Shopping malls have provided communities with convenient shopping options and social gathering spaces for decades but have seen a decline in popularity across the United States. In Europe, however, they seem to continue to supply these things. The largest shopping mall in the Netherlands is testament to how popular shopping malls can be.
Stephen James Poll collected information about shopping centers from around the globe, including the largest shopping centers in The Netherlands: The Hoog Catharijne in Utrecht. In 2018 Poll donated his collection to the American Heritage Center and I discovered it when looking for connections to Utrecht, where I am studying abroad. The material covering the Hoog Catharijne within this collection is promotional material for the mall after a major renovation from 2017 to 2018.
The Hoog Catharijne Mall boasts some staggering statistics, it is more than 1,076,391 square feet with 180 shops and 26 million visitors each year. It is the most visited mall throughout the Netherlands and is in the top 10 of all Europe. This modern shopping center is found a short walk from Utrecht’s historic city center and steps from Utrecht Central Train station. Utrecht Central is the largest transit hub in the Netherlands and over 90 million people pass through it each year.
The mall sits between the old city center and Utrecht Central Station, making it a popular and convenient access point to both. Inside the mall there are plenty of options when it comes to shopping. There are large department stores, small boutiques, food stores and restaurants, clothing stores for all price ranges, and specialty stores that sell a wide variety of things.
The popularity of bicycle riding in The Netherlands cannot be overstated. Thousands of people zip around the city on their bikes as they go to school, work, play, and, of course, shop. With all these bikes there must be a place to store them, and at the Hoog Catharijne, the solution is found underground in one of the largest bike parking centers.
The Utrecht Canal runs directly under the mall and can be accessed from inside the mall for a canal cruise. In what is called the “City Square” in the promotional material from the Poll collection, there are water features with windows that look down into the canal where people can watch the water and boats. The City Square is the main walkway through the mall and contains the majority of restaurants.
Walking around the mall I noticed how busy it was and how there were no empty shops. This was quite different compared to many of the malls I have been to in recent years across the United States. There seems to be a decline in the popularity of in-person shopping in the US, but here in Utrecht the mall continues to be a popular meeting point, social gathering space, and of course shopping hub.
Post contributed by AHC Archives Aide Grace Derby.
With the current plethora of media – documentaries, podcasts, books, and biopics of serial killers – it’s no wonder true crime is so popular. But it isn’t just today’s societies that have this obsession.
The love for true crime stories can be traced back to the 19th century, and further back, with many from the middle and upper classes finding fascination in crime cases that were happening around them and because they had the down time to witness them.
Some of this true crime craze has been influenced by a Victorian Era author whose character has contributed to true crime popularity even more than a hundred years after his first story came out – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His popular character Sherlock Holmes was one of the first literary figures who worked alongside detectives and used forensic data and logical reasoning to crack open cases. Due to Doyle’s contributions, the world was able to recognize and memorialize this character as a popular culture figure with actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch portraying him in adaptations that have taken place in the last twenty years.
Some of Doyle’s work can be found in the Toppan Rare Books Library, such as the 1892 copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This copy features stories such as “The Adventure of the Boscombe Valley Mystery” that displays Holmes’ logical reasoning and forensic skills with sections such as:
‘These are young McCarthy’s feet. Twice he was walking, and once he ran swiftly so that the soles are deeply marked, and the heels hardly visible. That bears out his story. He ran when he saw his father on the ground. Then here are the father’s feet as he paced up and down. What is this, then? It is the butt end of the gun as the son stood listening. And this? Ha, ha! What have we here? Tip-toes! tip-toes! Square, too, quite unusual boots!’ (97)
This section is one of many that highlights the skill of the character Sherlock Holmes and how he helped solve crimes in a logical, but also approachable way for mainstream audiences. These books were instrumental in creating a widespread audience for criminal crimes and contributed to the number of people who would show up for the real court cases in their areas. Not only were the books used for entertainment, but the real cases became a form of entertainment, especially for those in the middle and upper classes who had time for leisure activities.
Doyle’s “Bascombe Valley Mystery” is just one of many stories that delve into the fantastical, but realistic nature of crime during the 19th century and helped the true crime genre gain such a strong standing in popular culture. This story and many others can be accessed at the Toppan Rare Books Library by crime lovers of all kinds.
There are, of course, a variety of other contributions that came before Sherlock Holmes, such as Lionel Benson’s The Book of Remarkable Trials and Notorious Characters, which features many different cases of murder and robbery. There is even an absurd case about the “suspected murder of a ghost”:
Francis Smith… doubtless incensed at the unknown person who was in the habit of assuming this supernatural character, and thus frightening the superstitious inhabitants of the village, rashly determined on watching for, and shooting the ghost; when unfortunately he shot a poor man, named Thomas Milwood, a bricklayer, who was in a white dress, the usual habiliment of his occupation (293).
Although far from what we think of as the supernatural, these kinds of cases were frequent throughout the 17th to 19th centuries and contributed to the fascination with crime and our understanding of humans and their motivations.
For more recent cases, there is also The Encyclopedia of Murder written in 1962 and housed within the Toppan Library collection. This book contains an intriguing history of criminal cases and offers brief glimpses into the lives of murderers through the centuries. The cases include the “Rattlesnake Murderer” Robert James, the “thirty-nine-year-old barber, charged with the murder of his wife in 1935” (306), which was a disturbing case about a man trying to kill his wife with rattlesnake venom due to his own obsession with it, but how in the end drowned her because it didn’t work. Other cases include The Lonely Hearts Killers – Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck – who pretended to be brother and sister and who lured women through lonely heart columns in newspapers to trust them and then con and murder the women. In the aftermath of the trial, many believed that the duo’s killing of these women was due to Martha’s hatred for other women because of being declared an unfit mother for her children as Raymond did not start murdering women until after he met Martha.
There are many theories as to why we are so fascinated with serial killers, including our need to understand human nature and those who display the worst of their natures, or simply just wanting to become aware of what is out there. But even without a full understanding of why we choose to learn about these killers, there is a plethora of material in which to satiate our needs and many of these works, including cases closer to home, can be found in the Toppan Library.
Post contributed by Toppan Library Intern Bailey Bonner.
Benson, Lionel, The Book of Remarkable Trials and Notorious Characters: from “Half-hanged Smith,” 1700 to Oxford who shot at the Queen, 1840. (Publisher, J. C. Hotten, 1874). (McCormick Collection, Toppan Library, uncatalogued)
Wilson, Colin and Patricia Pitman, Encyclopedia of Murder. (New York: Putnams, 1962). (Toppan, catalogued)
Doyle, Arthur Conan, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. (London: George Newnes, Ltd., 1892) (Toppan, PR4622.A3 1892)
George Cruikshank (1792-1878) was an English caricaturist known for creating political satire pieces and famous illustrations for notable authors like Charles Dickens. While taking printmaking classes, I came across his name multiple times. This piqued my interest to learn more about his story and style. When I started my internship at the Toppan Rare Books Library, it led me to find out more about Cruikshank and his exciting life. Whether it was for the renowned prints he made during his life or his collaboration with Charles Dickens, I wanted to investigate the life and works of this famous caricature artist loved by so many during the heyday of his career in the 19th century.
Cruikshank started as an apprentice in his father’s print shop. From there he began creating political satire works that featured caricatures of famous figures. They ranged from lampooning British royalty to illustrating current events in the U.S. Most of these caricatures were made for various popular newspapers in England to expand his portfolio. Once he gained popularity from his caricatures, Cruikshank decided to expand his artistic repertoire to include book illustrations. This was when he began drawing for Dickens. The most notable set of pieces he did for Dickens were for Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress (1838). Both Dickens and Cruikshank gained renown when Oliver Twist became highly popular.
After working with Dickens, Cruikshank next focused on solo projects. His first notable work was the Comic Almanack (1835-1853) which he started during his collaboration with Dickens. The Comic Almanack was a satirical almanac that was full of tales, poetry, and illustrations. The next solo work that stood out from Cruikshank’s repertoire was The Bottle (1847). The Bottle was an eight-plate story detailing the ideas of how alcoholism could destroy an entire family. He continued the story with a sequel called The Drunkard’s Children (1848). Both works were completed during a time when Cruikshank advocated for temperance movements.
Another noteworthy work of his is called Cruikshank’s Table-book (1845). This piece was a set of twelve books that followed the months of the year. They contained Cruikshank’s prints alongside poems, stories, and depictions of current events. Inside the books, there was a statement that claimed Cruikshank was the sole creator, which is borne out in the title page which only mentions him and an editor. When looking over each month, I got a sense that Cruikshank wanted this to be a more mature work or of a higher standard than just the typical satire that was seen in Comic Almanack or his early caricatures. Cruikshank’s Table-book shows the progression to his more mature style.
When looking at his works from Oliver Twist or The Bottle, Cruikshank had a distinct style and a specific way he did his illustrations. Every face has eclectic expressions or details, while the backgrounds had cross-hatching, creating shadows or three-dimensionality in a flat piece. This sophistication of technique is interesting considering that, although he was instructed by his father, he was mostly self-taught. He used a style of etching that is called glyphography. Glyphography was a trendy way to print drawings and illustrations. It uses a chemical process that is like traditional etching. The process starts with covering a metal plate with wax and the image is drawn in the wax. Then the plate is put through electrotyping or stereotyping which creates a positive version of the image. Ink is applied to the plate and pressed into a piece of paper.
With Cruikshank’s etching style, he produced an impression that every image was hand drawn into the book or journal. His drawing style remained the same over the years but refined over time. Figures in works such as the Comic Almanack were a little messy and had a youthfulness to them. Conversely, the characters created for The Bottle or Oliver Twist were clean and detailed. Cruikshank was an artist who became confident in his style and made it his trademark.
When looking at Cruikshank’s body of work, one realizes that his pieces were full of hilarity and solely focused on connecting others with moments in time. He was considered one of the first political caricaturists to make a mark on society, thus bringing him renown and fame for his name and signature. It astounds me that this illustrator had been hidden all this time from my knowledge until I started to dive deeper into the world of printmaking. This is just one instance of how certain art mediums have been forgotten and need to be brought to the forefront once again. Cruickshank’s art is something that deserves to be recognized and celebrated.
Post contributed by Toppan Rare Book Library intern Kaleigh Johns.
Sources consulted from the AHC’s Toppan Rare Book Library:
Elizabeth Cochrane was born in 1867 near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Little is known about her early life except that she grew up in a large family and was particularly independent minded. While still a teenager, she was offended by a Pittsburgh newspaper editorial titled “What Girls Are Good For”. The paper claimed that girls were “good for nothing except cooking, sewing and bearing children.” Cochrane wrote a fiery retort to the newspaper. Soon she was hired by the paper’s editor for five dollars a week. He stipulated that she use a pseudonym for her writing and suggested Nellie Bly after a name taken from a Stephen Foster song. Thus, reporter Nellie Bly was born.
She got her start writing articles about divorce, a subject that was taboo at the time. As a reporter she was unafraid to seek out stories in unusual places. She spent time in slums, sweatshops, factories, and poor houses. Seeking greater opportunity, she moved to New York where she landed a job reporting for Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper, The World. Always interested in reporting based on firsthand experiences, she feigned madness in order to be admitted to Blackwell’s Island, an insane asylum for the poor, located in New York’s East River. It was her story titled “Behind Asylum Bars” that launched her notoriety. She wrote about the brutal treatment of patients and the inedible food. Her revelations led to a grand jury investigation, and a three-million-dollar investment in improving conditions at the asylum. It was groundbreaking work for a woman and groundbreaking investigative journalism.
Her biggest reporting assignment came soon after and was even more noteworthy. In 1889 she set off on a race around the world. The goal was to beat the record of fictional hero Phileas Fogg of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Pulitzer was convinced that articles from Bly about her trip would generate publicity and boost circulation for The World. Bly was given 4 days to prepare. She is said to have packed three veils, an extra dress and a makeup kit consisting of a jar of cold cream in her black traveling satchel.
By all accounts, Bly’s trip was a roaring success. She had traveled by steamship, train, rickshaw, horse and buggy and burro. At only the age of 22, and traveling alone, she had crossed continents, oceans, and the Suez Canal, enduring monsoons, and seasickness. Her dispatches from abroad enthralled readers. Bets were placed on when she would reach the next point in her travels. The World offered a free trip to Europe to the person who guessed most closely how long her journey would take. The last leg of her trip was aboard a special transcontinental train Pulitzer had dispatched to California to collect her. Nellie Bly received a tumultuous welcome upon her return to Manhattan. Her record time was front page news – 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes.
Songs were composed in her honor. Someone invented a “Round the World with Nellie Bly” board game.
Newspapers poked fun at other, slower explorers who had circumnavigated the world in earlier eras.
Less than a decade after her globe-trotting adventure, Bly married millionaire hardware manufacturer Robert Seaman. She was 31. He was 73. Before long, failing health began to interfere with his ability to manage his business. That left Nellie in charge of the Ironclad Company. She took a particular interest in metal working and the problem refineries had struggling to ship oil in expensive and leaky wooden barrels. Inspired by a steel barrel holding glycerin she had seen in Europe, she oversaw the patent for a 55-gallon barrel for mass production in her factory.
She started by manufacturing five barrels a day but was soon able to crank out a thousand daily. She spun off a subsidiary – the American Steel Barrel Company – and worked long hours overseeing production and factory operations. For a time, she was one of the leading female industrialists in the United States. But while Bly was well versed in the manufacturing aspects of her company, she paid little attention to the finances. Some untrustworthy employees took advantage of the lack of oversight and began forging her signature on checks. Before long, Ironclad had lost more than two million dollars. Bly had to declare bankruptcy and suffered a series of legal entanglements.
Bly moved to Europe and spent the First World War living in Austria. She did some reporting as a newspaper correspondent but suffered from ill health. Eventually she returned to the U.S. and took a job with the New York Evening Journal. She covered the Republican National Convention in 1920 and, after witnessing an execution, wrote a blistering story condemning capital punishment. Then, in 1922, at the age of 57, she died of pneumonia. It was an untimely and inglorious end for someone who had been so celebrated as a young woman and so successful as an undercover journalist and industrialist. You can learn more about Nellie Bly in the Ernest C. Miller papers at the American Heritage Center.
Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.
April 4, 2023, marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Warner Brothers Pictures. Here at the American Heritage Center, we have the papers of some of the creative personalities behind the films for which Warner Brothers is revered.
The Warner boys (originally surnamed Wonsol, before the Anglicization of their names when the family moved to the U.S.) were four Polish brothers, who got their start when they acquired a movie projector and began traveling through Pennsylvania and Ohio showing silent moving pictures. By 1923, they had begun producing their own films and before long they relocated to Hollywood, where they became a veritable powerhouse of film production. Warner Brothers Pictures was an innovator in using Technicolor and was at the forefront of moving the industry from silent films to “talking pictures.” By the 1940s, the company had established itself as a leader in live action films as well as in animated cartoons.
M.K. “Moe” Jerome was one of the many artists that helped bring Warner Brothers movies to life on the big screen. His specialty was composing for movies. He moved to Hollywood in 1934 and within ten years had written more than 350 songs for Warner Brothers. He wrote “Knock on Wood” for the 1942 film Casablanca. That same year, for the film Wild Bill Hickok Rides, Jerome composed “The Lady Got a Shady Deal” which was sung by the film’s star, Constance Bennett.
Jerome often worked with lyricist Jack Scholl. In developing music for a film, the two first read the script. Then they brainstormed song titles. After that, Jerome sat down at the piano and began to improvise while Scholl listened in. The improvising could go on for hours. Once Jerome had the melody for a song worked out, Scholl wrote the lyrics. But Scholl was famously forgetful, so when it came time to present their songs to Warner Brothers’ executives, Jerome both played the music and sang the lyrics.
While Jerome and Scholl were a team working on music for live action films, another pair of artists worked on Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Carl Stalling joined Warner Brothers in 1936 as musical director. It was a position he held until his retirement 22 years later, in 1958. He wrote and conducted musical scores for more than six hundred cartoons. Setting to music the antics of Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny and more, Stalling was a master of synchronizing tunes to align perfectly with the animation on screen. His music was vigorous, funny, and inventive. He particularly liked to use the sounds of bassoons and trombones for comedic effects and the viola for creating an aura of mystery. In the 1940s, when Warner Brothers was churning out three or four cartoons a month, Stalling was composing practically nonstop. He conducted a 50-piece Warner Brothers’ studio orchestra. Recording the score for a seven-minute cartoon took three hours.
Michael Maltese was one of the mainstays of Warner Brothers’ cartoon making talent from 1937 to 1958. On occasion he worked with Carl Stalling, including on the 1941 Looney Tunes cartoon Notes to You starring Porky Pig.
Maltese employed a story board, populated with his sketches which were pinned to the board with thumbtacks, to convey the story line of each cartoon he wrote. He walked, story board sketches in hand, to Stalling’s office to brainstorm with him about the music to accompany each scene. Maltese used the story boards to pitch his ideas to Warner Brothers executives. He acted out the scenes on each story board himself, complete with character voices. Maltese explained, “You have to make an idiot of yourself when you act it out – and I loved it.” He believed that the secret to Warner Brother Pictures success in animated films was that “we wrote cartoons for grownups”. Characters were often sarcastic and irreverent. The cartoons were filled with gags, slapstick, and puns. Maltese took inspiration from the Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton movies he loved as a child. His most famous cartoon was the 1957 What’s Opera, Doc? featuring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. It is considered by animation aficionados to be one of the best cartoons of the 20th century.
But it was Maltese’s story about Tweety, a little yellow cartoon bird, who starred in the cartoon Tweetie Pie, that won him an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1947. Another Academy Award soon followed in 1949 with For Scent-imental Reasons, which starred the skunk Pepé Le Pew.
Maltese is also co-credited with originating the characters of Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, whose madcap adventures featured among the 1,027 cartoons he created for Warner Brothers.
The cartoon character creations of Mike Maltese and the music of Moe Jerome and Carl Stalling live on in streaming services and television reruns today. For greater insight into the creative processes behind the scenes at Warner Brothers Pictures in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, visit the American Heritage Center, where you can see the Michael Maltese papers, the M.K. Jerome papers and the Carl Stalling papers.
Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.
The Wyoming Union on the University of Wyoming opened on March 3, 1939, and soon became the “living room of campus,” as described on the Union’s website.
The university had expanded greatly since its inception in 1886 with a much higher student population. A large gathering space was desired and, by 1935, serious discussions to build a student union ensued. Bonds were issued against student fees to provide construction monies and federal funds were sought and received from the Public Works Administration, which was a Depression era recovery program created in 1933 to offer employment through the building of large-scale public works. Via the PWA, students were hired to do some of the construction work, including stone cutting. The federal agency provided a $128,250 grant toward the project, whose total cost was $295,955, which, adjusted for inflation, is $6,274,183 in today’s dollars.
William Dubois, a prolific Wyoming architect from Cheyenne, designed the structure late in his career. UW Trustees approved the final building plans during their meeting on December 9, 1937. This swanky new three-story campus social spot would feature a soda fountain, billiard room, game room, and a large ballroom for students to shake a leg. Necessary facilities such as a post office, bookstore, and meeting spaces were also included. As student housing was still in high demand, dormitory space was incorporated onto the third floor. Construction began in November 1937 and completed in February 1939, an event celebrated by faculty and staff with a sedate formal attire banquet in the new dining room. Perhaps the students had a much livelier celebration in the new ballroom.
Several additions have occurred since the Union opened. In 1956, plans moved forward to add space to the north, including the expansion of the basement. This addition included more ballroom space and the addition of a bowling alley. Also added to the plan was a 42-room hotel. This was met with resistance from business owners and was removed. The project was completed in time for the start of school in the fall of 1959.
The Union holds several noteworthy murals, the best known of which is in a ballroom located on the second floor – Lynn Fausett’s 7 x 28-foot depiction of the “western welcome” of President Arthur Crane to UW in 1922 in which the new president and his family were greeted with a mock hold-up and kidnapping from their Laramie-bound automobile by students dressed in cowboy regalia.
The mural was dedicated in 1940, while Crane was still the university’s president. The artwork originally hung in the student lounge and later in the grand staircase of the union but was moved to its present location in the West Ballroom in 2003 following restoration funded by the class of 1958.
More additions and restructuring were completed to the Union in 1973 and in 2002. Although the soda fountain and the bowling alley were removed, the updates did create more dining options as well as vital campus programming relating to student government, Greek Life, diversity programs, and more.
The Union remains the university’s living room and offers a variety of entertainment, dining, and meeting options. Learn more about the Union’s history in the collections of the American Heritage Center. Also take a look at the Center’s virtual exhibit “Keeping History Alive: 136 Years of Progress” for more information on University of Wyoming building history.
Post submitted by University Archivist and Historian John Waggener with additions by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.
Many people who have visited Wyoming’s capitol city at one time or another have probably driven on Carey Avenue. This well-traveled thoroughfare goes through the heart of Cheyenne on the west side of the State Capitol. But from where does the prominence of the Carey name originate?
It all began with Joseph Maull Carey. Born in Delaware on January 19, 1845, Carey came to Wyoming Territory in 1869. Other members of his family found their way to Wyoming not long after. Shortly after his arrival, Carey was appointed the first United States Attorney for the newly-organized territory. He would go on to serve as an associate justice of the Wyoming Territorial Supreme Court from 1872 to 1876, after which he retired from the judiciary.
On September 27, 1877, Joseph Carey married Louisa David in Cheyenne. They had two sons, Robert Davis and Charles David. Robert followed in his father’s footsteps into Wyoming’s governorship and the U.S. Congress. Robert Carey served as governor of Wyoming from 1919 to 1923. He was elected in 1930 to fill out the remainder of Francis E. Warren’s U.S. Senate term. Warren died in November 1929 at the age of 85. Robert served as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming until his death in 1937.
From 1885 to 1891, Joseph Carey served as the Wyoming territorial delegate to Congress. He introduced and shepherded the bill through Congress that would eventually create the State of Wyoming. The State’s admission to the Union was controversial. Wyoming had granted women the right to vote in 1869, while the U.S. had not yet granted this right. Wyoming was ultimately granted admission with its women’s suffrage intact on July 10, 1890. Suffragists sought to leverage Wyoming’s admission to gain women’s right to vote nationwide. Among them was prominent suffragist Susan B. Anthony. She referred to Carey as, “the father of Wyoming’s freedom for women.…” in her invitation to him to speak at a convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1893. An invitation from Anthony dated May 24, 1894, asked Carey to address the New York Constitutional Convention in support of women’s suffrage. She suggested that Carey’s words could encourage convention delegates to support women’s suffrage. In spite of his and suffragists’ effort, it would be another 23 years before women in New York enjoyed the right to vote and 26 years before women in the United States were granted that right via the 19th Amendment.
In addition to Joseph Carey’s judicial and political careers, he had extensive business interests in Wyoming. Carey organized the J.M. Carey and Bros. Land Company, the Wheatland Development Company, and Wheatland Industrial Company. In addition, he was a president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
Joseph M. Carey died on February 5, 1924. Upon their father’s death, Robert and Charles continued to manage the J.M. Carey and Brothers Land Company. Charles Carey died in 1935.
The Carey family was influential throughout much of Wyoming’s early history. More information about the family can be found in their papers housed at the American Heritage Center. You can also view digitized letters, speeches and other documents concerning Joseph and Robert Carey in the AHC’s Digital Collections portal.
Post contributed by AHC Digitization Technician Sara Saulcy.
During the Vietnam War more than 1,800 Americans were held prisoner or were missing in action in Southeast Asia. Among them was Army Major Theodore “Ted” Gostas of Sheridan. Gostas was born in Butte, Montana, on December 13, 1938. After enduring a difficult childhood and an abusive father, Gostas enrolled in the University of Wyoming. He majored in English literature, with a minor in history. It was at UW that he met his first wife, Johanna.
Ted joined the Army and he and Johanna moved frequently as his career in the military advanced. Eventually Ted was sent for military intelligence training and then on to Army language school, where he learned German. He and Johanna and their two children relocated to Germany and Ted was assigned to the U.S. Army intelligence service there.
Ted had advanced to the rank of Captain and, when presented the opportunity to go to Vietnam, felt called to serve. Johanna and their young family (they had a son, Demetrius, and a daughter, Laura, and Johanna was expecting a baby boy) returned to Sheridan to be near Johanna’s relatives. In Vietnam, Ted was initially posted to Saigon, but given the chance to “be his own boss”, he agreed to relocate farther north to the city of Hue.
His tour of duty was to have lasted a year, and things were going smoothly in Hue, where Ted was assigned to the 135th Military Intelligence Battalion Provisional. Then, unexpectedly, the city came under attack. It was the beginning of the Tet Offensive, and the battle for control of Hue. As the fighting in Hue grew more intense, Ted took his secret military intelligence files out of the safe and burned everything. He attempted to radio for help, but communication lines had been cut. Much to his dismay, on February 1, 1968, Ted and a small group of his men were captured by the Viet Cong. It was the beginning of a long living nightmare.
Immediately after his capture, Ted was marched for more than two weeks. He walked much of the way barefoot after he gave his shoes to a Marine. Leeches affixed themselves to Ted’s feet, which “swelled up like balloons”. Fire ants bit him as he slept in the rough. And a Viet Cong soldier kicked him in the face, breaking both his glasses and his nose. Eventually he and the others who had been captured were loaded onto a truck, and from there he was taken to a small cell. With dimensions of 6x3x6 feet, it felt like a coffin. He remained in solitary confinement, only to be interrogated daily. At one point, a Russian officer told Ted that a military tribunal had sentenced him to death. For months, each time a guard arrived at his cell, Ted was convinced that the trip from his cell would be his last.
Meanwhile, back in Sheridan, Johanna was raising Demetrius, Laura, and Jasen.
They all faced the terrible uncertainty of families of prisoners of war. Jasen had never met his father. Johanna held out hope that Ted was still alive, even though she never received a letter from him or any word that he was being held captive. She was concerned about her children, who “also daily carry this heavy sadness and fear in their hearts.” Demetrius, the eldest of the Gostas children, wrote:
Johanna channeled some of her own worry in action. She worked tirelessly on behalf of her husband and the other Wyoming POW/MIA families as the Wyoming coordinator of the National League of Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Families. She organized letter writing campaigns. Tens of thousands of letters went out to congress members, foreign embassies and even the President of North Vietnam.
Johanna spoke in Wyoming to community organizations like the Jaycees and the VFW. Working to raise attention to the plight of the Wyoming prisoners of war and missing in action, she helped to prepare flyers and publicity featuring photos of the POWs/MIAs. She circulated petitions, wrote letters, rallied support, and attended endless meetings.
Through her activism, Johanna became aware of the horrific conditions the prisoners of war were enduring. Men had been chained in dark jungle prisons, in bamboo cages or forced to live in deep tunnel complexes, sometimes chained in six foot, grave-like pits in the ground. Johanna wrote “we, the families, know that with every day that goes by, there will be fewer of our loved one coming home, and those that do return will have less of a chance of returning home well, both physically and mentally, under the conditions under which they are being held captive.”
Ted was amongst those men. Kept largely in solitary confinement, he had been interrogated, bashed in the head with the butt of an automatic rifle, strung up from the rafters by his armpits, starved, deprived of water, subject to inhumane conditions and more. Ted was losing hope. He felt discouraged and abandoned. He had never been allowed to write Johanna and received no Red Cross packages or letters from home. This, despite the fact that Johanna had been sending him messages using official North Vietnamese forms.
As the war in Vietnam dragged on, the work of the National League of Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Families became more urgent. It was clear that North Vietnam and allies were not respecting the tenets of the 1954 Geneva Convention. Names of prisoners were not being released, prisoners were not being given sufficient food or adequate medical care and neutral parties like the Red Cross were blocked from having access to prisoner of war camps.
Johanna’s involvement with the National League of Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Families took her to Washington D.C. where she lobbied politicians and ambassadors of foreign governments to put pressure on North Vietnam, the Viet Cong and the Pathet Lao to abide by the Geneva Convention. She even traveled as far as Paris to meet with the members of a North Vietnamese delegation and to Geneva to raise awareness with the International Red Cross and other countries that had been signatories to the Geneva Convention.
As for Ted, he had spent nearly four and a half years in various jungle prison camps. After that he was moved to the Hoa Lo prison, colloquially called the “Hanoi Hilton” by captured prisoners. It was there that he learned from a North Vietnamese officer that his release was imminent. But first he had to learn to say “thank you for your humane and lenient treatment” in Vietnamese. Ted had been a prisoner of war for 5 years, 1 month and 15 days in anything but humane and lenient conditions.
By the time he was released, on March 16, 1973, Ted was gravely ill. His intestines were riddled with hookworms. He had eighteen abscessed teeth. He had been tortured, both mentally and physically. Captivity made him bitter. In reflecting on his experiences, Ted said “war brings out the worst in men and the best in men—but mostly the worst.”
After his return to the U.S., Ted was assigned to the 6th Army Headquarters in San Francisco. According to Ted, Johanna refused to move with the children to California, and she and Ted divorced. Ted went on to marry twice more. He wrote and illustrated a book of poetry titled Prisoner about his experiences in Vietnam. And he received a medical discharge from the Army in 1977. For his service, Gostas received a Bronze Star Medal and other awards. Today Ted devotes himself to painting and drawing and has raised funds for college scholarships for the children of indigent veterans.
Concern over the future of water in the West is growing. Record breaking droughts and rapidly growing cities where water is already scarce has strained the current water infrastructure to its limits. The current path appears unsustainable, so in the words and imagery of W.B. Yeats, will the “centre…hold“?
I grew up in a small town in the Big Horn Basin of Northwest Wyoming. It’s a desert that has been nourished by the visions of people like William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody and John Wesley Powell––my hometown actually bears Powell’s name. There’s another figure though, one I was unaware of until recently, who arguably did more to shape the current state of water in the American West than any other figure. He’s responsible for the dams named Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge, and Navajo. His mark is everywhere across the West, and he made it clear that he knew his impact.
Floyd Dominy was Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation from 1959 to 1969 and donated many personal and career files to the American Heritage Center after his retirement. At the age of 90, Dominy, during an interview with High Country News in 2000, expressed that the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell were his crown jewels.
Lake Powell has been a recreation and agriculture boon. Box 27 of Dominy’s papers contain remarks made Lady Bird Johnson in 1966 at the Glen Canyon Dam dedication: “[S]ome 3 million people have visited Lake Powell in the short time since Glen Canyon Dam has been built, whereas only a handful of hardy river runners had ever experienced its natural marvels in all the years past.” She also pronounced that the dam symbolized the “winning of the West.” This statement couples uncomfortably with her quoting of Daniel Webster just a couple paragraphs later, “What do we do want with this vast worthless area––this region of savages…” and her justification of the quote by claiming the “West was indeed an inhospitable land, no one yet realized the vastness of its resources.”
Misunderstood in these statements was that, for many, the land was not “worthless.” It held memory––the lives, history, and power of Native Nations and peoples for whose home this is. Remarks from Dominy and First Lady Johnson contain the brutal philosophy of Manifest Destiny, a rallying cry of the 19th century maintaining that white Americans were divinely ordained to settle and capitalize on the entire continent of North America. Remnants of that philosophy continued to echo into the 20th century and still reverberate today.
I’ve come to realize the very creations that have allowed for the American way of life in the West are faltering, and the vultures are circling. The dams and water projects of Dominy and other western visionaries are now viewed by many as ecological and social disasters. Dominy considered himself to be the Messiah of the West. If his prophecies and miracles were to fail, and some already have, the “centre [will not] hold.”
My home would not exist as it does without Dominy. However, when I run along the canals this summer and see the water flowing from a reservoir just outside of our nation’s first national park, I’ll see poisoned water. Water poisoned by states and a nation that continue to erase Native peoples and abuse Mother Earth.
To learn more about Dominy and western water conservation, see the Floyd E. Dominy papers at the American Heritage Center.
Post contributed by University of Wyoming student Cody Akin.
“You are – I say it without a qualm – our star contributing editor. You have given us the most of any one on our list – and all good too.” When the editor of The Woman Citizen, Virginia Roderick, wrote this to University of Wyoming Professor Grace Raymond Hebard in 1922, she could only speculate on the treasure trove of what would become 87 boxes, or 44.3 cubic feet, of archival material—Hebard’s life work.
For the last several years I have been finding and sharing the stories I discover in Hebard’s collection in communities across Wyoming. In 1922, the same year Roderick reached out to thank Hebard, two Wyoming towns elected women to serve as mayor and on their town councils. As a historian wanting to know more about their stories, I can’t help but to feel the same gratitude Roderick expressed to Hebard. Hebard wrote to the elected women to both congratulate them and ask for their motivations in seeking office. The lively correspondence between Hebard and Cokeville’s mayor, Ethel Stoner, contains Stoner’s account of her arrest on a charge of assault and battery. Using Hebard’s collection at the AHC as my starting point, I was able to publish an article on Ethel Stoner in February 2023 in WyoHistory.org.
In Hebard’s papers, you can find questions she sent to another female mayor, Gertrude Kirby, who served in Moorcroft, Wyoming. Hebard sent these questions at the end of Kirby’s year in office.
Why did you and your two women Councilmen run for office?
Did you have some special measure that you expected to put through?
Had the social conditions in Moorcroft been such that you felt that a woman as Mayor might bring about desired results?
Did you have much campaigning to do to be elected?
What was your vote and what vote against you?
How did the town of Moorcroft and the other members of your Council treat the idea of a woman being Mayor?
Were you able to put across your desired projects?
Why did you not run for a second term of office?
You can read some of Gertrude Kirby’s responses to Hebard’s questionnaire in Hebard’s file on Moorcroft, which the AHC has digitized.
Since her death in 1936, Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard has had her credentials questioned, her integrity as a historian tarnished, and unflattering egotism assigned to her motivations. As a result, one of the women who helped to shape the character and build the educational infrastructure of Wyoming from territorial days into statehood, is largely unknown and forgotten across the state. Having only read the caricaturized version of her found in the secondary sources and then learning she changed the original design of the Wyoming State Flag, I first approached her archival records with the question, “Just who did this woman think she was?”
It turns out, Wyoming wouldn’t have our state flag without the Grace Raymond Hebard I have encountered so far. She was both a deeply patriotic woman and the first historian to argue that woman “suffrage came to Wyoming as a by-product of the Civil War.” She invested her own money in the preservation and memorialization of history across the state. In letters with one of the last living soldiers of the Wagon Box Fight, Hebard agreed to send money for his unpublished manuscript of the fight, first explaining that she would be personally purchasing it and not the state. According to her letter, the state had set aside $500 for two years work and that summer alone she had spent more than that “from my own pocketbook.” Thanks to Hebard’s efforts to gather testimony and her willingness to personally finance the work, three different survivors of the fight came to Wyoming to help locate the original site, which was then marked by the state.
Hebard didn’t just gather testimony of western expansion and territorial days from former U.S. soldiers—she also gathered testimony from the Shoshone nation, and she kept a record of the activities of women and their accomplishments. Her efforts to gather and preserve the early stories of our state from multiple, often underrepresented perspectives make her archival collection at the AHC the treasure trove that it is. I say thank you, Dr. Hebard, for all that you have given us historians today!
Post contributed by Kylie McCormick, owner of KLM Wyoming Historian and Assistant Editor of WyoHistory.org, a program of the Wyoming Historical Society.
June 3, 1922, Letter from Virginia Roderick to Grace Raymond Hebard (GRH), Box 21, Folder 8, GRH papers, AHC, University of Wyoming (UW).
Letter from GRH to Gertrude Kirby, Box 29, Folder 7, GRH papers, AHC, UW.
November 11, 1919, Speech delivered by GRH, Box 21, Folder 6, GRH papers, AHC, UW.
Oct. 12, 1915, Letter from GRH to Samuel S. Gibson, Box 36, Folder 15, GRH papers, AHC, UW.