Somewhere West of Laramie

“Somewhere west of Laramie there’s a broncho-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I’m talking about.” So began a 1923 magazine advertisement that became legendary.

National advertising firms use Wyoming scenes as backdrops to pitch everything from yogurt to beer, even though the products are neither manufactured in Wyoming nor sold in any great quantity in the state. Ad agencies use Wyoming because they know there is an emotional dimension to advertising that motivates consumers to buy a particular product. This dimension doesn’t rely on price, quality or even special features of the product. Image sells the product.

Consumers identify with the myths of the West and Wyoming. Ads incorporating these images sell merchandise. Known as “image advertising,” the variety was unknown until 1923 when it was invented to sell a car. Indeed, the whole idea of image advertising was inspired by “somewhere west of Laramie” in 1923.

Previously, car ads concentrated on practicalities—data on engine size, the number of forward gears, and special features such as side-curtains.

In 1916, Edward S. Jordan borrowed $200,000 and started an automobile factory in Cleveland, Ohio. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Wisconsin-born entrepreneur believed he could make a substantial profit from a small volume of sales. In his plant, he assembled his cars using parts made by other manufacturers.

Like the dozens of small companies making cars in those days, Jordan faced stiff competition from major automobile makers. It was hardly a contest. The mass-produced Ford, for instance, sold for about $500 while Jordan barely could cover costs by selling his models for five times that amount. His favorite model, the Jordan “Playboy,” was an undistinguished roadster, in features much the same as any other then on the market.

Sales flattened out in 1922 and Jordan, worried that his sales strategy might have been in error, decided to travel to the West Coast to relax and, perhaps, rethink his approach. How could his company survive in the face of stiff competition from dozens of other makers?

The 41-year-old car maker and a colleague from the company rode a Union Pacific passenger train. As the train was passing through southern Wyoming, Jordan glanced out the window. There, in the waning sunset, he saw a beautiful young woman riding her horse alongside the train for a short distance, as if to race the locomotive. The sight so impressed Jordan that he turned to his companion and asked where they were. “Somewhere west of Laramie,” was the reply.

Throughout the rest of the trip, Jordan thought about the incident and the image of the fast horse and beautiful young woman racing the train. Back home, he sketched out an advertisement for his car using the phrase, “Somewhere west of Laramie.” The copy made no mention of the car’s price, its engine size or quality.

westoflaramieThe drawing, in abstract style, showed a young woman on a horse racing against the Jordan Playboy roadster.  The copy read:

Somewhere west of Laramie there’s a broncho-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I’m talking about. She can tell what a sassy poiny, that’s a cross between greased lightning and the place where it hits, can do with eleven hundred pounds of steel and action when he’s going high, wide and handsome.  The truth is—the Playboy was built for her. Built for the lass whose face is brown with the sun when the day is done of revel and romp and race. She loves the cross of the wild and the tame.

There’s a savor of links about that car—of laughter and lilt and light—a hint of old loves—and saddle and quirt. It’s a brawny thing—yet a graceful thing for the sweep o’ of the Avenue. Step into the Playboy when the hour grows dull with things dead and stale. Then start for the land of real living with the spirit of the lass who rides, lean and rangy, into the red horizon of a Wyoming twilight.

The ad first ran in the Saturday Evening Post in June 1923. Soon, sales of the Jordan Playboy roadster increased markedly and the company ran the ad in other mass-circulation magazines.

The advertisement’s style and success did not go unnoticed. Soon, other auto makers copied the form of “image advertising.”

Because of the ad, the Jordan sold well during the middle 1920s. Unfortunately, the firm failed in 1931, one of the numerous auto company victims of the Great Depression. Jordan turned to consulting work and, later, wrote a column for a car magazine. When he died in 1958, the New York Times obituary listed the ad as Jordan’s main accomplishment: “Its approach and colorful language set the pattern for modern automobile advertising,” the obituary noted.

Jordan and his automobile faded into obscurity, but the advertisement became legendary. In 1945, readers of Printer’s Ink magazine voted it the third greatest advertisement of all time. Even today, advertising people point to “Somewhere west of Laramie” as one of the best ever produced.

– Phil Roberts, Professor of History

This article originally ran in the column Buffalo Bones: Stories from Wyoming’s Past, syndicated by the Wyoming State Archives from 1979 to 1986. Other articles by Phil Roberts can be found on his website.

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Pioneer Aviator A.F. Bonnalie

“My first flight was in a glider Nov. 1 1911 off a hill south of Twin Peaks in San Francisco which was built by about ten students calling themselves ‘The [Polytechnic] High School Aero Club.’
– extract from “Brief Biography” written by Allan F. Bonnalie, Rear Admiral, USNR (ret.) 

Aero Club flight

San Francisco Polytechnic High School Aero Club, with glider in flight, c. 1911. Cyanotype (Box 77, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

Allan Francis Bonnalie was born in Denver in 1893 and grew up in San Francisco. While attending Polytechnic High School in San Francisco, he joined a group of students who built and flew gliders and airplanes. Bonnalie put his experience as a pilot to use in World War I.  He joined the U.S. Signal Corps and served with the British Royal Air Force in 1917-1918.  He maintained his connection with the military for most of his life.  In 1925 he joined the United States Naval Reserve, retiring in 1953 with the rank of rear admiral.


Boeing School of Aeronautics, 1930s (Box 76, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

The glider, a Farman type with box tail had a rudimentary undercarriage aelerons, elevator but no rudder.  The control surfaces were not adequate so shifting of the weight of the pilot was necessary as well.  The glider was somewhat larger and heavier than the ordinary shifting weight control type and was towed aloft by ropes, manned by about 8 of the members…Most flights were made on Saturdays, sometimes Sundays but usually the glider was damaged before the first day was over and it took hours after school the next week to get it ready for use on the following Saturday.”
– extract from “Brief Biography” written by Allan F. Bonnalie, Rear Admiral, USNR (ret.) 

Bonnalie BSA

Experimental glider constructed at Boeing School of Aeronautics, c. 1931 (Box 76, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

Since the commercial aviation industry did not exist when Bonnalie left the Signal Corps, he worked as a mechanical engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad.  He returned to aviation in 1929, when he began work at the Boeing School of Aeronautics. The school, based out of Oakland, California, Airport, designed and built experimental aircraft.

Aero Club ground

Polytechnic High School Aero Club, San Francisco, with glider on ground. c. 1911, cyanotype (Box 77, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

In 1938, Bonnalie joined United Air Lines Flight Operations, Western Division.  During World War II he served with the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics.  When he rejoined United Airlines in 1945, he became president and general manager of United of Mexico, Lineas Aereas Mexicanas, S.A. (LAMSA).  LAMSA was sold by United in 1953 and Bonnalie became director of United’s flight training program in Denver, Colorado, until his retirement in 1958.

Bonnalie LAMSA

Bonnalie as president and general manager fo LAMSA, c. 1950 (Box 74, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

Post-retirement, he made several trips overseas for the U.S. Foreign Operations Administration (FOA) to advise foreign governments on aviation matters.  Bonnalie also served on United Airlines Pilot System Board of Adjustment to resolve grievances arising from pilot contracts.

BSA glider

Bonnalie in charge of the ground school at the Boeing School of Aeronautics, 1930s (Box 74, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

– Claudia Thompson, Processing Manager

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UW Graduate Student Finds Inspiration in Tim McCoy Papers

The American heritage Center serves as a research institution for researchers of all kinds. Any given week the reading room is filled with historians writing books to young students working on class projects. For international American Studies graduate student, Constantin Jas, the AHC has become a valuable resource to his studies. Jas took AHC’s Interim Director, Rick Ewig’s, archival methods course this spring. Jas quickly came across the Tim McCoy papers in the Center’s holdings and decided they would make an excellent topic for his research project in Ewig’s class.

“I have loved the genre of Western movies for a long time and when I was studying cultural myths and popular culture of America I even took a whole class on Western movies,” said Jas. “Yet, I have never consciously encountered Tim McCoy or his movies so far. Learning that he had a reputation as being an ‘authentic’ cowboy appeared like the perfect task for a research project as this particular genre, as well the historical era of the Frontier have been highly mystified aspects of American culture. Western movies have created iconic perceptions of how the era of westward expansion has been, but usually these perceptions and images don’t reflect the reality. Tim McCoy, on the other hand, had really experienced the actual conditions in the West as he had been living and working in Wyoming, where he did the actual work of a cowboy.”


Photograph of Tim McCoy on a horse overlooking his ranch in Wyoming, 1930s, University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center, Tim McCoy Collection.

Tim McCoy was a Thermopolis, Wyoming resident and an actor in a number of Western feature films in the early to mid-1900s. The McCoy papers contain various photographs, publicity stills, contracts related to his wild west show and TV appearances, manuscripts for “The Tim McCoy Show,” and much more pertaining to McCoy’s personal and professional life. Jas wrote about the Western perception in general and the realistic aspect of McCoy’s Western persona.

“My research paper focuses on Tim McCoy’s Real Wild West and Rough Riders of the World, his 1938 attempt of putting a realistic Wild West Show together and his 1950 – 1952 children’s television program The Tim McCoy Show, in which he presented anecdotes and tales from real Wild West history. Investigating his life experience combined with his personal research for both formats was a challenging, yet very interesting task and my core finding was that, while possibly guilty of mystifying the days of the Old West a little bit himself, McCoy indeed succeeded in making realistic Wild West entertainment.


Tim McCoy in shooting position on horseback. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center, Tim McCoy Collection.

Unlike many sensationalist and stereotypical Western formats, however, it must be stated that large numbers of audiences, back then as well as today, do not seem to have much interest in how the Wild West really was. They seem to prefer stereotypical sensationalism.”

Jas’ research at the AHC ended up being inspirational to him, and he plans to dive even more into the Tim McCoy papers during work on his master’s thesis next year.



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The Cowboy Battalion

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Wyoming (UW). While ROTC was established on campus in October 1916, military training at the university is a tradition almost as old as UW itself. Opened through the Morrill Act of 1862, UW was required to include military training in its curriculum along with classes dealing with agriculture, mechanic arts, and other topics. Military training was implemented in 1891, a year after Wyoming became a state.

The early years of the cadet corps at the university saw the establishment of a “School of Military Tactics” by the University Board of Trustees along with marching drills and classes. Cadets were to supply their own uniforms and drill equipment, including rifles, was not available. The first year there were 55 cadets who were organized into a battalion of two companies. Some of these early cadets served in the Spanish-American War.

As a new gym was built and more equipment became available, the battalion drilled more and came to be led by 1st Lt. Beverly. C. Daly in 1911. Under Daly, the cadet corps expanded and eventually became an ROTC unit before being replaced by the Students’ Army Training Corps during World War I. After the war ended in 1918, ROTC was reestablished.

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Cadets drilling in front of Old Main, March 1893 (B.C. Buffum collection)

Between the two world wars, the ROTC program greatly expanded and occupied facilities in the new Half Acre Gym. Advanced students were allowed to wear officer type uniforms and an Army staff supplemented the university staff.

With World War II in progress, changes to the military training that took place on campus were rampant. A summer Pilot Training Program was created in 1940. The College of Engineering was authorized to institute defense training courses in 1941. In 1942, the Army and Navy preliminary ground school and flight training program was initiated. 1943 saw the approval of the U.S. Cadet Nurse training program.

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Cadets performing artillery drills, undated (B.C. Buffum collection)

The ROTC program was discontinued in 1943 in favor of the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Members of the ASTP arrived in June 1943 and campus served as a training center for basic phase students and for advanced engineers. During the war, UW hosted many Army and Navy Air Corps trainees. ROTC was reinstated in 1946.

Other than students, nearly 7,000 faculty, staff, and alumni of UW served during World War II. Of those nearly 7,000 men and women that served, over 400 received decorations. In 1949, shortly after the Air Force was established, the university’s ROTC program split into two entities: Army ROTC and Air Force ROTC.

Military training at the University of Wyoming continued to change from the 1950s forward. The 1960s saw the removal of mandatory military training for all able-bodied males. Curriculum changed and for the last four decades, the Cowboy Battalion (Army ROTC) have continued the traditions that were set in place in the early years of the program and the Department of Military Science. The battalion has gained recognition throughout the United States as well as from the U.S. Army and continues to succeed.

Recently, the AHC processed the papers of both the Department of Military Science and 1st Lt. Beverly C. Daly. The Department of Military Science records cover the history of military training, ROTC, and the ASTP from 1892 to 1945, covering the early records of the cadets corps, the ending of World War II, and the removal of the ASTP from campus. The collection includes materials documenting the early days of military training on campus (1893 to 1907), records of the ASTP and the Specialized Training Assignment and Reclassification Unit (1942 to 1943), correspondence, reports, and other general UW materials such as commencement programs. Also in this collection is a short history of the Cowboy Battalion.

Beverly C. Daly was a retired Army officer that became the professor of military science at the University of Wyoming in 1911. During his tenure at Wyoming, he was the commander of cadets as well as the dean of men at the university. His collection includes correspondence, teaching materials, photographs, and manuscripts from his time as the commander for ROTC and the dean of men as well as printed material on the controversies involving military education in schools.

In addition to the Department of Military Science records and the Daly papers, other AHC collections that cover the history of military training at UW include the University of Wyoming President’s Office records, University of Wyoming War Activities Council records, and the University of Wyoming College of Engineering records.

Katey Meyers, AHC Intern

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Drag Queen Bingo, a Laramie tradition

The annual Drag Queen Bingo fundraiser will take place tomorrow April 30, 2016, at the University of Wyoming Conference Center. This year will be the event’s 10th anniversary, and the theme will be Pajama Party. If you attend make sure that you wear your best pajama gear!


The logo for the event. Courtesy

Drag Queen Bingo has evolved from a small function to become one of the most anticipated annual events in Laramie.  Drag Queen Bingo began as the official after party for the annual Wyoming AIDS Walk, and today it still serves as a fundraiser for AIDS research. It is hosted by The Stilletos, Laramie’s very own drag queen troupe. The Out West in the Rockies collecting initiative here in at the American Heritage Center is attempting to document the herstory of the LGBTQ community in the Western portion of the United States. As part of this initiative, the American Heritage Center sat down with Oblivia Queen of the Clueless for an oral history, were she highlighted how Wyoming is affected by HIV/AIDS.

While I was at the University, there was a professor in the psychology department, Ann Bowen, and I don’t know if she’s still there or not, we kind of lost touch; but she had a […] Federal grant to study health seeking behaviors of men who have sex with men …encompasses straight men who sometimes hook up with gay men, bisexuals… I worked for that project, and so we were very much attached to trying to understand rural HIV issues. We were working with Wyoming Department of Health, it’s been my understanding throughout pretty much that entire time that Wyoming’s official numbers hover around about 200 individuals diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at any given time. And you know, we will get 5 new diagnosed people this year, and maybe 5 people move away, or two of them will die, or something like that; and so our numbers are kind of always been static. But one of the things that is difficult, for a state like Wyoming, is a lot of our health seeking behaviors in Wyoming we go elsewhere for. Especially health seeking behaviors were the treatment is controversial. The last I knew I think we only had one doctor in the state of Wyoming that provides abortion services, and he was in Jackson and he may not even be doing it anymore. A lot of really good health care for HIV and AIDS has been outside of the state of Wyoming, people…in the northeast corner going to Rapid City, and the southeast going to Denver and Fort Collins, in the southwest going over to Salt Lake, if you’re otherwise in the northern part of the state you went to Montana; and so we lose a lot of…our true numbers as far as the people in Wyoming living with a HIV/AIDS to the fact that the CDC doesn’t count individuals who get diagnosed elsewhere. Actually there was a really big fight between Hillary Clinton and Senator Enzi when Hillary Clinton was in the Senate and representing the state of New York, because New York gets a lot of people who go to New York City and get tested and get treated. We don’t have a lot of people coming to Cheyenne to get tested and treated for HIV and AIDS. So Enzi was fighting for population based funding and Hillary was fighting to keep the money based upon test numbers, and she actually won that fight; and so that’s one of the issues for the state of Wyoming is trying to keep money available for people living with HIV/AIDS who do live here but who get their treatment somewhere like Rapid City or Denver. The CDC does not provide that funding to us. So it is a pretty big issue for us, you know the way that health seeking behavior kind of works in this state, because we don’t have a real true I think sense of all of the people who live in Wyoming who are diagnosed as positive.

Oblivia’s statements are only furthered highlighted in the Policy Brief of the National Rural Health Association Policy Brief, were it states: “HIV is of particular concern to rural America because lack of resources can lead to gaps in detection of the infection and in treatment maintenance. Further, traditional norms and conservative values in rural areas often translate into high prevalence of HIV-related stigma and low rates of disclosure resulting in reluctance to come forward for HIV screening and treatment among rural individuals.” According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of particular concern are rural men and women ages 15-44, who are less likely to have been
tested for HIV in the past year. At present time the state of Wyoming averages 14 new cases of HIV and since the beginning of the epidemic there has been 480 individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Wyoming.

As part of this year Drag Queen Bingo fundraiser The Stilletos will be hosting free AIDS/HIV testing from 12-5 at the University of Wyoming Conference Center.   The fundraiser begins 7 pm, there will be a talent show at 6 pm. Admission is $10 and it always sells out. Doors open at 5:30 pm.

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The Infamous Johnson County War – The papers of Fred G.S. Hesse

This month is the 124th anniversary of the culminating conflict of the Johnson County War. On the morning of April 9, 1892, small-time rancher Nate Champion and itinerant cowboy Nick Ray were beset by an army of cattlemen and Texas hired guns, numbering about fifty, who had come to Johnson County to clear out the “rustlers.” Champion and Ray were shot and killed during the day long siege. Trouble between small-time ranchers, recalcitrant cowboys,  and owners of larger holdings had been brewing for nearly a decade . Problems arose out of the loss of open range and by alleged rustling by small “nesters.” Large-scale ranchers took steps, sometimes violent, to maintain their dominance in the industry, using arrests, hangings, blacklisting and more, but the small growers managed to find ways around them. Nate Champion had been a particular thorn in their sides. Among other offenses, he had recently formed the Northern Wyoming Farmers and Stock Growers’ Association to meet the needs of small-time ranchers and farmers.

Enough was enough in the minds of the large-scale ranchers, who were some of the leading men in Wyoming. Their primary network, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), was composed of the state’s wealthiest and most influential residents, and the WSGA held a great deal of political sway in the state and region. WSGA members were accustomed to getting their way.

Early in 1892, a group of WSGA ranchers and supporters devised a plan to send an expeditionary force into Johnson County to clean out the rustlers. The “Invaders” as the force came to be known organized in Cheyenne and proceeded by train on April 8, 1892 to Casper and then toward Johnson County on horseback. Nate Champion and Nick Ray were their first victims. After their deaths, the group went on toward Buffalo to continue its show of strength. By now a posse led by Johnson County Sheriff Red Angus composed of small-time farmers and ranchers and state lawmen had formed to fight back. The posse met the Invaders at the TA Ranch on Crazy Woman Creek and a stand-off ensued. Wyoming Governor Amos Barber was contacted by a member of the WSGA group and frantic efforts to save the Invaders followed with the governor telegraphing U.S. President Benjamin Harrison with a plea for help. United States Cavalry were sent to diffuse the situation. Ultimately, the Invaders were never tried for their actions. Many left the country before prosecution could occur, but one prominent Invader, Fred G.S. Hesse, remained in Wyoming and, after several years, returned to Johnson County with his family to manage his ranch. It was a risky move and he and his family suffered the aftereffects for years, from social ostracism to bullying of the Hesse children.


Photograph of the Johnson County Invaders, taken at Fort D.A. Russel, May 4, 1982. Hesse is identified in the photograph as #33.  From the AHC photographic files.

Recently the AHC processed the papers of Fred G.S. Hesse. The collection covers the period beginning in 1881, a time when the cattle industry was flush with capital and land was open for the taking. Hesse was British-born and immigrated to the U.S. in 1873. In 1876 he became foreman at the 76 Ranch belonging to brothers Moreton and Richard Frewen, who were members of an English landed-gentry family. In 1882 Moreton established the Powder River Cattle Company with Hesse as foreman. In 1884, Hesse filed for his own homestead and established the 28 Ranch while remaining foreman of the 76 Ranch. Both ranches were located on Crazy Woman Creek near the town of Buffalo. Soon Hesse became a major figure in Wyoming’s cattle industry and was seen as someone not to mess with.  It was rumored in Johnson County that Hesse was behind the bushwhacking of two local cowboys, one of whom had embarrassed Hesse in a local saloon and the other who had voiced opposition to the large ranchers.

What you can find in this collection are Hesse’s detailed notes and correspondence during the years leading up to the events of 1892 in which he discusses incidences of rustling, hiring and firing of cowhands, and, generally, the activities of the Powder River Cattle Company and the growth of his ranches. One of the most interesting items is a manuscript written by Fred G.S. Hesse’s son Fred W. Hesse about his life, the experiences of the Hesse family, and the effects of the Johnson County War on the family. It is in this manuscript that you find evidence of how the family experienced and dealt with the consequences of Fred G.S. Hesse’s stand during the range conflict.

In addition to the Hesse papers, other AHC collections to consult about the Johnson County War include the Wyoming Stock Growers Association records, Hay family papers, Carey family papers, Charles B. Penrose papers, J. Elmer Brock papers, Mark A. Chapman collection, and Dean Fenton Krakel papers.

– Leslie Waggener –  Associate Archivist

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C.J. Box returns to the AHC next week!

Join us on Tuesday, March 8 when best-selling author, C.J. Box, will be at the AHC! Copies of his newest book, Off The Grid, will be available for purchase. See you there!OffTheGridTwitter.jpg

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