included the Iron Mountain Ranch, the Iron Mountain Alloy Company, and the Ashland Mining Company. Frank Bosler could be found sending letters and contracts that exchanged tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and later, he could send a letter to his bank enquiring about a discrepancy of one dollar and seventy-two cents, making him meticulous, miserly, or both.
Juxtaposed with this gentleman from back East, a tenderfoot some might have called him in his younger years, was the rough and tumble John C. Coble. Coble was the owner of the world famous bucking bronco Steamboat, the horse immortalized as Wyoming’s unofficial symbol. Coble, an undisputed leader of cowpokes and survivor of a grisly knife attack by the father of the boy allegedly murdered by Tom Horn, was Bosler’s business partner and primary operator of the Iron Mountain Company. Bosler, cultured and unemotional, and Coble, hardened cowboy and hothead, made for quite the odd couple. It is no wonder that their business partnership dissolved with Coble allegedly misallocating company funds in order to pay for Horn’s defense, Horn being a close, personal friend. Coble eventually won a civil case Bosler that went all the way to the Wyoming Supreme Court, which held that Bosler owed Coble over twenty thousand dollars in damages!
All these events represent a fraction of the interactions found in the Bosler Family Collection that bring to life the changing Wyoming landscape at the turn of the last century. Dig in, and enjoy this precious stone at the AHC in the Gem City of the Plains.
–Oscar Lilley, HIST 4055 Student
[Author’s note regarding sources consulted: Frank Bosler Papers, 1864-1930. Collection Number 5850. American Heritage Center. University of Wyoming. Boxes 61-63, and 115 were highlighted in this blog post.]