Wyoming statehood:  A load of “blatherskitism”?

On July 10, we celebrate Wyoming’s entry into the Union in 1890, but not all of our territorial predecessors were enthusiastic in the years leading up to that historic event. Political machinations and ambitions were at play.

Leading the charge for statehood were “Me and FE,” as the Wyoming Territory’s top Republican leaders Joseph M. Carey and Francis E. Warren were collectively named. Carey was a newly minted lawyer when he arrived during Cheyenne’s track-laying days. Before long he became the territory’s U.S. Attorney (1869–1871), associate justice of the Wyoming Territorial Supreme Court (1871–1876), and territorial delegate to the U.S. Congress (1885–1890). Warren’s career was equally stellar. Arriving in Cheyenne at about the same time as Carey, Warren became the city’s merchant prince and went on to serve the Wyoming Territory as governor (1885–1886, 1889–1890). Statehood for these two high-fliers meant the almost sure prospect of national prominence as U.S. Senators, the logical next step in their political careers.


A young Frances E. Warren (image courtesy Wyoming State Archives) (WSA Sub Neg 4101)

Democrats in the territory weren’t blind to the trajectories of Republicans Carey and Warren and responded rather truculently to the push for statehood. The platform of the territorial Democratic Party in October 1888, coolly stated: “On the question of statehood the Democrats, when the proper time arrives, will be found working enthusiastically in the front of the battle, but we do not believe in indulging in any spread eagle blatherskitism.” Wyoming historian T.A. Larson notes that Democratic opposition was not really to statehood itself; rather, their opposition was to a statehood movement led by Me and FE.


A young Joseph Carey (image courtesy Wyoming State Archives) (Sub Neg 15797)

During the 1888 territorial campaign, the noisiest issue was statehood—at least for politicians. The Democratic Cheyenne Leader credibly maintained that the statehood question had not influenced 100 votes either way. With a Republican win, now Governor Francis E. Warren steamrolled statehood forward. In 1888 the Territorial Assembly had sent to the U.S. Congress a petition for admission in the Union. Bills were introduced in both houses of Congress, but did not pass. Undeterred, Governor Warren and others took action as if the “enabling act” had passed. Warren convened a constitutional convention in September 1889, composed of 49 men. As observed by historian Larson, it seems rather odd to have no women appointees at the convention in a territory where much was said about equality of the sexes, but he adds that it’s consistent with Wyoming’s failure to elect any woman to a territorial legislature. The convention quickly pulled together a state constitution, borrowing from the texts of other state constitutions.

Voters approved the constitution November 5, 1889, by a vote of 6,272 to 1,923. Bills for Wyoming statehood were introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House in December 1889. The House passed the bill March 27, 1890. President Benjamin Harrison signed the bill in July, thus making Wyoming the 44th state to enter the Union, with all the benefits (and some said headaches) that this act entailed. Celebrations sprang up in the new state of Wyoming with a plethora of parades, speeches, and music. But there were discouraging words were from the grumpy Cheyenne Leader, which responded to the new status of statehood with “Don’t expect too much.”


Pioneers who came to Wyoming prior to statehood, assembled on the Capitol steps in Cheyenne, July 1940. (WSGA Records, 00014, Box 288, Folder 6)

Material for this post is from the chapter on statehood in T.A. Larson’s History of Wyoming.

– Leslie Waggener, Associate Archivist

Posted in Western history, Wyoming history | Leave a comment

Fourth of July in Wyoming Territory

How did Wyoming celebrate Fourth of July in territorial days? T.A. Larson’s History of Wyoming provides a slice of holiday history from the 1870s and 1880s. Here are excerpts:

The Fourth of July was the great secular holiday, requiring elaborate plans, although certain features appeared again and again. Citizens were usually awakened between three and four in the morning by cannon, small-arms fire, firecrackers, and torpedoes, after which steam-locomotive whistles and bells greeted the dawn. Soldiers sometimes fired artillery salutes at sunrise and at noon. Two indispensable ingredients of a proper Fourth of July celebration were the display of flags and bunting and the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Prominent citizens, nearly always men, were chosen as readers.

Regular parts of the festivities were parades, band music, patriotic songs, barbeques, rainstorms, shooting matches, horse races, and a great variety of athletic contests: sack, foot, wheelbarrow, and hurdle races; jumping; putting the stone; vaulting; and throwing the hammer. Commonly, men and boys tried to climb a greased pole to win a reward resting on top. Often a shaved and greased pig was released and a reward offered to anyone who could capture it. There were a few baseball games. South Pass City and Atlantic City clashed at South Pass City in 1870. Fort Russell and Fort Sanders offered baseball competition for Cheyenne and Laramie teams, with scores in the thirties not unusual.

Laramie firemen around 1890

The Laramie Hose Cart Company pulling a hose cart near the Albany County Courthouse around 1890. This image shows one activity that was included as part of the fireman’s tournaments typical during territorial July 4th celebrations. Image from the B. C. Buffum papers.

Beginning in the 1870s, fireman’s tournaments became a regular feature of the celebrations, there being straightaway races and more complicated hook-and-ladder and water-test contests. A town of any size had a hundred or more volunteer firemen in two or more companies. At Cheyenne in 1880 the Denver firemen claimed that when they competed in the water test, the pressure was much less for them than it had been for the Cheyenne team, making it necessary for them to wait four seconds for water. They objected, furthermore, to having all judges from Cheyenne.

Of course there were accidents. At Laramie in 1876 a whirlwind struck the ladies’ stand, brought down the awning and its supports, and inflicted several scalp wounds.

Certain features which would be introduced in Wyoming celebrations of the Fourth in the 1890s were strangely absent in the territorial period: cowboys and cowgirls on horseback, “Wild West” events, bicycle races. There were many horses and a few dozen bicycles, and many riders for them, but they were not incorporated into the parades.


J. H. Hayford, editor of the Laramie Sentinel. Image from the AHC photo files.

For adults there was much unpleasantness associated with the annual Fourth of July observances. ‘The celebration…is over—Thank heaven,’ wrote [Laramie Sentinel] editor J.H. Hayford in 1879. In 1885 he commented at somewhat greater length: ‘It was about like all Fourths of July. Small boys whooped and yelled, exploded firecrackers and torpedoes, and grown people stood around, wishing it was over…The Fourth of July is the hardest day in the whole year, and everybody, except boys—children—dreads it for months ahead, and looks back to it with horror months afterwards…As it is, the Fourth of July is a ‘holy-terror,’ and ought to be abolished.” Editor Hayford was for “more sensible” observations—go to the country, he said, ride, row, picnic, hunt, fish, get together in families, have a nice dinner, play croquet, swing in hammocks.

The AHC wishes you a happy and safe Fourth of July, whether it be in a hammock or chasing a greased pig.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Somewhere West of Laramie

“Somewhere west of Laramie there’s a broncho-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I’m talking about.” So began a 1923 magazine advertisement that became legendary.

National advertising firms use Wyoming scenes as backdrops to pitch everything from yogurt to beer, even though the products are neither manufactured in Wyoming nor sold in any great quantity in the state. Ad agencies use Wyoming because they know there is an emotional dimension to advertising that motivates consumers to buy a particular product. This dimension doesn’t rely on price, quality or even special features of the product. Image sells the product.

Consumers identify with the myths of the West and Wyoming. Ads incorporating these images sell merchandise. Known as “image advertising,” the variety was unknown until 1923 when it was invented to sell a car. Indeed, the whole idea of image advertising was inspired by “somewhere west of Laramie” in 1923.

Previously, car ads concentrated on practicalities—data on engine size, the number of forward gears, and special features such as side-curtains.

In 1916, Edward S. Jordan borrowed $200,000 and started an automobile factory in Cleveland, Ohio. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Wisconsin-born entrepreneur believed he could make a substantial profit from a small volume of sales. In his plant, he assembled his cars using parts made by other manufacturers.

Like the dozens of small companies making cars in those days, Jordan faced stiff competition from major automobile makers. It was hardly a contest. The mass-produced Ford, for instance, sold for about $500 while Jordan barely could cover costs by selling his models for five times that amount. His favorite model, the Jordan “Playboy,” was an undistinguished roadster, in features much the same as any other then on the market.

Sales flattened out in 1922 and Jordan, worried that his sales strategy might have been in error, decided to travel to the West Coast to relax and, perhaps, rethink his approach. How could his company survive in the face of stiff competition from dozens of other makers?

The 41-year-old car maker and a colleague from the company rode a Union Pacific passenger train. As the train was passing through southern Wyoming, Jordan glanced out the window. There, in the waning sunset, he saw a beautiful young woman riding her horse alongside the train for a short distance, as if to race the locomotive. The sight so impressed Jordan that he turned to his companion and asked where they were. “Somewhere west of Laramie,” was the reply.

Throughout the rest of the trip, Jordan thought about the incident and the image of the fast horse and beautiful young woman racing the train. Back home, he sketched out an advertisement for his car using the phrase, “Somewhere west of Laramie.” The copy made no mention of the car’s price, its engine size or quality.

westoflaramieThe drawing, in abstract style, showed a young woman on a horse racing against the Jordan Playboy roadster.  The copy read:

Somewhere west of Laramie there’s a broncho-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I’m talking about. She can tell what a sassy poiny, that’s a cross between greased lightning and the place where it hits, can do with eleven hundred pounds of steel and action when he’s going high, wide and handsome.  The truth is—the Playboy was built for her. Built for the lass whose face is brown with the sun when the day is done of revel and romp and race. She loves the cross of the wild and the tame.

There’s a savor of links about that car—of laughter and lilt and light—a hint of old loves—and saddle and quirt. It’s a brawny thing—yet a graceful thing for the sweep o’ of the Avenue. Step into the Playboy when the hour grows dull with things dead and stale. Then start for the land of real living with the spirit of the lass who rides, lean and rangy, into the red horizon of a Wyoming twilight.

The ad first ran in the Saturday Evening Post in June 1923. Soon, sales of the Jordan Playboy roadster increased markedly and the company ran the ad in other mass-circulation magazines.

The advertisement’s style and success did not go unnoticed. Soon, other auto makers copied the form of “image advertising.”

Because of the ad, the Jordan sold well during the middle 1920s. Unfortunately, the firm failed in 1931, one of the numerous auto company victims of the Great Depression. Jordan turned to consulting work and, later, wrote a column for a car magazine. When he died in 1958, the New York Times obituary listed the ad as Jordan’s main accomplishment: “Its approach and colorful language set the pattern for modern automobile advertising,” the obituary noted.

Jordan and his automobile faded into obscurity, but the advertisement became legendary. In 1945, readers of Printer’s Ink magazine voted it the third greatest advertisement of all time. Even today, advertising people point to “Somewhere west of Laramie” as one of the best ever produced.

– Phil Roberts, Professor of History

This article originally ran in the column Buffalo Bones: Stories from Wyoming’s Past, syndicated by the Wyoming State Archives from 1979 to 1986. Other articles by Phil Roberts can be found on his website.

Posted in Western history | 1 Comment

Pioneer Aviator A.F. Bonnalie

“My first flight was in a glider Nov. 1 1911 off a hill south of Twin Peaks in San Francisco which was built by about ten students calling themselves ‘The [Polytechnic] High School Aero Club.’
– extract from “Brief Biography” written by Allan F. Bonnalie, Rear Admiral, USNR (ret.) 

Aero Club flight

San Francisco Polytechnic High School Aero Club, with glider in flight, c. 1911. Cyanotype (Box 77, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

Allan Francis Bonnalie was born in Denver in 1893 and grew up in San Francisco. While attending Polytechnic High School in San Francisco, he joined a group of students who built and flew gliders and airplanes. Bonnalie put his experience as a pilot to use in World War I.  He joined the U.S. Signal Corps and served with the British Royal Air Force in 1917-1918.  He maintained his connection with the military for most of his life.  In 1925 he joined the United States Naval Reserve, retiring in 1953 with the rank of rear admiral.


Boeing School of Aeronautics, 1930s (Box 76, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

The glider, a Farman type with box tail had a rudimentary undercarriage aelerons, elevator but no rudder.  The control surfaces were not adequate so shifting of the weight of the pilot was necessary as well.  The glider was somewhat larger and heavier than the ordinary shifting weight control type and was towed aloft by ropes, manned by about 8 of the members…Most flights were made on Saturdays, sometimes Sundays but usually the glider was damaged before the first day was over and it took hours after school the next week to get it ready for use on the following Saturday.”
– extract from “Brief Biography” written by Allan F. Bonnalie, Rear Admiral, USNR (ret.) 

Bonnalie BSA

Experimental glider constructed at Boeing School of Aeronautics, c. 1931 (Box 76, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

Since the commercial aviation industry did not exist when Bonnalie left the Signal Corps, he worked as a mechanical engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad.  He returned to aviation in 1929, when he began work at the Boeing School of Aeronautics. The school, based out of Oakland, California, Airport, designed and built experimental aircraft.

Aero Club ground

Polytechnic High School Aero Club, San Francisco, with glider on ground. c. 1911, cyanotype (Box 77, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

In 1938, Bonnalie joined United Air Lines Flight Operations, Western Division.  During World War II he served with the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics.  When he rejoined United Airlines in 1945, he became president and general manager of United of Mexico, Lineas Aereas Mexicanas, S.A. (LAMSA).  LAMSA was sold by United in 1953 and Bonnalie became director of United’s flight training program in Denver, Colorado, until his retirement in 1958.

Bonnalie LAMSA

Bonnalie as president and general manager fo LAMSA, c. 1950 (Box 74, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

Post-retirement, he made several trips overseas for the U.S. Foreign Operations Administration (FOA) to advise foreign governments on aviation matters.  Bonnalie also served on United Airlines Pilot System Board of Adjustment to resolve grievances arising from pilot contracts.

BSA glider

Bonnalie in charge of the ground school at the Boeing School of Aeronautics, 1930s (Box 74, A.F. Bonnalie papers, Coll. 5859)

– Claudia Thompson, Processing Manager

Posted in aviation | Leave a comment

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.



Posted in Western history | 2 Comments

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.

Katey Image 1 ah400055_000238

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.

Katey Image 2 ah400055_000164

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

Posted in military history, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment