Summer Exhibit Series: University of Wyoming

This video was created to promote the University of Wyoming’s summer school in 1939. It shows UW’s campus, various activities, and highlights reasons that people may want to attend summer school at UW. From the University of Wyoming University Relations/Media Services Collection, AV Box.

The Union Pacific Railroad brought people to Laramie and put it on the map in its early years but the University of Wyoming would add to that presence. Founded in 1886 as a land-grant university, the University of Wyoming opened its doors the following year while Wyoming was still a territory. From there, the university began its decades long history of teaching those in the West and anyone else that ventured to Wyoming to pursue an education.

The first class in September 1887 included 42 students, both men and women. These students were taught by 5 faculty members in the classrooms of Old Main. Originally built on the outskirts of Laramie in the city park, Old Main served as home for classes, the library, and administrative offices during UW’s early days.

With the university’s first president, John Wesley Hoyt, a curriculum of arts and humanities was created for both a graduate and normal school. Through the requirements of the land-grant act that had established the university, classes of agriculture, engineering, and military tactics augmented the curriculum established by the president.

Various other curricula of sciences and other disciplines as well as organizations like ROTC, athletics, and numerous other clubs and entities have grown out of the humble beginnings of the University of Wyoming. The university now is home to thousands of students and over 700 faculty members and continues to grow.

Our exhibit on The University of Wyoming is on display from September 4 to 17 in the 4th floor reading room.

-Katey Parris, AHC Reference Department

Posted in exhibits, Laramie 150th Anniversary, Local history, Student Life, undergraduate students, University of Wyoming, University of Wyoming history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Beanies, Brooms and Bother: UW Freshmen Get the Initiation Treatment

With the start of the fall semester on August 29 at the University of Wyoming, it seems a good time to show off a couple of old-time UW freshman traditions.

A once constant sight on the University of Wyoming campus was the sight of freshmen wearing beanies. According to a September 1967 article in the UW school newspaper, Branding Iron, freshmen only needed to don the head wear until the first home football game of the season. After the UW Cowboys scored their first touchdown, the students threw their beanies in the air and never had to wear them again. The tradition of beanies apparently goes back to 1908 when male students had to wear green caps and women green stockings. During the 1920s, freshmen had to wear the beanies until Homecoming.

Students in beanies

In this 1950s photograph, freshmen are purchasing books while dutifully wearing their beanies. Photo File: Colleges and Universities – University of Wyoming building – Arts and Bookstore, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Freshmen were also expected to repaint the W on “W Hill”. The idea for the letter on the hill, then in a distant, unpopulated part of what is now residential Laramie, came from the freshman class in 1913—the class known then as the class of 1917. The W was 50 feet high by 80 feet wide and consisted of a layer of six inches of limestone laid in a trench. Whitewashing the W each year had to be done within two weeks after registration or freshmen would “take the consequences” from the rest of the college. The nature of the “consequences” was never stated.

W Hill

Freshmen in their beanies whitewash the W on W Hill. Photo from 1953 UW Yearbook. 

As years passed, the tradition of “whitewashing the W” continued, though it has now died out. The stones have not been whitewashed in many years. But if you look carefully on the hill on the north end of Laramie, you can still see a hint of the W.


Google Earth photo showing “W” on W Hill, 2015. 


Do you remember these traditions when you attended UW? 


Text courtesy of University of Wyoming by Rick Ewig and Tamsen Hert (2012) and “The W on Laramie’s W Hill” by Phil Roberts.

Posted in Local history, Uncategorized, undergraduate students, University of Wyoming, University of Wyoming history, Wyoming history | Tagged | Leave a comment

Summer Exhibit Series: Highways in Laramie

The railroad is what most of Laramie’s early history is focused on as it allowed new peoples and industries to grow the burgeoning city. Even so, a few decades after the railroad first came to Laramie, a new form of transportation came through that would cause Laramie to be a stop on a major highway system.

The historic Lincoln Highway started as one of the earliest transcontinental highways in 1913. Cutting across the southern part of Wyoming, it allowed travelers to go from East to West with a new-found freedom that came with the invention of the automobile. Laramie was just one of the many stops in southern Wyoming but held a claim to fame with the highest point on the highway being only miles outside of the growing town.


Signpost along the Lincoln Highway. Photo File: Lincoln Highway, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

By the late 1950s, the historic Lincoln Highway was set to be replaced by the new Interstate 80. The second longest interstate in the country, I-80 would wind its way through southern Wyoming, bringing with it large truck travel and various others that wanted to make the trek cross country.

Both highways boasted fast travel but the weather in Wyoming could either help or hinder that travel. Large amounts of snow and wind called for special structures to keep roads clear, although it wasn’t always effective.

These highways follow historic paths, such as the Oregon Trail, and have made a mark on Laramie’s history through those that have come to Laramie on these paths and the stories the highways have given Laramie’s residents.


Map cover advertising the Lincoln Highway. Lincoln Highway Collection, Accession #10869, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The Highways in Laramie exhibit will run from August 20 to September 4. Exhibits can be viewed in the 4th floor Reading Room. Reading Room hours are Monday 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. and Tuesday through Friday 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

– Submitted by Katey Parris, AHC Reference Department.

Posted in found in the archive, Laramie 150th Anniversary, Lincoln Highway, Oregon trail, Transportation history, Uncategorized, Western history, Westward migration, Wyoming history | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Who Climbed the Grand Teton First?

One hundred and twenty years ago, on August 11, 1898, William O. Owen (federal surveyor and outdoorsman), Reverend Franklin Spencer Spaulding, and Jackson Hole ranchers Frank L. Petersen and John S. “Jack” Shive reached the summit of Mount Owen of the Grand Tetons, the first documented climb of that peak. The climb was sponsored by a climbing association, the Rocky Mountain Alpine Club.

Ascending party

Photo captioned: “The Ascending Party.” Left to right: Frank Petersen, Thomas Cooper, William Owen, Hugh McDerment, and John Shive. Franklin Spaulding not shown. At the Lower Saddle, Thomas Cooper decided not to continue, and Hugh McDerment elected to go no further at the Upper Saddle. William O. Owen papers, Box 4, Folder 3, American Heritage Center Center, University of Wyoming.

Party on summit

William Owen, John Shive and Frank Petersen at the summit. Note Rocky Mountain Alpine Club pennant. William O. Owen papers, Box 4, Folder 2, American Heritage Center Center, University of Wyoming.

Teton route

William O. Owen captioned this photograph showing the party’s path of ascent. William O. Owen papers, Box 4, Folder 1, American Heritage Center Center, University of Wyoming.

Publication of the news in the New York Herald met with an immediate spat between Owen and Nathaniel P. Langford. Langford, together with James Stevenson, claimed to have reached the summit on July 29, 1872. In June, 1873, an account of the climb was published in Scribner’s Magazine.


Portrait of Nathaniel P. Langford from THE VIGILANTE, THE EXPLORER, THE EXPOUNDER AND FIRST SUPERINTENDENT OF THE YELLOWSTONE PARK. BY OLIN D. WHEELER. (1912) From the text of an presentation given by Wheeler to the Montana Historical Society. Date of portrait is thought to be 1870. Extracted from PDF Public Domain version from the Internet Archive.

However, their description and sketches seem to match the summit of the Enclosure (named after a man-made rock palisade of unknown Native American construction), a side peak of Grand Teton.

The Enclosure

Photo captioned by William O. Owen of The Enclosure. William O. Owen papers, Box 4, Folder 1, American Heritage Center Center, University of Wyoming.

The debate continues on, as it is not possible to discount or prove Langford’s earlier claim, while Owen’s later one is an established fact.

Owen plaque_ah002987

Photograph of the W.O. Owen plaque that was placed at at the Grand Teton in 1929. The plaque was paid for by Owen and his wife. A person or persons unknown stole the plaque in 1977. It has never been recovered or replaced. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, Photofile: Mountaineering – Teton Mountains.

Somewhat missed in this debate is that another rival claim exists on the part of Captain Charles Kieffer of the U.S. Army. In a letter to Owen dated April 3, 1899, Kieffer claimed that he, Private Logan Newell, and a third man, probably Private John Rhyan, climbed the peak on September 10, 1893.

Kieffer letter

Captain Charles Kieffer’s letter to William O. Owen, April 3, 1899. William O. Owen papers, Box 3, Folder 1, American Heritage Center Center, University of Wyoming.

Kieffer excerpt

Excerpt from Captain Kieffer’s letter shown above stating, “I climbed the Grand Teton on or about the 10 day of September 1893…” William O. Owen papers, Box 3, Folder 1, American Heritage Center Center, University of Wyoming.

Kieffer’s military records show that he was stationed at Fort Yellowstone during the summer of 1893 and, hence, presumably did have the opportunity to make the ascent. If Kieffer’s drawing, which accompanies his letter, is to be taken literally, it shows his route to have been the Exum Ridge! (This technically difficult route was named for Glenn Exum’s remarkable solo ascent in 1931.)

Kieffer map

Captain Kieffer’s sketch of his ascent. William O. Owen papers, Box 3, Folder 1, American Heritage Center Center, University of Wyoming.

Kieffer’s letter also indicated that he returned in 1895, but failed because “the gradual snow field…had fallen and left a steep jump off that we could not climb.”

It’s interesting to note that Owen did not publish or reveal the letter, and it came to light only when it was uncovered in 1959 in the Owen papers at the UW American Heritage Center (then the Western History Research Center).


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Calling All Former Employees!

Are you a former employee of the American Heritage Center?

As part of the Centennial Complex 25th Anniversary Celebration there will be a private event on September 14, 2018 that former employees are invited to, but we need your help! If you are a former employee & would like to receive an invite, please send us your mailing address at

Not a former employee? Don’t fear! We are holding an open house September 14 from 1-4 pm. Learn more as the event gets closer or invite friends from our Facebook event page: Centennial Complex 25th Anniversary Celebration

Color photograph of a cone-shaped building being constructed, with U.S. flag mounted on top.

Centennial Complex being constructed in 1992. From the AHC photo files.

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Summer Exhibit Series: Ranching in Laramie

While the railroad was the main hub of employment early in Laramie’s history, the cattle and sheep businesses helped grow the economy of the burgeoning town. Names such as Philip Mandel, Thomas Alsop, Charles Hutton, Robert Homer, and the Bath brothers became tied to ranches that caused stockyards to be built in Laramie to aid in the shipping of cattle and sheep to markets. Eventually, the stockyards would be expanded and the railroad would build and run an ice plant to assist in the refrigeration and transportation of produce from Laramie.


FSK & Keiser with two more, King Brothers Ranch, Albany County, Wyoming. B. C. Buffum Papers, Accession #400055, Box 20, Item 48, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Old ranchers and newcomers would mingle and continue to grow the livestock industry in Laramie. These ranchers relied on businesses in town for their needs, continuing to grow the town’s economy in more ways than just ranching. By the 1880s, ranching had reached its peak in Laramie, but the cattle marketing collapsing in 1886 dealt a blow to the industry in Laramie.

Agriculture had continued to play a role in Laramie’s economy and history, although a much smaller role than in its early years. This can be seen at events around Laramie and UW’s large agricultural programs. Agriculture was a part of the Western way of life and for many around Laramie, it is still their livelihood.


Range horses in corral on Dr. H.L. Steven’s Ranch, Sybille, Albany Co., Wyoming, June 1904. B. C. Buffum Papers, Accession #400055, Box 43, Item 2, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Over the next two weeks, collections and items reflecting Laramie’s ties with ranching and agriculture will be showcased in the exhibits. Brands, ranch stories, and images are just some of the items representing the varied history of agriculture around Laramie that the American Heritage Center holds.

The Ranching in Laramie exhibit will run from August 6 to 20. Exhibits can be viewed in the 4th floor Reading Room. Reading Room hours are Monday 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. and Tuesday through Friday 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

– Submitted by Katey Parris, AHC Reference Department.

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Do Feed the Bears – The Arthur E. Demaray Collection

Arthur E. Demaray was a National Park Service Administrator who worked as the liaison between the Park Service and Congress. He worked for the park service from 1917 to 1951.


Arthur E. Demaray in the 1930’s. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Demaray’s writings offer insights into Yellowstone National Park during the first half of the 20th Century. During this time period, the parks did not have strict policies against feeding animals.


Bear cubs begging for food along the roads in Yellowstone Park were once a common sight. Photofile: Yellowstone-Wildlife, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Demaray describes a game he witnessed children playing. The children would drag string along the ground with string at one end. Ground squirrels would grab the string and the children would lift the squirrels off the ground.

Demaray also discusses his first encounter with bears. He and his wife did not know bears lived in the wild in Yellowstone. When they saw one outside their tent they thought it had escaped its cage.

When Demaray consulted a park pamphlet, he read “even the grizzlies, which are generally believed to be ferocious are not proved by our national parks’ experience to be inoffensive if not attacked.”


Tourist hand feeding bears at Yellowstone National Park. Karl C. Allan papers, Accession #7636, Box 2, American Heritage Center. University of Wyoming. 

Demaray writes that at the time, tourists could walk to the garbage dump to see a dozen bears feeding. He says the smaller bears had to wait their turn and says in this way bears are much like people. One bear would stand in the road and force visitors to pay a toll of food to pass.

Arthur E. Demaray’s attitude towards interactions between people and wildlife are endearing, but not supported by the National Parks today. His papers are available at the American Heritage Center.


“A summer beggar in Yellowstone National Park.” Arthur E. Demaray Papers, Accession #4031, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Posted in conservation, environmental history, found in the archive, National Parks, Natural resources, Uncategorized, Western history, Wyoming history, Yellowstone National Park | Tagged , | 1 Comment