Christian Isberg was a native of Sweden who came to Laramie, Wyoming, in 1868, when the town was first founded as a supply depot for the Union Pacific Railroad. He settled in the town and raised two sons, William H. and John, and a daughter, Emily.
Son William graduated from Laramie High School in 1895. He was a clerk in the dry goods department of various Laramie stores before opening his own establishment. He was also an amateur photographer who took pictures of Laramie streets and events. His wife, Ginx Rich Isberg, was also an amateur photographer.
One thing the Isberg family papers are not short on is charm. The collection contains photographs and glass plate negatives documenting the Isberg family and their friends as well as Laramie and Albany County as they appeared from the 1890s to about 1918.
But one especially charming item in the Isberg collection isn’t a photograph. It’s a special type of gift for the New Year. The “Cheque-Book of Beautiful New Year Wishes” looks like a checkbook but instead contains detachable greetings that can be given to friends. Each “check” contains a different set of friendly quotes and verses. The account is under the fictitious firm of the “Love and Joy Banking Company Unlimited.”
Thanks to a grant the American Heritage Center received the Wyoming State Historic Records Advisory Board in 2017, the Isberg’s photographs and other materials have been digitized. You can find more than 700 images of interest and charm in the digitized collection.
Happy 2021 Everyone!
Post submitted by AHC’s Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener
For Thanksgiving we offered you a turkey parade. Now we present a parade of trees decorated for the holidays.
The Empress Theater tucked their holiday tree beneath a stairwell in this photograph most likely from the early 1940s. The Empress was built by the Holliday Construction Company in 1912 with a neoclassical facade of cut stone; it originally hosted vaudeville, music performances and silent films. In 1938, the Fox Theater Group purchased the building, changing both the name and the facade. When the building opened in 1939 it featured the Art Deco look you see here.
Enthusiastic amateur-turned-professional photographer Lora Webb Nichols (1883-1962) celebrated the holidays with her family in Encampment, Wyoming. Their tree from 1924 was filled with homemade decorations including popcorn, cranberries, apples, and handmade cards. But it also held a photograph of Lora’s father Horace who died that year.
By 1946, Lora Webb Nichols’ tree sported very bright Christmas lights.
The Clarence P. Soffel family of Laramie pulled out the stops in 1927 by placing their decorated tree in the midst of a toy train village complete with a skating rink.
Here’s someone who apparently isn’t a fan of holiday trees. Or maybe it’s a holdup? Could the tree be shaking like a leaf? (sorry, couldn’t resist). Not sure, but the gun-toting curmudgeon was caught in the act by Jackson, Wyoming dude rancher, hunting guide, and photographer Stephen N. Leek (1858-1943).
On a happier note, these children appear to be quite proud of their decorating work on a tree just outside their home. Meeteetse, Wyoming rancher and photographer Charles J. Belden (1887-1966) captured the scene.
Trees adorn the tops of the brightly lit Lovell Chevrolet Garage in Lovell, Wyoming, in this 1934 photograph taken by local photographer Hugo G. Janssen (1893-1960). He owned and operated Janssen Studio in Lovell from 1917 until his death.
Are you inspired to decorate a tree? We hope so. We at the American Heritage Center wish all of you a happy and safe holiday.
Post contributed by the AHC’s Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.
The holidays starting with Halloween through the Chinese New Year in January have traditionally been a time of celebrations, parties, and gatherings with co-workers, friends, family, and loved ones. With the continued spread of COVID-19 globally, the CDC and Department of Health recommendations for preventing transmitting COVID-19 include limiting in-person interactions, especially with people outside of your residence. The AHC wants to know how you adapted your traditions, celebrations, and normal routine to stay connected with your nearest and dearest through this uncertain time in Wyoming. We’ll preserve your stories for current and future generations.
Participating in this project is easy. The AHC wants our community members to express their observations and feelings about the pandemic in a manner that is best suited for them. We encourage our contributors to take photographs, write stories, create artwork, interview friends and family, participate in the AHC survey, and submit essays that tell us what you see, feel, hear and what has changed over the last few months.
How did you celebrate Thanksgiving? Did you trying cooking your first turkey? Did you create menus with friends and family to share the experience via Zoom?
Will you host a virtual new year’s party? Will it have a theme? Will you play virtual background bingo? Will you be hosting a Netflix party to watch a holiday classic film?
Will you drive around town to look at the holiday lights? Did you participate in your town’s holiday decoration contest?
Did you send holiday cards? Did you send handwritten family letters?
Did you finally try making popcorn and cranberry garland? Did you catch your grandpa snooping under the tree at the presents?
The AHC encourages you to be creative and express how this pandemic has impacted your life professionally and personally. Gathering these stories now for long-term preservation ensures an accurate and more complete narrative about your experiences.
The AHC, in partnership with the Wyoming State Archives, Wyoming State Museum, and Wyoming Historical Societies, are creating a joint online platform to display submissions we receive. Your stories will be available for others to interact with and may provide a sense of understanding and comfort.
To contribute to the historical record of this momentous time or learn more about the project, please visit the AHC COVID-19 Collection Project webpage at https://www.uwyo.edu/ahc/covid-19-collecting.html. All donors can elect whether to remain anonymous and even to keep their contributions from being viewed for up to five years.
Happy Holidays! #COVID19WY #alwaysarchiving
– Post contributed by University Archivist Sara Davis.
December 7 is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, marking a time in which Pearl Harbor Survivors, veterans, and others honor and remember the 2,403 service members and civilians who were killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A further 1,178 people were injured in the attack, which permanently sank two U.S. Navy battleships (the USS Arizona and the USS Utah) and destroyed 188 aircraft.
Over the years, various interpretations of events leading up to the attack have been laid out and argued over. Academic scholar Harry Elmer Barnes held decidedly different views from those in the mainstream.
Until the 1950s Barnes was a highly regarded cultural historian and sociologist. Especially through his book The New History and the Social Studies (1925), he became a leading advocate of the New History, which sought a deeper understanding of the origin and development of Western culture through the integration and cross-fertilization of history and the social sciences. Another of his significant contributions was History of Historical Writing (1937), which was widely recognized as a monument of learning, universally praised in the United States and abroad as an indispensable source for all advanced students of history.
So, what happened to change Harry Barnes’ reputation?
Barnes had already proved himself a controversial figure with his views that the U.S. had fought on the wrong side in World War I. Although initially a strong supporter of the American war effort, interviews he conducted with German soldiers and leaders after the war led him to believe that Germany bore no responsibility for the outbreak of war in 1914 and had been instead the victim of Allied aggression. But it was his World War II perspectives that led to even greater controversy.
A strong ego steered Barnes into unyielding beliefs, including those about the U.S. entry into the Second World War. In the years following the war, he argued that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had deliberately provoked the attack on Pearl Harbor in order to promote his own political ambitions and to promulgate a deceitful foreign policy. Barnes devoted much of the remainder of his life creating a whole body of revisionist scholarship about Pearl Harbor and the origins of the war.
A colleague, Commander Charles C. Hiles, assisted Barnes in these efforts. Hiles was a career naval officer serving from 1914 to 1947 and was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. Hiles believed that Admiral Husband Kimmel, who served as commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during the Pearl Harbor attack, had been scapegoated for the attack by those Hiles believed were really at fault – Kimmel’s superiors in Washington.
Barnes last word on the topic was his book Pearl Harbor After a Quarter Century which was completed just before his death in 1968. Barnes never stopped believing that the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was the fault of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the book, Barnes concludes “Roosevelt’s success in producing a surprise attack was an immensely, even uniquely, adroit achievement in piloting an overwhelmingly pacifically-inclined country into the most extensive and destructive war of history without any threat to our safety through aggressive action from abroad.”
After World War II, superhero comics, which had been a welcome diversion for American servicemen, stalwart champions of War Bonds, and other support for the home front during the conflict, largely lost their audience and were gradually replaced by comics with horror, romance, science fiction, war, and western themes. Following the setbacks to the industry by the establishment of the Comics Code Authority in 1954, superhero comics all but vanished with only Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman continuing to be regularly published. It wasn’t until 1956 that the genre revived when DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz, published issue #4 of “Showcase” which featured a reimagining of the Golden Age character, “The Flash”.
Mort Weisinger (1915-1978) began writing for pulp magazines while in college and, along with his good friend Julius Schwartz, founded the first literary agency to specialize in the related genres of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Weisinger joined National Periodicals (later DC Comics) in 1941 and, much like his contemporary, Stan Lee over at competitor Marvel Comics, he was very much a part of the comics community throughout both the Golden and Silver Ages of Comics. In addition to editing “Batman” and creating such characters as “Aquaman”, and “Green Arrow, Weisinger was also the editor of the Superman comic books from 1945-1970 and the story editor of “The Adventures of Superman” television show which ran from 1952-1957.
Weisinger’s tenure on Superman was marked with a number of new concepts, story ideas, and supporting characters which became standards in the Superman mythos, which are recognizable today by millions of people who aren’t otherwise familiar with the character. These include the introduction of Supergirl, Krypto the Superdog, the Phantom Zone, the bottle city of Kandor, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and a variety of types of kryptonite. It was also under Weisinger that the rationalization that Superman’s powers stemmed from his being from another planet and living under Earth’s yellow sun (instead of Krypton’s red sun) was first used to explain the character’s abilities.
The Mort Weisinger collection at the American Heritage Center contains materials relating to Weisinger’s work as a writer and editor from 1928-1978. The collection includes correspondence (1932-1978) mostly regarding his work as a writer and editor for “This Week” and other magazines and with companies who were included in “1001 Valuable Things”; the galleys and manuscripts for “The Contest,” “The Complete Alibi Handbook” and “1001 Valuable Things”; the manuscript for an unpublished novel about a U.S. President (ca. 1975); legal agreements between Weisinger and “This Week” and Bantam Books (1954-1978); and photographs of Weisinger, the Weisinger family and various celebrities. The collection also includes newspaper clippings on Weisinger and Superman (1928-1978); a script for the motion picture version of “The Contest” (1971); 2 16 mm films from “The Adventures of Superman” television show (1957); 5 scrapbooks; comic books; miscellaneous art work for the Superman comic book; and the board game “Movie Millions,” which was developed by Weisinger.
Anyone interested in the history and inner workings of the comics industry in the United States is invited to explore both the Mort Weisinger and Stan Lee collections at the American Heritage Center to learn more about this fascinating aspect of American popular culture.
Post contributed by AHC Collections Manager Bill Hopkins.
We at the American Heritage Center wish everyone a warm and happy Thanksgiving holiday. To celebrate, we would like to share some images of the turkeys and Thanksgiving scenes in our collection. However, in several of the photographs, the turkey has already been consumed. Or hurled from the roof of a building . . .
Sill Brothers Turkey Throw, Laramie, Wyoming, 1925. Look at the roofline to see members of the community who just tossed a turkey down on the very eager crowd. If you look carefully you can see the bird flapping its wings rather desperately on the right of the Sill Bros. Bakery building sign. Ludwig-Svenson Collection, negative number 12615.2. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.
You most likely won’t see a scene like below this year with Covid-19 in our lives. But we can certainly recall those warm celebrations and know that one day they’ll return.
Will McMurray and friends toasting one another after a turkey dinner, 1940. Ludwig Svenson Collection, negative number 32517. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.
And here’s the traditional guest of honor at many Thanksgiving tables . . .
Turkey in a barnyard, with ducks and geese in the background. James K. Moore Family Papers, Accession Number 51, Box 22, 1319. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.
In my preparations to become a backpacker seeking adventures in Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains, my research led me to take the footsteps of a man from the golden age of American mountaineering, whose chronicles and photographs bade me to these mountains with a romantic charm.
Finis Mitchell drew on decades of experience in the Wind Rivers, describing the trails, routes, wildlife, glaciers, lakes, and streams in Wyoming’s fabulous two-and-a-quarter million acre Wind River Range, published into a guidebook called Wind River Trails.
Over the course of his life, Mitchell climbed 244 of the 300 peaks in the range, with four ascents of Gannett Peak, the highest mountain in the state.
As a vigorous wilderness advocate, he put together breathtaking slide presentations showing people their own public lands. Mitchell would pour out his philosophy at the public meetings with amazing attention to detail.
Of the 105,345 pictures he took as a hobby, 8,884 that have been digitized for your viewing pleasure. To learn more about Finis Mitchell, see the Finis Mitchell papers at the American Heritage Center.
Post contributed by AHC staff member Matthew Troyanek.
We hope you will think of UW while you’re planning your holiday giving. Whether it’s one dollar or a hundred dollars, every gift makes a difference. The State of Wyoming provides a solid base of funding, but it’s donors like you who elevate Wyoming’s university to new heights of excellence!
Your support impacts university colleges through undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, internships and career preparation, professorships, research, excellence funds, facilities and technology, operating funds, outreach and extension, or the department or affiliated program of your choice. So, give today! Any amount makes a difference, and it all adds up to a better University of Wyoming. What a difference a day makes!
If you would like to consider the AHC in your giving plans, the UW Foundation has established a site for the AHC.
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Being a land-grant university, the University of Wyoming is no stranger to military service. Currently home to the Army ROTC Cowboy Battalion and the Air Force ROTC 940th Cadet Wing, military service at UW stretches back to the university’s early days including a School of Military Science and Tactics established in 1891 and the establishment of ROTC on campus in 1916.
As early as the Spanish-American War, students from UW served their country in war. With the onset of both World War I and World War II, military training that occurred on campus changed to deal with the necessities of war time. The campus reflected this change as more of those that walked campus made their way overseas.
UW, proud of the men and women that represented the brown and gold, recognized those that had served their country through pamphlets released on campus.
While these pamphlets serve as reminders of those that served their country with ties to UW, on Veteran’s Day we celebrate those from across the country that have donned the uniform in the name of the United States Armed Forces.
– Originally submitted in 2017 by Katey Myers, American Heritage Center student aide.
The topic of “packing” the U.S. Supreme Court has become a hot button issue in the 2020 presidential campaign. But this isn’t the first time members of the federal government and the public have debated the matter.
The Judicial Act of 1869 established that the Supreme Court would consist of a chief justice and eight associate justices. Justices were, and are, slated to serve lifetime appointments. This court structure reinforced the idea that the judicial branch was apolitical and one of three co-equal branches of American government.
However, beginning in 1935, the Supreme Court struck down several pieces of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation for being unconstitutional. Roosevelt’s frustration with the court grew.
Soon a controversial plan was formed. FDR proposed adding as many as 6 additional judges to the court, thus “packing” it in favor of his policies. He intended to neutralize the justices who disagreed with him.
Roosevelt selected the morning of February 5th, 1937, for the announcement of his bombshell, first to a group of congressional leaders and then at a press conference. His Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 was to put restrictions on the court when it came to age. Out with the old, and in with new more progressive judges.
FDR’s plan met instant opposition in Congress and with the public.
A surprising opponent was Wyoming’s senior U.S Senator Joseph O’Mahoney, a typically loyal FDR lieutenant. A Cheyenne newspaper editor and later attorney, O’Mahoney had risen through the Democratic ranks beginning as an aide to U.S. Senator John B. Kendrick before becoming a stalwart in the national party as a committeeman and campaign organizer. When his mentor Kendrick died in 1933, O’Mahoney was appointed to fill his Senate seat. During his early tenure in the Senate, O’Mahoney supported most of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, with the notable exception of the “court-packing plan.”
O’Mahoney’s resistance to the plan was not without anguish. He was acutely aware of the political adage that nothing is more rewarded than loyalty, nor more punished than disloyalty. He choice was to surrender to political expediency or heed his reverence for checks and balances and for the Supreme Court as an institution. Adding to his angst was his strong desire for a Supreme Court seat. Long after the Court fight, newspapers mentioned O’Mahoney’s name whenever a vacancy occurred on the Court. A succinct summary of his procedural objections to FDR’s plan can be found in the transcript of a radio address from May 6, 1937, with the unconfusing title “The Judiciary Bill Should Not Pass.” The transcript can be found in the O’Mahoney papers at the American Heritage Center.
The Wyoming Senator tried a tack with FDR of proposing an amendment that would limit the terms of all federal judges to fifteen years, make their salaries subject to the income tax, and provide for compulsory retirement at the age of seventy-five. All were substantive measures, O’Mahoney argued, that Roosevelt wanted. The President didn’t budge.
O’Mahoney pushed his amendment adamantly in the halls of Congress but gained little traction. At last, in the middle of April 1937, he concluded that the amendment tactic was doomed. That he had clung to the amendment approach as a practicable compromise for so long provides eloquent testimony to his extreme reluctance to break with Roosevelt. But break he did.
Eventually President Roosevelt got his way by packing the Court the old-fashioned way, through attrition, naming nine members.
Post submitted by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener. She thanks AHC Archives on the Air writer Kathryn Billington for her contributions. Also contributing to the post is text from Dr. Gene M. Gressley’s article “Joseph O’Mahoney, FDR, and the Supreme Court” published in the Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 40, No. 2 (May 1971), pp. 183-202.