‘Plopped Down in the Middle of That’: Indian Boarding School Life Documented in the Warm Valley Historical Project

The Warm Valley Historical Project, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, was conducted from 1990 to 1991 in coordination with the Shoshone Episcopal Mission to interview residents about Wind River Reservation life during the early 1900s. Research material focused on turn-of-the-century reservation life, experiences during the Great Depression, boarding school life, traditional crafts and therapies, employment opportunities, ranching, farming, language, etc. Though the project focused on Eastern Shoshone perspectives and memories, interviews were also conducted with Arapaho tribal members.

Shoshone Mission School with male students, ca. 1900. On the far left is Sherman Coolidge (1862-1932), an Episcopal priest and educator who spent 26 years preaching and teaching on the Wind River Reservation. He helped found and lead the Society of American Indians, the first American Indian rights organizations run by and for American Indians.
John Roberts papers, Box 3, Folder 3, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Eva Enos (1915-2003) was interviewed in 1991. She talked mainly of the government schools, or boarding schools. At six years of age, Enos began attending the Shoshone-Episcopal Mission School for Shoshone Girls, which had been built from 1889 to 1890 on the reservation under the direction of Reverend John Roberts, an Episcopal priest. Previously only a boy’s school existed. The girl’s school was made possible when Shoshone Chief Washakie made a personal gift of 160 acres as a school site, with the idea that all his people should receive an education so that they would be prepared to live within the quickly encroaching white society.

In her interview, Eva said that they “took ‘em from home when they were about six” and that they “stayed there all from one school year,” from September to May, and returned home for the summer and for the holiday season. Enos remembered living in “cottages” with fifteen other girls, the boys living the same way, and that the older students had to look after the younger students, even with housemothers around. The housemothers, and all the other teachers and staff, were white, all of whom were strangers to the children. The children were expected to get up, make their beds, bathe, etc. mostly on their own.

Shoshone Mission School with female students, ca. 1900. Reverend John Roberts is shown on the far right with two of his five children. John Roberts papers, Box 3, Folder 3, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Enos explained that classes were Monday through Friday in the morning and afternoon on topics such as history, geography, and math. The girls also learned how to sew and cook while the boys were taught woodworking, metal work, and farming. Sundays were spent largely at church with services twice a day. She remembers that on Sunday afternoons between services, the older girls would do beadwork – belts, buckskins, etc. – with materials provided by the school.

Nearly six years was spent at the mission school before Enos and other students were sent to Rapid City Indian School, located in South Dakota. It was a particularly strict off-reservation school, 28 of which were found throughout the United States. The main purpose of these schools was to compel mastery of English and to assimilate American Indian children into white society. Enos recalls that the students were kept on strict time schedules, regimented like the military, which was a huge change from freedom of life at home. She remembers having to refamiliarize herself as she navigated between school and reservation life. Headlice was a big problem, she explains, especially after students had returned to the reservation. They had to get checked every time they returned to school from their summer break. Eva also remembers the painful separation from her brothers while at school as boys were segregated to their own dormitories, dining halls, and classrooms.

Dormitory at the Rapid City Indian School. This setting would have been wholly unlike what the children were accustomed to at home. Photo courtesy the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Eva explained that many students tried to run away and return to the reservation or just away from the schools, but that an Indian cop or sheriff would bring them back or their parents would do so if they made it home. Indeed, according to Scott Riner, author of the 2014 book The Rapid City Indian School, 1898–1933, not only did the harsh regimen drive students away but so did hunger from measly meals that lacked nutrition or variety.

Yet, Enos found life at the South Dakota school freer than the mission school nearer her home in Wyoming. The Rapid City school had town days when students with money could go into town to shop. Eva was able to buy makeup. She also remembers school dances, particularly one at which she tried for the first time a popular dance step of the mid-1920s called the “Charleston.” Enos actually grew to like the school, which she attended for nearly four years before it was closed in 1933. Students were then sent back to school at Wind River.

From 1929, the girls’ Rapid City basketball team are in the top two rows. This photo was taken while Eva Enos attended the school, although it’s not known if she is pictured. Photo courtesy the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Eva Enos was just one of many former students and American Indians who contributed to the Warm Valley Historical Project. Other interviewees also offered their memories of school life. Also discussed were traders who visited the reservation, the dwindling of the Arapaho language, the Great Depression, and a variety of other subjects relating to their lives. The most prevalent topic, however, was the schools. Whether it was the mission schools, the Rapid City Indian School, or other schools, all the interviewees had something to say about their experiences. The collection contains an exhibit catalog titled From Trout Creek to Gravy High: The Boarding School Experience at Wind River. The complete guide to the collection can be found at https://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:80444/xv653121.

Post contributed by AHC Archives Intern Brittany Heye.


Posted in American Indian history, Arapaho, Cultural assimilation, Eastern Shoshone, Indigenous Peoples, Uncategorized, women's history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Meet Grande Dame Guignol at the American Heritage Center

This Halloween, we consider the sub-genre of horror films referred to as “Grande Dame Guignol,” also known as “Hagsploitation,” “Psycho-biddy,” or “Hag Horror,” and three films in that sub-genre that are represented in three of our collections.

Films of this type feature “a formerly-glamorous older woman who has become mentally unbalanced and terrorizes those around her.” Author Caroline Young in her book Crazy Ladies: The Story of Hag Horror notes that the films cast “an aging movie star as the monster, or victim, who lives in a creepy home with a creaking staircase that offers an easy metaphor for her descent into madness, with her basement or attic the womb-like space that holds her darkest secrets.” Such films include Dead Ringer (1964), Lady in a Cage (1964), Die! Die! My Darling! (1965), The Nanny (1965), What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969), What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971), and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971).

Two stars who appeared in several of these films were Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and they both starred in what is considered to be the first film in the sub-genre, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Directed by Robert Aldrich and based on a novel by Henry Farrell, the film deals with a former child star, Baby Jane Hudson (Davis), who torments her paraplegic sister, Blanche Hudson (Crawford). 

A follow-up movie, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), was also directed by Aldrich and based on a short story by Farrell. As depicted in the recent TV series Feud about the decades-long rivalry between Davis and Crawford, both actors were to star in “Charlotte,” but Crawford left the production and was replaced by Olivia de Havilland.

The American Heritage Center has the papers of Frank DeVol, a prolific composer of film and television, who scored seventeen films for director Aldrich, including both “Baby Jane” and “Charlotte.” His scores for those films are included his papers. 

The AHC also has the papers of Forrest J. Ackerman, the editor of the fanzine Famous Monsters of Filmland, which include a poster for “Charlotte.”

A theatrical poster promoting Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1965). Box 132, Forrest J. Ackerman papers, Collection No. 2358, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Another prominent “Hagsploitation” film is Strait-Jacket (1964), which starred Crawford as a woman who, having killed her husband and his lover years earlier, is released from a psychiatric hospital as the film begins. Directed by William Castle and co-starring Diane Baker (who, almost thirty years later played Senator Ruth Martin in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs) as Crawford’s daughter, the film was written by Robert Bloch, best known as the author of the 1959 novel Psycho, the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film of the same name.

The AHC has Bloch’s papers, which include several posters for Strait-Jacket, one of which is from the release of the film in Belgium. 

A theatrical poster promoting Strait-Jacket (1964). Box 384, Robert Bloch papers, Collection No. 2256, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
A theatrical poster promoting the Belgian release of Strait-Jacket (1964). Box 15, Robert Bloch papers, Collection No. 2256, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Also included in the collection are copies of two drafts of Bloch’s script for the film, as well as Call Sheets for the film and for a trailer for the film that included Crawford, Bloch, and Castle. Many of the documents in Bloch’s papers include Bloch’s handwritten annotations.

A Call Sheet from the production of Strait-Jacket. Robert Bloch’s annotation says, “Crawford always insists on air conditioning – we froze!” Box 11, Robert Bloch papers, Collection No. 2256, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
A Call Sheet from the production of a trailer for Strait-Jacket. Robert Bloch’s annotation says, “I wrote and appeared in this 5-minute special advertising trailer – with Joan Crawford and William Castle. Crawford’s and my ‘clinch’ burned up the screen with its torrid romance.” Box 11, Robert Bloch papers, Collection No. 2256, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Happy Halloween!

Post contributed by AHC Archivist Roger Simon (our resident film expert).


Posted in Actors, Holidays, Hollywood history, Horror, Motion picture actors and actresses, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Buffalo Bill Dam – Discover the Story of Wyoming’s Tallest Dam

The Buffalo Bill Dam was designed by engineer Daniel Webster Cole and built between 1905 and 1910. It was one of the first projects undertaken by the U.S. Reclamation Service (later known as the Bureau of Reclamation). The dam sits between Cody, Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park, up the south fork of the Shoshone river. It is surrounded by Rattlesnake, Spirit and Sheep Mountain.

Pipes used in the construction of Buffalo Bill Dam, November 1, 1908. Box 1, Buffalo Bill Dam Construction photograph album, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
The Buffalo Bill Dam under construction, October 13, 1908. Box 1, Buffalo Bill Dam Construction photograph album, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody photo file, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Shoshone Dam was the original name for the massive structure. “The name ‘Shoshone’ comes from Sosoni, a Shoshone word for high-growing grasses. Some neighboring tribes call the Shoshone “Grass House People,” based on their traditional homes made from sosoni. Shoshones call themselves Newe, meaning ‘People.’1 In 1946, the dam was renamed Buffalo Bill Dam after the famous William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, who founded the nearby town of Cody, Wyoming.

The small town of Marquette was nestled where the Buffalo Bill Reservoir now resides. The town had a dance hall, post office, barbershop, saloon, and a general store. “Buffalo Bill Cody owned a small 80-acre tract in Marquette that was separate from his sprawling T.E. Ranch on the South Fork. The government paid him $3,900 for the property, or about $86,000 in today’s dollars.”2 Most of the buildings in Marquette that could be salvaged were moved, with many becoming part of the new town of Cody.

“Buffalo Bill’s” T.E. Ranch. William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody photo file, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Many of the laborers who worked to build the dam were immigrants. They faced considerable challenges. Tools at their disposal were rudimentary – shovels, buckets, 2-man hacksaws and wooden ladders. The men were dwarfed by the canyon and by the dam as it went up.

Several of the workers on the Buffalo Bill Dam, 1908. Box 1, Buffalo Bill Dam Construction photograph album, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
The Buffalo Bill Dam under construction, 1908. Note the tiny human figures suspended over the construction site. Box 1, Buffalo Bill Dam Construction photograph album, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The deep granite canyon was sometimes flooded by unpredictable Shoshone River flows rendering work on the dam impossible. And the site lacked natural deposits of sand and gravel needed for construction, so granite boulders were placed into the cement by hand. The remote nature of the canyon meant it was hard to find and keep laborers. Workers on the dam were responsible for what may have been Wyoming’s first labor strike. They demanded and received more than three dollars a shift.

Some of the workers on the Buffalo Bill Dam, 1908. Box 1, Buffalo Bill Dam Construction photograph album, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

“The Shoshone Dam was one of the most impressive engineering feats of the early 1900s, and it later served to inspire the world-famous Hoover Dam.”3 At the time the dam was finished it was the tallest dam in the world. Standing 325 feet tall, “it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and named a National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1973.”4

Laborers poured the last bucket of concrete on January 15, 1910, with freezing temperatures reaching 15 below zero. In all, they had poured 82,900 cubic yards of concrete. The successful construction of the dam came along with its own sacrifices. Besides the ruthless weather to contend with, working conditions were extremely dangerous – workers were often suspended above water and on rocky cliff sides. Sadly, seven workers died during the construction of the dam.

The Buffalo Bill Dam, 1908. Box 1, Buffalo Bill Dam Construction photograph album, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Once complete, the dam made it possible to irrigate the Bighorn Basin, turning it from a desert sagebrush landscape to productive agricultural land. This was crucial for the livelihood of the people calling the surrounding areas home. The dam also played a significant role during World War II by supporting more fertile farmland for the Japanese American internees in the Heart Mountain Relocation Center. “At its peak, the Heart Mountain Relocation Center housed 10,767 people, many of whom worked on sections of the canal system originally slated for contract work, but which now supplied water to irrigate fields of the internees. Internees succeeded in growing a cornucopia of vegetables including green beans, peas, carrots, spinach, beets, corn, tomatoes, and potatoes, as well as barley and wheat.”5

Today, the dam irrigates more than 93,000 acres. The farms in the surrounding area still grow beans, alfalfa, oats, barley, and sugar beets, providing job opportunities for the tightly knit communities.  On the west side of the dam, you will find Buffalo Bill State Park and a reservoir where locals and tourists can camp, cliff jump, hike, fish, and boat.

This blog post is based on a Virmuze virtual exhibit curated by American Heritage Center archives aide Amanda Wells.

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


[1] Loether, Christopher. “Shoshones.” Encyclopedia of the Great Plains accessed 21 May 2020. http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.na.105 

[2] Prevost, Ruffin. “Dam doomed tiny town of Marquette.” Billings Gazette, 15 November 2015. https://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/dam-doomed-tiny-town-of-marquette/article_eddaf432-f1a6-5155-8317-d3a0d3436fea.html 

[3] Margaraci, Kim. “Most People Don’t Know the Tragic History of Wyoming’s Most Famous Dam.” Only In Your State, 26 September 2018. https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/wyoming/buffalo-bill-dam-wy/ 

[4] The National Park Service. “Buffalo Bill Dam, Wyoming.” WyoHistory, 8 November 2014. https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/buffalo-bill-dam-wyoming 

[5] Ibid.

Posted in Agricultural history, Construction, Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Immigration, Irrigation, Shoshone Dam, Uncategorized, water resources, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How the Library of a 19th Century Club for Elites Ended Up at the University of Wyoming

In the Toppan Rare Books Library, there are several sub-collections of books. These sub-collections reflect where the Rare Books Library acquired the books, whether it was by donation, a transfer from a different part of the University of Wyoming, or purchase. One such unique subset of books is the Denver Club Collection, which is made up of a portion of books acquired from the Denver Club in the 1950s.

The Denver Club was a social club founded July 29, 1880, by prominent and wealthy male Denver citizens. The Denver Club followed in the steps of other social clubs such as the Cheyenne Club in Cheyenne, Wyoming, founded that same year. These clubs were to be spaces for the prominent elite to gather for business, leisure, or other purposes, with a main attraction being the connections one might make there. The clubs were purposely exclusive; the membership initially was limited to (white) men and in 1885 the initial membership fee was $100 with $80 in dues annually.

After meeting in a hotel in downtown Denver for several years, the Denver Club had a clubhouse built in 1888 at the corner of 17th and Glenarm St. The clubhouse featured luxurious accommodations, such as a dining room, private rooms for club members to reserve for meetings, a billiards hall, and a library for members’ use. The Denver Club library was an ornately furnished room clearly designed to evoke a refined appearance and feeling. The library collection held a variety of books including the works of Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson, as well as a wide selection of English literature in single-bound editions and volumes. The collection of books in the Denver Club Library likely reflects the tastes and interests of its members, as well as how the members might have liked their tastes and interests to be perceived.

The Denver Club building constructed in 1888. Courtesy Denver Public Library, call number X-25092.
The Denver Club’s library. Courtesy Denver Public Library, call number WHJ-10371.

In the 1950s, the Denver Club believed they needed new accommodations. The old clubhouse was torn down and construction began on one of Denver’s first skyscrapers, in which the Denver Club would occupy the top few floors. As part of this transition, furnishings and other items from the old building were sold and auctioned, including the collection of the club library. A Laramie Republican and Boomerang article dated July 21, 1952, notes that the University of Wyoming purchased the Denver Club library of 6000 books for a “very reasonable price” as well as the display shelves and catalog index. It took two trucks to bring the collection from Denver to Laramie.

Author’s photograph of Denver Club on American Heritage Center shelving.

The new DC Building still stands on the corner of 17th and Glenarm in Denver, and a selection of the books of the old Denver Club library are now housed in the Toppan Rare Books Library at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming, where you can view any of the books that were once in the exclusive club library.

Post contributed by Toppan Rare Books Library Assistant Marcus Holscher.


Sources used:

Atherton, Lewis. The Cattle Kings. Indiana University Press, 1961.

Whitacre, Christine. The Denver Club: 1880-1995. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc., and The Denver Club. 1998.

Posted in Authors and literature, Book history, Toppan Rare Books Library, Uncategorized, University of Wyoming history | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Roped In: Sara Hagel and Horsehair Rope Making

What is simple work? In a fast-paced society, we often overlook jobs which require a lot of time, skill, and mistake making to master.

Many jobs today are considered “simple,” “easy,” or “low-skill” despite requiring specific skills and a great amount of practice and training. Many aspects of folklife are no different—especially fiber arts. In fact, most fiber arts are considered “women’s work” or considered “simple hobbies” and often treated less seriously, especially as manufacturers can quickly put out quilts, gloves, wall hangings, and more. This results in many people finding less importance and understanding in the value of handmade textiles. Other fiber arts are forgotten altogether, or not considered as such because they differ from the most known forms such as knitting or embroidery.

One particular fiber artist caught my eye while scouring the Wyoming Folklife Archive: Sara Hagel, a horsehair rope maker form Dayton, Wyoming. With a machine that has an interesting history based in accommodating disability and a love for her craft, Hagel has been making and selling rope for decades and has all but mastered her craft. Knowing what conditions make the best rope, how to twist hairs to create patterns, and even building her own shed to maintain humidity for the rope, Hagel’s work has certainly earned a spotlight.

A close-up of five ropes twisted by Sara Hagel. The ropes are made of black, white, grey, and various shades of brown horsehair with patterns of stripes and dots. Photo taken by Elaine Thatcher. Digital file ahcdm_545018_002, Wyoming Folklife Archive, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Hagel’s machine was built in 1929 for a man named Sam Champlin. Having previously been a miner, Champlin had been blinded after an accident at work. Without many social safety nets in place, his outlook for job opportunities and financial stability was grim. But friendship and community came to Champlin’s aid. One of Champlin’s friends had been taught by his father how to make rope, and he offered to pass he skill onto Champlin. Over a period of two years, Champlin’s friends gathered found and salvaged parts to build a rope machine for Champlin. Using tracks and pieces of carts from gold mines, this group of friends was able to help Champlin start a new career which provided for him and his wife until he eventually retired three decades later.

In 1959, Champlin went to the California State School for the Blind. His goal was to pass on the skill to another blind person, as well as give them his machine. Eventually Bob Mills and his wife accepted the offer. Having previously planned on being chicken farmers, the Mills couple lived with Champlin and his wife for a year as Bob learned how to twist and make rope.

From 1959 until 1995, Mills continued to utilize Champlin’s machine. On his left would be black hair while white hair would be on his right side, the fibers cleaned and spun by this wife Pauline. This system was very helpful for Mills as it meant he could reliably twist rope without worrying about accidentally using the wrong color when twisting either single colored or patterned ropes. As health problems causing Mills’ blindness grew worse, the couple eventually made the decision to retire and sell the machine to the next generation of rope makers.

Luckily, Sara Hagel’s family knew the Mills well. Hagel had taken up horsehair rope making at age 13 when her father taught her as a summer job. While he hadn’t been fond of the process himself, his daughter truly enjoyed it. After picking up the machine from the Mills, Hagel took it home and began working on rope on her own.

A picture of the hook which anchors the start of the rope. Hagel walks away from the hook as she twists, allowing the rope to become longer. Photo taken by Elaine Thatcher. Digital file ahcdm_545018_002, Wyoming Folklife Archive, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Now selling her ropes through her business, Hagels’s Cowboy Gear, she markets her ropes to a broad range of clientele. Some are cowboys willing to pay a bit extra for their rope, some are collectors, but mostly buyers are those who visit horse clinics and, seeing the use of Hagel’s ropes there, they then seek her services.

With as many clients as Hagel receives and such an intensive process to follow, Hagel has taken to keeping records of every rope she makes. Usually making ropes in lengths of 22-24 feet, Hagel numbers each rope according to the year and the order in which it is made, records the length and diameter, and even the humidity of the shed when the rope was made. Hagel says that humidity plays a major factor in whether ropes end up breaking or becoming too soft, and that she aims to keep her shed between 30 or 60 percent humidity in order to make sure that wherever her rope goes, it will not be too humid or too dry for the rope to properly hold. She says that 45 percent is the perfect spot. Keeping these records not only helps Hagel to know the best rope-making conditions, but it makes it easier to replicate orders so clients needn’t remember exactly what colors or patterns they like in their rope when they’re ready to order a new one.

There are many complexities that come with making rope, including the fact that the sturdiest rope is twisted just shy of being tight enough to snap and the process must be periodically checked to ensure there are no clumps in the rope. Unfortunately, many people still do not recognize the hard work that goes into Hagel’s craft. While demonstrating her work at an event hosted by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, Hagel was dismayed to hear many visitors comment that her work was boring, reducing it to “walking backwards all day.” Hagel’s work does in fact require her to walk backwards, as she moves further back to add more fiber to the rope during the twisting process. Hagel quite enjoys this procedure, and it is a necessary step to lengthen the twists. Others insisted it was no different to their experiences learning simple rope-making as children in the Boy Scouts, ignoring the true craft of Hagel’s hard-won profession.

Hagel, pictured holding a bundle of horse hair in her arm while she twists a rope, walking further from the anchor to lengthen the twist. Photo taken by Elaine Thatcher. Digital file ahcdm_545018_002, Wyoming Folklife Archive, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Having spent this past summer working with the Wyoming Folklife Archive at the American Heritage Center, Hagel’s work stood out as I studied the fiber arts in Wyoming. Among knitters, weavers, and more, Hagel was the only rope maker to be found. Fiber arts often require precision, attention to detail, and dedication. Hagel’s work is certainly no exception to this. However, what stands out most about Hagel is that rope making is one of few textile arts often attributed to being “women’s work.” These ropes are especially important for ranch work and livestock handling and other such activities usually associated with men.

I wish all the best for Hagel, for more people in Wyoming to find interest in rope making, and for more people to understand that what may seem like simple work to them is incredibly skillful work, and an important part of Wyoming folklife that should be celebrated.

To learn more about Hagel, fiber arts, and folklife in Wyoming, see the Wyoming Folklife Archive at the American Heritage Center. You can also learn about other fiber artists in Wyoming by checking out the AHC’s online museum exhibit on Virmuze.

Post contributed by AHC Intern Ciel Larsen Hunter. Ciel, a student in the UW American Studies program, was a participant in a grant project from the Wyoming Arts Council to assist with the Wyoming Folklife Archive housed at the AHC.


Posted in Agricultural history, Agriculture, Artists, Folklife, Interns' projects, Livestock industry, Uncategorized, women's history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating Archives Month (Hint: It’s actually bigger than just a month)

October is American Archives Month! To celebrate, we’re highlighting ways in which archives are staying involved in current events around the world, featuring the American Heritage Center’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Wyoming. Archives like the AHC assist communities to not only preserve local history but to reflect on the state of the world. Or, in this case, the state of Wyoming.

The project began during the pandemic as the Center sought to collect and preserve residents’ experiences, thoughts, observations, and stories about the impact of the virus on every aspect of life, whether work, education, or home. The goal was to capture this moment in history by providing a voice to residents who might not be otherwise be represented in the historical record. The state of Wyoming, like the rest of the U.S. and much of the world, largely shut down during the height of the pandemic, leaving in its wake many disruptions and corresponding emotions to those disruptions.

The AHC’s COVID-19 collection now contains oral histories, articles, website captures, photographs, personal stories, correspondence, newspapers, and screenshots. Many of the collection’s images include masks, as they became everyone’s new normal. They range from self-drawn portraits, like the one below of community member Sarah Reilly, to that of Ursus, the bronze bear statue at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens also pictured below.

Community members also weighed in with their reactions to the initial onset of the pandemic, social distancing standards, and, for University of Wyoming students, the sudden shift to online classes after an extended spring break as well as canceling of the traditional commencement ceremony.

UW student Annie Stratton interviewed fellow student Christie Wildcat whose reflections on COVID’s beginnings and the university’s reactions were probably felt by many students. Wildcat said that she initially thought the virus wouldn’t come to Wyoming, that China’s lockdown would prevent it from spreading. As it became more prevalent in the news and the university announced extended spring break, she thought, “Oh cool! Longer spring break. We’ll be back.” Then came the dawning realization that, since many students were traveling for spring break, the virus could easily spread at UW. That’s when the thought hit her, “School’s going to be cancelled.”[1] And she was right. The University of Wyoming, and all U.S. universities, quickly had to transition to online classes and were even forced to cancel commencements or move them onto platforms like Zoom.

Much of student life transitioned to Zoom, and it was a struggle for both students and teachers. Some of the oral histories in the collection relay that UW students felt like professors weren’t prepared for the online transition and it made classes more difficult. Others reflected that the campus community didn’t know how to use Zoom, so all had to learn as they went. Figuring out how to make presentations and to work in groups with members now spread all over the U.S. and abroad was another challenge. Students who struggled with online classes complained that they were confronted with whole new ways of learning on the fly, and it was stressful experience. The experience was especially disconcerting for seniors, such as Wildcat, who were on the brink of celebrating their graduation from college

The COVID-19 collection also highlights the impact on Wyoming communities in general. The images below are parks, businesses, and restaurants that had to adjust policies, limit customer interactions, or shut down completely.

People of all ages were impacted by the pandemic, and the AHC’s collection reflects on those impacts, but there are also messages of hope for the future, a light at the end of the tunnel. From displays in store windows to lawn signs, the Wyoming community figured out ways to come together to promote hope and love. Many images of that kind contain paper heart cutouts and the hashtag #WorldofHearts.

As the pandemic continued, businesses worked out ways to remain open amidst social distancing requirements. For example, restaurants transitioned to take-out, carry-out, and curbside dining, Those messages of hope continued, and people took advantage of the time at home to learn new things, spend time with family, and reflect on the world around them.

The American Heritage Center’s project gathered materials about the pandemic from 2020-2021, including newspaper articles from around the state, flyers from Wyoming Health Fairs, UW faculty and staff listservs, online news articles and stories relating to the pandemic, donations such as poems and artwork, and more. The collection can be viewed through its finding aid.

So, in honor of Archives Month, please consider how you could use your local archive to document your community. It could be donating your reflections and thoughts through an oral history, volunteering, interning, or attending a local historical event. It’s is all important, so don’t hesitate to join in.

Post contributed by AHC Archives Intern Brittany Heye.


[1] Transcription of oral history of Christie Wildcat by Annie Stratton. Item ah560006_2_3, COVID-19 Collection Project, 2020-2021, Collection No. 560006. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Posted in American Archives Month, COVID-19, Digital collections, Local history, Uncategorized, University of Wyoming history, Wyoming history | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Art of the Hunt: Jake Korell’s Story

Jacob “Trapper Jake” Korell (1914-2013) was a legendary Wyomingite who had a bright personality and a passion for trapping. He was skillful and thoughtful in his work and held great respect for the animals he caught. He began trapping when he was seven and did not stop until his death at 99. So devoted was he that it even kept him out of school. His schooling was cut short due to his trapping of skunks; the odor making his teachers send him home, combined with the working of beet fields for his parents.

Jake Korell in front of a taxidermy exhibit at the Wind River Heritage Center. Taken by Jessica King.
Digital Art of the Hunt Collections, Wyoming Folklife Archive, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Jake was born in Nebraska and moved to the Lingle-Torrington area of Wyoming when he was two years old. Korell said in a 2011 interview for the “Art of the Hunt” project conducted by the University of Wyoming American Studies program: “[I] kind of grew up with a trapping family. A lot of those things, I picked up and learned on my own. I really didn’t have a teacher on a lot of it.” His father had trapped wolves in Russia; the Korell family is of German Russian descent, immigrating to America via Ellis Island in 1911.

He spent many years of his life in Riverton, where he helped found the Wind River Heritage Center. Jake knew the value of cultural heritage and preservation, and donated thousands of dollars to the Center. In addition to founding and financially contributing, he would give his time, often helping visitors or teaching the next generation how to trap. He believed that there was a lot to learn about Wyoming animals, so his taxidermy ended up in the Wind River Heritage Center as well.

Antique trapping equipment at the Wind River Heritage Center. Taken by Jessica King.
Digital Art of the Hunt Collections, Wyoming Folklife Archive, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Respect for the animal, integrity in the hunt, and knowledge of the area were valuable concepts to Korell. He knew which animals he should not trap, down to letting mothers go or watching for rare ones that should not be killed, even though they would have more monetary value. Korell ensured that he was trapping what and where he should. He did not belittle taking the life of the animal.

“They say the traps are cruel to animals,” said Korell in the 2011 interview, “but if you know what you’re doing you use a trap according to the size of the animal and it don’t really hurt them all that much. I turn a lot of ‘em loose…like female bobcats, I pert near turn all of them loose ‘cause I just don’t believe in over killing. If I catch a kitten or a female, I turn ‘em loose. I keep a tom once in a while.”

Korell’s hands, showing nearly 90 years of trapping. Taken by Jessica King.
Digital Art of the Hunt, Wyoming Folklife Archive, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Jake Korell worked hard to be ethical in his work. Trapping was his life. He knew and followed the laws for when certain animals were in season and how often to check his traps. Learning on the fly and gaining practical experience was of utmost value to him.

Korell is featured in the “Art of the Hunt” project found in the Wyoming Folklife Archive at the American Heritage Center. There is also a book written about him titled The Last of the Breed: The Story of Trapper Jake (2013) by western author Kit Collings.

Post contributed by Elena Lompe, AHC Wyoming Folklife intern.


Posted in Digital collections, oral histories, Uncategorized, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Holy Spectacle, Batman! Campy Fun with the 1960s Batman Television Series

As September 19 would have been Adam West’s 94th birthday, let’s look back on one of his best-known roles, Batman.

The campy, smash hit of the 60s was loathed by some and loved by many more. But the people who loved it the most were the ones who created and produced it. And that enthusiasm can be sensed in the final product. It’s a truism that people who enjoy their work tend to put out a better product. But you don’t have to trust my word on this because the William Dozier papers at the American Heritage Center can back me up.

Catwoman (Julie Newmar) kneeling over Batman (Adam West) tied to a giant mousetrap in the episode “That Darn Catwoman, Season 2, Episode 40, air date January 19, 1967.” William Dozier papers, Collection #6851.

A prime example of this enthusiasm is the joking nature of correspondence between executive producer William Dozier and head scriptwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. In one such letter Dozier begins by addressing Semple as Robin and ends the letter with “Batblessings.” In many of his letters to Semple, Dozier includes a bat-pun as a signoff. Even their correspondence feels camp. This jovial form of communication serves as a precursor to the entertaining use of camp for which the series became known.

This letter from William Dozier to Lorenzo Semple Jr. discusses the possibility of Burgess Meredith playing the Penguin, some production notes, and the start of scripting for the Green Hornet. Box 6, Folder 1965, William Dozier papers, Collection #6851, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The co-creators of Batman for DC Comics, Bill Finger and Bob Kane, were just as excited about this new take on the Dark Knight. Kane was very vocal in his support for the series. Finger even drafted a few episodes for the series with “The Clock King’s Crazy Crimes” making it to production. The Dozier papers include a copy of this script in case you’d like to read it.

This first page of a letter from Bob Kane to William Dozier expresses his excitement for the series. Box 6, Folder 1965, William Dozier papers, Collection #6851, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Adam West was an excellent choice for the Caped Crusader, and not just because of his skill at dancing the Batusi. Yet, while filming the pilot there was another potential Batman suited up. Lyle Waggoner lost the role to West, but a decade later wound up in another television show based on a comic book. He played Colonel Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman series. Dozier apologized through correspondence to West for not telling him about Waggoner. West’s response was appropriate to the tone of the series: “Gotham City ain’t big enough for both of us Batmans, Batman…. (or is it Batmen?)”

To learn more about the production of the Batman series and maybe find correspondence from such stars as Kirk Douglas and Bruce Lee, see the William Dozier papers at the American Heritage Center.

Post contributed by Rob Kelly, AHC Reference Department.


Posted in Actors, Comic book history, Superheroes, television history, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Powell Tribune’s La Pagina Español

National Hispanic Heritage Month, which spans the period from September 15 to October 15, was first observed as a heritage week under President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 then became a federally recognized heritage month under President Ronald Regan in 1988.

Wyoming has much to celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month. Much of what is today Wyoming’s Red Desert remained part of Mexico until the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo forced the Mexican government to cede what is now much of the southwestern U.S. in 1848. But that change of legal borders didn’t change the fact that people of Mexican heritage continued to live and work throughout Wyoming. In the 20th century, many new residents who were either Mexican Nationals or Mexican Americans from California, Texas, and New Mexico (primarily) migrated to Wyoming to work on the railroads and in agricultural industries. With a boom in the 1920s, the sugar beet industry of northern, central, and southeastern Wyoming drew a large population of Mexican and Mexican American field workers.

On the American Heritage Center’s online digital database, researchers can view the Powell Tribune’s La Pagina Español (The Spanish Page) in the Gonzalo Guzman Newspaper Collection (Collection #12782). The section in Spanish only ran for one season in 1927, then disappeared. So, why would the Powell Tribune run a page for its Spanish-speaking residents for a few months in 1927, then never again? The answer lies in the history of the Great Western Sugar Company and the early migrant workers to Powell’s sugar beet fields.

The Great Western Sugar Company was founded in northern Colorado in 1900. They operated facilities throughout Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana. The Lovell, Wyoming processing facility was opened in 1916 to accommodate the harvests coming in from the area beet farms, including those around the town of Powell.

This photo of the sugar beet field in front of the processing facility in Lovell in 1925 is from the Hugo G. Janssen Photographs (Collection #11712). The digitized images from this collection can be viewed here.

Because they were having trouble finding enough local laborers to staff the fields and the factories, they hired recruiting agents to bring Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans from the southwestern states to work in the sugar beet fields of Wyoming and neighboring states. Since there was also a housing shortage in the Lovell and Powell areas during this time, they also began establishing Mexican “colonies,” which were essentially clusters of company-built or employee-built (with company supplies) housing for Mexican migrant workers to live in while working the fields. Other workers were provided housing by individual sugar beet farm owners, of varying quality and size.

This photo shows the back of a housing unit build for sugar beet workers in or near Torrington, Wyoming, in the 1920s. The photo is from the AHC’s photo files and can be viewed here.

As the sugar beet acreage and yield continued to grow, the Great Western Sugar Company recognized the dire need for Mexican and Mexican American laborers. They set out in several ways to appeal to these workers and their families and encouraged the local community to make them feel welcome. In 1929, the company took out a very large ad in the local newspaper, the Powell Tribune, with a detailed list of eight ways sugar beet farmers could make their Mexican laborers feel welcomed and cared for. These suggestions included providing “reasonable living accommodations,” access to food and other necessities, providing good tools to work with, and treating them with “friendliness and patience,” particularly since many of them could “understand English only very imperfectly or not at all.”

This image from the Hugo C. Janssen collection at the American Heritage Center shows members of Lovell’s “Mexican Colony” dressed up as much as each could afford at a celebration in the 1920s. They are displaying both American and Mexican flags.  The photo can be viewed here.

In 1927, the company went so far as to publish an entire page in Spanish in the Powell Tribune and called it, simply, La Pagina Español. It ran from May 26 through October 27, 1927, roughly covering the agricultural season from planting to harvest when Spanish-speaking migrant workers increased the population in the Powell area by several hundred.

The first issue welcomed “seven hundred and more Spanish speaking residents to the Powell valley.” The Great Western Sugar Company enlisted two of their worker agents, a Mr. Fernandez and a Mr. Pacheco, to write the articles that would be of interest to the migrant workers and “bring these beet workers into closer contact with our way of life.” The company introduced La Pagina Español: “We want you to be interested in this community, in our beautiful valley, in our schools and churches, and we know no better way than to take a page out in the Tribune in your own language.”

Articles often included news on the beet fields and harvest but also included community news such as marriage and death announcements, a recipes section, sports news (the beet workers had baseball teams as well), and advertisements for local businesses (in both English and Spanish).

This image shows other members of Lovell’s “Mexican Colony” at the same celebration as the previous image. The photo can be viewed here.

Beyond the page in the newspaper, the company also sponsored dances and picnic dinners for the Spanish-speaking population. They held meetings in Spanish and tried to encourage them to become permanent residents (so as not to lose them to other farms in the next season). In the final issue with a page in Spanish, the company wrote:

Now, knowing that some of our esteemed subscribers have resolved to leave for other regions, we have found ourselves in the painful necessity of suspending this page in Spanish, sincerely regretting that their determination has been to venture, instead of settling in this place where the honorable and hard-working Mexican, or those of any other nationality, is also appreciated, and where every man already established with his family always finds the necessary help to survive, and when he has already established his work and demonstrated that he is a worthy man, everyone enjoys the general esteem of Powelanders. Our best wishes to them, hoping to see them here next spring.

In the company’s estimation, treating the field workers with friendliness and patience increased the likelihood that they would do a good job. However, discrimination was present in the community and efforts to help the Spanish speaking population was tinged with condescension. For instance, an article published in the January 1929 Tribune was titled “Pitty [sic] the Poor Mexican.” It articulated that those beet workers who did not leave in the winter lived on the company’s dole during the winter months and, being from “southern climes” had no idea how to live through winter. The article claimed they wore light clothing and “lacked the ingenuity” to better the poor housing they were provided to make it through the winter. Though the article called them “good-natured, accommodating, peaceful citizens,” they claimed they must learn to “better provide for themselves” if they wished to stay in Powell during the winter months.

It was also reported in 1929 that Mexican children were being segregated in school. Earl Collins, who was tasked to teach the Spanish-speaking children and even went to Laramie for extra training to teach these children, thought it best to keep them separated. They claimed that he students “respond much more” in a class by themselves than with “American” children (by which they meant English-speaking since some of these children were Mexican American) and they saw it as their duty to make sure children ages six to nine were “in school as much as possible” because after that, they would be working the beet fields with the parents and would get no education.

Mexican and Mexican-American migrant workers continued to travel to Powell and the other sugar beet farming areas of Wyoming, and many stayed to become permanent residents of those towns. The Great Western Sugar Company changed hands a few times in the mid-20th century and in 2002, it was acquired by growers who formed the Western Sugar Cooperative. Sugar beet farming is still a major industry in the Powell area today. Although the sugar beet industry attracted a large Spanish-speaking population, La Pagina Español was never again published after 1927.

Note: All the editions of the Powell Tribune that contain La Pagina Español and more can also be viewed in full, thanks to the Wyoming Newspaper Project at https://wyomingnewspapers.org/

Translations by the author.

Post contributed by Brigida Blasi, Public History Educator, American Heritage Center.


About. National Hispanic Heritage Month. https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/about/

“Earl Collins, who is to teach.” The Powell Tribune, May 23, 1929.

Killough, Kevin. “After difficult years, beet growers wary,” The Powell Tribune, March 12, 2020.

“Pitty the Poor Mexicans.” The Powell Tribune, January 31, 1929.

Redwine, Augustin. “Lovell’s Mexican Colony.” The Annals of Wyoming 51, no. 2 (1979): 26-35.

“Spanish-Americans and Mexicans to Picnic Sunday at the Fair Grounds,” The Powell Tribune, May 26, 1927.

“Sugar Company Holds Meetings in Spanish.” The Powell Tribune, May 12, 1927.

“The Important Work of Thinning Now Ready to Begin,” The Powell Tribune, May 30, 1929. “There are seventeen children,” The Powell Tribune, September 26, 1929.

Posted in Agricultural history, community collections, Digital collections, Hispanic Heritage Month, Immigration, Immigration Policy, Mexican-American history, Racial bias, Uncategorized, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Trek: Creating the Cultural Phenomenon

The 1960’s television show Star Trek spawned a long lived and beloved cultural phenomenon. Here at the American Heritage Center, we are fortunate to have photographs, scripts, and music scores from some of the original seventy-nine Star Trek episodes that were broadcast beginning in September 1966 on NBC.

Star Trek was set in the Milky Way galaxy more than 200 years into the future. Gene Roddenberry created the program and was aided by a talented and imaginative group of script writers, composers and actors. They were tasked with bringing to life an entire universe of characters and situations, all of which revolved around the U.S.S. Enterprise, a spaceship capable of intergalactic travel. Star Trek was notable for its diverse cast and for a story line that followed, as the opening credits promised, “the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Captain James Kirk, played by William Shatner, holds a phaser gun as he protects Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, played by Sally Kellerman. This scene is from the episode titled “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” September 22, 1966.
Box 108, Forest J. Ackerman papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In addition to Gene Roddenberry, dozens of other writers contributed to Star Trek. Some of the scripts were the collaboration of two writers, but the majority were completed by a single author. Script writers changed from episode to episode, to the degree that it’s a wonder the program had any continuity at all.

List of Star Trek scripts and authors from the first two seasons, May 1968.
Box 21, Samuel A. Peeples papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In an effort to ensure some consistency, Gene Roddenberry provided writers with detailed character analyses and instructions regarding the structure needed for each episode. He specified that scripts must be 65 pages in length in order to produce a program that lasted exactly 50 minutes. It is a testament to the craftsmanship and expertise of the scriptwriters of era that they could produce a coherent script while sticking to an exact page limit and using only a typewriter.

The American Heritage Center’s collections include the papers of four of the scriptwriters that contributed to Star Trek – Sam Peeples, Jerry Sohl, Gene L. Coon and Robert Bloch. Robert Bloch was the most famous. Bloch was a respected author of crime, horror and fantasy before he was asked to try his hand at writing Star Trek scripts. He was a prolific writer and rose to fame as the author of the 1959 book Psycho, which was then made into the renowned Alfred Hitchcock film. Bloch also wrote more than 400 short stories, a few of which proved to be inspiring material for Star Trek. Bloch wrote three episodes for Star Trek: “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” which aired in 1966 as part of season one as well as “Catspaw” and “Wolf in the Fold” which aired in 1967 as part of season two. Star Trek and horror aficionados consider all three episodes to be among the most memorable examples of televised science fiction crossing over into the horror genre.

Bloch’s papers provide interesting perspective on the development of a Star Trek teleplay – starting with a short basic premise through to the finished script. “Wolf in the Fold” in particular went through extensive revision. Studio executives had requested that Bloch write a Jack the Ripper story set in the future. (After Psycho, Bloch’s second most famous story was “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” written in 1943.) Bloch started with several paragraphs of story premise, then wrote a nine-page story outline.

Page of the story outline for Star Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold” written by Robert Bloch, April 21, 1967.
Box 5A, Robert Bloch papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

A draft version of the outline, full of mark-ups and edits, shows the evolution of the storyline. It is interesting that early drafts of the story feature third officer Sulu as the main character, while in the final version of the script it is Scotty, the chief engineer, who becomes the focal point of the episode.

Less than a month after the outline was submitted, and with studio approval of the storyline, Bloch finished a draft script. But after submitting his first draft to studio executives, Bloch received a sixteen-page memo from Gene Coon loaded with suggestions for changes.

Page of a memo from Gene Coon to Robert Bloch regarding Star Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold,” May 18, 1967.
Box 5A, Robert Bloch papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The edits were not all well received. Bloch’s frustration shows through in his handwritten notes in his papers, which state, “Another horrible example of teleplay development – ‘Wolf in the Fold’ – showing how 1967 network and studio executives arbitrarily call the tune – and, in this instance, then proceed to change their own directions when they see that what they suggest will not work. You might call this a lesson in how NOT to write a teleplay.” “Wolf in the Fold” turned out to be Bloch’s last contribution to Star Trek.

Gene Coon, who was Star Trek’s showrunner, also lent a considerable hand with script writing. Of all the Star Trek scriptwriters, he was the most prolific, having written or contributed to thirteen episodes. He is credited with fleshing out the personalities of the show’s main characters and for much of the humor in the first two seasons. His papers at the American Heritage Center include two Star Trek scripts written by Coon, “The Devil in the Dark” and “Metamorphosis.”

Page of the script for Star Trek episode “Metamorphosis”, May 3, 1967.
Box 24, Gene L. Coon papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Coon is also credited in “Metamorphosis” with introducing the character of Zefram Cochrane. Cochrane proved to be a crucial figure in the Star Trek “universe” as he was the fictional scientist who originally discovered the space warp or “warp drive” technology. Without “warp drive,” interstellar travel and the whole premise of Star Trek would be impossible.

Supplemental to the scripts, music played an important role in Star Trek, heightening suspense and viewers’ perceptions. And as with script writers, multitudes of composers were involved. The American Heritage Center’s collections include the papers of two of the many composers who contributed to the program during the 1960s. Composer Gerald Fried lent his considerable musical talents to Star Trek. Among his thousands of compositions are the scores for five of the early Star Trek episodes, including “Catspaw.” Another composer, Sol Kaplan, wrote the scores for two additional Star Trek episodes, “The Enemy Within” and “The Doomsday Machine.” Notably, both composers also served as conductors of the orchestras which recorded the incidental music associated with each episode. The musically inclined can see scores handwritten by both Fried and Kaplan at the American Heritage Center.

Part of the score for Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine” titled “Approach of the Enterprise” composed by Sol Kaplan.
Box 30, Sol Kaplan papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Beyond the talented script writers and composers, it was the Star Trek actors that brought the show to life. One of those actors, Nichelle Nichols, broke ground in Star Trek as the first African American women cast in a major, continuing role on primetime television. To paraphrase the Star Trek credits, she boldly went where no woman has gone before. Initially asked to read the part of Spock during an audition, she ultimately played Lieutenant Uhura, the communications officer on the Enterprise. Her character’s name, which is a variant of the Swahili word for freedom, was inspired by a book Nichols was reading at the time of her audition. While the character Lieutenant Uhura was a specialist in linguistics and cryptography, she was also a capable bridge officer who sometimes assumed control of the helm, navigation and science stations on the bridge of the Enterprise. Nichols was a talented singer, and scriptwriters capitalized on that, including scenes that called for Lieutenant Uhura to sing, often accompanied on the Vulcan lyre.

Star Trek Communications Officer Uhura played by Nichelle Nichols, November 10, 1966. This scene is from the episode titled “The Carbomite Maneuver.”
Box 108, Forest J. Ackerman papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Nichols appeared on Star Trek for three seasons, and in six of the movies that followed. Millions of people watched her fly through space while breaking barriers and stereotypes. She used her platform to illustrate what could be possible for Black people and for women. Later in her career, she helped recruit women and people of color into NASA’s space program. Nichols passed away on July 30, 2022, at the age of 89.

Despite the strong cast and imaginative story lines, ratings for Star Trek fluctuated. The studio cut the budget, production values were compromised, and the network decided to cancel the program in 1969 after the third season. But in the 1970s, it was syndicated and soon became a cult classic. The Star Trek phenomenon propagated follow-on television shows, 13 movies, a franchise of comic books, magazines, games and toys and legions of fans who were known as “Trekkies.”

Cover of the first issue Star Trek comic, 1967.
Box 22, Samuel A. Peeples papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Star Trek has been televised around the world, and Star Trek conventions still draw thousands both here at home and overseas. Today, Star Trek is widely considered to be one of the most influential and popular television series of all time. If this blog post has piqued your interest, we encourage a visit to the American Heritage Center to view our various collections related to Star Trek and indulge the curiosity of your inner “Trekkie.”

Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.


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