Mrs. Money – Nellie Tayloe Ross

While Nellie Tayloe Ross is often remembered for being Wyoming’s first and only female governor, it is lesser known that she spent most of her career as the Director of the U.S. Mint. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her to the position in 1933.

Director of the Mint Nellie Tayloe Ross and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, ca. 1940.
Box 24, Nellie Tayloe Ross papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Ross had been the Vice Chairman of the Women’s Division of the National Democratic Committee. As such, she had led the campaign for the women’s vote for F.D.R., demonstrating both her organizational skills and her loyalty to the President-elect. A lobbying effort had been launched by women all across the U.S. to get Roosevelt to consider a woman for his cabinet, and Ross’ name was put forward for the Secretary of the Department of the Interior. A supporter pointed out that “Governor Ross has shown her ability to meet new situations masterfully, and I am convinced that she could cut this new path for women with distinction and without any fuss.”

Roosevelt took note but decided to nominate Frances Perkins as the first ever woman on a Presidential cabinet. He had another role in mind for Ross – Director of the U.S. Mint.

Newsreel clip of Nellie Tayloe Ross speaking following her appointment as Director of the Mint.
Nellie Tayloe Ross digital collection, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
(Luna link: ahcav_00948_001)

At first, some of the 500 mostly male Mint employees rebelled at the idea of a female director. But Ross brooked no nonsense and quickly got to work proving her competence.

The responsibilities of the Mint Director were enormous. In addition to overseeing the Bureau of the Mint in Washington D.C., she managed the operations of three far flung Mints in Denver, San Francisco and Philadelphia and two U.S. Assay Offices in Seattle and New York City. The U.S. Bullion Depositories also fell under her domain. It was there that billions of dollars of the Government’s gold and silver stocks were held. The gold was kept at the famous Fort Knox, in Kentucky, while the silver was secured in New York at West Point.

Managing all of these various sites meant that Ross travelled frequently at first by train, and then later by plane, checking in with her many employees. By all accounts she was both a personable and effective manager. As the country emerged from the Great Depression, increased demand for coinage put pressure on the Mint to expand operations. Ross oversaw the construction of new Mint buildings in San Francisco, West Point and Fort Knox. She became the first woman in U.S. history to have her name engraved on not one, but three cornerstones of Government Mint buildings.

Director of the Mint Nellie Tayloe Ross at the opening of the West Point, New York
Silver Bullion Depository Building, 1937.
Box 24, Nellie Tayloe Ross papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

During World War II, Ross spearheaded a Mint campaign to encourage Americans who had been saving pennies in jars and piggy banks to return those coins to circulation by buying War Stamps and Bonds. The country was experiencing a shortage of pennies and the copper usually used by the Mint to manufacture the coins was in scarce supply. Copper, which was needed for tanks, planes and ammunition, had become more valuable than diamonds, as far as winning the war was concerned.

In addition to minting coins and managing gold and silver stocks, the Mint produced Congressional commemorative medallions, millions of military combat award medals and billions of foreign coins.

Commemorative medallion honoring Nellie Tayloe Ross.
Box 18, Nellie Tayloe Ross papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Ross modernized Mint processes, equipment and hiring practices. She encouraged employee innovation. At the peak of operations, her staff grew to 4,000 employees, with the three Mints producing billions of coins 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She became conversant with the technologies and processes of minting and spoke with pride of her many dedicated and efficient employees. They, in turn, praised her as the best Director who had ever served. One said, Mrs. Ross “never misses a thing” and others thanked her for her dedication to her “Mint Family.” Politicians appreciated Ross for her fiscally responsible approach to managing the money the government appropriated for Mint operations.

Photos from a magazine article about Nellie Tayloe Ross, July 1950.
Box 18, Nellie Tayloe Ross papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Nellie Tayloe Ross was so accomplished in her role as Director of the Mint, that she served for twenty years under three Presidents, both Democrat and Republican. When she retired in 1953, she was a spry seventy-six years old. To this day, no other Mint Director has had such a long and distinguished tenure. Her capable service opened the doors wider for other women seeking high level policy-making posts in Government.

You can learn more about Nellie Tayloe Ross by viewing some of her papers and photographs in the Nellie Tayloe Ross digital collection at the American Heritage Center or visit the AHC to see the complete collection of the Nellie Tayloe Ross papers.

Post submitted by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


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Howard Hays: Impresario of the Parks

Howard H. Hays (1883-1969) was an entrepreneur whose career ranged from driving surreys in Yellowstone National Park to running a newspaper publishing company in Riverside, California.

Howard Hays, ca. 1940
Box 5, Howard Hays papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

A native of Metropolis, Illinois, Hays attended college in his home state before moving to Montana in 1905 to “seek healthful outdoor employment.” After securing a position on a ranch in the Gallatin Valley, Hays found himself feeling hale and hearty once more.

Hays’ interest in nearby Yellowstone National Park led him to William Wallace Wylie who developed a system of permanent camps throughout the park. Hays soon joined the Wylie operation, and this opportunity launched the young Hays into a lifelong role as a national park concessioner and promoter of travel and tourism for America’s scenic treasures.

This is a postcard a visitor could send their friends that promotes the Wylie Permanent Camping Company’s accommodations in Yellowstone National Park, ca. 1914. A blurb on the back of the postcard reads: “Dear [insert name], I am entering ‘Wonderland’ today the ‘Wylie Way’ which means an ideal coaching and camping tour. They will send you a beautiful hand-book if you will address Wylie Company, Gardiner, Mont.”
Box 5, Howard Hays papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

From 1906 to 1916 Hays served as the traveling passenger agent for Wylie. He left Yellowstone for about three years to take a job elsewhere, but by 1919 he was once again in the national park, this time as president of the Yellowstone Park Camps Company.

Tourists traveled in style during their Yellowstone stay in a Wylie Permanent Camping Company coach, ca. 1910.
Box 5, Howard Hays papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Another spate of ill health forced him to sell the company in 1924, but the indomitable Hays was back to work by 1927, this time organizing and serving as president for Montana-based Glacier Park Transport Company, among other interests. Howard Hays’ son Tim recalled, “My early memories of the Transport Company are dominated by the eleven-passenger, convertible buses, painted red like the present buses, that carried thousands of tourists, noisily but safely, throughout the park, over many years. Their engines were started with a crank (at the front of the bus), the proper settings of the choke and the spark, and a prayer. Their air horns were a loud delight.”

The three photographs below from the Hays papers illustrate one of the problems he dealt with on muddy dirt “roads” in Glacier National Park. These tourists look like they want their money back.

At the time he formed this company, tourist roads in Glacier were limited to the east side of the park. The Going-to-the-Sun highway and Logan Pass would not exist for many years. On the west side of the park the only road ran from Belton to Lake McDonald. Hays also initiated international bus service beginning in 1927 with bus service running between Glacier Park and the new Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes Park, Alberta, Canada.

While operating the Glacier Park Transport Company, Hays was also president of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Company and had purchased and operated the Press-Enterprise Company in Riverside, California. He died in Riverside at the age of 85.

The Howard H. Hays papers at the American Heritage Center contain materials relating to his business in Glacier including operating statements, contracts, and correspondence for the Glacier Park Transport Company from 1927-1954 and some biographical items. The Yellowstone portion of the collection contains scrapbooks, photographs, and business receipts.

Post submitted by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.


Posted in National Parks, Recreation, Tourism, Uncategorized, Western history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

It’s December in Wyoming, so there is undoubtedly snow in the forecast. For some, flurries of white mean fun and games, while for others snow poses challenges, or is downright deadly. The American Heritage Center’s Digital Collections has more than three thousand images of snowy scenes. Let’s take a look at a selection over time.

A Laramie street after a blizzard in 1897. That’s a lot of snow to hand shovel!
Photo File: Wyoming – Laramie – Blizzard 1897, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In the 1930s, Laramie’s Historic Ivinson Mansion housed a girls’ boarding school. Girls attended Laramie’s University High School for most of their classes, but had lessons at Ivinson in deportment, religion and physical education. The photo below shows the “Ivinson girls,” as they were known around town, in the midst of a snowball fight. Perhaps lobbing balls of snow at one another counted for P.E. credits? One wonders what the deportment instructor’s opinion on the matter might have been.

“Snow Day at Ivinson Hall,” 1938. Ivinson Hall was originally a mansion built for prominent Laramie resident Edward Ivinson in 1892. At the time of this photograph it was a boarding school for girls, which lasted until 1953. It is now home to the Laramie Plains Museum.
Box 35, Negative Number 30266D, Ludwig & Svenson Studio Photographs, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Heavy snowfall also brings with it the opportunity for building snowmen. The two children in the photo below are certainly smartly dressed for having built not one, not two, but three snow people.

Two children posing with their snowmen, 1935. The photo was taken by Vera Shultz.
Box 18, Lora Webb Nichols papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Snowfall for some regions of the state means the opportunity to ski – whether it be cross country or downhill. The photo below was taken on “Ruth Hanna Simms Ski Hill,” which is now part of Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole. Simms had donated money to build a ski jump on what had previously been known simply as “Town Hill.”

Three young men ready to hit the slopes in Jackson Hole, ca. 1932.
Box 82, S.N. Leek papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 

People on skis gliding across the snow are a common wintery sight in the mountains, but a house on skis gliding across the plains was a spectacle in 1925. A snowy day made this move possible and the team of horses pulling this house surely had their work cut out for them!

Team of horses pulling a house across a snowy landscape at Faerie Fait, 1925.
Box 20, Lora Webb Nichols papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Wyoming snowfall near Cody in 1942 was a new and sometimes difficult experience for the Japanese Americans interned during World War II at Heart Mountain Relocation Center. The majority of those held at Heart Mountain were from warmer areas of California and coastal Oregon and Washington. Many of them lacked sufficient warm clothing for the Wyoming winters. The War Relocation Authority issued clothing allowances for each family to help address the need for coats, hats and gloves, but there was a great deal of demand and a scarce supply. Internees who could afford it ordered clothing from the Sears and Roebuck catalog.

Japanese American internee Arthur Ishigo with his dog and a young boy at Heart Mountain, circa 1942-1945.
Box 1, Estelle Ishigo Photographs, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Just a few years after the Japanese Americans of Heart Mountain were learning to endure the snow and cold, a terrible blizzard struck Wyoming. It began on January 2, 1949, when subzero temperatures and high winds blew the rapidly accumulating snow, creating snow drifts as deep as ten feet. Hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle froze to death in the snow. Some unfortunate motorists and homeowners had to dig out, probably by hand.

Yes, there is a house under all that snow. We wonder how these Rawlins residents managed to escape.
Photo File: Wyoming-Rawlins – Blizzard of 1949, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

With winter weather close at hand, enjoy the beauty of the snow, but don’t forget about its dangers. Stay warm and if the mood strikes you, you can scroll through more snowy scenes in the American Heritage Center’s online digital archive.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington and AHC Archivist Leslie Waggener.


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Happy Birthday, National Guard

December 13th commemorates the birthday of the National Guard. On that date in 1637, the Massachusetts General Court established an official militia for the first time in the American Colonies. The resolution stated that all able-bodied men from age 16 to 60 were to join. Today, this military organization is the National Guard.

First muster of the East Regiment (present-day Massachusetts Army National Guard) in Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony, spring 1637. Wikipedia. Public domain image.

Each state established a similar militia after the United States formed and the country grew. However, it wasn’t until 1933 that Congress made the name “National Guard” official.  A component of the U.S. Army, the National Guard is largely made up of citizen-soldiers. Thus, the men and women who serve also hold down full-time civilian jobs, attend school, or both. The role of the National Guard is to provide support and protection for the states’ civilians or be called for military operations at a national level.

All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the territories of Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands maintain both an Army National Guard and an Air National Guard.

The Wyoming Army National Guard was established in 1870 while Wyoming was still a territory. Governor John A. Campbell authorized the division of territory into three military districts. The next year, a law passed by the Wyoming Territorial Assembly giving legal sanction to volunteer militia companies of not less than 40 men.

Organized in 1888, Company A, 1st Wyoming Regiment known as the “Laramie Grays” was the first federally recognized Wyoming unit. The same year Company B: The Cheyenne Guard was established. Once Wyoming became a state in 1890, constitutional provisions allowed for the formation of units in Buffalo, Evanston, Douglas, Green River, Rock Springs, Rawlins, and Sheridan.

The caption for this photo reads: “I believe this was taken of the Albany County National Guards when they were shipped during the Spanish American War.” This would have been 1898. The caption may have been written by Laramie businessman Elmer Lovejoy from whose papers the photograph came.
Box 2, Folder 2, Elmer F. Lovejoy papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The Wyoming National Guard was first federally mobilized during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Since then, the Guard has seen active service in many conflicts including World War I, World War II, and the Korean Conflict. Wyoming Guard units have also served in Desert Storm, the Bosnia peacekeeping force, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the Hurricane Katrina response.

National Guard, 115th Cavalry, activated shortly after December 7, 1941. Photograph taken by Hugo G. Janssen, who owned a photographic studio in Lovell, Wyoming. Box 1, Folder 13, Hugo G. Janssen Photographs, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

Today, about 350,000 men and women serve in the National Guard and the Air National Guard, which forms 39% of the Army’s operational force.

Take time to recognize a National Guard soldier or airman you know. Use #NationalGuardBirthday to post on social media.

Post contributed by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.


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Pearl Harbor’s Role in Popularizing Surfing

We all have our hobbies, ranging from knitting to metalworking, reading the classics, or computer programming, and many, many more. However, we do not always know the origins of our hobbies. Granted, the majority probably emerged in mundane circumstances, but not all have such simple beginnings.

Clay Blair Jr. was a renowned journalist from the mid to late 20th century as well as a military historian and author. Before Blair became an author and journalist, he volunteered in the submarine service during World War II. It was at this time he and his friends picked up a hobby with an interesting history.

During and after World War II, Blair took many photographs illustrating his love for surfing. He wasn’t the only American to have picked up the hobby after the war, either. Thousands of Americans started surfing after the war ended and that number can be attributed to Pearl Harbor.

Clay Blair Jr. surfing in Hawaii, ca. 1944
Box 341, Folder 3, Clay Blair papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 

Pearl Harbor is not normally associated with surfing, but there is actually a close relationship. Prior to the second world war, surfing was a small hobby practiced by a handful of Polynesian individuals on the island of Hawaii. This changed during World War II. There were 35,000 soldiers stationed at Pearl Harbor, and it was the largest military post in the army. This number does not include the thousands of Navy men stationed in the area. Due to its size, it became a popular meeting place.

Soldiers and military officials from all over the United States travelled to Hawaii. As a result, thousands of people experienced Hawaiian culture firsthand. Polynesian activities and cultures spread throughout the United States as these soldiers returned home or moved to different posts. Pearl Harbor was the experience of new cultures, and California became an infusion of said cultures into the population. There was one activity in particular that caught the attention of continental Americans: surfing.

Clay Blair Jr. looking to catch a wave, ca. 1944.
Box 341, Folder 3, Clay Blair papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.  

Like Clay Blair, many Americans formed an avid interest in surfing. However, America did not keep surfing as a secret for very long. As soldiers migrated posts within America and into Europe, surfing spread with them. In the fifty years following World War II, surfing advanced from a hobby mostly practiced by a small group of islanders, to a professional competition sport taking place all over the world. Today, surfing is an Olympic sport with dozens of smaller competitions held every year.

Yes, we all have our hobbies, but not all hobbies have such a fantastic origin story. Pearl Harbor is directly responsible for the growth of surfing, not only throughout the United States, but the world. Without Pearl Harbor’s historical significance, surfing might never have been as popular of an activity nor have gained Olympic status. Clay Blair’s papers offers a look at those World War II-era years of surfing.

Today, between 17 and 35 million people surf, both professionally and as a hobby. Look into the origins and histories of your hobbies and you might just find something interesting.

Post contributed by AHC Photo Archivist Nora Plant and AHC Audio/Visual Archives Aide Kenzie McPhie.


Posted in Authors and literature, Pacific Islander history, Sports and Recreation, Uncategorized, World War II | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Frank Scully and Flying Saucers

Merriam-Webster defines an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) as “a mysterious flying object in the sky that is sometimes assumed to be a spaceship from another planet.” Although unidentified phenomena in the skies had been reported for much of human history, it was the Cold War era beginning in the late 1940s when mysterious lights and flying objects generated an intense scientific and amateur quest to understand the frontier beyond the earth’s orbit.

Tensions after World War II between the United States and the Soviet Union fueled the space race as well as fears of a nuclear apocalypse, turning American eyes – and fears – to the skies. The much-publicized sighting of UFOs in 1947 by pilot Kenneth Arnold, who described what he saw as saucer-shaped, prompted clever journalists to come up with the term “flying saucer.”[1]

In this 1947 Associated Press file photo, Kenneth Arnold holds a movie camera in front of his CallAir, after he reported seeing nine alleged UFOs near Mount Ranier, Washington. Little did he know he would change the world when he reported the sightings.

Unidentified flying objects in the heavens became a worldwide sensation within months. Reports of sightings proliferated, and UFO organizations were even formed by a fascinated public. The newly established U.S. Air Force was even tasked with investigating whether the phenomena were a national security threat.

Into this exciting new sphere of inquiry came journalist and author Frank Scully who wrote a regular column for the entertainment trade magazine Variety. From his friend Silas Newton, whom Scully knew as a wealthy Denver oilman, he learned that in 1948 at least three saucers carrying crews of tiny humanoids had landed in Aztec, New Mexico, and that the Air Force had captured the crews but was hushing up the big story. Newton supported his tale by citing “evidence” given by a mysterious scientist whom he called “Dr. Gee.”[2]

Newton (center) and Scully (right), Denver Post, October 19, 1950
Courtesy Denver Public Library.

Scully immediately assigned himself the task of publicizing the story through his Variety column and his 1950 book Behind the Flying Saucers. Unfortunately for Scully, before long Newton and “Dr Gee” (identified as Leo A. GeBauer) were exposed by San Francisco Chronicle reporter John Philip Cahn as con artists who had hoaxed the author. But not before sixty thousand copies of the book were sold.

Cover of Frank Scully’s book published by Popular Library in 1951.
Box 28, Folder 15, Frank Scully papers,
American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Scully’s account refuses to die. In 2011 UFO enthusiasts claimed proof of the 1948 UFO crash when the FBI added a mysterious memo to their online repository of public records termed the “FBI Vault.”[3] The 1950 memo written to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover by agency official Guy Hottel states that an FBI agent heard through an informant that three flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico. According to the FBI, the second- and third-hand claims were never worthy of investigation.[4]

Once Frank Scully had made a name for himself as a UFO researcher, he began to receive letters, photographs, and drawings from people who had purportedly witnessed UFOs. This letter dated 1954 is from a couple in Redondo Beach California.
Box 2, Folder 4, Frank Scully papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

As for Frank Scully, a look at his papers at the American Heritage Center reveals that he never lost his belief in extraterrestrials. In 1963 he wrote an autobiographical book In Armour Bright which included a reiteration of his belief in the 1948 saucer crash. For him and many others, UFOs represent fascinating possibilities of life outside the Earth’s boundaries and into the frontiers of the imagination.

Post submitted by AHC Archivist Leslie Waggener.


[1] Editors. “Kenneth Arnold,” History, originally published 22 February 2010, updated 25 December 2018, Accessed 12 October 2021.

[2] “The Press: Flying Saucer Men,” Time, October 27, 1952,,33009,890410,00.html. Accessed 12 October 2021.

[3] The FBI Vault can be found at

[4] FBI. “UFOs and the Guy Hottel Memo,” FBI News, published 25 March 2013,

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Whet Your Appetite for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving means tables groaning with food, and families and friends gathered in fellowship. So, in that spirit, let’s delve into a sampling of the cookbooks that are part of the American Heritage Center’s Toppan Rare Books Library.

Fannie Merritt Farmer’s 1911 cookbook, Catering for Special Occasions with Menus and Recipes provides some food for thought.

Front Cover of Catering for Special Occasions with Menus and Recipes, 1911.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Fannie Farmer was one of the pioneers of modern American cooking. She is credited with the invention of the format for the modern recipe. Her cookbooks championed the use of standardized measuring cups, tablespoons and teaspoons. Farmer wrote “correct measurements are absolutely necessary to ensure the best results”. Earlier cookbooks had often specified a pinch of this or a handful of that, but Farmer’s recipes instructed cooks to measure out ingredients in leveled off cups and spoons.

For Thanksgiving, Farmer developed two elaborate menus, each with more than a dozen dishes.

“Thanksgiving Dinner Menu No. 1” from Catering for Special Occasions with Menus and Recipes, 1911.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

While modern readers will recognize the classic roast turkey and stuffing, there are also recipes for “Puritan Pudding” and “New England Thanksgiving Pudding” – both variants on bread pudding. The recipes call for “common crackers”, but Farmer didn’t mean Ritz or Saltines. “Common crackers” were a food staple of the 1800s and 1900s. More closely resembling hard tack than modern era crackers, “common crackers” were round and thick and could be split in half like an English muffin or crushed using a rolling pin.

Recipes for “Chiffonade Dressed Lettuce”, “Chiffonade Dressing and “Puritan Pudding” from Catering for Special Occasions with Menus and Recipes, 1911.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Thanksgiving desserts featured in Farmer’s recipe book include the classic pumpkin pie and also a recipe for “French Vanilla Ice Cream” to be served with a liquor laced “Dewey Sauce”. Perhaps the most impressive Thanksgiving dessert recipe in the book is for “Mince Pie”. It is a hearty dish, involving 3 pounds of sugar, a quart of brandy, and 4 pounds each of lean beef and raisins. Preparing such a pie was surely a labor of love – in 1911 the raisins had to be seeded by hand.

While Fannie Farmer was helping cooks plan a feast for multitudes, Amelie Langdon’s 1907 Just for Two cookbook, pared down recipes for wives cooking only for their husbands. But even Langdon’s “Thanksgiving Dinner” menu included a dozen dishes.

A “Thanksgiving Dinner” menu from Just for Two – A Collection of Recipes Designed for Two Persons, 1907.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Curiously, while the menu begins with “Cream of Carrot Soup”, careful perusal of Langdon’s cookbook reveals no such recipe included. Celery, on the menu as an appetizer, is an interesting choice – Langdon writes “Nervous persons, for instance, should eat lots of celery for celery is the best nerve tonic in the world.” Her cookbook provides detailed instructions for roasting a turkey and offers a helpful page titled “How to Carve a Turkey”. Langdon’s menu counsels “Plum Pudding or Pumpkin Pie”, leaving the possibly nervous homemaker to choose.

Ann Batchelder’s Own Cook Book, published in 1944 offers an eclectic approach to both cooking and Thanksgiving. Ann Batchelder, a suffragette and Vermont’s first female attorney seems an unlikely figure to pen a cookbook. However, she was also the food editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal where she had the attention of hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Her cookbook includes essays, reflections and even her own poetic homage to Thanksgiving, which she declared to be her favorite holiday:

Thanksgiving is the day for me,

From twelve o’clock to twelve o’clock;

(My, the food I’ve lived to see!)

Next day I simply sit and rock.

When it came time to select a turkey, Batchelder opined somewhat cryptically “Choose your turkey as you choose your best friend – with affinity of tastes in mind. A somewhat young and non-dieted bird is best, with an admirable figure, but not streamlined.” Batchelder’s Thanksgiving menu is less elaborate than Farmer’s or Langdon’s, perhaps because her cookbook was published during World War II when homemakers were challenged with rationing of foodstuffs like sugar and canned goods. Vegetables, which often would have come from war time home victory gardens, feature heavily in the Ann Batchelder’s Own Cook Book Thanksgiving menu.

“Thanksgiving” menu from Ann Batchelder’s Own Cook Book, 1944.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

We hope this peek into of some of the cookbooks from the Toppan Rare Books Library has whetted your appetite for a feast. Happy Thanksgiving from the American Heritage Center!

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


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The Wizard of Oz – The Story Behind the Film

The 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, beloved by children and adults alike, holds a special place in cinematographic history. The award-winning movie is based on an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Baum’s novel was published in 1900 and the American Heritage Center is fortunate to have one of the first editions of the book in its Toppan Rare Books Library.

Cover page of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1900.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The AHC has also recently acquired two rare early draft scripts for the movie. For those unfamiliar with the book and movie, a brief recap is in order. The story follows the adventures of Dorothy, a Kansas farm girl, who is transported by a cyclone, along with her house, and little dog Toto, to the magical land of Oz. Dorothy’s house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her. The witch’s magical shoes become Dorothy’s and she sets off along the yellow brick road to find the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. Dorothy hopes the Wizard will help her return to Kansas. As she makes her way along the yellow brick road, Dorothy befriends a scarecrow, tin woodman and cowardly lion.

Illustration on page 67 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1900.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

After reaching the Emerald City and being granted an audience with the Wizard, Dorothy and her friends learn that he will only help them if they kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Following a series of adventures and botched attempts by the witch to do away with the quartet, Dorothy manages to kill the witch by dousing her with water.

Illustration on page 155 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1900.
Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Dorothy and her friends return to see the Wizard, who confesses to being an ordinary man, bereft of magical powers. Dorothy despairs she will never get back to Kansas, but Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, comes to the rescue, explaining to Dorothy that she need only tap the heels of her magical shoes together three times to travel wherever her heart desires. In the end, Dorothy and Toto return to Kansas, exclaiming “there’s no place like home.”

The challenge of adapting the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz into a script began on February 28, 1938. The effort would take months and eventually involve a whole host of writers. In hindsight it is a wonder that the script was ever completed. The story behind the writing was a saga of its own.

Herman J. Mankiewicz was the first writer hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Pictures to adapt Baum’s book into a film. Mankiewicz was an acknowledged genius of a screenwriter, albeit a troubled one. An alcoholic with a penchant for gambling, he wrote rapidly and prolifically and was well known for his sardonic wit and clever dialogue. Although never formally credited for his work on The Wizard of Oz, Mankiewicz was responsible for one of the signature aspects of the film. It was his script that established the opening Kansas scenes of the movie in black and white, expounding upon Baum’s description of the grayness of the Kansas landscape and Dorothy’s daily life. Mankiewicz envisioned the visual contrast which was to come in the film when Dorothy opened the door of her Kansas farmhouse and entered the Technicolor Land of Oz.

The Mankiewicz script that is part of the AHC collections is dated from March 3 to March 19, 1938, and follows Baum’s book in many aspects, including describing silver magic shoes and a one-eyed Wicked Witch of the West. Mankiewicz’s involvement with the film was short lived – in less than a month he moved on to other projects.

Unbeknownst to Mankiewicz, before he had even submitted his script to MGM, two other writers had also been hired to write scripts for The Wizard of Oz. Noel Langley was given the assignment on March 11, 1938. He, too, was unaware that Mankiewicz was also working on a script. Langley’s involvement with the film was complicated. Langley’s script is notable because it details the on-screen transformation of Kansas schoolteacher Miss Gulch into the Wicked Witch of the West as she peddles her bicycle through the cyclone. The Langley script also introduced the characters of Lizzie, a love interest for farm hands Hunk and Bulbo, the son of the Wicked Witch of the West. Neither Lizzie nor Bulbo made it into the final version of the film.

Cover of the Noel Langley script for The Wizard of Oz film, March 22, 1938.
Container 1, The Wizard of Oz Scripts, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The Langley script which is part of the AHC collection is dated March 22, 1938, and is 43 pages in length. By June 10, 1938, Langley had been dismissed from The Wizard of Oz production team. Langley left the job feeling that the director had been pleased with his treatment of the material, so he was alarmed to learn in mid-June that two more writers, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf had also been hired with instructions to rewrite the script.

Ryerson and Woolf worked as a team and had collaborated on several lesser-known films in the 1930s. Ryerson was particularly known for bringing warmth to stories. Together the duo developed the idea to have Frank Morgan, who was a popular actor of the era, appear as multiple characters in the film. It is their script notes that outline having Morgan play both the eccentric fortune telling professor in Kansas and the Wizard in the land of Oz. Their script also refers to the magic shoes as red (and not silver, as in earlier scripts) and the mean schoolteacher who threatens to dispose of Dorothy’s beloved Toto as Miss Gulch. The AHC Wizard of Oz collection includes Ryerson and Woolf scripts and notes that are dated from June 4 to June 7, 1938.

Page from the Ryerson and Woolf script for The Wizard of Oz film, June 7, 1938.
Container 1, The Wizard of Oz Scripts, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Noel Langley’s dismay at Ryerson and Woolf’s hiring escalated into an angry confrontation with the film’s director. Langley demanded to have his name removed from the script. In the meantime, Ryerson and Woolf had made significant changes to earlier scripts. By July 27, 1938, they had wrapped up their edits. But Langley’s involvement with the film was not finished. Langley and the director came to an agreement and on July 30, 1938, Langley was rehired to do final edits on the script to be used for shooting. Langley continued to work on the film until October 31, 1938.

Five months later, when production on the film was complete, and the credits were prepared, Langley, Ryerson and Woolf shared the acclaim. The final credits on the film read “Screenplay by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf. Adaptation by Noel Langley.”

The story behind the scripts provides insight into the movie-making creative process and Hollywood screenwriting in the late 1930s. For researchers interested in The Wizard of Oz, or for the just plain curious, a visit to the American Heritage Center offers the exceptional chance to compare the film scripts with the first edition of Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. And for true Oz aficionados, the AHC’s Toppan Rare Books Library also has thirty-four of the other books in the Oz series.

Post submitted by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


Posted in Authors and literature, Book history, Chinese Americans, Hollywood history, motion picture history, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The aroma of hypocrisy”: The Development of “Molasses to Rum” in 1776.

As a musical theatre scholar, it isn’t often that my search for archival materials takes me outside of New York City. As a result, it was a pleasure to be able to visit the American Heritage Center in Laramie, Wyoming. I’m a PhD candidate at Columbia University and my dissertation examines the historical representation in American musicals.

One of my chapters examines the 1969 musical 1776 and places it in conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton (2015). Both the musicals look at the “founding” of America, but they do that in different ways and have different historical contexts which alter their interpretation of history. 1776 is about the writing of the Declaration of Independence. It begins in May of 1776 and, mostly within the walls of Independence Hall, tells the stories of the compromises and improvisations that men such as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson made to declare independence from Great Britain. I propose that 1776, a musical with almost exclusively white men on stage (and, a lot of them) is actually more critical of the stories surrounding the beginnings of the country than Hamilton.

I think there are several reasons for this difference, including the relationship of the creators to the presidential administrations in office when the shows opened. 1776 responds critically to the Nixon administration, while Hamilton exists alongside the Obama administration. Being able to look at Sherman Edwards’ thoughts on the subject matter and what exactly he sought to put on stage will certainly inform my chapter as I go back to revise it later this year.

Sherman Edwards was initially the sole creator of 1776 and wrote the music, the lyrics, and the book for the show. The marked folders in the archive at the American Heritage Center suggest that his notes on the show date to 1961-62, but it is probable he was working on the show earlier, presumably at least since the late 1950s.

After he plugged the show for theatre producer Stuart Ostrow, Ostrow agreed to produce the show, with the caveat that they bring on a new book writer, Peter Stone, to rework the book. As a result, the drafts here are exciting to look at because they show what difficult issues Edwards was thinking about before he began collaborating with Stone. For example, one of the songs I am particularly interested in, “Molasses to Rum,” is sung by Edward Rutledge, a delegate from South Carolina and details the hypocrisy of delegates from the Northern colonies who claim to be anti-slavery but participate in the slave trade. I was fascinated to learn that this song had been in Edwards’ very early drafts. I learned several important things about the song, perhaps most notably that it moved. In Edwards’ drafts it appears in Act One. Even though 1776 eventually became a musical with no intermission, it certainly appears in the latter half of the musical as it now stands and is one of the last songs. I argue that the song is placed in this prominent position to show the importance of the slavery issue, and to highlight our “founding fathers” failure to address it. Edwards’ drafts show that while it was an issue he clearly thought was important, he did not see it as the final crux of the musical, as it is now. Was this a change made by Peter Stone, or was it a change that happened organically as 1960s soldiered forward?

“Molasses to Rum” music manuscript, 1962-1969.
Box 6, Collection # 9242, Sherman Edwards Collection, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

“Molasses to Rum” as it now stands includes a slave auction performed by Rutledge within the song. Rutledge climbs on a chair and bangs his cane against a table as an “auctioneer” as he acts out selling people from “Angola / Guinea, Guinea, Guinea” (etc.). In the show now this auction becomes too much and is cut off by Dr. Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire who cries out “For the love of God, Mr. Rutledge, please.” Rutledge then returns to the A section of the song and brings it to a close. In nearly every draft I examined (even in drafts of the music) rather than exclaim “For the love of God Mr. Rutledge, please” someone from New England (the character seems to not be important) interrupts shouting, “I’ll invest three thousand pounds!” This original line might appear more confusing in context, which is presumably why it was altered, but it also implicates the New Englanders in slavery arguably more than the line in the show as it now stands. The line now implies that even though they are “willing to be considerable carriers of slaves to others” as Rutledge says of his “Northern brethren,” that Northerners cannot stomach the dehumanizing violence of slavery. In this older version though not only can they stomach the violence they are “carried away” by it as Peter Stone writes in one of the later drafts. The line becomes an embarrassing concession that Rutledge is in fact, right. The New Englanders are willing to be actively complicit in slavery, even in the room of the Congress.

Note card, October 1966,
Box 3, Manuscript File, ca. 1963-1964, 1776 2nd Rough Draft, 1 of 3 folders, Collection # 9242, Sherman Edwards Collection, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Finally, in what is presumably an even earlier note than the drafts I examined, Edwards writes, to the best of my knowledge through reading his handwriting, “Idea: Rutledge – octoroon – light black man… gets more black during song?” This note dated October of ’66 suggests an idea for a performance convention that was entirely dropped in all drafts of the musical and is something I have never heard discussed. The idea that Edwards considered making the biggest proponent of slavery a Black man who is passing for white, and a member of the second continental congress, seems as though it would have added another layer of hypocrisy to “Molasses to Rum.” It may have also meant having a Black man on stage, which certainly would be different for this musical that really only puts white men in the room. I say “may” because there is a stage history of characters who are partly Black being played by white actors, such as the role of Julie in Show Boat. It also would have broken from the historical record, as far as I know, which is somewhat surprising since Edwards was invested in historical accuracy. While there was historical speculation that Alexander Hamilton had Black ancestry, I’ve never seen such a thing suggested for Rutledge. Cleary this is an idea that Edwards left behind in his writing process, but what would it mean for this character to be Black? I think it would not only highlight more hypocrisy in the system of slavery, but perhaps Edwards was imagining it as a way to offset Rutledge’s claims that enslaved people were property rather than people. If Rutledge himself was a Black man, then that would surely show the flimsy nature of his claims.

In any case, I think there is a lot more thinking to be done about this note and these drafts, and I have barely scratched the surface of my own thinking. I could write at least six more posts this length looking at other songs/moments in the show because this collection is so rich with detail.

Post contributed by Anne Melissa Potter, PhD candidate in Theatre and Performance, Columbia University.

#always archiving

Posted in African American history, Composers, music, Musicals, Political history, Slavery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Songs of the Arapaho

November is Native American Heritage Month. The American Heritage Center pays tribute to the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Native people.

The Northern Arapaho have a rich musical culture, from dramatic religious songs to haunting war songs and joyful social songs. From 1949 through 1983, Anthropologist Zdenek Salzmann spent summers on the Wind River Reservation, studying Arapaho linguistics and music. He recorded more than 100 audio tapes, documenting Arapaho songs and language. Salzmann collaborated with a number of Arapaho, including William “Bill” Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare, father of Bill Shakespeare. The younger Shakespeare played an instrumental role in interpreting Arapaho songs and language for researcher Zdenek Salzmann.
Box 10, Zdenek Salzmann papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Among the oldest known Arapaho songs are those associated with the Sun Dance. Historically, the Arapaho were nomadic, traveling in small bands except for an annual summer meeting. It was at these summertime gatherings that the Arapaho participated in a variety of dances, including the Sun Dance. The Sun Dance dramatized and reaffirmed tribal identity and was part of a seven-day long ceremony. Singing and drumming accompanied the preparation of herb medicines. Practice sessions for the singers were held in the nights leading up to the Sun Dance.

A two-sided drum was used as accompaniment. Most of the Sun Dance songs, like the majority of Arapaho songs, are sung with intentionally meaningless syllables. Syllables are grouped together in various patterns and are passed along orally from one generation of singers to the next. Following a long night of singing and dancing, the Arapaho Morning Sun Rise Song was sung, just as the dancers were preparing to rest.

Transcription of the musical score of the Arapaho Sunrise Song of the Sun Dance, 1911.
Box 10, Zdenek Salzmann papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Another group of Arapaho songs is associated with peyote. It is believed that peyote came to the Arapaho of Wyoming in 1903. Its use originated among the Mexican Indians and propagated through other North American tribes. Peyote was incorporated into the Arapaho vision quest. For the Arapaho peyote ceremony, a drum is made of skin stretched over an earthenware pot containing a little water. The water is used to moisten the drumhead to ensure a consistent pitch. A gourd containing glass beads is used as an accompaniment. Singing and drumming are integral to the peyote ceremony. Four songs are sung by each man who participates, with the ritual continuing past midnight and ending at dawn with another group of songs. Some peyote songs address the nature of peyote itself, while others are repeated syllables without words. Peyote songs are accompanied by noticeably quicker drumbeats than other Arapaho songs, but the singing style is more subdued.

Musical score of an Arapaho Peyote Song, transcribed by Bruno Nettl, June 1951.
Box 10, Zdenek Salzmann papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Some Arapaho social songs have been learned from other American Indian tribes. According to tribal legend, songs that accompany Round Dances were learned from the Gros Ventre in the late 19th century and songs for the Wolf Dance were learned from the Dakota tribe at approximately the same time.

Arapaho music can be dynamic, changing to reflect current events. War songs celebrated the tribe’s exploits in battle, and not just conquests from the days of the “Wild West”. Lyrics were changed or added to reflect Arapaho experiences during World War I and II. Tribal members also created new songs based on visions or dreams they experienced.

You can learn more about the diversity of Arapaho music and listen to traditional Arapaho songs in the Zdenek Salzmann papers at the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


Posted in American Indian history, Northern Arapaho, Uncategorized, Wyoming history | Tagged , , | Leave a comment