Heart Mountain through Pencil and Paper

It was 1942; Japan had just bombed Pearl Harbor, and the American people were worried about Japanese spies on American soil. Amid the tension of WWII following the bombing, the U.S. government believed that the best course of action to prevent Japan from spying on the U.S. through Japanese U.S. citizens was to place all Japanese people in internment camps. The American government created 10 internment camps and forced all stateside Japanese people to live in them, regardless of citizenship status.

Box 1, Folder 2, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Box 1, Folder 2, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Box 1, Folder 2, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

One of the most well-known Japanese internment camps was Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Northern Wyoming. Located between Cody and Powell and named after nearby Heart Mountain, this internment camp was opened on August 12, 1942. One of the many residents of this camp was Estelle Ishigo. Estelle was a Caucasian woman who married Arthur Shigeharu Ishigo, a San Francisco-born man of Japanese heritage. Since Caucasians were not allowed to marry those of other ethnicities at that time in California, Estelle and Arthur were married in Tijuana. Although Estelle was not required to move to an internment camp with her husband, she decided to follow Arthur to Heart Mountain in 1942.

Box 1, Folder 1, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

Estelle documented her time at Heart Mountain through drawings and sketches which showcase all aspects of life at Heart Mountain. Through her drawings, we can see the struggles and joys of the people living there and how they kept their culture alive even when most people were trying to squash their beliefs and history. The community that these people built out of terrible circumstances is evident in many of her drawings. Most of the drawings are snapshots of everyday life in the camp while others show how parts of their culture lived on while interned at Heart Mountain.

Box 1, Folders 2 and 4, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Box 1, Folders 2 and 4, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Box 1, Folders 2 and 4, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

One of the biggest struggles shown in Estelle’s drawings is the harsh climate. Several of her sketches show inclement weather common to Wyoming and how the people struggled to adapt to it. Many of the internees were from warmer climates like California and Arizona, so the harsh Wyoming winter was a shock that many were unprepared for. Her drawings not only show life while at Heart Mountain, but parts of her life after she and her husband were released in 1945. Following Estelle and Arthur’s internment at Heart Mountain, they moved to Pomona, California, a city near their former home of Los Angeles.

Box 1, Folders 2 and 4, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Box 1, Folders 2 and 4, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Box 1, Folders 2 and 4, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

It can be difficult for modern Americans to understand what this group of people went through. Looking at these drawings provides a kind of window, allowing us to see Estelle’s perspective. The emotion present in even the simplest of sketches allows us to see what they were feeling. The lack of freedom, personal rights, and privacy shown in the drawings can be almost shocking to see. It must have been difficult for these people to completely uproot their lives, sell their belongings, and leave their homes behind. People tried to take away not only their rights to their culture and to be free, but their rights to be American citizens.

Box 1, Folder 4, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Box 1, Folder 2, Estelle Ishigo photographs, Collection #10368, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Now, the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation and Interpretive Center exist to preserve the history of Heart Mountain and tell the stories of the people who were forced to live in this camp. History is there for us to learn from, and the Foundation exists to do just that. If you want to learn more, you can visit their website or check out some of the other AHC collections that showcase life at Heart Mountain Internment Camp.

Post contributed by AHC Archives Aide Sarah Kesterson, Reference Department.


Posted in Asian American history, Japanese internment, Uncategorized, World War II, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

How the United States Coast Guard Got its Wings

The United States Coast Guard has been in operation since August 4, 1790.  At the request of Alexander Hamilton, the Revenue-Marine was created with a purpose of collecting customs duties at U.S. seaports. In 1915, the service became the Coast Guard and was administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Then, the mission went beyond customs duties, including maritime security, search and rescue, and law enforcement. In 1916, the operations usually conducted by boats, cutters and other vessels, started operating by aircraft as well.1

Coast Guard amphibian plane leaving the Gloucester, Massachusetts base for a scouting cruise, May 18, 1927.
Box 681, Folder 1, Manufacturers Aircraft Association Records, Collection #6858, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

Serving on the Onondaga, Third Lieutenants Elmer Stone and Norman Hall flew the first Coast Guard air reconnaissance with a plane borrowed from the Navy. This was the beginnings of the aviation section of the Coast Guard. This was followed by proper training at the naval air station in Pensacola, Florida. The first Coast Guard air station was established at Morehead City, North Carolina.2 Below is a document explaining the addition of an “Aerial Coastal Patrol” to the Coast Guard in 1916 from box 474 of the records of the Manufacturers Aircraft Association housed at the AHC.

Around 1922, Lieutenant-Commander C.C. Van Paulsen began working on a “method of throwing out rescue lines by aircraft” to better aid the rescue missions.

First use of aircraft for carrying lifelines to ships in distress, 1927.
Box 474, Folder 5, Manufacturers Aircraft Association Records, Collection #6858, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

After a few years, the Coast Guard needed better-equipped aircraft and the requirements were presented to the aircraft manufacturers: 

An aerial “eye” capable of extended search, radio equipped to maintain constant contact with surface, thus saving hours and possibly days of search; an aerial ambulance capable of a speed of 100 miles per hour, able to land in a rough sea, equipped with hatches large enough to admit of stretcher cases and to be able to take off on rough water; a demolition outfit to effect the destruction of sea derelicts and obstructions to navigation within a few hours after the report of location; a high speed flying patrol for observation, landing and returning with rescued crews of distressed small craft and capable of taking aboard fifteen or more passengers from distressed craft and standing by for lengthy periods on the surface, maintaining in the meantime radio communication with surface craft until transfer can be made of its passengers.


The flying lifeboats were obtained in 1932.

The WASP powered General Aviation flying boat “Antares” assists the Coast Guard in removing an injured sailor from his vessel and conveying him to the nearest hospital for immediate medical attention. Photo undated.
Box 681, Folder 1, Manufacturers Aircraft Association Records, Collection #6858, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Altair Flying Life Boat. Photo undated.
Box 681, Folder 1, Manufacturers Aircraft Association Records, Collection #6858, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Box 474, Folder 5, Manufacturers Aircraft Association Records, Collection #6858, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The Coast Guard aviation fleet kept improving over the years and Igor Sikorsky played a big part. In 1939, he worked on the construction of the Sikorsky helicopter. In the following years, tests and demonstrations were done with the VS-300 and the XR-4 helicopters, and by 1943, the Coast Guard helicopter program was born. 

The Sikorsky helicopters are still part of the 201 fixed and rotary aircraft of the US Coast guard today.

To learn more about the United States Coast Guard and its aircraft, see the Manufacturers Aircraft Association records at the American Heritage Center.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Coast_Guard
  2. https://www.history.uscg.mil/Complete-Time-Line/Time-Line-1900-2000/

Post contributed by AHC Processing Archivist Alexandra Cardin.


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Joseph S. Palen: Cheyenne Frontier Days Chronicler

If you’re interested in the history of Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD), a great place to start is the J. S. Palen papers at the American Heritage Center. Born in 1912 in Salina, Kansas, Palen became fascinated with cowboy culture at an early age and was soon a collector of memorabilia.

Postcard from Cheyenne Frontier Days, ca. 1920.
Box 24, J. S. Palen papers, Collection No. 10472, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In 1939, Palen received a degree in Veterinary Science and worked as a meat inspector while serving in the armed forces. He married Ruth Jackson in 1940 and would go on to have two sons, Gene and “Stampede” cartoonist Jerry Palen. In 1946, he moved to Wyoming where he worked as the resident veterinarian for the Wyoming Hereford Ranch. Soon thereafter he opened a private practice in Cheyenne, Wyoming. 

His passion was documenting rodeo history and CFD. He assembled extensive scrapbooks on the topics, including an entire folio devoted just to Steamboat, a horse born in 1896 that was considered among the best bucking broncos in rodeo history. Palen’s collection grew so large that historians, museum curators, and collectors sought him out for his knowledge.

Cheyenne Frontier Days postcard showing Ferguson Street in Cheyenne decked out for the event, ca. 1910.
Box 24, J. S. Palen papers, Collection No. 10472, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

His contributions to rodeo history would gain him the Rodeo Historical Society’s prestigious history award from the National Rodeo Hall of Fame. CFD inducted him into their hall of fame in 2006.

The Palen collection at the AHC is the culmination of more than half a century of research and collecting. CFD forms a large portion of his papers. It includes nearly all of the souvenir programs, most of the official programs, several pins/buttons/watch fobs, thousands of newspaper clippings, and hundreds of photographs. There is also a wealth of information about other rodeos, the history of rodeo and its participants.

A variety of rodeo scenes were featured on this 1907 postcard.
Box 24, J. S. Palen papers, Collection No. 10472, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

See also the American Heritage Center’s virtual exhibit on Palen and CFD at https://virmuze.com/m/uwyo-american-heritage-center/x/js-palen/.

Cheyenne Frontier Days is happening right now through August 1, 2021. Enjoy this historic event that’s been held annually since 1897.


Posted in Agricultural history, Current events, popular culture, Ranch history, Rodeo history, Uncategorized, Western history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Ex Libris Fitzhugh: Heraldry in Bookplates

Do you remember learning how to spell your name when you were younger and the following excitement of scrawling your name onto every paper, book cover, and notebook with a crayon? It was your statement of ownership and confidence as an individual. Now, we think of the permanence of that statement. The bookplate is a mature artistic statement of ownership found throughout history. Bookplates are estimated to have originated during the 15th century in Germany as symbols of ownership and are important to provenance within rare books (1). Ex Libris Fitzhugh, a temporary exhibit curated for display in the Toppan Classroom space during the spring and summer of 2021, provides a glimpse into the importance of heraldry within statements of ownership like bookplates.

Celestina, Charlotte Smith, 1791
J. Comyns Wood bookplate on front pastedown. Intaglio etching and engraving combination of heraldic shield. Unicorn, embattled line, wheat, hand in gules, and arrowheads. Fields of gules, or, and azure. “Mallemmori Quammutare”, I prefer death to change. Wreath and Ribbon style with Festoon.
(Fitzhugh Collection)

You might be wondering what a bookplate is, and how it is any different than signing your name. A bookplate is a print, made through printmaking processes such as relief (woodcut), intaglio (etching and engraving), and lithography. The most common print process used was intaglio, where combinations of etching and engraving into copper plates created finely detailed prints that resembled pen drawings. In etching, the copper plate is coated in a ground, in which a stylus is used to draw into it. When the ground is removed in this drawing process, acid is used to agitate the uncovered portions of copper, creating recessed lines where ink would be placed. Etched lines tend to appear fuzzier, while engraved lines, which are carved directly into a copper plate with a burin, tend to be sharper and more clear. 

Bookplates typically identify who owned the book and can be dated based on the style in which they were made such as Wreath and Ribbon, popularized from 1770-1810, or Armorial which was widely used from 1800-1900. Many bookplates do not just contain the name of the individual or library, they also include accompanying imagery, heraldic shields being a popular identifier. The ability to know who owned a book, tracing their family lineage and possibly where their library was located is valuable in understanding the life of a book. What if Archivists in the future were to look at your library? Would it be important if they were able to say that you owned the book they were examining, the answer is yes! Bookplates provide a rich way to consider the history of ownership, because we are also able to see who the individual that owned the book was and how they depicted themselves.

Poems, William Jones, 1777
Toft Hall bookplate on front pastedown. Intaglio etching and engraving of heraldic shield. Lion rampant, fleur-de-lis, and a stag upon a wreath. Elements of the shield are on a field of azure and or. Lion and one half of the stag are in gules. The Fleur-de-lis and the other half of stag are in or. Armorial style.
(Fitzhugh Collection)

Heraldry is a term we do not often think of today, but it was important for many Western societies beginning in the 12th century through the last two centuries. Heraldry is the practice of designing coats of arms, in which emblems like heraldic shields, become status symbols. Ex Libris Fitzhugh sought to examine heraldry within bookplates, and what heraldic and animal symbolism, color choice, mottoes, and style were present within each print.  

A key consideration of intaglio bookplates is that they are made using black ink, omitting color, but the heraldic color order and appearance is important, which lead to a development of hatching guides in the 15th century to denote heraldic coloring of sable (black), argent (silver), or (gold), gules (red), azure (blue), vert (green), and purpure (purple) (2). In the late 1400’s and 1500’s it became fashionable for supporting figures of animals, such as lions and unicorns, to be included in coats of arms as additional symbols of status, also becoming signs of ranks which led to rules for their use (2). Advances in armor made the use of shields in combat unnecessary, but noble families continued the use of coats of arms in heraldry, leading to the establishment of the College of Arms in 1483 by Richard III (2). As time progressed, coats of arms and heraldic shields became popularized for design and ownership purposes like bookplates. Other aesthetic liberties and rules were then created for these uses.

Fables, Mr. Dryden, 1721
Robert Rutherford bookplate on front pastedown. Intaglio etching of heraldic/pictorial shield. Birds and crescent on argent with an orle in gules. Crescent is a symbol of the second son. Utilizes familial heraldic imagery of four birds and an orle.
(Fitzhugh Collection)

What if you were to have a bookplate, what do you think yours would look like? If your family has a coat of arms, yours might follow some of its elements like Robert Rutherford’s bookplate did! Many of the elements within heraldic bookplates can be traced back through the owner’s family. Ultimately, bookplates are an interesting and informative source in uncovering the history of a book and whom it was owned by, but they are also an artistic and deeply personal statement of ownership that many of us can continue to resonate with today.

  1. Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Bookplate.” Encyclopedia Britannica, October 20, 2011. (accessed March 26, 2021) https://www.britannica.com/topic/bookplate.
  2. “Heraldry.” In Renaissance: An Encyclopedia for Students, edited by Paul F. Grendler, 152-153. Vol. 2. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2004. Gale In Context: World History (accessed February 26, 2021). https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3409200218/WHIC?u=wylrc_uwyoming&sid=WHIC&xid=91a95de1.

Post contributed by Alexandra Box, Toppan Rare Books Library intern.


Posted in Book history, Bookplates, Toppan Rare Books Library, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Good Kind of Desert Dust

If you’ve spent any time driving through Wyoming, you’ve probably seen huge herds of wild horses on the roadside. These beautiful animals are an icon of the American West, and Frank “Wild Horse” Robbins spent his whole life working with and protecting wild horses. Frank Robbins was born near Box Elder Creek near Glenrock, Wyoming on November 7, 1894. He was a rancher and a cowboy his whole life. For a time, he even broke horses for the Army’s Remount Service during World War I. In 1935, after his time working for the Army, he moved back to Glenrock and began catching wild horses. He mainly worked out of the Red Desert, which is between Rawlins and Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Frank Robbins on his ranch near Glenrock.
Envelope 1, Frank Robbins papers, Collection No. 10496, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In March of 1943, the U.S. Grazing Service (today called the Bureau of Land Management) held a meeting to discuss reducing the population of wild horses on federal ranges in Wyoming. At that time, an estimated 100,000 wild horses lived on this land. Robbins attended this meeting and presented a plan to gather the wild horses and put them to use instead of just getting rid of them.

Robbins created “horse traps” (corrals constructed a certain way to prevent horses from escaping them) all over the Red Desert. After a few attempts at gathering wild horses had been disrupted by a mail plane flying overhead, he began to gather horses more efficiently by herding the horses with small planes. He captured an estimated 30,000 horses which were either sold as rodeo stock or sent to Europe to supply meat during World War II. Robbins would also take the best roan and buckskin mares back to his ranch near Glenrock and breed them with American Quarter Horses to create a breed called “Robbins Roans.”

Wild horses being corralled during a Robbins’ round up.
Box 1, Andrew Springs Gillespie papers, Collection No. 175, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

On a July morning in 1945, Robbins caught a wild palomino stallion which he later named “Desert Dust.” Verne Wood, a Rawlins photographer, happened to be riding along with Robbins on the day Desert Dust was captured. He took a photo of the stallion that soon became one of the most famous wildlife photos of the American West.

Desert Dust.
Box 714, James L. Eherberger papers, Collection No. 10674, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Verne Wood hand-tinted the photo and distributed several copies, including one to the Cheyenne Capitol building and one to Senator Joseph C. O’Mahoney’s office. The photo caught the attention of newspapers and magazines across the United States, and even the attention of Hollywood. In 1946, Universal Studios created an Oscar-nominated short film called “Fight of the Wild Stallions” which featured Robbins, Desert Dust, and Robbins’ method of using airplanes for wild horse gathering. Robbins even used the photo to promote his own “Robbins Wild Horse Rodeos,” which were held each year around July 4 at his ranch and used horses Robbins had gathered.

Desert Dust in action, Robbin’s Rodeo – July 4-5, 1947.
Box 1, Andrew Springs Gillespie papers, Collection No. 175, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In the end, Desert Dust’s fame attracted the wrong sort of attention. In 1952, Desert Dust was killed in a drive-by shooting. The killer was never caught. Frank Robbins passed away on July 5, 1984, and was inducted into the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2016. Even though Robbins and Desert Dust aren’t around anymore, you can still see their impact on today’s world. The corrals and rock formations Robbins used to capture wild horses, Desert Dust included, are still standing near Wamsutter, Wyoming. Desert Dust and Robbins’ work with wild horses also helped inspire the passage of the Wild Horse Protection Act of 1959 and later, the Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971. Both of these acts protect wild horses in the West.

Post contributed by Archives Aide Sarah Kesterson, AHC Reference Department.


Posted in Agricultural history, Rodeo history, Western history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being Lothar Kolbig

I want to be like Lothar Kolbig when I grow up, to have as many adventures around the world as he did. It is quite apparent that the overarching theme of his life was seasoned by a spirit of wanderlust and encouraging other to join in the excitement.

Lothar Kolbig of the Chicago Mountaineering Club scales Sentinel Rock in Palisades Sate Park at Savanna, Ill, ca. 1940.
Lothar Kolbig papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Lothar was a mountaineer and a noted whitewater rafter; the inventor the Corner-Paddle Modification, for paddles used in whitewater rafting today.

He was on the executive committee of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club in the early 1960’s, and founded the Chicago Mountaineering Club, serving as their president in the 1940’s and 1950’s. To honor his work, a rock climbing area is named after him at Devils Lake in Wisconsin – considered by some of the finest rock in the Midwest for climbing.

Kolbig admiring the view of the Swiss Alps, undated photo.
Lothar Kolbig papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

His list of travel accomplishments are legendary. He documented his adventures in film, journals and travel logs from the 1930’s thru the 1970’s. Lothar chronicled his many back packing trips in Canada, Colorado, and Wyoming; whitewater rafting down rivers in Canada, California, and Peru; mountain climbing in Alaska, Africa, Afghanistan, the Alps, the Canadian Rockies, the High Sierras, India, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Tibet.

Kolbig in a sea kayak, ca. 1930.
Lothar Kolbig papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Having poured over his archived files at the American Heritage Center, I felt like a sleuth following the footsteps of his life. In my opinion, Lothar seemed to overindulge in everything he found adventurous, but not with reckless abandon, rather he applied a thoughtful scholarly astuteness to his exploits, carefully researching everything he could know about where he planned to travel. I suspect he wanted to make sure that no time was wasted and everyday could be enjoyed to it fill. With mindfulness he documented his adventures, to revisit and share with others later, and perhaps to encourage others to set out on their own escapades.

Kolbig’s Swiss Alpine Club climbing permit to climb the Matterhorn.
Lothar Kolbig papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Post contributed by AHC Senior Office Associate Matthew Troyanek


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The Tour de Fleece and Wyoming Wool!

The annual international Tour de Fleece is underway! Yes, the bike race the Tour de France is also underway, but this is the Tour de Fleece! Spinners (on spinning wheels, e-spinners and drop spindles) from around the world gather virtually to spin fiber daily, concurrently with the international bike race, the Tour de France.

Star Athena is credited with starting the first Tour de Fleece. She explained, “The Tour de Fleece is an online spin-along for everyone who loves to spin yarn and play with fiber! It’s an opportunity to challenge yourself while connecting with other spinners and having fun too… I started the first Tour in 2006 by spinning yarn along with the Tour de France. The concept was simple: they spin, we spin….  In 2006 we started out with just 16 spinners, though we had a lot of fun…..Currently, we’re beyond 10,000 participants.”   

So, while cycling history, the Tour De France, and the history of spinning and spinning wheels are not collecting strengths of the American Heritage Center, spinners frequently spin wool fiber, and you can learn about the business of wool in our collections!

The first sheep in Wyoming passed over the emigrant trails on their way to Utah and California. The first permanent flocks were probably established near Fort Bridger in 1846-1847.

Sketch of a ewe from box 28 of the B. C. Buffum papers at the American Heritage Center. Buffum joined the University of Wyoming as an agriculture professor in 1891 and went on to lead UW’s agricultural experiment stations throughout the state.

Sheep ranching as an industry truly began in Wyoming along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad in the late 1860s. Growth of the industry in central and northern Wyoming was delayed until railroads penetrated into these areas, because lack of transportation facilities prevented ranchers from moving their products to market.

AHC collections related to wool and sheep are broad and include organizational records, private company/ranch records, and the University of Wyoming’s Wool Department/Experiment Stations. Just a few samples are below. 

The Wyoming Wool Grower’s Association was founded in Cheyenne on April 11, 1905. Its purpose was to create an effective lobby in Washington to re-establish a wool tariff, to permit sheep grazing in the Forest Reserve, to control transportation rates, to eradicate predators, and to prosecute raiders.

The King Brothers Company was founded in 1892 in Albany County, Wyoming, by brothers Francis S., Herbert J., and Joseph S. King. The Kings specialized in breeding and raising purebred and registered Corriedale and Rambouillet sheep and won numerous prizes and honors for their wool.

Wool workers on wool bales at the King Brothers Ranch.
Photo File: Ranch-King Brothers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The William Daley enterprise was primarily a sheep ranch in Carbon County, Wyoming. The ranch was founded by William Daley. The ranch was managed by William Webster Daleys son, Perce Edward Daley. The company was active from 1886 to 1953.

The University of Wyoming College of Agriculture began to study sheep and wool in 1907 after passage of the Adams Act, which provided funding of $5000 per year for land-grant universities for sheep and wool research. The Wool Department was established in 1913 and conducted research, training, and experiments on sheep and wool in cooperation with the Agricultural Experiment Station before being merged with the Animal Science Department in 1955.

Sheep on experimental farm in 1901.
Box 6, B. C. Buffum Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The AHC wool collection go beyond Wyoming, too.

The National Wool Growers Association (U.S.) was established in 1865, and was the first national livestock organization in the United States. The collection contains records of the National Wool Growers Association, as well as some for related and affiliated organizations such as the American Wool Council and other industrial and state organizations concerning livestock.

The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) was a national organization that represented and defended the interests of the sheep and wool industries. It was established in 1989 by a merger between the American Sheep Producers Council (founded 1955) and the National Wool Growers Association (founded 1865).

3,000 sheep crossing Platte River at Alcova, Wyoming.
Box 1, Joseph E. Stimson collection, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

So, there is much to explore at the American Heritage Center. While the Tour de Fleece officially runs from June 26 to July 18 this year, AHC collections are available for research year-round! Please visit http://www.uwyo.edu/ahc/ and follow “The Catalogs” title to get started with your research. The Reference department is always available to assist with research as well. Please contact us ahcref@uwyo.edu or 307-766-3756.   

For those of you participating in the Tour de Fleece this year: Happy Spinning from the AHC!

Post contributed by AHC Archivist and Reference Department Supervisor Ginny Kilander.

#always archiving

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65 Years Ago: Ellis Armstrong and America’s Interstate Highway System

Described as the largest public works project in the history of the world, the monumental Federal-Aid Highway Act that finally made possible the building of a planned super highway system was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 29, 1956.

This map shows the National System of Interstate Highways. Note the original plan shows Denver as the I-70 terminus. Additional mileage was later added to the system, which allowed I-70 to continue west to I-15 in Utah. Box 112, Folder 1, Ellis Armstrong Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Wyoming was eager to begin construction on its 914 miles of Interstate. Soon after the federal highway act was passed, the Wyoming Highway Commission approved its first highway project, and construction commenced in September 1956 on a 13-mile section of I-25 north of Cheyenne between the U.S. 85 Exit (Torrington Highway) and Whitaker Road. This was one of thousands of sections of Interstate to be constructed across the nation.

The 1956 highway act expanded the national Interstate Highway System to 41,000 miles. Overseeing such a massive and coordinated building project would require the efforts of many individuals, including Commissioner of Public Roads Ellis Armstrong. Armstrong, who donated a large set of his professional papers to the American Heritage Center, was one of only four individuals to hold the position of Commissioner of Public Roads. The commissioner was the executive director of day-to-day operations within the Bureau of Public Roads. Thomas MacDonald (1939-1953), Francis du Pont (1953-1955), and Charles Curtiss (1955-1957) previously held this position. Armstrong was the last to hold the position.

Though the position that Armstrong held from 1958-1961 was abolished when a change in organization occurred in the Federal Highway Administration in October 1961, Armstrong left the position in March to become the president of the Better Highways Information Foundation. This organization was dedicated to public information with the goal of promoting the highway program across the nation with a focus on active state and local support for highway development.

Ellis Armstrong, November 1969.
Box 2, Newcomb B. Bennett Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Ellis Leroy Armstrong was born in Cedar City, Utah, on May 30, 1914. He remembers the days in the rural West where automobiles and improved roads were rare. In a March 8, 1961 address to the Fourth Annual Highway Conference, Armstrong said, “As a youngster, I remember our mode of transportation was the wagon and the old white-top buggy and that we’d clop, clop, clop to town every week or so for necessities.” He set that in contrast to the reality that came with the automobile and the national roads system of the 1950s and early 1960s, stating. “Summer before last, my family and I took a 6,000 mile trip across America during our two-week summer vacation.” He went on to describe this incredible evolution in transportation:

“The changes that are occurring are not the slow, comfortable changes of the past, but are sudden, and rapid, and often they are violent. And they are affecting everybody, everywhere in this world of ours grown small.”

He described the effort to transition as an, “accelerated highway program (that) is an attempt to catch up with the needs of our present automotive society. We got way behind during the War, when highways were expendable and expended and unfortunately, no one quite appreciated beforehand the highway problems created by the more and more and more cars that flooded our highways when civilian operations resumed following the War.”

The major response to this challenge was the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act. Armstrong said of the act,

“After extensive investigations, studies, deliberations, and review, the (highway act) launched the world’s greatest public works construction program to catch up with our needs.” He then went on to describe how the nation must view this massive program: “This is a program that requires a broad perspective to appreciate. Planning, designing, and construction of highways has become complex. Highway building and operation has become (one of the) biggest single operations of State governments.”

From “Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Highway Conference,” Box 110, Folder 4, Ellis Armstrong Papers.

In his leadership role with the Better Highways Information Foundation, he described the activities of the organization, which included, in part, ensuring that each state had at least one good-roads organization to disseminate information; working closely with each state highway department offering information that could be used in press releases, speeches, and radio spots; and traveling around the nation speaking at major conventions and to regional groups.

Armstrong was described as, “one of a vanishing breed that believes an engineer is a public servant” (January 3, 1988 Denver Post newspaper clipping, Ellis Armstrong Biographical File.) Armstrong lived to see the completion of the entire Wyoming Interstate System and the majority of the Interstate Highway Project across the nation. After a long career that also included serving as Director of the Utah Highway Department and as the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, Ellis Armstrong passed away at his home in Utah on January 26, 2001.

In Wyoming, the majority of the 403-mile-long I-80 was completed on October 4, 1970, when the Laramie-Rawlins section opened. The final link, a nine-mile section east of Cheyenne to Archer opened on May 4, 1977. The 301-mile I-25 was completed on February 2, 1982, when a section near Kaycee was completed.

Completed sections of I-80, shown in red, in 1966, in the southeast corner of the state.
Source: 1966 Official Wyoming Highway Map.
Completed sections of I-25, shown in red, are featured on the 1966 Official Wyoming Highway Map. Significant progress had been made just ten years after the signing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act.
Source: 1966 Official Wyoming Highway Map.

The 209-mile I-90 was completed on October 10, 1985, marking the end of Wyoming’s portion of the Interstate Project. The final section to be completed was between Ranchester and the Montana border. The project was held up for several years, due to Montana’s delay in selecting the location of the highway near the state line. Today, thousands and thousands of cars and commercial trucks travel daily on Wyoming’s 914 miles of Interstate Highways. 

Progress on I-90 as of spring 1966 is shown in red.
Source: 1966 Official Wyoming Highway Map.

Post contributed by AHC Reference Archivist John Waggener.


Posted in Transportation history, Uncategorized, Western history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating the Stars and Stripes – Flag Day

June 14th marks the celebration of Flag Day in the United States. The date is significant in that the Second Continental Congress had, on that day in 1777, adopted the “Stars and Stripes” as the flag of a budding nation. The assembled body resolved “that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

As the nation grew, there were more stars added to the flag, but the thirteen stripes remained. Interest in honoring the flag grew as well. By the latter half of the 19th century, schoolteachers in Wisconsin and New York had begun arranging patriotic days for their pupils. Celebrations became grander and more elaborate. In 1894, 300,000 children participated in a day to honor the flag in parks across Chicago. President Woodrow Wilson established an official Flag Day by proclamation in May 1916. Not long after that, the United States entered into World War I. Patriotic sentiments were running high.

Here in Wyoming, University of Wyoming professor Grace Raymond Hebard took patriotism and respect for the flag seriously.

Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard with a small American flag.
Photo File: Hebard, Grace Raymond, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Dr. Hebard taught free ten-week long citizenship courses to prepare immigrants to become naturalized citizens. It was a progressive, and perhaps somewhat controversial, act which fell under the umbrella of Americanization. Her courses were held in her University of Wyoming classroom, against a backdrop of the American flag. All of her lessons included some aspect of the patriotism that was expected of the future American citizens. Immigrants who completed Hebard’s evening classes were recommended for citizenship without having to complete any additional exams. After the naturalization ceremony at the courthouse, Dr. Hebard pinned a small silk American flag to the coat of each new citizen.

Hebard and students from her naturalization class, March 8, 1917.
Box 21, Grace Raymond Hebard papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Following one such ceremony at Laramie’s courthouse, a lawyer present at the event said to Hebard, “Although you have no sons to send to war, you certainly have made three patriotic loyal citizens out of that number of aliens.”

Students of Dr. Hebard learned “The American’s Creed,” which was based on a statement written by William Tyler Page in 1917. Page had served as the President General of the United States Flag Association and was also the 28th Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. Referring to the Creed, Page said “It is the summary of the fundamental principles of the American political faith as set forth in its greatest documents, its worthiest traditions, and its greatest leaders.”

This copy of “The American’s Creed” was taken from a draft of a civics textbook written by Hebard, 1926.
Box 48, Grace Raymond Hebard papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Dr. Hebard’s patriotic endeavors extended beyond the classroom. She served as the State Historian of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In that role, she assisted in the erection of monuments and markers across the state of Wyoming commemorating the route of the Oregon Trail.

Hebard beside a monument marking the Oregon Trail, east of Fort Laramie, 1914.
Photo File: Hebard, Grace Raymond, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Whether it was in the classroom or in the community, Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard never shied away from waving the flag. You can pour through the papers of this patriotic University of Wyoming professor at the American Heritage Center.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


Posted in Holidays, Immigration, Immigration Policy, Political history, Uncategorized, women's history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opening Chutes and Closets – Gay Rodeo

The chute flies open and out comes a bucking bronc, with a rugged cowboy astraddle, trying their best to stay mounted – this iconic image is associated with rodeos across the West. And since 1975, a similar scene has played out in gay rodeo. Conceived as a fundraiser for a Reno senior citizens’ Thanksgiving dinner, the Gay Rodeo originated in Nevada.

Facing discrimination, the rodeo organizers were initially unable to find any farmers or ranchers to lease them the necessary livestock. But they persevered. Interest in the rodeo spread across the U.S., first to California and then to Colorado and Texas. For LGBTQ farmers and ranchers, the rodeo offered a vital social outlet and an opportunity to meet other likeminded rodeo competitors.

In 1985 the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) was formed to provide some standardization of rules across the various state rodeos that had sprung up. Wayne Jakino, the founding president of the IGRA described the rodeo community as one that lets “competitors feel good about themselves and open closet doors.”

Gay rodeo events include everything in a traditional rodeo, from calf roping and pole bending to bull riding. Events are equally open to all genders and the competitors are entirely amateur. There are also a few events unique to the IGRA, known as “camp” events. These include steer decorating and goat dressing. There is also the “wild drag race” during which one of the three team members must dress in drag.

Shortly after the founding of the IGRA, Blake Little, an award-winning portrait photographer, began shooting photos of gay rodeo. Little’s black and white images captured candid scenes in and around rodeo arenas across the country.

Photograph of cowboy Jerry Hubbard taken in Burbank, California by Blake Little, 1989.
Box 9, Gregory Hinton papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Blake Little became so enamored with gay rodeo that he learned to ride steers and bulls, eventually being named the Bull Riding Champion of the Year in 1990 by the IGRA. Little continued to take photographs between competitions, in part to steady his nerves and distract himself from overthinking his next bull ride. His photos raised awareness and opened doors. Little remarked, “The gay rodeo pictures are of a community that tends to be in a more conservative environment because Western culture just tends to be more conservative. It’s a powerful thing for people in Western culture that are straight or have more conservative views to see these people as real, as essentially just like them.”

Eventually Little’s photos ended up on display in an “Out West” exhibition, which was conceived of in 2009 by author, playwright and filmmaker Gregory Hinton. The exhibition included art and memorabilia that highlighted the presence of the LGBTQ community in Western culture. Little’s photos were compiled into a book.

Cover of Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo, 2016.
Box 13, Gregory Hinton papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Today, IGRA events are held across the U.S. from Little Rock, Arkansas to San Diego, California and in Canada at the Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, near Calgary. The rodeo season ends with World Gay Rodeo Finals. Charitable giving continues to be a part of Gay Rodeo, with more recent rodeos donating to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and AIDS foundations.

Flyer for the World Gay Rodeo Finals, sponsored by the International Gay Rodeo Association, October 2013.
Box 1, Gregory Hinton papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

While the bulk of the International Gay Rodeo Association’s records are archived at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, you can learn more about gay rodeo, the “Out West” exhibition and the contributions of the LGBTQ community to the American West in the Gregory Hinton papers.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


Posted in Agricultural history, LGBTQIA+, Out West in the Rockies, Sports and Recreation, Uncategorized, Western history | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment