The Saga of Old Main’s Tower

In 1886, the skyline of Laramie became dominated by a massive stone structure, known today as Old Main on the University of Wyoming campus. The structure’s octagonal stone tower with a steeply pitched conical spire was a town landmark. But, over the years some of Old Main’s original architectural features were removed. The first to go was the stone tower.


The Old Main Building, University of Wyoming under construction in December 1886. American Heritage Center, ah002750.

The writer of the editorial below was one of those not at all happy about the removal of the tower. He or she is unknown, as is the publication in which the editorial appeared. It seems to have been written within four years of the tower being removed, a process that was begun on June 10, 1916.

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“Knowledge is power as never before:” John F. Kennedy’s Natural Resources Philosophy

Conservation of natural resources was a recurring topic during the administration of President John F. Kennedy. In fact, a favorite book of Kennedy’s was Henry David Thoreau’s Cape Cod, published in 1865. While president, Kennedy, a yachtsman, found restoration by sailing the Nantucket Sound waters around sandbars and shoals. Running for president in 1960, Kennedy advocated saving seashores as wildlife refuges and recreational areas.

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Isberg collection digitized

The AHC has completed a grant project to digitize photographs, glass plate negatives, glass lantern slides, and stereo cards from the Isberg Family papers, a collection of a Laramie family with material dating from 1884 to 1930.

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Posted in grants, Local history, newly digitized collections, Sports and Recreation, Uncategorized, Western history, Wyoming history | 1 Comment

Hans Kleiber and the Natural Beauty of Wyoming

Photo of Hans Kleiber in ranger uniform, standing in front of log cabin with felled trees in the background.

Photo of Hans Kleiber. From the Hans Kleiber papers.

The magnificent scenery of Wyoming has inspired many artists, but Hans Kleiber’s work stands out for the medium he used to capture the mountains, wildlife, and people of the state.  Kleiber’s art was often created with line only, etched on zinc or copper plates.  From these plates prints were made. Occasionally the prints were tinted, but many said all they needed to with lines.

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Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah) The Story of Murray C. Bernays

Murray C. Bernays, a name perhaps not known to most, was responsible for constructing the legal framework and procedures for the Nuremberg War Crime Trials after World War II. His work was of utmost importance as it helped bring justice to those found guilty of heinous crimes during WWII. For his work at Nuremberg, Bernays was awarded the Legion of Merit.

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Who Gets License Plate Number 1?

Jacob M. Schwoob standing next to an old car, featuring his Wyoming license plate number 1.

Jacob M. Schwoob with license plate no. 1. Photo from Box 5, Folder title “Schwoob, Jacob M. (and others)-Snapshots.” of the Jacob M. Scwhoob papers.

Jacob M. Schwoob riding horseback in front of a log cabin.

Schwoob on horseback. Photo from Box 5, Jacob M. Schwoob papers.

The State of Wyoming began issuing motor vehicle license plates in 1913.  Who got plate number 1?  The man who wrote the motor vehicle licensing law, state senator Jacob M. Schwoob of Park County. Schwoob continued to apply for, and receive, plate 1 annually until 1929, when he was awarded the number for the term of his life.  The honor recognized not only his authorship of the licensing bill but also his continuing advocacy of good roads for the sake of economic development.

Jacob M. Schwoob was born in Ontario in 1874.  At the age of 18 he immigrated to the United States, arriving first in Buffalo, New York, then moving to Cody, Wyoming, in 1898.  He was business manager of the Cody Trading Company until 1916, when he purchased the store and became its owner. A Republican, he served in the state senate from 1905 until 1913.  He pushed through a law to permit counties to issue bonds for road-building, as well as pressing for the introduction of automobiles into Yellowstone National Park.  Automobiles were officially allowed inside the Park in 1915.

Jacob M. Schwoob sitting on the hood of an old automobile, displaying his number 1 Wyoming license plate.

Schwoob sitting on an automobile, with his no. 1 license plate. From Box 5 of the Jacob Schwoob papers.

Schwoob’s only child, Thornton W. Schwoob, died as a young man in 1928.  Jacob Schwoob died just four years later in 1932.  In 1948 Schwoob’s papers and photographs were in the possession of his grandson, Thornton.  The younger Thornton W. Schwoob donated the materials to the University of Wyoming, where they comprise a valuable record of a time when automobile travel was a new experience for most citizens of the state. To learn more about Jacob Schwoob and his collection at the American Heritage Center, please see the inventory for the Jacob M. Schwoob papers, available here:

-D. Claudia Thompson, Processing Manager

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Wyoming Equality Day: Liz Byrd’s quest to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Did you perhaps wonder as you sipped your coffee this morning about how Wyoming Equality Day originated?  Cheyenne native and Wyoming state legislator Harriett Elizabeth “Liz” Byrd was the guiding individual behind it.  Byrd was the first black woman to serve in Wyoming’s House beginning in 1980. A few years later, she was elected to Wyoming’s Senate, and was the first black legislator to serve there.


Byrd in the Wyoming State Legislature. Harriett Elizabeth Byrd Family Papers, 10443, box 10, folder 23.

Byrd’s parents, Robert “Buck” and Sudie Rhone, supplied her with an “outsider/within” legacy as described by Evelyn Haskell in a 2006 Annals of Wyoming article about Liz Byrd. Haskell explains that the outsider/within perspective is that of an individual who is outside the dominant culture, and yet has access to and intimate knowledge of the workings of the dominant culture. Buck Rhone’s family had settled in Wyoming in the 1870s, and Buck was the first African American child born in Albany County. Liz was born in 1926 with deep family roots already established in Wyoming.

This is not to say that she didn’t experience her share of racism. According to an interview with Byrd pasted into a scrapbook housed at the AHC, as a high school student, she was refused service in a Cheyenne drugstore. Her white classmates threw the ice from their drinks over the counter and walked out. When she applied to the University of Wyoming in 1944, Liz was told that, because she was African American, she would not be allowed to live in campus housing. In the end, she attended West Virginia State Teachers College, a historically black college, graduating in 1949 with a degree in education.

During Liz’s college years, she married James Byrd and the couple made Cheyenne their home, Liz teaching school and Jim working in law enforcement. The couple was soon raising a family of three children, two sons and one daughter. Liz was happy teaching school and didn’t originally have political ambitions. It was the tragic death in 1979 of her younger brother, Robert, that led her into politics. Buck Rhone had high ambitions for his son Robert to gain public office and, after Robert’s death, this ambition was shifted to daughter Liz. Despite running a low-cost campaign, Liz was elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1980.

In oral history interviews with Evelyn Haskell, Byrd described an atmosphere in the statehouse that was hostile to women, and to her in particular because she was a black woman. Of a total of 90 seats in both Wyoming’s House and Senate, only 14 were held by women. She found that some of her efforts to present and pass bills were hampered by the fact that a significant number of her female colleagues refused to support her bills; they were afraid of losing good committee assignments by supporting bills sponsored by Liz Byrd. Another complicating factor was Byrd often sponsored unpopular “special” legislation relating to human interests instead of those involving the state’s economic interests.

Her most important bill of national prominence, and the one that presented her with the most difficulty, was ratification of a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. The nine years she worked on the bill were marked by strife and animosity. Wyoming state newspapers were filled with letters pro and con from the public and from her fellow legislators. Even one of Liz’s fellow teachers spoke out publicly against the bill. To finally gain passage of the bill, Byrd had to agree to add “Wyoming Equality Day” to the holiday’s name, which became Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day in 1990. Byrd went on to become the recipient of a number of awards and honors, one of the most notable is sharing the pages with Oprah Winfrey, Rosa Parks and other African American women of accomplishment in the book I Dream a Worldpublished in 1989.


Byrd with Governor Sullivan at the signing of the legislation establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day/Wyoming Equality Day, March 1990. Harriett Elizabeth Byrd Family Papers, 10443, box 3, folder 6.

A number of events around the state are planned to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day, including a schedule of events from January 28 through February 4 on the University of Wyoming campus, called Days of Dialogue. For more information about Days of Dialogue and a list of events, please see

– Leslie Waggener, Assocaite Archivist

Much of the text is courtesy of Evelyn Haskell’s article, “Harriett Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Byrd: Wyoming Trail Blazer in Education and Politics,” published in Annals of Wyoming, Vol. 78, No. 1 (Winter 2006).

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