Black History Month Programs at UW

Thursday, January 31st kicked off a series of events taking place at the University of Wyoming in honor of Black History Month.  The day featured the Black History 101 Mobile Museum on display in the Wyoming Union breezeway, and later the AHC partnered with the Art Museum, the Black Student Alliance, and African American Diaspora Studies to host a Meet & Greet for Khalid el-Hakim, founder and curator of the Mobile Museum.

Several students walk down a row of tables in the hallway of the student union viewing an exhibit on display.

UW students engage with the Black History 101 Mobile Museum in the Union breezeway.

The events continue with a Black History Conference hosted at the College of Law on Friday, February 8th, along with a whole week of programs hosted by the Black Student Alliance. On Monday, February 18th, the AHC is happy to once again partner with AADS and BSA as they host their “Conversations with Elders” program at the Centennial Complex in the Stock Grower’s Room at 4 p.m.

The month of programs conclude with a panel on African American Women in Pageantry at the Ag Auditorium on Friday, March 1 at 4 p.m.

image with text listing Black History Month programs

Listing of programs for Black History month hosted by the Black Student Alliance and African American Diaspora Studies

We’d be remiss if we also didn’t give recognition to the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Days of Dialogue programs, which starts this Sunday. View the press release or visit their website for more information.

Posted in African American history, Martin Luther King Jr., University of Wyoming history | Leave a comment

Wyoming Statesman Gale McGee Encounters a Bolivian Coup D’état

Between 1978 and 1980, the country of Bolivia was constantly in a state of crisis. There was a series of military governments that ruled briefly, each overthrown by the next. Rodger McDaniel’s 2018 book, The Man in the Arena: The Life and Times of U.S. Senator Gale McGee, relates a time when McGee, his wife Loraine, and aides found themselves in a dire situation on the cusp of a Bolivian coup in 1979. Recently American Heritage Center archivist Roger Simon discovered photographs related to the incident while processing portions of Gale McGee’s papers.


Gale and Loraine McGee, 1974. Gale McGee papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Democrat Gale McGee served Wyoming as U.S. Senator from 1959 to 1977. After a defeat by Republican Malcolm Wallop, McGee was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to be U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS is a organization founded in 1948 to promote regional solidarity and cooperation among its 35 independent member states in the Americas. After approval by the Senate, McGee was sworn in as OAS ambassador on March 30, 1977. It was while McGee was in Bolivia for an OAS General Assembly that this harrowing experience occurred.

Here is an excerpt about the incident from McDaniel’s book, along with snapshots that Roger Simon found in McGee’s papers.

[On a trip to La Paz, Bolivia, on October 20, 1979,] Loraine and several OAS staff members accompanied [Ambassador McGee] to attend the General Assembly. Two were former members of his Senate staff, Liz Strannigan and Betty Cooper. They flew together with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance on the luxurious aircraft known as Air Force One when the president is aboard. Upon arrival, they noticed a contingent of U.S. Marines stationed around the plane, all standing “at-ease,” rifles resting at their sides.

The first few days were filled with sightseeing and important meetings with Latin American heads of state and others. The McGees awakened early one morning to find tanks and troops on the streets nine floors below the room in which they were staying in the La Paz Sheraton. It was the opening salvo of what came to be called “the cocaine coup” because it had been financed by the drug cartel out of its unhappiness with the current government’s enforcement of drug laws.


Soldiers on the streets of La Paz, Bolivia, October 1979. Gale McGee papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

With Marines posted at each end of his hallway to prevent secret documents from being captured, the ambassador attempted to call Washington, but the phones were down. Alejandro Orfila, who now served as secretary general to OAS, told McGee he could arrange for he and his wife to leave Bolivia immediately aboard Orfila’s personal plane. But there was not enough room on the plane for his staffers. While other ambassadors jumped at the chance to leave, McGee refused the offer, advising Orfila, “We came together.  We will leave together.”


Tanks rolling into La Paz, October 1979. Gale McGee papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Alexandra Watson, the deputy chief of the La Paz mission, recalled the tense situation they faced. On the streets were tanks and soldiers. Checkpoints were “manned by illiterate 16, 17, 18-year-old soldiers from the countryside who were scared to death and whose AK-47s trembled in their hands as they put their guns up to our ears.” As Liz Strannigan worked to arrange passport clearance to leave the country, there was gunfire in the downtown area not far from the hotel. “Bolivian troops opened fire on protesting crowds in the streets of La Paz.” Late that afternoon Strannigan was able to make arrangements for the McGees as well as staff members to fly out of the country on a plane that would have been formally designated Air Force Two had the vice president been aboard.


The scene from the backseat of the McGee’s vehicle, October 1979. Gale McGee papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.


An even more frightening scene from the backseat, October 1979. Gale McGee papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

They made their way slowly up the steep road to the airport aptly named El Alto, which sits atop a mountain 1,500 feet above La Paz. As when they landed a few days earlier, the Marine contingent surrounded the aircraft, not “at-ease” this time but with guns raised to an “at-ready” stance. Fully loaded, the plane started down the runway, necessarily one of the longest in the world to accommodate large airplanes trying to take off at the altitude. After rumbling down most of the runway’s 13,000 feet, the plane finally lifted off. After a brief stop in Lima, Peru, the group left for Washington.

Bolivian President Wálter Guevara Arze was deposed in a military coup on November 1, 1979, only days after the McGees were able to leave. At least 300 people were killed in the ensuring violence that lasted the week following the coup.

To learn more about Gale McGee’s interesting career, we recommend a look at Rodger McDaniel’s book. You can also view McGee’s papers at the American Heritage Center. No appointment needed. The AHC’s research room is open 10:00 am to 7:00 pm on Monday and 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Tuesday through Friday.

Posted in Alan K. Simpson Institute for Western Politics and Leadership, Bolivian history, found in the archive, Gale McGee, military history, Organization of American States, Politics, Uncategorized, Violence - history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wyoming Legislator Liz Byrd’s Quest to Honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 21 is Wyoming Equality Day. Perhaps you wondered this morning as you sipped your coffee about how Wyoming Equality Day originated? Cheyenne native and Wyoming state legislator Harriett Elizabeth “Liz” Byrd was the guiding individual behind it, although a “Wyoming Equality Day” was not her first intention. 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.


Liz 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.


Rhone family portrait, ca. 1945. Left to right, front row: Elizabeth, Charles (“Dad”), Robert “Bobby” Byrd – back row: Robert (“Buck”), Sudie, Creta, Blossie, Elizabeth (“Liz”), Tommy. Harriett Elizabeth Byrd Family Papers, 10443, Box 3, Folder 6

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.


Harriett Elizabeth Rhone, Cheyenne Central High School graduating picture, class of 1944. As a black woman in largely white Cheyenne, Liz experienced her share of racism. Harriett Elizabeth Byrd Family Papers, 10443, Box 10, Folder 23

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.


Liz Byrd in her Cheyenne classroom, ca. 1965. Looking on is Wyoming Secretary of State Thyra Thomson. Thyra Thomson Papers, 9148, Shares Box SP-U.


James and Liz Byrd with their family, 1967. Jim Byrd was Cheyenne’s Chief of Police and the first black chief of police in Wyoming. Harriett Elizabeth Byrd Family Papers, 10443, Box 3, Folder 6.

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. Day in Wyoming. U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill in 1983 that established Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a nationally observed holiday, although it was not until 1986 that it was first observed.


Wyoming Equality Day Senate File, Harriett Elizabeth Byrd Family Papers, 10443, Box 1, Folder 9.

The nine years she worked on the bill to mark a day in commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr., 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 name, which became Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day in 1990.


Liz Byrd with Governor Mike 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.

Liz 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 1989 book I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.

A number of events titled “Days of Dialogue” are planned on the University of Wyoming campus to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day. An upcoming schedule of events from January 31 through February 9 can be found at

The post originally appeared in 2017, but we thought it was worth running again with some additional photographs from Liz Byrd’s papers at the AHC. Much of the text is credited to 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).

Posted in African American history, Current events, found in the archive, Martin Luther King Jr., Uncategorized, women's history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Lost Episode of Golden Age of Television Dramatic Series “Star Tonight” Found and Identified


Established Broadway star Tom Helmore is the playwright “Gaston DeLong” in Star Tonight: “Write Me A Love Scene”. Gary Rutkowski’s Early Television Broadcasts Collection, Accession Number 12569.

From 1955-56 on ABC, a live TV series titled Star Tonight offered the chance for young up-and-coming New York actors to star in a show opposite established players. The known stars included: Buster Crabbe, Neva Patterson, Theodore Bikel, and June Lockhart; the newbies included: Joanne Woodward, Maureen Stapleton, Jason Robards Jr., and Robert Culp.


Tom Middleton, future character actor, hopes to be made a Star Tonight. Gary Rutkowski’s Early Television Broadcasts Collection, Accession Number 12569.

The American Heritage Center has digitized a lost episode of Star Tonight from December 29, 1955, identified by University of Wyoming American Studies graduate student Gary Rutkowski. This episode is incomplete, running 12-minutes, and is called “Write Me a Love Scene.” It features Broadway star Tom Helmore opposite unknown Tom Middleton. Middleton plays a young man who seeks the talents of a famous playwright (Helmore) to help him win his ladylove. The twist is that the woman in question is the wife of the playwright!

Tragically, there are only four known episodes of the 80 episode-run of Star Tonight. This 12-minute segment, housed at the AHC, represents a fifth. The four other episodes include: “Taste” (airdate: 6/2/55; at UCLA Film & Television Archive; from a Roald Dahl short story, starring: Rudy Vallee, Leonard Elliot, Diana Millay, Violet Hemming, Byron Russell, and Wyatt Cooper); “A Door You Can Close” (airdate: 4/12/56; at UCLA Film & Television Archive; starring: Norma Crane, Signe Hasso, and Margery MacDaniel); “A Small Glass Bottle” (airdate: 6/7/56; at the Paley Center for Media; starring: Abby Lewis, Harry Townes, Virginia Kaye); and an unknown episode identified only by its sponsor as “Brillo’s Star Tonight” in the records at the Paley Center for Media.

GianakosBookCoverThe most intriguing part of the identification of this episode fragment is that there were no opening or closing titles and the film leader misidentified the show as an episode of Studio One. Grad student Gary Rutkowski determined the origin of the episode  using an old-fashioned method—he hit the books.  Using Larry James Gianakos’ Television Drama Series Programming: A Comprehensive Guide 1947-59, he went page by page until something rang a bell, in this case the title of the show, as listed on page 436.  The cast listings by Gianakos confirmed the identification.




Script of “Write Me a Love Scene,” August 1947, by Ryerson and Clements from a collection of Kraft Television Theater scripts in the Edmund C. Rice Papers, Accession Number 5254. 

“Write Me a Love Scene” was based on a play by Florence Ryerson (co-writer of The Wizard of Oz screenplay) and her husband Colin Clements.  Its choice may have been influenced by Variety’s pan of the series premiere in which the trade paper complained that the series needed to provide its young hopefuls with better material. In fact, this version of the play was already the third time it was adapted for television. In 1946, producer-director Harvey Marlowe produced a version for station WABD in which “performances were fluent, witty, and credible, with Wynne Gibson rating a special nod for a standout thesping job.” This show pre-dated the kinescope process and no copy would have been possible (other than an audio recording).  The second adaptation of the one-act play was produced for the long-running Kraft Television Theatre, as their 14th production (on a double bill with “The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife”), broadcast on August 6, 1947. Interestingly enough, the AHC has a copy of that original script in the Edmund C. Rice papers. It reveals differences from the 1955 production in dialogue and business, for example instead of humming his wife’s favorite tune “L’Amour, Toujours, L’Amour,” Gaston plays it on the piano in the ’55 show.  The 1947 episode is also lost, making the Star Tonight version the only one available.



Mary Boylan in Star Tonight (one of her first roles) and in Annie Hall (one of her last). Gary Rutkowski’s Early Television Broadcasts Collection, Accession Number 12569.

Regarding the cast of Star Tonight: “Write Me a Love Scene,” Tom Helmore is best known today as the old college buddy who starts Jimmy Stewart on his pursuit of Kim Novak in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Young Tom Middleton would have a moderately successful career as a character actor in film and television. His credits include the films Ocean’s 11 and PT 109 and TV’s This Man Dawson and Lucas Tanner. In a bit part as a maid is Mary Boylan in one of her first screen roles, immortalized years later in one of her last as the teacher who chastises young Alvy Singer in the Oscar®-winning Best Picture Annie Hall (1977).

Special thanks for this project go to the American Heritage Center staff: Ivan Gaetz, Interim Director and UW Dean of Libraries; Rachel Gattermeyer, Digital Archivist; Halena Bagdonas, Digitization Technician; Kathy Gerlach, Digitization Technician; Bill Hopkins, Collections Manager/Head of Collections; John Waggener, Photo & Audio/ Visual Archivist; Leslie Waggener, Archivist; and Vicki Glantz, Reference Archives Specialist.

– Post courtesy of Gary Rutkowski, University of Wyoming graduate student in American Studies.


Posted in announcements, Archival Film, Digital collections, Edmund C. Rice papers, found in the archive, Motion picture actors and actresses, popular culture, Student projects, Teapot Dome scandal, television history, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Estelle Reel Day

In recognition of Estelle Reel, the first woman elected and to hold the office of state superintendent of public instruction in Wyoming and the second woman elected and to hold a statewide office in the United States, January 7 of each year is designated as “Estelle Reel Day.” The day shall be appropriately observed in the public schools of the state, by state and local government and by organizations within the state.

So states House Bill 108, which was passed by the Wyoming Legislature on February 27, 2018.

According to an article in, Estelle Reel came to Wyoming in 1886 to be a teacher in Cheyenne after receiving schooling in Boston, St. Louis, and Chicago.

Estelle Reel_ah003599

This photo of Reel found in the American Heritage Center’s photo files has a handwritten notation on the back written by historian, suffragette, and UW Professor Grace Raymond Hebard regarding Reel’s accomplishments.

Four years later, she campaigned for school superintendent of Laramie County, Wyoming. Brad Slack wrote in his Wyoming Roundup column of June 10, 1953, that appeared in the Wyoming State Tribune:

They told her in the beginning, when Laramie County politicos first considered [Reel] as a candidate for county school superintendent, that she would have to buck a stigma concerning her reputation. It was said Miss Reel “sassed” her school board. What she had really done was to tell them they could not dictate what church she went to, where she bought her clothes or where she lived and boarded. She continued to live in a hotel in the days when young women of her profession were not considered quite correct unless they went to an approved board school.

The public defense of herself played well with voters, who elected her school superintendent of Laramie County by a wide margin in 1890. She was re-elected two years later, and then set her sights on becoming the state superintendent, a position she won in 1894.

Reform was her watchword. Once she was state superintendent in Wyoming, she sought to raise the salaries of women teachers to a point commensurate with me. Although she didn’t win a full victory, she continued to cry “equal pay for equal work.” She also sought better treatment for prison inmates and was the first to insist on libraries and useful work for inmates.

By 1896, she had made a national name for herself. She had championed Republican William McKinley in Wyoming and assisted in his election. Her reward was the first major political job in the federal government for a women, that of national superintendent of Indian schools.


According to, Reel spent 17 of her first 26 months in the field, traveling more than 41,000 miles to visit 49 Indian schools. Photo courtesy Wyoming State Archives.

Reel was a strong advocate of a standardized curriculum for Indian schools that emphasized vocational training. No amount of book learning, she felt, could result in economic independence for Indian people. She wrote a textbook, A Course of Study for the Indian Schools of the United States—Industrial and Literary that focused on the “dignity of labor,” one of her favorite phrases. Others asserted that by limiting education to manual training the educators were condemning Indian people to permanent inequality.

Although the federal job was highly demanding, Reel stayed with it until she resigned in 1910 to marry Cort Meyer, a Toppenish, Washington, rancher and farmer. Reel never again ran for public office, and she died in 1959 at the age of 97.

Posted in American Indian history, Uncategorized, Western history, women's history, Wyoming history | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A New Year’s Tale: The Story of Jean Howard and Charles Feldman

As a tribute to the new year, we’re featuring the story of Jean Howard and Charles Feldman, a Hollywood couple who most assuredly would have hosted a rocking New Year’s Eve party.


Charles Feldmand and Jean Howard, ca. 1935. Jean Howard Papers, Acc. #10714, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The story of Jean Howard and Charles Feldman lasts throughout Hollywood’s glamour period and though it was mostly enacted behind the scenes, the tale reveals a couple who had considerable influence over many of Hollywood’s luminaries; Howard as a photographer to the stars and Feldman as an agent and executive producer.


Caption on the back of the photo reads: “Party at Charles Feldman’s house in Beverly Hills; L to R: Moss Hart, in foreground, Roger Edens, Dorothy Dandridge at piano, Michael Romanoff and Doe Averdon looking on.” Jean Howard Papers, Acc. #10714, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.


Celebrity group posing at a lunch party at the home of actor Clifton Webb, 1950. Jean Howard Papers, Acc. #10714, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Jean Howard began a film career at eighteen, when her beauty and poise gained her a role in the last Ziegfeld Follies production. Recognition followed and brought her to Hollywood with an MGM contract.  She soon created sparks in Hollywood; MGM head Louis B. Mayer fell in love with her and proposed marriage, despite his reputation as a staunch family man. Instead, she married Charles Feldman, a young attorney just making his start as an actor’s agent. Although an angry Mayer did his best to scuttle Feldman’s career, the wily agent eventually became the town’s top talent broker. He handled the careers of Hollywood’s legendary stars, including Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe. Later he branched out, becoming a film producer whose work brought forth some twentieth century classics such as Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, What’s New Pussycat and Casino Royale.


Marilyn Monroe at Jean Howard’s home, 1954. Jean Howard Papers, Acc. #10714, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Jean and Charlie were a lively, good-looking couple, and their lives quickly became intertwined with those of the most celebrated film people: actors, writers, directors and studio executives. When her husband’s career was established, Jean decided to abandon acting in favor of her talent for photography. For her own amusement, she took innumerable photographs of the movie magnates and stars with whom she socialized. The candor and intimacy of these photos reveal another side to these celebrities, the most photographed people in the world.


Marlene Dietrich and Ann Boyer Warner, ca. 1950. Jean Howard Papers, Acc. #10714, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Jean was a friend, and in her photos the stars are relaxed and off-guard – a far cry from the formal glamour portraits circulated by the studios. Despite their clashes and jealous rages, during and after their marriage, the two forged a personal and professional bond that lasted until Feldman’s death in 1968.

The American Heritage Center houses the Jean Howard collection which contains her famous photographs and negatives of Hollywood events and stars. Her partial list of Hollywood subjects includes Darryl Zanuck, Tyrone Power, Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Jimmy Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, and Judy Garland. Her non-Hollywood list includes Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jean Cocteau, Charles Feldman, Christopher Isherwood, and Noel Coward. There is also professional and personal correspondence related to her life as a photographer and to her ex-husband Charles Feldman’s business. There are biographical materials regarding her early acting career and notes related to her trips with Cole Porter.


Posted in found in the archive, Hollywood history, Motion picture actors and actresses, motion picture history, Photographic collections, popular culture, Uncategorized, women's history | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Montgomery Ward Seizure

On December 27, 1944, the U.S. government seized control of properties belonging to Montgomery Ward, a successful department store retailer that had been in business since 1872.

Why you ask? We hope you’re asking…

During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt was faced with ongoing labor strikes holding up production of material for the war effort. He created the National War Labor Board in 1942 to address this issue. The board negotiated labor issues to avoid strikes.

Sewell Avery, the chairmen of Montgomery Ward, refused to comply with the demands of unions and the War Labor Board’s order for compromise. “To hell with the government!” Avery yelled in April 1944 at Attorney General Francis Biddle, who had flown to Chicago in hopes of placating him. “I want none of your damned advice.”

Biddle ordered two National Guardsmen to lift Avery out of his office chair and carry him out of the building. “You … New Dealer!” Avery bellowed, referring to FDR’s Depression-era economic relief program. In an iconic photo, the two soldiers hold Avery in a sitting position, his arms crossed, as they remove him from the premises.


Photo credit: Iconic Photos

To circumvent a strike, President Roosevelt ordered Secretary of War Henry Stimson to seize Montgomery Ward’s plants and facilities in New York, Michigan, California, Illinois, Colorado and Oregon.

Advocates of Montgomery Ward argued their products were not essential to the war effort, as they supplied everything from car parts to clothing, but not weapons.


“Government Order Balto. Ward Contract” Union poster, circa 1944, Montgomery Ward Records box 26, UW American Heritage Center.

As a federal judge deliberated over the legality of the seizure, the U.S. Department of Commerce nominally ran the company. Before a ruling could be handed down, however, the union completed its election and employees returned to work. On May 9, 1944, Commerce Secretary Jesse Jones returned the company to private management.

Avery feared an economic downturn after World War II and refused to give his employees pension plans or insurance and stopped expanding the company. Competing company Sears quickly overtook Montgomery Ward. The company never returned to its former success and finally went out of business in 2001.

The history of this iconic retailer can be found in the Montgomery Ward Records which are available at the UW American Heritage Center.


Posted in Economic History, found in the archive, Labor disputes, Montgomery Ward, Politics, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Uncategorized, War and emergency powers | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Old-Time Saloon – Just History, for the Season

It’s the holiday season and you may be tempted to tipple a few beverages of the alcoholic variety. It seems like a good opportunity to provide you with a drinking story. Something you can relate to your friends as you lift a glass to the spirit of the season.

Prohibition is little discussed today except in history classes. But if you’re interested in the still relevant political arguments that led to Prohibition in the first place, read the 1931 book The Old-Time Saloon: Not Wet, Not Dry—Just History by George Ade (1866-1944). The American Heritage Center’s Toppan Library has a copy.

During the 19th century and early 20th century there were saloons aplenty, in fact it was not uncommon to find one saloon for every 150 to 200 Americans, including those who did not drink. Competition was fierce among saloon-keepers and some brought gambling and prostitution into their establishments to increase the profit margin.

As you can imagine, the religious community was not pleased with these developments. Groups such as the Anti-Saloon League led the charge to end the booze business. Prohibition leaders, called “drys”, believed that once license to do business was removed from the liquor traffic, churches and reform organizations would enjoy an opportunity to persuade Americans to give up drink. One result was that many communities in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries introduced alcohol prohibition. When the 18th amendment was ratified in 1919, prohibition supporters presented it as a victory for public morals and health.

Ade, a famous journalist and Broadway playwright, liked to drink as much as the next fella (unless that fella was a “dry”). He supported the movement to end the “noble experiment” of Prohibition.

Sneaking In

Illustration by Gluyas Williams on page 21 of Ade’s book. The illustration appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine.

In Old-Time Saloon, Ade provides his fellow Americans with a nostalgic look at saloon-life since many people in 1931 had never set foot in one due to age, gender, politics, or religion. He takes the liquor industry and saloon owners to task for complacency, flouting the law, and bringing on their own demise. To do this, he employs a parable involving a goat. Yes, that’s goat.

In the last chapter of the book, Ade writes,

Legend has it that, at about the beginning of the present century, a vagabond goat, of most bedraggled appearance and with the upholstery worn off at every corner, ranged through the alleys and by-ways of the redlight district of Chicago. He was tolerated and humored and indulged…The police hobnobbed with him and permitted him to butt small boys off the sidewalk…He was living in a goat’s paradise, the happy pet of wild women and midnight rounders. He was perfectly adjusted to his environment.

One day a flock of sheep came along 22nd Street and the goat fell in with his cousins, saying to himself, “I’ll stick along. This looks like a big party somewhere.” He didn’t believe he had an enemy in the world…So he rambled along with the gang, bleating cheerfully, and presently found himself in a long chute, with the crowd pushing from behind. He could not turn back. Being a natural-born goat he made no attempt to escape. Impelled by curiosity which is the only redeeming trait of all goats, human and otherwise, he passed into a slaughter-house. Next day, goat was being served for mutton…

Now, you ask, what does a goat have to do with a saloon in the pre-Prohibition era? As Ade explains,

The goat in the parable could not understand why any one should drive him up a chute and tap him on the head with a sledge hammer. The average low-brow saloon keeper could not believe that he was headed for destruction. He didn’t worry until the butcher cut him down—and then it was too late enter a protest.


Illustration by Harold Tucker “H.T.” Webster on page 121 of Ade’s book.

There’s more to Ade’s story, of course. We suggest you take a look at the book. And, as you go to your local watering hole and lift a glass of your favorite craft beer, artisanal cocktail, or whatever, feel thankful that the goat was released from the chute in 1933 when Prohibition was repealed.

The Toppan Library is home to the University of Wyoming’s rare books collection, consisting of over 50,000 items and is sponsored by the Clara Toppan endowment. The majority of the materials are printed books, although there are newspapers, magazines, broadsides, illuminated manuscripts, and other materials. Collecting subjects include the American West, British and American Literature, Exploration and Travel, Religion, Hunting and Fishing, historic children’s books, and examples of the book arts. Some books are currently available through an online catalog search, while other books are available through a traditional card catalog located in the Toppan Library. Appointments are required. Please contact the AHC’s Reference Services to make an appointment at 307-766-3756 or

Posted in Authors and literature, cartoons, Holidays, Journalism, Politics, Prohibition, rare books, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tales of a Zoologist

A professor named John W. Scott significantly boosted the University of Wyoming Zoology department. Professor Scott was the head of the Zoology department; he was the executive secretary of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, the State President and National Director for the Izaak Walton League, a member of the National Association of Conservation Education and Publicity, and a Masonic Mason. With all of John W. Scott’s achievements, he remained an icon to the University of Wyoming.

JohnW.Scott and others

National Convention of Mammologists, 1940, Box 1, John W. Scott papers, Accession #400093, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

One of the tales prominent from Professor Scott’s life involves a beaver. Scott was given a beaver in 1935 by “H. W. Stock, the superintendent of the fish hatchery, who discovered the animal frisking about on the highway south of the Monolith one night last week.” Scott had then kept the beaver at his house for about a week as the Zoology labs found this beaver of great interest, and then Professor Scott released him back into the wild.

Article about Beaver

Newspaper article from box 1, John W. Scott papers, Accession #400093, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Another remarkable story from the John W. Scott collection involves a loon. As the story goes, in 1945, Scott found a loon near Laramie, which is an unusual since they’re not seen in that region. Loons can neither on land or fly off from solid ground, but, oddly enough, this loon made it ten miles outside of Laramie. The amazing part about this story is that this loon was possibly blown 400-500 miles off its course and ended up on the side of the road. Dr. Scott successfully returned it to a lake near Laramie.

Article about Loon

Newspaper article from box 1, John W. Scott papers, Accession #400093, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

John W. Scott had many accomplishments in his life such as celebrating his 80th birthday in 1951 to celebrating his marriage to his wife, Vivian, for 50 years in 1954.

Dr. Scott started working at the University in 1913; he was the head of the Zoology department for 28 years. He worked for the college for 43 years until his death in 1956.

To learn more about Scott, see the John W. Scott papers at the American Heritage Center.

– Post submitted by MaKayla Garnica, AHC Carlson Intern.

Posted in faculty/staff profiles, found in the archive, Uncategorized, University of Wyoming history, Zoology | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Wyoming Art of Carrie Arnold

Carrie Arnold (1944-1998) was a Denver business woman with an active interest in Western history, which she expressed in drawings. She became a pen and ink illustrator for a number of Western books. She was commissioned by her friend Bill Lagos to create scenes of Lagos’ home areas of Hartville and Sunrise, Wyoming.


Miners standing outside Sunrise Hospital. Carrie Arnold papers, Accession #10664, Folder 22, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Between 1971 and 1997, Ms. Arnold created elegant line drawings that included overviews of Hartville and Sunrise, the old jail, the school, churches, the YMCA and historic homes. Her drawings also included depictions of Guernsey and Laramie.

The scenes are historical, taken from old photographs and enhanced by visits to the sites and conversations with Wyoming natives. Arnold always humanized the historically accurate drawings of buildings by adding people. “Main Street in Hartville, Wyoming” features a group enjoying a lively conversation in the middle of the quiet street. Lagos used the drawings as holiday cards.


Main Street in Hartville, Wyoming. Carrie Arnold papers, Accession #10664, Folder 22, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

After Ms. Arnold’s death in 1998, Lagos published her drawings in a book entitled The Art of Carrie Arnold.

You can see Carrie Arnold’s work at the American Heritage Center. No appointment needed! The reading room is open Monday 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM and Tuesday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Posted in Artists, Authors and literature, commercial art, found in the archive, Local history, mining history, Uncategorized, Western history, women's history, Wyoming history | Tagged , | Leave a comment