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.

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. 
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. 
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.
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.