How To Use This Site




How To Use This Site


This blog was updated on a daily basis for about two years, with those daily entries ceasing on December 31, 2013. The blog is still active, however, and we hope that people stopping in, who find something lacking, will add to the daily entries.

The blog still receives new posts as well, but now it receives them on items of Wyoming history. That has always been a feature of the blog, but Wyoming's history is rich and there are many items that are not fully covered here, if covered at all. Over time, we hope to remedy that.

You can obtain an entire month's listings by hitting on the appropriate month below, or an individual day by hitting on that calendar date.

We hope you enjoy this site.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Blog Mirror: Lex Anteinternet: Holscher's Laws of History

Lex Anteinternet: Holscher's Laws of History: Everyone is used to the concept that science and nature is governed by certain natural laws. For instance, Sir Isaac Newton discerned Ne...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blog Mirror: Lex Anteinternet: Wyoming Adopts the Uniform Bar Exam, and why that'...

Lex Anteinternet: Wyoming Adopts the Uniform Bar Exam, and why that'...: Students of legal minutia know that the phrase "to pass the bar", or "to be called to the bar", refers to an actual physical feature in an ...

Blog Mirror: Lex Anteinternet: Peculiarized violence and American society. Looki...

Lex Anteinternet: Peculiarized violence and American society. Looki...: Because of the horrific senseless tragedy in Newton Connecticut, every pundit and commentator in the US is writing on the topic of what cau...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sidebar: Wyoming and World War One


Recently I did a Sidebar post on Wyoming and World War Two.  So, a followup on Wyoming and World War One is a natural in some ways, although it'd be my guess that many would figure that the impact of the Great War upon Wyoming would have been fairly minor.  Except for the particularly historically minded (which may include most of the folks who view this blog) World War One seems pretty remote in time.  It's no wonder really, as the war was overshadowed in the  American imagination (but not the  European one) a mere 20 or so years after it ended by World War Two, which to Americans has always seemed the much more critical and bigger event.  Indeed, to the American imagination World War One often seems to me not much more than the prolog to World War Two.

And, of course, World War Two defines modern wars.  Every war that's happened since WWII can find some precedent in WWII, and even though technology has enormously advanced since the war, up until extremely recently there's always been a very close precedent in any one weapon  or ground environment in a current war and the Second World War.   Perhaps this is changing just now, in which case, I suppose, World War Two will soon seem to be a much more distant war.  World War One managed to seem distant, somehow, to Americans by 1939, when the Germans invaded Poland.

World War One was actually a much more modern war than we now imagine. And, in actuality, during the war itself, the impact of WWI in the state may have exceeded WWII, while the long-lasting impacts may in fact be less obvious, but potentially greater.  Much of what Wyoming is today, it became in the 20th Century, and even if it started to become what it is today in the late 19th Century, the big changes really started during World War One.

The Great War, for Wyoming, started in 1914 when the Germans entered Belgium.  The same is not true, at least to the same extent, of 1939, when the Germans entered Poland, or even of 1940, when the Germans entered Belgium again.  The reason for this has to do with two prime resources that Wyoming had at that time which were vital to the European war. Those commodities were the horse and petroleum oil.


U.S. Army Remounts, photograph taken in the World War One time frame.

When the war broke out British Remount agents scoured the United States for suitable horses of all type.  And Wyoming was ideally situated to take advantage of this sudden boom in the requirements for horseflesh.  Northern Wyoming and Montana, which had significant English ranching communities, were particularly eager to take part in this trade, which not only provided a ready made market for fine horses, but which also appealed to their English patriotism. But they were not alone in taking advantage in this market. Range horses, that is horses simply gathered off the range, had long been a staple for ranchers, but now they actually commanded the attention of foreign purchasers.  The horse boom was on.


British Remount purchasing agents scoured the state for horses, and Wyoming ranchers were eager to provide the same.  They were joined by  French purchasing agents seeking to do the same thing. Wyoming, of course, wasn't unique in this, but with thousands of available horses, and some fine independent breeding programs, the economic impact of European purchases was vast.

The boom in this agricultural commodity, however, was not isolated.  Every sector of agriculture in North America exploded during the Great War.  From 1914 on the fields of France were strained by fighting and a lack of war workers.  The UK was free of fighting, of course, but it was also free of agricultural workers, as they joined the British Army to fight in the war.  And both of these factors were also true for Russia, a major grain producing region.  Every place where grain could be planted, and many places that never should have had grains planted, received them.  


And, of course, the need to feed a vast number of men also increased the demand for meat, and therefore cattle. And sheep also saw a boom.  This era was in height of Wyoming's sheep era, when sheep numbered in the millions in the state.  The armies of Europe fought in wool and the demand for wool therefore was inexhaustible.

This all started, of course in the 1914 to 1917 time frame, that is before the United States had entered the war.  Wyoming was enjoying a war related economic boom before the country had entered the war.  Starting in 1915 the war actually arrived in another form in Wyoming, but in the form of the Punitive Expedition, which is not commonly regarded as being part of World War One at all, but which was the country's introduction to the fighting in some ways.  The Wyoming National Guard (there was no "Army" National Guard at time, just the National Guard) saw itself Federalized for service on the border just like every other state's Guard.  While service was not continual, the Punitive Expedition was the de facto start of the war for the United States Army, which began to expand at this point, and which began to receive practical field experience for the greater war which was to come. And it saw a the nation's Army reserve, in the form of the National Guard, including the Wyoming National Guard, Federalized for service.  From this point until 1919 the Army was at least partially mobilized and on a war footing.

Wyoming, at the time, was the home to two Army bases, Ft. D. A. Russell and Ft. MacKenzie.  Both were horse centric, as cavalry was stationed at Ft. D. A. Russell and Ft. MacKenzie was a Remount purchasing center.  Wyoming's National Guard was artillery at the time, for the most part, with some other types of units mixed in, but it did not include cavalry.  Nonetheless, as is obvious, the US soon also became a purchaser of horseflesh due to its military requirements. The horse boom, therefore, was compounded.

When war was declared in April, 1917, the United States found itself with the first draft since the Civil War.  Indeed, due to an odd opinion by the Attorney General of the United States, conscription actually applied to the Federalized National Guardsmen.  In a legal oddity, all the Guardsmen were discharged and then instantly conscripted.  But, of course, they weren't alone. The United States Army expanded from a tiny force to one over over 1,000,000 men in next to no time.  Absorbing the influx of men itself was a problem, only partially solved by the Army's solution of dividing itself into two groups, one part being the combined Regular Army and National Guard, and the other, the National Army, being made up of concripts.  Ultimately, the National Army would outnumber the combined Guard and Regular Army.

Recruitment poster in WWI time frame, but outside of the actual war period itself.

Like World War Two, the Great War depleted towns of their entire young male populations.  Young men were so eager to join that they actually crossed the state in some circumstances to volunteer.   Young men from Jackson formed their own unit and traveled to Cheyenne to join, for example.  As the Great War would be the death of private units, and they were no doubt incorporated into another unit, they may have been a bit disappointed.  Nonetheless, the extent of volunteerism was so high that even a relatively small town like Hanna left behind memorials to large numbers of men who volunteered to serve in the war.

 James Montgomery Flagg's famous recruiting poster, used in World War One and World War Two.

Wartime Marine Corps recruiting poster by Flagg.

The drain on agricultural workers was so high, in this largely per-mechanized agricultural era, that the United States, like Britain and Canada before it, were forced to recruit women for labor in the fields.


The era of the war also saw the expansion of military training to schools, something that had not been common prior to the war.  Casper High School, the predecessor to Natrona County High School, fielded an early version of JrROTC. The University of Wyoming incorporated officer training.  Officer training at universities was not invented in this era, but it was widespread during the war.  

The swelling of the Army naturally increased the demand on all of the resources already been produced for the war in Wyoming. Grains, meat, wool, all became even more in demand, just as the labor to produce all of them became more scarce.


Food concerns became so acute, in fact, during t he Great War that a major governmental campaign was launched seeking to conserve certain foods.  This was also done, of course, during World War Two, but the WWI effort had a certain desperate tinge to it.























Indeed the desperate tinge in World War One actually lead to a rationing program in Montana, although there was not nationwide rationing, as there was in World War Two.  Montana actually prosecuted some people under a state anti-sedition law for criticizing its rationing program.

One vital wartime commodity was petroleum oil.  As with horses, oil experienced a boom starting in 1914.  For the first time in history armies were using oil in significant quantities, as motor transportation made its appearance.   Perhaps more significantly, however, the Royal Navy had started the switch to burning oil in 1911, rather than coal, even though the United Kingdom was entirely dependent on oil imports.  The U.S. Navy had started this switch the year prior, in 1910.  The Wyoming had been an oil province since the late 19th Century and the war dramatically boosted production, causing a joint oil and agricultural boom in the state.  Even prior to that Congress, realizing that the switch to petroleum oil by the Navy meant that war could create a shortfall of the strategic resource, had committed some of Wyoming's oil to a Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the U.S. Navy.  This gave Wyoming, somewhat uniquely for a landlocked state, a Navy presence prior to the war.

Grass Creek Field, 1916.

It was the oil boom that caused the most visible change to the state, and perhaps the most long lasting change. With the expansion of oil exploration, came the modernization and expansion of oil production facilities, as well as the explosive build up of towns and cities. The state saw "sky scrapers" built during the war, such as Casper's Oil Exchange Building, which later became the Consolidated Royalty Building.Construction also included housing, streets and sidewalks, as new urban areas developed to house the workforce brought in by the expansion in oil production.  In some ways, the long developing position of the minerals industry as the prime economic mover of the state finally took permanent hold during World War One.  Agriculture remained, of course, important, but there was no denying the greatly increased importance of oil production. 

The war caused a shift, so dramatic that it must have been obvious to those living in the state at the time, from an economy and culture that was primarily focused on cattle ranching to one based on oil exploration. Wyoming had, of course, seen mineral exploration prior to 1914, and some Wyoming towns were entirely dedicated to it in some fashion. But the real intense exploration had really been devoted mostly to coal, giving rise to towns like Hanna.  Otherwise, even if they featured oil exploration as part of their economic base, most Wyoming towns were agricultural in some fashion.  Casper, as an example, may have boosted its fortunes in newspapers as an oil center, but it was cattle and sheep that kept the town going. Staring in 1914, it really did become an oil town, even with the cattle and sheep remaining.

Just as the war sparked a huge economic boom in the state, the end of the war brought a responding crash.  Agriculture hung on, economically, for about a year nationwide after the war ended, with 1919 being the last year in US history in which the standard of living for a family farm met that for the average middle class town dweller.  But that same year the expansion of grain production continued on unabated with near obvious results, and homesteading reached its all time high.  A crash was bound to follow.  The reduction of armies globally, and the cessation of the loss of horses, of course brought about an end to the Remount trade in a big hurry, causing an immediate horse recession for those who had been supplying horses to the various Allied armies.  While the Great Depression would not arrive for another decade, for agriculture the slump started early all across the nation and would only grow worse in the 1930s.  Nonetheless, at the same time, a last gasp of homesteading would continue on until it was stopped by the Federal government in 1933.

Oddly enough, the war directly caused a brief burst of immediate post war homesteading, with some being fairly successful, under a special program to assist returning servicemen in that fashion.  I knew one such homesteader and know of others.  The program was seemingly fairly popular with returning veterans.  Perhaps reflecting a change in society, a similar program at the end of World War Two was largely unsuccessful and underutilized.

Oil carried on as the economic engine of the state following the war, following a slump, reflecting the enormous expansion of automobiles that had commenced the decade prior to the war and which would continue on unabated until the Great Depression. Following World War One, and as a result of it, the Army would experiment with cross country road travel, giving a boost to the highway movement that was already ongoing.  The US began its real conversion to a highway society following the war, although certainly trains remained the dominant means of cross country, and even intrastate, travel.

Just as the war may have given a boost to the travel of humans, it certainly gave a boost to the travel of disease, and Wyoming suffered, along with the rest of the nation, from the 1918 Influenza Epidemic that the war caused and spread.  Calendar entries on this site occasionally note the death toll from this horrific global event, which while global, visited personalized grief upon communities and individuals in the state that year.

In terms of social changes, or perhaps political ones, World War One did not have the massive impacts that World War Two did, but it did have some.  Perhaps the most surprising is the success of Prohibition.  The movement towards Prohibition had been in the country since the late 19th Century, but it was the war that caused the Volstead Act and the amendment to the U.S. Constitution, changes which Wyoming had a role in.  Wyoming's politicians on a town and state level began agitating for Prohibition as soon as the US entered the war.  The Mayor of Cheyenne, for example, urged it as a way of insuring civil conduct in the town in light of the increased numbers of soldiers at Ft. D. A. Russell.  The Governor asked for bars to be closed for the duration of the war.  Politicians expressed a fear that soldiers would return from France drunks, or worse, after having sampled French wine and whatever other illicit offerings France might have in store.  F. E. Warren, seeing which way the wind was blowing, provided the decisive vote in the Senate to push the Volstead Act over the top.  Prohibition arrived in 1919 with the returning veterans, which was not an accident.

All in all, the war probably changed the United States and Wyoming in less massive and obvious ways than World War Two, which isn't to say that it didn't bring about changes. Wyoming was a heavily rural state with a major emphasis on cattle and sheep production before the war, and it was after. Still, there were changes.  The oil industry, which had been in the state since its onset, really got rolling during World War One in a way that we'd recognize today.  It was there prior to the war, and it would have arrived anyhow, but the global demand for oil for vehicles and ships caused the oil industry to leap forward by a decade, if not two decades in just a few years.  With that, the towns and cities dramatically changed in ways that were permanent for all, and still visible in many locations.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sidebar: World War Two and Wyoming

Regular readers here may have noted that there's been a lot of entries regarding World War Two recently. And, as a result, they might legitimately ask "What does an attack on Guam have to do with Wyoming?"  Well, probably more than is apparent.

 US troops advancing on Bouganville.

Wars change everything. That's one of 'Holscher's Laws of History".  And World War Two was such a colossal war that it's impact on the United States as a whole is almost incalculable.  Wyoming was no exception.

To start with, nearly every able bodied young man, and indeed quite a few able bodied middle aged men, served in the military during those years.  By the wars end, men were entering right out of high school, with some leaving high school to enter the service.  A good friend of mine's father, for example, entered the Army prior to completing high school, a fairly common story in those days.  And, as noted, it wasn't just young men.  The legal community, for example, in Wyoming was seriously depleted by so many lawyers entering the service.  There's actually one Wyoming Supreme Court legal opinion of the period noting that one of the appellate parties' lawyers was absent due to being in the service, and that the party was therefore appearing pro se (without lawyer), but that they were certain that had the lawyer been there, the party would have been well represented.  It should be noted, by the way, that entering the service with a JD at that time did not mean a direct commission for the lawyer, and plenty of lawyers served in the war as enlisted men.

 1941 version of James Montgomery Flagg's famous World War One recruiting poster.

The first group of Wyoming soldiers to enter the service did so as National Guardsmen in 1940.  Most of Wyoming's Guardsmen were in the 115th Cavalry (Horse Mechanized).  The unit was a pioneering one, reflecting an Army attempt to blend horse cavalry with mechanized cavalry, which received high marks by none other than Lucian Truscott, one of the stars of the Allied effort in North Africa and Italy.  Mobilized in 1940, as noted, the unit was not actually sent overseas until late 1944, by which time only a few Wyomingites remained in the unit, and by which time the unit was a mechanized cavalry unit.  Most of the Wyoming troopers had been cadred out of the unit into others well before that, after having spent the first couple of months after Pearl Harbor patrolling the Pacific Coast..  The unit, which had been a popular one for membership on the part of high school students prior to the war, saw more than it share of former members who went on to distinguished service in other units of the Army and Army Air Corps.  Two of the former members that I had the honor of meeting had been pilots in the Army Air Corps.

Probably for these reasons, World War Two is one war that has a monument somewhere in nearly every Wyoming community commemorating servicemen who fought in the war.  Many communities have memorials that list every single soldier, sailor, Marine and Coast Guardsman who served from the county.

The war visited Wyoming in other ways, other than through the numerous service men the state contributed.  The state had at least four active bases during the war, two of which predated the war.  Ft. F. E. Warren had been a longstanding Army base outside of Cheyenne, having originally been named Ft. D. A. Russell.  The post had shared a huge training range with the National Guard between Cheyenne and Laramie in the form of the Pole Mountain Training Area. It remained a training range into the war, although the National Guard had just established a separate training range at Guernsey. The Guard had just been able to use that facility for a single season prior to the war starting.

 Architectural detail on veterinary hospital at F. E. Warren.

F. E. Warren was used for a variety of purposes during the war. Some soldiers received basic training there.  A Quartermaster Replacement Training Center was headquartered there and operated at Pole Mountain.

The Army also had a preexisting facility outside of Sheridan in the form of Ft. MacKenzieFt. MacKenzie was a remount station, a facility that trained horses and, more particularly, it was the regional headquarters for purchasing them.  Horses and mules remained significant to the Army throughout the war, with mules becoming increasingly important just as the importance of horses decreased.  Sheridan had long been a very "horsey" area, making it a natural for a remount station.  This facility would close shortly after the war, its purpose having been rendered obsolete..  Its grounds are now the property of the State Veteran's Administration hospital.

Casper saw a base created in the form of the Army Air Corps Casper Air Base. The base trained bomber crews.  The substantial air base grounds are now those of the Natrona County International Airport.  The facility was substantial enough to have a satellite base in Scottsbluff Nebraska.  Natrona County had another long standing military facility, that being the the Naval Petroleum Oil Reserve, which was a Federal reservation formed to store oil for the Navy's use.  That facility still exists, although it no longer serves that function.

Converse County had a prisoner of war camp, located at Douglas.  The camp contained German and Italian prisoners of war.  Only one building of that facility remains.  I haven't seen it, but apparently it contains murals painted by Italian prisoners.  A couple of the surviving buildings from the Casper Air Base likewise feature murals, albeit painted by airmen artists.

Another type of internment camp existed during the war at Heart Mountain, near Cody.  Heart Mountain War Relocation Center was an internment camp for Japanese Americans, who were kept in such camps if they were previously living on the Pacific Coast.  Today the site is a historic site dedicated to the memory of those who were kept there during the war.

Wyoming's industry also played a role in the war.  Cheyenne had a facility that constructed nose turrets for the B-17 bomber.  An important modification to that design occurred there, leading to the nickname for the turret design being the "Cheyenne Turret".  Uranium was mined in a quarry just outside of Laramie, and partially processed just outside of town at a facility that is still visible, for use in the early stages of the Manhattan Project.  The oil industry of course played a major role in the war, with the United States being an oil exporter at that time.  Likewise, coal was an important war material produced within the state.

Agriculture employed a higher percentage of Wyomingites at that time than it does now, and agriculture was a vital part of the war economy.  Agricultural workers were exempt from the draft as critical war workers, although almost every young cowboy volunteered anyhow.  The Holscher Meat Packing plant in Casper was engaged in military contracts, amongst others, during the war.  Wool production was vital at a time when every soldier was issued at least some wool uniforms, and the soldiers in Europe wore wool everyday.

Finally, the war changed things in ways that we can hardly recognize now, unless we lived through them, which most of us did not.  The war had a massive impact on the mobility of society that the prior World War One had not, and to a large extent the concept of Americans as mobile people, who grow up in one place and then leave to work in another, or many others, came about during the war.  Americans were relatively mobile, of course,  prior to the war, but not like they were after the war. The war, or rather the aftermath of the war, also sent many people to college and university through the GI Bill for the first time.  Many sections of society found college available to them for the very first time. That trend only continued to develop after the war, with not attending college being unthinkable for many in our modern society. Before the war, entire demographic groups rarely went to college.  The World War Two generation was, for a large percentage of Americans, the first generation to attend university. 

Technological developments during the war ended up revolutionizing how Wyomingites traveled, although for the most part they likely generally are not aware of that today.  Before the war most families in the state had a car, and some more than one, but those cars and trucks were all two wheel drive vehicles. The 4x4 vehicle really got its start because of the Second World War, as Jeep and Ford made thousands upon thousands of Jeeps, and Dodge made thousands of trucks of a type that would become the post war Power Wagon.  The widespread road accessibility of the country from late Fall through late Spring came about because of World War Two. Also because of that, however, the need for back country cowboys, or even home ranch cowboys, was greatly reduced, working a revolution in agriculture which destroyed the jobs of hundreds of cowboys.  Indeed, Wyoming's ranches, already growing due to the stress placed upon small ranches due to the Great Depression, were able to continue that trend in part for that reason.  One rancher and his family could now cover ground that had taken several cowboys to do, in winter, before, and that was even true to a lessor degree in the Summer.

In short, no war since the Indian Wars impacted Wyoming so much as World War Two.  Memorials to the war are located in every county, and no wonder.  The impact of the war was vast, and remains so.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lex Anteinternet: Images of Oil Production

Lex Anteinternet: Images of Oil Production: Oil Field, Grass Creek Wyoming, 1916. Some other "big picture" oil photographs from outside of Wyoming: ...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lex Anteinternet: The Mustachioed Era

Lex Anteinternet: The Mustachioed Era: It can no longer be ignored.    Wyoming Territorial Governor John A. Campbell. Something was going on with facial hair in the late...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Calendar Query

Are any of the denizens here finding any neat agriculture, nature, equine or history related calendars in the offering for 2013?

As per usual, I have the Wyoming Historical Society Calendar up on the wall.  On my office wall I typically run four calendars at once, so that I'm three to four months out in scheduling at a glance.  I may try to mix the calendars up a bit, and I'm curious what's out there.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Blog Mirror: Lex Anteinternet: Thanksgiving

Lex Anteinternet: Thanksgiving: Today, November 22, is the Thanksgiving Holiday for 2012.  Thanksgiving remains one of the two really big holidays in the United States, ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blog Mirror: Lex Anteinternet: Republicans, Democrats, Populists, Progressives an...

A while back I posted this item on Lex Anteinternet:

Lex Anteinternet: Republicans, Democrats, Populists, Progressives an...: I'll start off here by noting that this isn't a commentary on any political party, or any candidate, but rather an observation on an item of...
I should have posted a link to it here as well, but did not. What I've since learned, however, since doing this, due to the posts here researched for the recent election, is that Populist and Progressive candidates did quite well in Wyoming prior to World War One, at least in the national office elections, even if they did not always take the majority of votes.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Blog Mirror: Lex Anteinternet: A Revolution In Rural Transportation

Lex Anteinternet: A Revolution In Rural Transportation:   When I seemingly had more free time, I used to occasionally publish articles in various journals.  This posts has its origins in on...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lex Anteinternet: Today In Wyoming's History: November 6. Myth, rea...

An entry on Lex Anteinternet about the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid entry on today's date.

Lex Anteinternet: Today In Wyoming's History: November 6. Myth, rea...: In today's Today In Wyoming's History: November 6 : there's an item about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid meeting their demise in Bo...

Lex Anteinternet: Today In Wyoming's History: November 6: Vincent M...

An entry on Lex Anteinternet expanding on the Vincent Michael Carter entry on today's date.

Lex Anteinternet: Today In Wyoming's History: November 6: Vincent M...: Also on today's Today In Wyoming's History: November 6 : is an item noting the birth of Vincent Michael Carter, who was Wyoming's Congressma...

Sidebar: Elections and History in Wyoming

This is the election season, and therefore, naturally, many of the items that are showing up on this blog pertain to anniversaries of elections.  As the blog is now over one year old, and as I don't want it to grow too stale, I've been not only adding new items as I learn of them, but expanding out on the commentary a bit as well.

That's always dangerous, as it tends to cause some to think I'm being partisan.  I'm not, I'm simply trying to note history and trends as they occur.  And one very  interesting one has been showing up in a way that I wouldn't have expected, that being an evolution in the political views, left and right, of Wyoming's citizenry.  Before a person can take that too far, however, it also undoubtedly reflects the evolution of the major political parties as well.  A person has to be careful, therefore, in drawing too broad of conclusion on past election results.  Indeed, that would be a dangerous and erroneous thing to do.  Put another way, neither the Republican or Democratic parties of 2012 are really the same parties that they were in 1912, something we'll note below.

Be that as it may, what does the history of Wyoming's voting show us?  It's commonly asserted that Wyoming, which is now a solidly Republican state, always has been.  That's partially true, but voting results show that doesn't mean quite what it might seem to, and that, beyond that, being in the Republican Party in early years didn't mean quite what it might seem to be.

Wyoming obtained statehood in 1890.  1890 was still well within the influence of the Civil War, and that continued to have an impact on politics that late, and for about a decade after that. The fortunes of the Republican Party had been somewhat solidified as a result of the war, but that was also true for the Democrats.  In a way, what succession had attempted was reflected in the popularity of the political parties.  The GOP was very strong in the North, and the Democratic Party dominated the South.  States in the Midwest tended to be in a state of flux.  In the West, were most of the territory was just that, territory, the GOP was by far the strongest party as a rule.

The GOP of that era, 1860s, had a strong "liberal" element in it, which was particularly reflective of its anti slavery policy of 1860-1865.  That part of the party had grown in strength during the war, and by the end of the war Radical Republicans, who favored a harsh Reconstruction designed to immediately address racial issues in the South, were a strong element in the party.  They never took control of it, however. The party also was pro business, and was in favor of governmental assistance to business when it seemed merited.  The best example of that is probably the Transcontinental Railroad, which was backed by the Federal Government and which was a massive expenditure in various ways. That wasn't the only example, however. The Homestead Act, which gave away Federal Property, which had formerly been held until turned over completely to newly admitted states, created an official policy of bribing emigrants with offers of land from the Federal stock of the same.  The Homestead Act was a Republican Act.  The Mining Law of 1872, which worked in a similar fashion, likewise was a Republican Act.

 
Republican President U. S. Grant.  Two time GOP winner and hero of the Civil War.

The Democrats, in contrast, were more of a "conservative" party in some ways, although again the distinction cannot be directly carried into modern times. Democrats tended to favor individual "state rights" more than Republicans did.  For that reason Democrats had generally opposed the Union effort during the Civil War, no matter where they lived.

A huge difference between the parties at that time was that the GOP had a legacy of freeing the slaves and the Democrats had effectively been the party of slavery.  After the war, for that reason, the Democrats remained extremely strong in the South, where they continued to promote policies that were racist in nature.  The GOP drew the support of recently freed slaves, but it was moderate in its attempts to assist them.

Given the war, the fortunes of the Democratic Party were very bleak at first following it, but perhaps somewhat surprisingly they recovered more quickly than generally imagined and they were contended seriously for national office much more rapidly than supposed.  Underlying all of this, however, is the fact that there were serious rifts in both parties that would start to dramatically emerge in the 1890s, particularly after the Panic of 1893 threw the country in to a truly massive Depression.

 
Two time President Grover Cleveland, the only President whose terms were not back to back.  He was a Democrat from Ohio, who first was elected in 1883.

The Democratic Party at the time was not a naturally unified party in part because it had such a strong Southern base.  The South had been divided before the war into a patrician and yeoman class that did not see eye to eye on many things, and after the war this divide turned into a canyon.  The patrician class, in a dedicated effort to restore as many of its prewar privileges as possible operated against the rights of the yeomanry which colossally resented it.  Southern white yeomanry, all rural and agricultural, lost ground in terms of rights after Reconstruction and only ongoing racial prejudice kept them from joining blacks in the Republican Party, which would have virtually destroyed the Democratic Party in the country over night.  They remained Democrats, however, as they could not seem themselves joining a party they associated with blacks and the Union cause in the Civil War.  What this did mean, however, is that a large number of Southern Democrats were really something else.

This also started to be true in the GOP. After the war the radical elements of the GOP felt increasingly frustrated with an inability to bring about a radical restructuring of the nation.  Nearly a century ahead of themselves in someways, their frustration, in some instances, grew into an increasing reformist drive.

Wyoming entered the political scene, of course, with the election of 1890.  At that time the state entered into statehood with a dominant Republican structure.  But voting trends reveal that many average Wyomingites had decamped, or were about to, into the more radical branches of politics.

Wyoming's first delegates to Washington were solidly Republican.  The state elected the now forgotten Republican Clarence D. Clark to the House of Representatives.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-5OUv1K6HSjw/UJUHoZmxX6I/AAAAAAAAAdI/RxLRDT48Zfk/s1600/Senator_Clarence_Don_Clark.jpg 
Clarence D. Clark, long serving Wyoming Congressman.

Senators were appointed, not elected, at the time, but the Republican legislature sent two giants of Wyoming's early history, Francis E. Warren and Joseph M. Carey, to the Senate.  It'd be temping to believe that Wyoming has sent Republicans ever since, but this simply isn't true.
 Very long serving Senator (and former Governor) from Wyoming, Francis E. Warren.  Warren's vote pushed Prohibition over the top.  He was also a Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor winner, which he is shown wearing in this photograph.

Indeed, in 1892 Wyoming already acted to put a Democrat into the House, Sheridan lawyer Henry A. Coffeen, for whom Coffeen Avenue in Sheridan is named. Coffeen only served a single term, but clearly something was already afoot that was upsetting Wyoming voters.  Moreover, voters tossed out Republican Governor Barber that year and installed Democratic Governor Osborne, although Barber actually tried to physically retain his office by locking himself in it, not a very dignified end to his term in office.

Governor Osborne, whom votes supported after Governor Barber appeared to be on the wrong side of the Johnson County War.

What was going on in 1892? Well, simply the Johnson County War.

The Johnson County War seriously tainted the GOP in Wyoming as it was so strongly associated with it. The GOP controlled the legislature and had sent all the delegates to Washington, and it was fairly clear that many significant Republicans in office knew of the plan to invade Johnson County.  Suddenly associated with "big" monied interest, and as opponents of small ranchers, and seemingly willing to endorse extra-legal violent action, it took a pounding in the elections, lost the Legislature and the Governor's office, and even the position of Congressman.  At least Senator Warren was worried for a time if he might lose his position due to the Johnson County War.

None of that can solidly be attributed to a national trend, and it didn't last long. The GOP did regain control of the offices it lost fairly quickly, but it did come at a time when populism was up and coming in both the GOP and the Democratic Party nationally.  This is often missed in terms of discussions on Wyoming's politics. The election of 1892 may not have been just the voters attempt to punish the state GOP, but it may also have reflected the growing influence of populism in the United States in general. The Republican Party in Wyoming was not Populist. The Democratic Party, and a third party that was allied to it that year, were.

This would help explain the results of the Presidential election, in Wyoming, of the same year.  In that year, pro business, Bourbon Democrat, Grover Cleveland became the only President to regain office after having lost a bid for reelection.  Cleveland was a candidate that those leaning Republican could generally support, which explain in part how his political fortunes revived, but he did not gain support in Wyoming.  In Wyoming, as we will see in a later entry, the state's electorate voting for representatives to the Electoral College for the first time, given its recent statehood, went for Populist James Weaver..  The general election of 1892 saw four candidates compete for electoral votes.  In Wyoming, President Harrison ended up polling just over 50% with Populist James Weaver taking 46% of the Wyoming vote.  The remaining percentage of the vote seemingly went to John Bidwell of the Prohibition Party.  Cleveland's percentage of the Wyoming vote was infinitesimal.

Populist candidate James B. Weaver in 1892.  He took Colorado's electoral vote that year and came close to taking Wyoming's.

As surprising as this is, Wyoming was not unique in these regards.  Weaver polled so well in Colorado that he pulled out ahead of Harrison in that state and took that state's electoral votes.  He also won in Idaho, Nevada and North Dakota.  Cleveland was obviously very unpopular in the Rocky Mountain West in the 1892 election.  Indeed, Cleveland only took California and Texas in the West, and polled most strongly in the East and the South.  He polled particular well in the Deep South that year, although Weaver also, ironically, did well in the South.  Cleveland's status as a Democrat probably carried him in the South.

This probably is an interesting comment on both the evolution of political parties, and the make up of the Wyoming electorate at the time. Wyoming remained a Republican state then as now, but at that time the Republican Party had started to split between "progressive" and "conservative" factions.  While their fiscal policies significantly differed in general, the Democratic party had not yet started to have a significant populist branch, but it was already the case that its northern candidates, like Cleveland, were more easily recognizable to northern Republican voters than Southern Democrats were.  While Weaver didn't take any Southern state, he did however receive a large number of votes in the deep South, however, reflecting the emergence of Populist thought in the Southern Yeoman class.

This pattern repeated itself in the Presidential Election of 1896, in which William Jennings Bryan took Wyoming's vote over that of Civil War veteran William McKinley.  Bryan was a radical by all accounts, and his having gained both the Populist and the Democratic nominates reflected that parties swing to Populist thought nationally.  But Bryan was also popular in the West, as the Wyoming vote demonstrated.  Bryan took a whopping 51% of the Wyoming vote.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-mJMWQFyWXZ8/UJUDA4_ualI/AAAAAAAAAco/ox0WmgHPhyU/s1600/503px-WilliamJBryan1902.png 
William Jennings Bryan, candidate for the Democrats and Populists, and Congressman from Nebraska.  Ultimately, his career would conclude as the misplaced Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson.

In the same election, the State sent former Governor Osborne to Congress, thereby electing a Democrat to the House of Representatives.  Seemingly, this reflected a populist streak of some sort that extended to all Federal candidates in Wyoming that year.  They returned a Republican to the Governor's office, however, in 1894, so the trend was hardly universal in the state.  And long serving, if generally forgotten, Clarence D. Clark remained in office throughout this period.

The next Presidential election would see Theodore Roosevelt run for office, and Roosevelt was a very popular President in the West.  He was also from the "progressive" branch of the Republican Party, so any Populist elements that were headed towards being Democratic were effectively cut off.

 Noted biologist, hunter, outdoorsman, conservationist, rancher, historian, and politician, President Theodore Roosevelt.

Republican fortunes gained during the Theodore Roosevelt Administration, and when his hand picked successor, his Vice President William Howard Taft ran in 1908, Wyoming demonstrated that it had lost its fondness for William Jennings Bryan, who ran against him. Taft took 55% of the Wyoming vote.  Perhaps reflecting some residual racialism, or perhaps recent immigration from Eastern Europe in some counties, Socialist candidate Eugene Debs amazingly took 4.5% of the vote.  Statewide, Wyomingites seemed satisfied with Republican candidates once again.

 http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-1ewMLNLq1DA/TrNjo-JDHDI/AAAAAAAAABw/MqrEZ5WUiPg/s1600/03211r.jpg
Former Governor of the Philippines and Vice President, and future Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, William Howard Taft.

Taft had the misfortune of following Roosevelt, who was a great man, but who was still a young man, in relative terms, and who just couldn't avoid politics.  Taft basically acted as a reformist candidate, but a somewhat moderate one, and Roosevelt, for his part, was becoming increasingly radical.  By the election of 1912, the split in the Republican Party that this represented broke the party apart and after Taft was nominated it actually became two parties, with the Rooseveltians becoming the Progressive Party.  The Progressive Party would be a radical party even by today's standards, and it says something about the politics of the time that it mounted a very serious campaign and had nationwide support.  At the same time, the Democrats began to tack towards the Progressives themselves and pick up parts of their platform.  The transformation of the Democratic Party into a liberal party really began with the Presidential election of 1912, and the party by the end of the election was never again quite what it had been, although the change would continue on for years thereafter.

Woodrow Wilson took Wyoming's electoral vote that year, receiving 42% of the popular vote.  The combined Taft and Roosevelt vote surpassed that, with Roosevelt taking 27% of the vote, a greater share than that taken by Taft.  Socialist Eugene Debs came in with an amazing 6%.  Given this, it is not possible to simply write off the election to the split in the Republican Party that year.  The combined Debs and Roosevelt vote made up a whopping 33% of the Wyoming electorate that was expressing support for a radical change in direction in national politics.  Wilson's 42% was not insignificant either. Even simply writing off the fact that any Democratic candidate of that era would have received at least 1/3d of the state vote, a surprising number of Wyomingites seemed to be espousing the progressive, and even radical, ideas that were the combined platforms of the Progressive and Democratic parties. Even accepting that the Democrats had come at this development through the Populist, which was reflected in their earlier nomination of Bryan, and in Wilson's appointing him to the position of Secretary of State, it seems something was afoot.  

 
Former head of Princeton and Governor of New Jersey, President Woodrow Wilson.

Indeed, in the same year, the sitting Governor, elected in 1910, Joseph M. Carey, left the Republican Party and joined the Progressive Party.  Carey, like most (but not all) of the Progressives, including  Theodore Roosevelt himself, would eventually return to the Republican Party, but it's at least interesting to note that a sitting, elected, Wyoming Governor publicly abandoned his party to join a third party.  A think like that would simply be inconceivable today.

Governor Carey just months prior to his defection to the Progressive Party, with a bored looking Dorothy Knight, the daughter of a Wyoming Supreme Court justice, at the launch of the USS Wyoming.

This tread, moreover, continued.  Carey's successor in the Governor's office was not a member of the Republican Party, nor a Progressive, but Democrat John B. Kendrick.  Kendrick did not remain in that office for long, however, as he was elected to the United States Senate by the electorate, now able to directly elect Senators, in 1916, a position he held until his death in 1933.  His companion in the Senate for most of that time, however, was very long serving Republican Senator Francis E. Warren (who of course had also been a Governor) who served until his death in 1929, when he was replaced by Republican Senator Patrick Sullivan.

 
Senator John B. Kendrick.

A slow shift began to take place in the early teens, however.  In the 1916 Presidential election the state again supported Wilson, giving him 49% of the vote.  3% supported Socialist candidate Allan Benson, and those votes would certainly have gone for a any more left wing candidate than the Republican Charles Hughes, but a period in which Wyoming leaned Republican but which would swing towards Democrats was emerging.  The state went very strongly for Warren Harding in 1920 (60%) and for Coolidge in 1924.  In 1924, however, the Democrats fared very poorly in the Presidential election, with the Progressive Candidate Robert LaFollette, who had taken up where Theodore Roosevelt would not have wanted to leave off for him, and then some, receiving 31% of the Wyoming vote.  David, the Democrat, came in a poor third, showing that a strong Progressive streak remained in the Wyoming electorate at that time.  That election saw the nation nearly completely go for Coolidge except in the South, which went for Davis.  Geographically it was one of the most divided elections in the nation's history.

In 1928 the State went for Hoover.  In 1932, however, like the rest of the nation, it went for Franklin Roosevelt, who took every single state in the Union that year.  In 1936 it went for FDR by an even higher margin and it would go for FDR again in 1940 and 1944.  In 1948, it went for Truman.

 
 President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Other offices, however, present a less clear story.  Francis E. Warren and John B. Kendrick both died in office and were both succeeded by members of their party, a legal requirement. But those seats remained safely in those parties up until the Great Depression saw both Senate seats occupied briefly by Democrats, when Henry Schwartz was elected for a single term during the Great Depression. After the Democrat Schwartz lost his seat in 1940 it returned to Republican control until 1948, when the tragic figure of Lester Hunt occupied it.  At that point, once again, both Senate positions were occupied by Democrats for a time. 


 Senator Schwartz

The story was similar in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Republicans generally dominated that position, for Wyoming, but in the midst of the Great Depression and World War Two Democrats briefly occupied it.  Those periods, however, were brief, and seem to have indicated voter upset about the Depression itself, and later voter favor over Democratic control of the war effort.

The Governor's office, however, seems to reveal something else. The position proved to be extremely volatile and competitive between the parties and, contrary to the Wyoming myth, many Democrats occupied it.  It shifted back and forth between the parties constantly, after the 1918 election of Republican Robert D. Carey.  Looking at the shift between the parties would almost seem to indicate that the voters liked both, or grew rapidly dissatisfied with either.  No stability in party occupation of the office existed at all until the 1950s, when the Republicans occupied the Governor's office for a decade.

Attempting to define eras, let alone political eras, is always a risky endeavor.  But in Wyoming's case it does seem to be the situation that the politics of the state began to change after World War Two.  For the first few decades after the war Democrats continued to be able to contend in Wyoming for State and Federal offices, but staring in the mid 1970s that began to end.  The state supported Harry Truman in his 1948 reelection bid and again supported Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 campaign, but it did not support the generally popular John F. Kennedy in his 1960s campaign and it never supported a Democratic candidate for the Presidency after Lyndon Johnson.  As late as the 1970s the state continued to elect Democrats to both houses of Congress, with Teno Roncolio and Gale McGee both serving Wyoming in that decade, but after they left office they were replaced by Republicans and the GOP has held all the Congressional positions since that time.

 
 Lyndon Johnson, the last Democrat to receive Wyoming's electoral votes.

 Teno Roncolio, the last Democratic Congressman from Wyoming.

 
Gale McGee, elected in 1958, he'd serve in to the 1970s until he lost to Malcolm Wallop. He was Wyoming's last Democratic Senator.
The exception to the rule seems to be the Governor's office, where Democrats have remained contenders up to the present day.  Ed Herschler was elected Governor an unprecedented three times, serving into the 1980s.   Mike Sullivan proved to be a popular two term Democratic Governor following Republican Governor Geringer.  Sullivan, in turn, was followed by Dave Freudenthal, another Democrat who served two terms, who was just followed by Republican Matt Mead.  Perhaps signalling that the Governor's office remains somewhat unique, Governor Mead is generally regarded as a "middle of the road" Republican, just as it was often claimed that Sullivan and Freudenthal would have been Republicans in any other state.  The Governor's office, for the most part, has tended to attract candidates who are quite independent, and it's notable that the Governor generally enjoys respect from the overwhelmingly Republican legislature no matter what party he is from even though both Republican and Democratic Governors have frequently disagreed with the Legislature on many things.

Ed Herschlar, three time Wyoming Governor.

Be that as it may, save for the Governor's office, the period following the 1970s has been overwhelmingly Republican in Wyoming and the fortunes of the Democratic Party have enormously declined. Why is that the case?  This is hard to say, and there are no doubt a million theories, but one thing that is commonly noted is that national candidates grew increasingly less support in Wyoming following LBJ.  And it cannot be denied that both the GOP and the Democratic Party changed in the 1960s.  The Democrats who remained popular in Wyoming in the 1970s had their roots in an earlier Democratic Party, and those who have run since the 1970s had tended to distance themselves from the national party.  The Democrats have come to be seen as an increasingly urban party, and the party's' support for things such as gun control have been very unpopular with Wyoming voters and have required the local party to attempt to separate itself from the national party.  This trend isn't unique to Wyoming, and many commentators have noted that he parties have become increasingly polarized in recent decades.  Wyoming became very hostile territory for Democrats during the Clinton Administration and the decline in success of the party became very pronounced from that point forward.

At any rate, the history of Wyoming politics is interesting in these regards, as what that history tends to show is that Wyoming's voters have been highly independent over the decade, rather than completely reliable for any one party.  In its early decades, the state flirted with progressiveism and populism.  In the middle decades of the 20th Century it doesn't seem to have been reliable for any party.  After World War Two it became increasingly Republican territory, and this particularly became the case after the 1960s.  As politics is history, in a very real sense, this history is worth noting on any blog that attempts to catalog the history of the state.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Today In Wyoming's History: October 26 Sidebar: Wyoming Authors

I became extremely diverted with the Today In Wyoming's History: October 26 entry.  By the time I was done with the last item, I was pretty far off a "today in history" type post, and off onto something else.  What diverted me was this long entry:

2010  It was reported that Wyoming mystery writer C. J. Box donated his papers to the University of Wyoming.
Charles James Box is fairly unusual for a widely popular "Wyoming" writer, in that he is actually from Wyoming, which most nationally read "Wyoming" authors have not been in recent years.  Box was born in 1967 and lives outside of Cheyenne.  He's the author over a dozen novels, most of which are in a series featuring a fictional Wyoming Game Warden, Joe Pickett, as the protagonist.  While I haven't read any of the novels, the choice of a Game Warden as the protagonist is an insight that would perhaps be unique to a Wyoming author.  Box worked a variety of jobs, including that of cowboy, correspondent, and columnist, before his novels allowed him to be a full time writer.
In contrast, the very widely popular "Wyoming" author Craig Johnson, who is also typically mentioned in that fashion, "Wyoming author", was actually born in Huntington, West Virginia and lived in a wide variety of places.  He's lived, however, in Ucross for the past 25 years, so he's been located in Wyoming for at least half of his life, however, and worked some iconic Western jobs in his youth, I believe.  Ironically, Johnson's series of novels based on the experiences of a fictional sheriff in a county loosely based on Johnson and Sheridan Counties, are more widely popular than Box's novels, which are written by an actual native Wyomingite.  Johnson's novels have recently been made into a television series which is popular with Wyomingites and one can even now observe election bumper stickers for the fictional sheriff of the fictional town.  According to some who have read them (which I have not) at least a few place names in the books are real.  One such place is the Busy  Bee cafe in Buffalo.
For a period of time Annie Proulx was cited as being a "Wyoming author", which is far from correct for the Norwich Connecticut born author of "The Shipping News", amongst other novels.  She has had a residence in Wyoming since 1994, however.  At one time she was indicating that she was going to relocate to New Mexico, although I do not know if she did, and she lives part of the year in Newfoundland.  Proulx made some comments noting that residents of Wyoming near her residence in Wyoming lacked in some degree of friendliness, and her novel "Brokeback Mountain" was not well received in Wyoming.  Proulx is perhaps unique in that early in her career she was frequently cited as being a "New England author" and then later as a "Wyoming author".
Another "Wyoming author", Alexandra Fuller, is actually a Zimbabwean ex-patriot, which her most significant work, "Don't Lets Go To The Dogs Tonight", would make plain, if her thick English like accent did not.  Fuller is the author of a book attempting to reflect the true story of a young man who died in the oilfield due to a tragic accident, but at least in my view, interviews of her tend to very much reflect an outisders view of her adopted state.  Fuller doesn't claim to be a Wyoming native by any means, but at least in the one book attempts to present insights on her adopted state. Here too, I haven't read the book.
Independent writer and author of a book generally critical of Wyoming's politics and economy ("Pushed Off The Mountain, Sold Down The River), Sam Western, likewise lives in Wyoming, but is not, I believe, from here.  Western is frequently quoted within Wyoming, but the author built his career as a magazine writer for a variety of magazines, including Sports Illustrated and The London Economist.  His book on Wyoming's economy brought him to the attention of Wyomingites, where he's remained, and is still frequently debated.  At least one insightful criticism of the book noted that the main point of the book seemed to be that Wyoming wasn't like every other US state in terms of its economy, which would be true, but which would raise more questions than it would answer.  I also haven't read this book.
This even extends to newspaper columnists, to a degree, although its easier to find Wyoming authors in the newspapers.  An example of the ex-patriot columnist, however, would be provided by the Casper Star Tribune's Mary Billiter, who is a relocated Californian.  Her columns (which I find to be repetitious and maudlin) have brought her enough attention that she was put on a board of some type by Governor Mead recently, although I don't recall the details.  She is also the author of a novel, although I know none of the details about it.  In spite of my criticism of her I'd note that she does not claim to be a Wyoming author.
Coming closer to home, author Linda Hasselstrom is sometimes noted as being a resident of the state, which she is, but she doesn't claim to be a Wyoming author. She's a South Dakotan who writes on ranch topics from a woman's prospective, which reflects her background.  I probably ought not to note her in this list, but her status is kind of interesting in that her youth and early adult years associated with ranching would be quite familiar to Wyomingites, and she has had long residence here, but she's mostly noted as being in another genre, which is "women ranching authors".

Even such legendary (at least at one time) figures such as Peggy Simpson Curry, who occupied the position of Wyoming's Poet Laureate, are not actually Wyomingites by birth.   Curry was born in Scotland, but she grew up in North Park Colorado, where her father worked for a ranch.  She did live, however, in Casper for many years, and on Casper Mountain as well.  As a slight aside, I recall Curry reciting poetry at Garfield Elementary School in Casper when I was a child, where she was introduced as the state Poet Laureate. She scared me to death, as she had a sort of odd high pitched matronly voice and recited her poetry very loudly.  From a child's prospective, that didn't work well.  Curry was also celebrated in Walden Colorado, where she grew up, and is noted as a Western author, which reflects her overall life.

A more recent Poet Laureate, Charles Levendosky was born in the Bronx and moved to the state to work for the Casper Star Tribune when he was in his 30s.  Governor Sullivan, also from Casper, made the appointment and Levendosky was well known in Wyoming academic circles at the time.  He was a pretty powerful columnist for the Star Tribune at a time in which they had some very respected columnists, a status which, in my view, they no longer occupy as strongly.  In the same era the Tribune had a well respected local physician, Dr. Joseph Murphy, who doubled as a columnist. Dr. Murphy was indeed not only from Wyoming, but from Casper.
The point of all of this, if there is one, is not to suggest that only Wyomingites can write about Wyoming.  But, rather, to point out an odd phenomenon regarding written works and the American West in general, and more particularly Wyoming.  It's been long the case that many widely read authors on Western topics are either arrivals to the region, or emigrants from it who no longer reside there.  Mari Sandoz, for example, was a Nebraska native, but left the state and then wrote about it.  Wila Cather is likewise associated with Nebraska, but spent her adult years outside of the state.   Aldo Leopold grew famous with "A Sand Country Almanac", which remains a classic, but Leopold was from the Midwest, not New Mexico. Wyoming has produced one notable fiction writer in recent years, C. J. Box, but oddly he's the least widely read of authors sometimes cites as being "Wyoming authors", with most of the other individuals who are referred to in that fashion having ties to other regions.

What does this mean, if anything?  Well, it might not mean anything at all.  American society is highly mobile, far higher than most others.  We'd expect a German author, for example, to have been born and raised in Germany, or an Irish author to have been born and raised in Ireland.  But Americans are nomadic.  For that reason, perhaps, we shouldn't really be surprised by this phenomenon.  

It might also mean something a bit deeper.  Perhaps those who come from the outside are particularly attuned to the nuances of anyone culture.  That is, perhaps, things that are really unique to many people are not to people living an experience.  It's often been noted, for example, that one of the best (supposedly) anti-war books is The Red Badge of Courage, even though the author had not experienced war at the time he wrote.  Maybe a really experienced person can no longer note what's unique about his experience, although plenty of books in that same arena, such as Leckie's "A Helmet For My Pillow" or even Maldin's "Up Front" would suggest otherwise.  Having said that, I think I've come to that conclusion with historical novels, one of which I've been trying to write.  After really studying it, I'm fairly certain that many of the routine things a person would experience in any one era of history are novel to people in later eras.  It's hard for the writers to note those, however, because unless they've experienced them in a non routine fashion, they won't even know about them.  That's what caused me to create my Lex Anteinternet blog, in an effort to learn and explore those details.

However, if there's an element of truth in that, it certainly isn't universal.  Texas has produced a large number of writers over the decades that had a deep understanding of that state, or the West in general.  J. Frank Dobie, for example, was a Texan and his work "The Voice of the Coyote" remains an absolute classic.  Larry McMurtry, perhaps best known for his novel "Lonseome Dove", wrote what may bet he most insightful and accurate novel of modern ranch life ever written, "Horseman, Pass By" (the basis for the movie "Hud").  University of Nebraska professor and Nebraskan author Roger Welsch has written a series of brillian entertaining books on Nebraska themes.  So clearly a local observant writer can indeed write insightful works of great merit.

I guess, in the end, that's the point of this long entry.  Not to criticize outside authors, resident or note, who have written on the state, but rather to point out there are not doubt some great authors from here, many probably slaving away, who, hopefully, will have their works see the light of day, or at least the black of print.
 In thinking on this, this is really much more of a sidebar, rather than a "today" type item, even though, appropriately, a "today" item is tied in.

I have to admit that I have some trepidation  in posting an item like this.  I've learned over time that commentary in print can very easily have the accidental effect of insulting, which is not the aim here. That is, I don't mean to suggest that only Wyomingites can write about Wyoming, or that you must be born here to write about Wyoming.  Hardly.  Rather, it's just an interesting, to me, observation.  It's been long the history of the American West that many of the best authors on Western topics, if they were born here, left.  And if they live here, they moved in.

This is not to suggest, however, that this must be the case, or that it is universally the case.  That wouldn't be true either, and the post sort of hopes that more local authors will do well in the future.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lex Anteinternet: Books That Shaped America

Lex Anteinternet: Books That Shaped America: The Library of Congress has put together this recent list of books it feels have shaped the United States.  Comments? "Books That Sha...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Holscher's Hub: Y Cross, UW, CSU, Donations, Money, and Lost Oppor...

I try to stay away from commentary in this blog, and frankly on my blogs in general.  While I probably would find it to be a hoot to be an op ed columnist, that's not what I set up the blogs to do.

Still, every now and then, I cannot help it.  Here's one such instance, which is posted on my general blog:

Holscher's Hub: Y Cross, UW, CSU, Donations, Money, and Lost Oppor...: About 14 years ago the Denver owners of the Albany County Y Cross ranch donated it to the University of Wyoming and Colorado State Universit...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sidebar

Today we introduce a new feature, which I've entitled Sidebars.  Or rather, I'm expanding it.  I see where I already used that term for expanded features, and I'm just going to go with it.

Sidebars are conversations between counsel and the court in trials, occurring outside of the presence of the jury.  The intent it to work out  some matter that's come up.  That's not really, of course, what we're doing, but rather this is a short explanatory discussion on some topic that's raised here of unique historical importance.

Of course, like a true sidebar, you'll be getting one person's view, in that I'm writing them.  I hope to be objective, but as it's a discussion, I can't discount the fact that it is, of course, my view.  But, also like a true sidebar, the other interested parties can voice their opinions too, in the form of comments.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Earthquakes in Wyoming

A poster here asked about earthquakes in Wyoming. given that they are constantly referred to here. This USGS page lists quite a few, although I don't know if it is conclusive.

Wyoming is extremely tectonically active. I've experienced four earthquakes in Wyoming personally, that I can recall.