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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.)
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.
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