UW Graduate Student Finds Inspiration in Tim McCoy Papers

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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



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The Cowboy Battalion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katey Meyers, AHC Intern

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Drag Queen Bingo, a Laramie tradition

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


The logo for the event. Courtesy facebook.com/laramiedqb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

– Leslie Waggener –  Associate Archivist

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

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

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Remembering Lowell O’Bryan: First Year Seminar Class Hopes to Revive Significant Piece of History on Campus

The start of school in fall 1922 was no ordinary University of Wyoming experience. A new “prexy” had been hired and was to arrive in October. The board of trustees had announced that Dr. Arthur G. Crane, then serving as president of a college in Pennsylvania, had accepted the UW presidency. Eager to introduce the Easterner to life in the “wild west,” a group of students and faculty devised a welcome fit for the theme. They would dress as cowboys and, on horses, meet Crane as he neared Laramie and “abduct” him into a waiting stagecoach for the drive onto campus. Their prank went off smoothly, except for one tragic exception. Earlier in the day, one of the best horsemen on campus, Lowell O’Bryan, a junior studying agriculture, was critically injured as he helped ride out the mounts for the Crane reception—meaning that he rode them until they calmed down and stopped bucking. O’Bryan intentionally made one mount buck; then, suddenly, the horse broke toward a wire fence. Fearing the horse would break through and into a group of students, O’Bryan started to dismount, but the saddle slipped and he was thrown underneath the horse, badly kicked and dragged about 30 yards before being rescued. He died a week later. He was 23.


University of Wyoming memorial fountain for Lowell O’Bryan, 1927. Photo from the Ludwig-Svenson Collection, American Heritage Center

O’Bryan’s death cast a pall of sadness over the university. Later in the decade, friends and classmates of O’Bryan raised funds to construct the memorial fountain we now see just west of Old Main’s front entrance. Yet the only commemoration is a cryptic bronze plaque over the fountain basin that states: “He gave himself to insure the safety of others.” Also, the monument has steadily fallen under disrepair; the stonework has chipped, effloresced, and faded over time. Last fall, Leslie Waggener and Rick Ewig of the American Heritage Center introduced the prospect to their First-Year Seminar of raising awareness and finding funds to repair the monument and to add a plaque explaining its significance. Through class efforts, more than $1,500 has been raised. But more funds are needed to get the work done by UW Physical Plant.


Plauqe that is currently on the monument that reads: “He gave himself to insure the safety of others. This plate erected by his classmates”

Why does it matter to save this monument? Students in the First-Year Seminar speak best on the subject. “We think it is important to preserve this monument as an important piece of UW history,” said Dusten Strock. “If this monument was important to O’Bryan’s classmates in the 1920s, it should be important to us today.” Morgan McDonnell adds, “Given the inclusiveness of the ASUW Memorial Plaza, some may find it hard to justify a monument to just one deceased student. However, at the very least, it is justifiable to preserve the monument in the memory of not just O’Bryan, but also in memory of his classmates, who cared enough to have the monument erected in the first place.”

A GoFundMe site has been established to raise funds for the restoration and a plaque. You can find it at https://www.gofundme.com/xpatbkf7. Please consider donating. We hope to have the work done by the end of 2016. The First-Year Seminar that established the project will be noted on the commemorative plaque.


Students from the American Heritage Center’s First-Year Seminar class stand in front of the Lowell O’Bryan monument with their instructor, Rick Ewig.

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AHC Welcomes New Director, Bridget Burke


Photo Courtesy of Bridget Burke

Bridget Burke has been named director of the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center. She begins the position July 1.

“She has a passion for fostering collaborative scholarship, and she will continue to promote the accessibility of the AHC’s internationally recognized archival collections to the people of Wyoming and to researchers of national and international prominence,” says David Jones, UW vice president for academic affairs.

Burke comes to UW from North Dakota State University, where she has been dean of libraries since 2014. She began her career in the New York Public Library and the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution. Burke was an assistant curator at Yale University with the Western Americana Collection of the prestigious Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, a premier collection internationally recognized for its significance regarding study of the American West. Additionally, Burke curated the Art of the Book Collection of the Sterling Library at Yale, and directed the Alaska and Polar Regions Collection at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

“The American Heritage Center has been a compass point in my professional landscape for as long as I can remember. As a center of excellence, with collections of distinction and exceptional programs serving citizens and scholars, the impact and range of the AHC cannot be overstated. The breadth of activity is impressive, from AHC’s leadership role in archival theory and practice, to it’s coordination of History Day events directly touching the lives of children around the state. I’m excited to become a part of that, and look forward to reconnecting with some familiar faces, as well as getting to know the many new faculty and staff at the Center.  Finally, I’m delighted to be joining the University of Wyoming community at a time when opportunities for collaboration are especially rich. My visit made it clear that support for the American Heritage Center is pervasive on campus, and that many points of engagement already exist. I’m honored to be selected as the next director of the AHC.” – Bridget Burke

Burke is recognized for bringing people together with archival collections for memorable public events. At Boston College, for example, she brought archival specialists together with musicians to perform and record a piece of choral music that had been identified in her archival collection.

“Our success is gauged not only by the metrics of what we hold (in collections), but by the conversations we prompt, the stories we elicit, and how we model ways to think about the past and live in the present,” Burke says.

Burke received her B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin in 1984, an M.L.S. in library and information studies from the University of Wisconsin in 1986, and an M.A. in liberal studies (American history) from Wesleyan University in 2001.



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