Current Events, History and Opinion
By Phil Roberts
On this day in 1910, workers poured the last concrete for Shoshone Dam.
The temperature at the time was -15 degrees F. The dam, constructed by U. S. Bureau of Reclamation contractors, was the highest in the United States at the time of its completion. Renamed Buffalo Bill Dam in 1946 to honor one of the original promoters of the project, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, the project was one of the first undertaken by the newly created Reclamation Service, a branch of the U. S. Department of the Interior. On May 16, 1910, the gates were closed and the reservoir started to fill with water.
The dam was named for Cody because, initially, in the late 1890s, Cody and several partners filed for water rights on the Stinkingwater River to construct a dam, canals and laterals to provide water to the arid lands in the area for proposed farm irrigation communities. (The river was renamed Shoshone River by legislative act in 1901, a very rare instance of a historic name being changed by statute. The original name had been applied by mountain man John Colter in 1807 when he encountered geysers between what became the damsite and the town of Cody. Noticing the sulpheric odor, he named the river for the smell).
The cost of the project soon overwhelmed the financial capacity of Cody's company and, in 1903, Congress authorized the newly created Reclamation Service to complete construction of the dam. Preliminary work began on the site in July of 1904. Edgar Wheeler, the consulting engineer on the project, considered changing water surface elevations, variations in water temperatures, and deflection questions. The project is said to be the first arch dam designed using a mathematical method of analysis. The Chicago firm of Prendergast and Clarkson gained the construction contract, but was replaced by a succession of two other firms before the project was completed. Daniel Webster Cole was the overall chief engineer on the project. When it was completed, the dam was the highest in the United States at 325 feet. The dam has been raised several times, most recently by 25 feet in 1991.
The tiny village of Marquette, consisting of a post office, general store and a few houses, was inundated when the reservoir was filled. The town was named for George Marquette, early settler and the first postmaster when a post office was established there in 1891. Among the few people who llved there, near the confluence of the South Fork and the North Fork of the Shoshone River, was Burton Marston who later served as the director of Agricultural Extension for the University of Wyoming. A 1920 graduate of UW, he was named distinguished alumnus in 1965.
On this day in 1947, the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees met with a faculty committee of 15 to end a dispute that became known as the UW Textbook Controversy.
Americans in 1947 were still celebrating the long, difficult victories over Nazi Germany and Japan, but beginning to have doubts about the intentions of one of the former allies, the Soviet Union. Spread of Communism had worried Americans in earlier times, but their concerns in 1947 were fueled, not only by ideology, but by Soviet occupation of Eastern European countries, its support for Communist insurgents in China, and rumored experiments with atomic weapons.
In this atmosphere, universities in America were prospering from the millions of returning war veterans, going to college on the newly passed GI Bill. The University of Wyoming was experiencing a boom the largest in its history. In 1945-46, the enrollment languished at 1,500 students. A year later, the number doubled to 3,364, more than 2,000 of them veterans. Some 1,560 of them were newly admitted freshmen.
University officials scrambled to provide housing for the new students as well as sufficient classroom space and courses. Between 1945 and 1947, 150 new faculty joined the ranks at UW. Dr. George Duke Humphrey, hired in 1945 from Mississippi, served as UW president during this boom period. He was a conservative, strong-willed administrator.
In 1947, he was working under the direction of an influential group of Wyomingites serving as university trustees. Milward Simpson, prominent Cody attorney and unsuccessful Republican candidate for the Senate in 1940, held the board chairmanship. Board vice chair was newspaperman Tracy McCraken, the long-time Democratic Party chairman who owned daily papers in Cheyenne, Laramie, Gillette, Worland, Rawlins, and Rock Springs.
That summer, Simpson and the board treasurer, Torrington dentist Dr. P. M. Cunningham, attended a meeting of the governing boards of land grant universities on the campus of the University of Michigan. There, a speaker warned of possible Communist subversion in the form of textbooks being used in various universities.
When the trustees met on Oct. 27, 1947, the board worked on numerous proposals to accommodate the ever-increasing student numbers. At one point, Dr. Cunningham made a motion that President Humphrey appoint a committee to read and examine textbooks in use in the field of social sciences, to determine if such books were subversive or un-American. The motion was seconded and passed after practically no discussion.
Without delay, Humphrey announced appointment of several deans to such a committee, naming R. R. Hamilton, dean of the law school, as chairman of the examining group.
The faculty reacted almost immediately. The newly-established AAUP chapter noted the potential problem and when the entire faculty met on Nov. 19 for its quarterly meeting, it voted 123-24 their opposition to having such a censoring board. The faculty voted to have 15 of their number represent the faculty position before the board. Dr. T. A. Larson, chair of the History Department, was chosen as chairman of the committee of 15.
The committee of 15 met later that week and agreed that the faculty had two goals: end the investigation, and affirm principles of academic freedom.
Students, many of them veterans, got involved. Some were particularly annoyed when one trustee argued that the investigation was necessary in order to protect impressionable young minds of UW students. The student newspaper, theBranding Iron, published editorials opposing the investigation and a newspaper titled Common Sense began a short-lived publication run, entirely devoted to opposing the investigation. But the trustees position had support as well. Local chambers of commerce and a few labor unions endorsed the investigation plan.
Soon, the University of Wyoming was the subject of national media reports, many of them favorable to the board, some darkly implying that the university was troubled with subversives. To strong UW boosters like Simpson, McCraken and Humphrey, these reports were alarming. How might the controversy color national opinion about UW?
Meanwhile, the committee of 15 hammered out a nine-page series of arguments against the trustees efforts at censorship. One provision noted that the plan was an insult to faculty, implying that they were either incompetent at choosing textbooks or subversive. One statement pointed out that few classes at UW actually used textbooks, arguing that such use was a crutch for poor teachers who cant develop their own course materials.
The rhetoric escalated on both sides and the shrill voices of the national papers and commentators seemed to be impugning UW. Vice chairman McCraken, nervous about what he saw as a coming "black eye" for his beloved university, wrote to T. A. Larson on Dec. 31. He suggested that a compromise was possible and recommended that a meeting be held between two trustees and two of Larsons committee of 15. Larson answered that he and vice-chair of the Committee of 15 would meet with the two trustees for lunch at the Plains Hotel in mid-January to discuss the issues. While the four were meeting in Cheyenne on Jan. 20, back in Laramie, President Humphrey released the report of his investigating committee. After examining 65 books, Humphrey reported, the investigators found not a single instance of subversion.
At the lunch, Larson assured the two trustees that no radical doctrines were being taught. As the conversation continued, the groups agreed that the entire committee of 15 could present its case to the Board of Trustees at a special meeting.
The board met the faculty committee four days later on Jan. 24. After committee representatives again made their case, the board agreed to drop the investigation (although President Humphrey pointed out that the investigation essentially exonerated the faculty by its report on the 65 clean books).
The board then acknowledged that the faculty should continue to make book selections, based on their usual procedures. Even more important, the board confirmed that principles of academic freedom would be applied at UW from that time forward. It was a clear victory for the faculty, even though various board members continued to assert that such a concession did not diminish their diligence in uncovering anti-American activities in education.
The controversy came to a quiet close through a distinctively Wyoming way of interacting. Principals on both sides were well acquaintedeven friends in most cases. At a university where board members knew none of the faculty, such a result probably would have been impossible. The controversy ended, mostly to the satisfaction of both sides, because civility prevailed.
The Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by Wyoming in 1973 on this date. The final vote to ratify the ERA was 17-12 in the State Senate. Governor Hathaway signed the ratification bill on Jan. 27, 1973.
On this day in 1921, Scottish residents of Lander again celebrated Robert Burns Day, an annual event in the Fremont County seat town. In 1921, some 100 Scottish Americans attended the dinner at the Noble Hotel, hosted by "Mr. Fyfe and Archibald C. Campbell," according to a local newspaper report. Scottish Wyomingites also celebrated the event annually in Cheyenne and other cities around the state.
On this day in 1926, a jury in district court in Worland returned a verdict in favor of Caroline Lockhart, editor of the Cody Enterprise, in a libel case brought against her by Park County Attorney Ernest Goppert.
Worland gun ordinance is passed by the first town council (1906)
The following is from the Worland (Wyoming) Town Council Ordinances, 1906:
Ordinance 9, Sec. 6: “It shall be unlawful for any person in the Town of Worland to bear upon his person, concealed or openly, any fire arm or other deadly weapon within the limits of said town.”
Fine for violation: “$5 or not more than $100 to which may be added imprisonment in the town jail not less than three days and not more than 60 days.”
--Book 1, p. 12, passed and adopted May 9, 1906.
On this date in 1903, the last 17 prisoners housed in the federal penitentiary at Laramie were moved to the new penitentiary in Rawlins. Both facilities are now historic sites.
The Laramie prison became the University of Wyoming stock farm soon after it was decommissioned as a penitentiary in 1903. When the University moved to a new site southwest of Laramie in the 1980s, the old prison was substantially renovated and returned to its former appearance when it was Wyoming's prison. Now part of the Wyoming Territorial Prison Park, the site is administered by the Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources Department.
The prison in Rawlins housed Wyoming prisoners until 1982 when a new penitentiary opened south of Rawlins. The old prison, substantially in the same condition as when it was closed, was renamed the Wyoming Frontier Prison. Visitors can take tours of the facility, in the opinion of this writer, one of the spookiest places in all of Wyoming! Included in the tour are visits to death row where the gas chamber replaced hanging as the form of execution in the 1930s.
Both historic sites provide an interesting picture of law and justice in the early days of Wyoming and the first century of statehood.
To learn more, see Elnora Frye, Atlas of Outlaws at the Territorial Pentitentiary (1990), p. 240.
On this date in 1863, Hiram Brundage, the telegrapher at Fort Bridger, published the first issue of the Fort Bridger Telegraph, Wyoming's first newspaper. Brundage had grown tired of soldiers and others constantly interrupting his work by asking him how the Civil War was going in the East. He decided to print the news daily on two sides of a regular-sized sheet of paper and sell the copies around the post. Thus, Wyoming's first newspaper was a daily. Publication ended when Brundage took a telegrapher's job at another fort.
On this date in 1898, five soldiers of "Torrey's Rough Riders" were killed in a train mishap near Tupelo, Miss. Organized by Col. Jay Torrey, the rough rider unit consisted of experienced cowboys recruited from throughout Wyoming. Because of the train accident and organizational delays, the unit never saw action in the Spanish-American War.
At 1:22 p.m., on August 5, 1923, the funeral train carrying the body of President Warren Harding, who had died in San Francisco earlier in the week, stopped in Cheyenne at the depot for precisely 27 minutes. He had passed through en route to the West Coast on June 2, 1923, where he was met by a large crowd at the Cheyenne depot.
On this day in 1903, Dr. W. W. Crook brought the first automobile to Cheyenne. Named "Old Pete," the vehicle was an Oldsmobile that cost Crook $725.
“It was considered marvelous to see Dr. Crook actually tearing up the dirt at 20 and 25 miles an hour. Later, he bought a Ford and sold the Olds to Charles Dereemer. He couldn’t make it run so the car was abandoned on his ranch for 20 years. It had a single cylinder with chain drive and was built for two passengers. The car steers with a long lever, and cranks and drives from the right side. The radiator is under the floor in the front and the engine is under the seat. Gas tank is just below the water tank on the rear end and the carburetor is just below the engine." “Cheyenne’s First Automobile ‘Old Pete’ Being Conditioned,” Wyoming State Tribune, Nov. 15, 1934.
On this date in 1931, Laramie was shaken by a slight earthquake. The Sunday quake lasted about half a minute and was felt as far away as Buford. No damages were reported.
On this date in 1867, Cheyenne was just 88 days old and the city council passed the following resolution to control fire arms within the city:
"The council met in special session pursuant to notice previously given....
"The following ordinance concerning carrying firearms was presented and on motion ... accepted.
"An ordinance concerning the carrying of Fire Arms
"Be it ordained by the city council of the city of Cheyenne that
"Sec. I. It shall be unlawful for any person, other than a member of the police force, to carry or keep any Fire Arms of any description, or any bowie knife, dagger, sling shot or other dangerous weapon upon his or her person either publicly or concealed.
"Sec. II: Any person convicted of a violation of this ordinance, shall be fined...not exceeding one hundred dollars or less than five dollars or imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, in the discretion of the court or by both fine and imprisonment.
"Sec. III. It shall be the duty of the Police officers to arrest any person found in the act of violating this ordinance except in the cases of strangers and non-residents of this city who shall be first informed of this ordinance and allowed thirty minutes to comply herewith (p. 39) and should they refuse or neglect to do so within that time they shall be held answerable to the penalties hereof. Approved Setp. 30, 1867.
On motion it was ordered that the above ordinance be printed in the form of hand bills and posted in public places throughout the city.”
--Minutes of the Council of the City of Cheyenne, from Aug. 1, 1867, Jan. 4, 1869, Wyoming State Archives. microfilm #989, pp. 38-39, Sept. 30, 1867.
On this day in 1871, Territorial Gov. John A. Campbell said in his annual message to the legislature: "I desire to invite your attention to the law passed by the last legislature providing for licensing gambling houses. I hope it will be repealed. We cannot afford to legalize vice. While we may be unable to prevent gambling and other vices in our midst, we can at least pay the compliment to virtue of endeavoring to do so.”
On this date in 1940, The Cheyenne newspaper reported that "Ernest Hemingway of Key West, Monroe Co., Florida, married Martha Gellhorn of St. Louis," in Cheyenne that morning. Cheyenne's Justice of the Peace, F. A. Strennett, officiated at the wedding. After the ceremony, the couple ate lunch at the Union Pacific Depot dining room.
July 5, 2011
Places Where Wyoming Almanac May Be Purchased
Albany County: Grand Newsstand; Second Story Books; University Bookstore; Wyoming Territorial Prison Gift Shop
Big Horn: Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Center, Lovell
Campbell: Rockpile Museum, Gillette; Hastings Books, Gillette
Carbon: Carbon County Museum, Rawlins; Medicine Bow Museum; Muddy Gap Station; Wyoming Frontier Prison Gift Store, Rawlins
Converse: Pioneer Museum, Wyoming State Fairgrounds; The Whistlestop, Douglas
Crook: West Texas Trail Museum, Moorcroft
Fremont: Books and Briar, Riverton; Main Street Books, Lander; Meadowlark Books, Riverton; Riverton Museum
Goshen: Prairie Creek Books, Torrington; Vandal Drug, Torrington
Hot Springs: Hot Springs County Museum; The Storyteller, Thermopolis
Johnson: Jim Gatchell Museum, Buffalo; The Office, Buffalo
Laramie County: Barnes and Noble; Cheyenne Frontier Days/Old West Museum; City News; Depot Gift Store; Wyoming State Museum Bookshop
Lincoln: Lincoln County Museum; Fossil Butte National Monument Gift Shop
Natrona: Casper College Bookstore; Fort Caspar Museum and Gift Shop; Wind City Books
Niobrara: Stagecoach Museum
Park: The Bookstore, Powell; Buffalo Bill Historical Center Gift Shop, Cody; Cody Newsstand; Meeteetse Museum; Northwest College Book Store, Powell; Powell Office Supply; The Thistle, Cody
Platte: Book Nook, Wheatland; Interstate Gas/Shell Gas Station, Wheatland
Sheridan: Sheridan Stationery
Sublette: Museum of the Mountain Man, Pinedale
Sweetwater: Hastings Books, Rock Springs; Rock Springs Museum; Sweetwater County Museum, Green River; Western Wyoming College Bookstore, Rock Springs
Teton: Valley Books, Jackson
Uinta: Uinta County Museum Book Shop, Evanston
Washakie: Washakie County Museum and Cultural Center, Worland
*Watch for more outlets in coming months.
June 30, 2011
The obvious comment about Wyoming in the early summer of 2011 is how much water there is. Many areas experienced flooding or near-flooding conditions. Reservoirs are at record capacity and rivers continue to set high-water marks.
Consequently, I decided some extracts from Wyoming Almanac might be included here with respect to record floods in earlier years in Wyoming. Here are a few. Again, the accounts are taken from Wyoming Almanac, pp. 197-98.
1. Bitter Creek, Rock Springs, April 4-5, 1924
No one died in the flood, but many were left homeless as a result of the flood caused by a sudden thaw.
2. Midwest-Edgerton area, July 4, 1926
The flood washed out five houses at Canadian Camp along with a highway bridge and a railway bridge. The high waters put the Midwest Oil Company's field out of commission for days.
3. Gillette, 1912
The Burlington ditch flowing through town overflowed its banks, flooding several downtown businesses. The Daly Brothers' store, the oldest business in Gillette, suffered the loss of $1,200 in damaged prunes. The firm sued for the loss, collecting $1,000, but later redried the prunes and sold them to customers later in the summer.
February 27, 2011
Text of Prepared Remarks for Nellie Tayloe Ross Dinner, Wyoming State Democratic Party, Cheyenne
(Following is the prepared speech by Phil Roberts for the Ross dinner.It is not the text of what he said. At the last minute, he decided to speakextemporaneously in the interest of conserving time and addressing other issuesraised earlier in the day by central committee discussions).
Thank you for inviting me to address this group on this very important occasion at a time of crossroads in our country and our state. Make no mistake. Whether freedom-loving people are in Libya, in Cairo, in Madison--or in Wyoming, we live in perilous times. Powerful forces, varying in their extremism more by degrees than by kind, seek to impose their own alien superstitions--their own attitudes of self-interest, greed and hatred on all of the rest of us. Just as it has been through the ages, it has fallen on all of us to see that these shadowy purveyors of hate and division are vanquished from the field by exposing them for the ignorant, greedy, reactionary, destructive people they are and the shadowy corporate interests that hide behind many of them.
I salute the Democratic legislators now serving here in what has to go down in history as one of the strangest sessions in the state's history. Strange--because extremists have used the session, from the opening days, to drop in profoundly un-American, unconstitutional, divisive and time-wasting bills--and even stranger because some of those acts are making it into law!
Our Democratic legislators have waged a hard uphill fight by facing down those crazy ideas, hatched in right-wing think-tanks far away from Wyoming. In fact, by and large, our Democratic legislatorsare a model for how to defeat extremism even when Democratic numbers are small. This tiny Democratic minority marshaled support from the more discerning and independent of those from the other party by applying common sense, our state's rich heritage and, indeed, even shame in order to try to defang the most awful parts of the out-of-state extremists' agenda.
But, my friends, this battle against out-of-state extremistsisn't unique now and here. It hasn't been the first time in our state's history that we've had to stand up to protect our Wyoming people and our Wyoming way from such sinister forces. As one very wise historian has observed, "History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes." I've refined that to our Wyoming natural environment by saying that "history doesn't repeat itself, but it echoes--it reflects." Those echoes/reflections can be from the darkness of the past as well as from the light of more progressive times.
I'm here tonight to talk about some of those times--points in history where our party, often small in number, have been forced torise to the occasion to bring back sanity--bring back the Wyoming way, bring back principle to our common discourse and soundness to ourpublic policy. It never has been easy.
Take 1920, for instance. Nationally, the Democratic Party under an ailing President Wilson allowed itself to be consumed by racist elements from the South and anti-immigrant, anti-workingman hatred from the industrial North.In Wyoming, rather than to resist the darker impulses perpetrated by enemies of freedom in both national parties, the WyomingDemocratic Party meekly, timidly backed away from the principles we as a party should have been standing for. For instance, the partyrepeated Republican extremist assertions that communism pervaded the labor movement, our party acquiesced with prohibitionist zealots who insistedthat welet themimpose theirsocial mores on all of society and our party largely knuckled under when political opportunists demanded that wehad to use government forcetostamp out alldissent. Extremists exerted strong pressures on the more progressive of the Republicans, too,who also caved to their extremist wing. In the resulting hysteria of what was the campaign of 1920, "me-too ism" by Democrats, opportunistic screaming by some Republicans and most politicians caving in to the more extremist elements in America resulted in a Democratic party collapse. The party in Wyomingfell to ONE MEMBER in the State House of Representatives and a handful of hold-over Democrats in the upper house. Thurman Arnold from Laramie with a message of progressivism and Democratic principle was able to overcome the tide; many of his fellow Democrats and Progressives could not. And against such odds, thedie was cast for what happened in the next few years.
In the following legislature, extremists successfully pressed for a state law making consumption of alcohol a felony. (Sale was already banned by anill-advised constitutional change).The extremists in the majority Republican partypassed laws empowering, for the first time, a statewide police force with thesingular task of seeing that the entire population adopt THEIR views of what constituted proper social behavior.Of course, much of this was done by a majority that had been influenced and controlled by out-of-state demagogues who had ridden roughshod over the Wyoming way-- of individual choice in a person's private life. A few had been duped; many others went along with their extremist out-of-state handlers.
At the same time, out-of-state big business tycoons and corporate shills decried labor unions as bastions of communism--as places where un-American principles were being practiced. After all, what is more un-American than working as a community to benefit everyone within it? What is more un-American than seeing that hard work is fairly compensated? What is more un-American than balancing the interests of those providing the capital with those putting in the labor? And not a few Wyomingites were temporarily taken in by the heated rhetoric--the angry lies drawn from feveredimaginations rivaling that of today's Glen Beck.
As the decade wore on, most Wyomingites recognized how they'd been fooled. The Democratic Party, albeitnot entirely cleansed of all of its own extremist elements, returned to take up the fight for working people. The Partyalso stood up for individual freedom and political equality. The Klan gainedfew adherents in the state. Radicals and extremists of similar stripes fared little better. And Wyomingites would not be fooled again into allowing state power to impose someone else's antiquated--twisted--standards of what those out-of-stateextremists thought all Wyomingites ought to do.
But the fight in the 1920s wasn't just about Prohibition and using state resources to send law enforcement against every drinker in the state. Even more fundamentally, the biggest challenges in Wyoming's historyhave beeneconomic.
There were many early in the 20th century who said that while government could interfere in our private lives with respect to social issues, it had no place in interfering with the economy. Government regulation was evil; everyone knew that if left to its own devices, bigbusiness regulates itself.Out-of-state owners of Wyoming resources smiled, cashed checks,economized bydriving down wages by setting various groups against each other. (Many of these out-of-state corporations, of course, owned huge tracts of land given to them in earlier days by the federal government, they took huge subsidies to build tracks across the state, they dug new coal mines without concern for environmental consequences, drilled for oil practically for free on public lands).
Banks popped up throughout the state--thinly capitalized, virtually unregulated. Some preyed off depositors and borrowers while others blithely held the notion fed to them by big business that the market would protect them from any evil--except for one evil, of course. Regulation by government. That was the one evil every voter had to guard against. Regulation, they said, would kill the market; run out-of-state speculators out; no longer allow scamers to sell stock to the foolish; empower workers to question why profits alwaystrumped wages.
Drought struck the agricultural areas of Wyoming and. after three or four successive years without crops, many of the so-called dry-land farmers simply went broke. In most Wyoming small towns and cities, those unregulated banks holding those uninsured deposits of thousands of customers found themselves overextended. In their exuberance to practice unfettered capitalism, the bankersfound themselves with mountains of non-performing loans and thousands of parched acres gained back in foreclosures. Bad loans made it impossible to meet depositors' demands and, in one year, runs on banks led to collapse of 25 institutions in one year--six on one day. Many, so insistent that government had to keep hands off, now wondered, Where was government now when WE need it?Wasn't it government that was supposed to have been guarding against our own greed in issuing loans blindly to all comers? Anddepositors started asking, where was government when it was supposed to bewatching after our savings and guaranteeing us from loss when those banks collapsed that we had so trusted before?And many others wondered whowas there to take care of those who, through no fault of their own, ended up plagued by drought and grasshoppers, poor crop prices and creditors? And the creditors, many of them small businessmen, asked why they had to bear the burden of others' greed and mistakes without the government lending them a hand?
Nationally, RepublicanPresident Hoover remained ever mindful that the "real problem with the economy" wasn't greed, speculation, unemployment, hardship--the real problems weregovernment deficits, high taxes on rich corporations who couldn't hire workers due to such burdensand too much government influence that sapped vigor from the national economy. But even to Hoover, deficit reduction didn't look like it was working. He implemented a meek effort to prime the economic pump.He set up theReconstruction Finance Corporation. Through it,the federal governmentpumped millions intofailing big banks, brokerage houses and big business. Hoover admonished all of them to use the federal money wisely, to hire employees and get America working again. Those who didn't spend the federal funds on themselves sat and waited for someone else to take the first step. Unemployment grew; layoffs increased in number; the cries of the disaffected grew in intensity while the bankers retreated in comfort to their Florida hide-aways or summer retreats in the Rockies.
In Wyoming, Republican state officials through a similar impulse to fight economic collapse, cut government spending on all programs (except for the huge subsidies handed out to build water projects that, if they were ever built stood to benefit onlythe few land promoters), reduced taxes on big businesses like the Union Pacific Railroad, and sat back budget-balancing while cities, counties and local charities tried to take care of the needy, the indigent and the hungry.The city of Laramie, flat broke, tried to pay the few remaining city workers--six cops, a sanitation worker and acoupleof men in the streets department--with scrip. Local businesses, strapped for cash with their backs against the wall from wholesalers demanding payment, wouldn't honor these future promises to pay, guaranteed only by the full faith and credit of a nearly bankrupted city.
As though it was government and not greed and exuberant over-indulgence that had caused the crash, Republicans sat back, patiently for their cure-all--the business cycle-- to eventually turn things around. When federal government help was infrequently offered in the form of the post office wanting to build new buildings and seeking to hire local unemployed workers to do it. one Wyoming town flatly turned down the offer. As historian T. A. Larson put it, "the money went to help the unemployed in other states" and Wyoming workers suffered through the arrogance of Republicans who could afford to keep food on their own table and their own bills paid while they waited for the business cycle to do its magic for those not so fortunate.
And we all know the story from there--about how it fell to the Democratic Party, to Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and Democrats in Wyoming to bring order to the chaos and collapse of what was the Great Depression. Fortunately for America, Democrats came forward with some answers as to how government ought to have worked--oughtto have been there to curb the greed and excess, stand up for thefarmer, the worker, the middle-class sliding rapidlyinto oblivion.
The New Deal, demonized by today's extremists as socialistic and anti-American, cameforward and saved American capitalism. The New Deal put Wyomingites back to work, constructed hundreds of buildings--many still in use today--and implemented unemployment insurance programs through which those who were currently employed could get by if the time came when their jobs disappeared. It was hard for some Wyomingites to admit that we had needs in this state that could no longer be met either through the private sector or through local and state government. As part of this federal union, Wyoming Democrats wisely asked for our share of federal government help, in the names of those who otherwise would have starved in silence or be driven to radicalism by desperation.
The New Deal created Social Security so that the elderly might survive and with some dignity. Many of them had worked their entire lives only to suffer poverty when the last ounce of work had been extracted from their tired bodies and their life-savings sapped by bank failures. The New Deal empowered workers by passing laws recognizing that labor organizing benefited not only workers but the employers for whom they gave their all in skills and sweat--and the greater society.
And, meanwhile in Wyoming, from the 133 unfettered, unregulated, uninsured banks operating in 1920, just 34 were left solvent in 1931. Nearly 100 banks had gone down, leaving their employees jobless, their depositors broke and their directors with thousands of acres of unproductive foreclosed farms, Their borrowers were forced to give up dreams of the rural life promised by the Jeffersonian ideal of every American owning land and a small farm. For those fortunate enough to make it through the hard times, the New Deal brought electricity to the ranches and small towns. By 1950, 95 percent of Wyoming farmers and ranchers were connected to power lines, up from barely a quarter that number a generation earlier.
FDIC--the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation--came from the New Deal. It didn't insure every deposit--it never had the money to do it. But, government regulation squeezed out dodgy operators, schemers, plungers and self-serving thieves. New laws required disclosure, reserves of capital and protected the depositors while restoring faith in those banks who would be responsible to their customers.
And, politically, the response in Wyoming to the New Deal programs giving Wyomingites new economic opportunities was to elect Democrats to the Wyoming legislature. By 1934, majorities in both Houses were Democrats; party candidates won all five statewide offices; and two Democrats represented our state in the three-person delegation in the U. S. Capitol.
It is important at this point to remind ourselves and fellow Wyomingites that when crisis times had come and Franklin Roosevelt's programs were instituted to help all of us, Wyoming Democrats and, indeed, most Wyoming people didn't decry federal government interference. Just as it isn't the Wyoming way to arrogantly try to impose one's own social views on everyone, it is not the Wyoming way to watch our fellow citizens suffer when through collective action of government something can be done. The Wyoming way is proud--we don't like to accept handouts. But, also, we don't want to see the defenseless humiliated, destroyed, driven from the state due to conditions they have no control over. We value hard work, but we also recognize that, when the chips are down, we can't expect soulless, out-of-state corporations to value it as we do.
Sometimes, it takes us--US in the form of our government--to take the initiative so that all of us canbenefit from the work and talents of our own people. As I stated earlier, our state's infrastructure was built by it, but so was our literature, our art, our tourist industry, indeed even our symbols came from government working in Wyoming. (After all, it was during the depths of the Great Depression thatNew Deal Democrat Lester Hunt put the bucking horse and rider on the state's auto license plate).
Like the bucking horse and rider that is emblematic of the Wyoming way, we Democrats often act like that mythic rider--that silent cowboy on a horse. The cowboy of the open range took the measure of every person, not by race or religion, but by how well he could rope and ride. But that cowboy also wouldn't brag about what he had done. It isn't the Wyoming way to brag about one's good deeds, about how we helped friends in times of distress or perfect strangers who often are still surprised by our spontaneous generosity.
But there are times when bragging OUGHT to done and that, my friends, is what we as Democrats ought to be doing. DEMOCRATS brought us Social Security. DEMOCRATS brought us collective bargaining for working people to help balance the money powers of out-of-state soulless corporations. DEMOCRATS gave us dignity in work through programs rebuilding our infrastructure. DEMOCRATS made the middle-class through programs like the GI Bill and greater access for all to higher education.
Indeed, in Wyoming, DEMOCRATS brought us the severance taxes through which millions of people throughout America pay a few mils on each power bill in order that we're able to educate our children, build our highways and provide for the health and safety of our own citizens without burdening the few with huge tax bills. (Gov. Hathaway, a Republican, often gets the credit for the severance tax, but it was decades in the making. The husband of the woman pictured behind me--William Ross--tried for the tax in 1924; Ernest Wilkerson attempted it again, in 1966. Without their efforts, it might never have come about. And it took Democrats, working with enlightened Republicans, to create ways to protect our natural environment while, at the same time, gaining the benefits from what lies under our soil).
In conclusion, I haven't the time to relate other instances when we, as a party, have stood against extremism. In the 1950s extremists in Wyoming tried to convince us that our fellow citizens of African American descent didn't need equal rights. With moderates in the other party, we passed the state Civil Rights Act, knowing the extremists had been lying. In the early 1960s, extremists brought into Wyoming the alien so-called "right-to-work" law. We fought it and lost. Despite the impediments the law laid down, the Wyoming way--organizing as a community, indeed, union organizing--managed to continue, but not without suffering serious damage. And we fought against extremists who thought minimum wage laws interfered with good relations between workers and soulless corporations. I remember years ago when I was in school in Cody, our Senator Gale McGee faced off with Birch Society extremists at a public meeting where the extremists up there were accusing the President, the Congress and the Supreme Court of being communists and only the Birchers, with their agenda of hate and intolerance, represented true America. McGee won reelection; the Civil Rights bill passed; LBJ's medicare program came into existence; environmental laws passed; and the Birchers faded away, their out-of-state, big corporate sponsors angry that their means had been challenged and their ends exposed to the public view.
So as we leave this room tonight, we shouldn't leave dejected and downhearted, feeling sorry for the current state of our party. We've had these fights with extremists before--against even greater odds. We've shown before that by adhering to our core principles of standing for economic opportunity, fighting for social justice, demanding political equality and protecting individual freedoms, we help build a better state for everyone.
Indeed, we invented the "Wyoming way"--and WE are the culture of this state. Make no mistake. The extremists won't relent with their shadowy financed attacks on Wyomingites. They will attack us as outsiders. (I'm waiting for someone to point out that the only newspaper announcement of my birth in Lusk, Wyoming, is a newspaper item in the Lusk Herald. Of course, it must have been planted by a conspiracy involving J. B. Griffith--at the time, Herald publisher and Republican state chairman. Surely, Roberts can't be from HERE!). They'll attack us as not being part of the "Wyoming culture." But, hey, it was a Democrat who created the bucking horse and, I dare say, lots of the dispossessed, itinerant, disadvantaged, low-wage workers called open range cowboys in the 19th century who are part of the symbol almost certainly would be Democrats today. But taking back our symbols is the topic for another talk.
We leave here, buoyed by ourproud legacy of always standing for working people and the middle class. Deservedly, we can take some pride in it. But, but as my late grandmother always said, "Every tub sits on its own bottom." It is up to us to continue that legacy, continue that fight against extremism, continue creating a better state, and all the while doing it the Wyoming way by fighting for individual liberty, economic opportunity, political equality and social justice. And throughout, we can be happy in our laborsto point out to everyone we are "proud Wyoming Democrats."
Thank you and safe travels home or as an old friend in Azerbaijan always said in parting, "Good roads!"
Phil in Baku, 2004
December 6, 2010
Wyoming Almanac in the News
Numerous reviews of Wyoming Almanac appeared in Wyoming newspapers since September when the new edition was released. The Casper Star-Tribune published an in-depth story along with posting an interview of Steve and Phil Roberts on the Star-Tribune video website. Articles also appeared in the Lovell Chroncile, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, and Powell Tribune
Phil will be interviewed by host Geoff O'Gara on Wyoming Public Television's "Wyoming Chronicles" program on Friday, Dec. 10. He will talk about the history of oil, Wyoming's role in that history as well as commenting on Wyoming Almanac.
December 6, 2010
Wyoming Almanac Editors Complete Busy Season of Book-Signings
Phil and Steve Roberts, two-thirds of the editors of Wyoming Almanac, participated in numerous book signing events around Wyoming during the months of October-December. The events were held at bookstores in Douglas, Casper (two stores), Cheyenne, and Laramie.
Wyoming Almanac Now for Sale in Bookstores Near You!
We picked up the new printed copies of Wyoming Almanac and began distributing them to bookstores in southeastern Wyoming. Later next week, the book will become available from bookstores elsewhere in the state. We're happy to have it out before Labor Day and in time for purchase by Wyomingites for Christmas gifts for friends and family.
June 2, 2010
Memorial Day Address,
Lusk, Wyoming, May 31, 2010
Thank you for the kind introduction.
Also, before I begin my formal address, Id like to thank the American Legion and VFW of Lusk for inviting me here today to give the Memorial Day address. It is especially meaningful for me, a native of Lusk, because my father was a veteran from here who served in the South Pacific during World War II and several of my uncles also served, two of them from Lusk, in that war. As for myself, Im a Marine Corps veteran although I never got beyond the coast of California during my service. Even though I was nowhere near a war zone, the experience had a considerable impact on my life. My thanks again for inviting me here to be part of this ceremony today.
On this day, we honor those who served.
We remember those who died defending freedom on the battlefields of Antietam, the Argonne forest, Normandy, Saipan, and North Africa.
On this day, we salute those who answered the countrys call to fight our nations wars on the far-off islands of the South Pacific, in the fields of Europe, on the frozen hills of Korea, in the jungles of Southeast Asia, and the deserts of the Middle East.
And, on this day, we thank those who cared for soldiers and sailors who suffered from the ravages of warthose who served on hospital ships, in VA medical wards, and in homes throughout the nation who cared for wounded servicemen and women and kept our nations promise to care for them as they cared for our country.
And on this day, we are reminded that keeping our democracy comes with a pricethat some wars must be fought to protect democracy and combat tyranny.
Yet, we also know that over the past two centuries, we, as a nation, have had our lapses. Weve been misled into foreign adventures that continue to be costly in blood and treasure. Democracy cannot be imposed by military forcethat while we may be capable of freeing people from tyranny, we cant impose the concepts of rule of law and democracy on those who wont also fight for it for themselves.
Puritan leader John Winthrop, approaching the American coast those many centuries ago, stated: We must always consider that we shall be as a city upon a hillthey eyes of all people are upon us.
That shining city served as an example for people everywhere. It wasnt the TV sets, Wall Street fortunes, or rumors of streets paved in gold that made us that shining city. It was from those concepts we put into practicemajority rule and minority rights; equal justice; equality of opportunity; and revolutionary human rights concepts of habeas corpus and presumption of innocencethose principles to which others everywhere aspire.
And, of course, we foster human dignity and democracy around the world only when we practice those principles at homewhen we restore the protections guaranteed by the Constitution and that we, once again, are the shining city to which other people aspire to emulate. We must, once again, resolve to return to being the shining city on the hill.
Even in those rare times when our country followed falsely into conflict, it doesnt take away from the sacrifices of those who fought and died. These sorrowful incidents remind us to renew the tenets of the Constitution that make us the shining city on the hill. We must not compound the mistakes of warfoolishly entered intoby curtailing the rights the Constitution always has guaranteed.
On this day, we honor those who served in all wars.
So on this day, while we honor those who served, we remind those who represent us to walk the hallowed rows of crosses in military cemeteries (and many of the graves marked by flags in our cemetery here) and walk the halls of the veterans hospitalssee the effects of war remain indelibly imprinted on millions of families. We ask our leaders to read the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and note the protections for all people and understand that it is through upholding those principles that we remain the shining city on the hill, admired by the world. Above all, they need to remember that war must never be viewed as the easy way to solve disputes and protect our nation.
On this day, we remember those who died for our country and those who suffered in its service. From their sacrifices, day to day, we are reminded of what they fought forthe American constitution and the values it protectsequal justice, due process, presumption of innocence, compassion for all of our fellow citizens.
On this day, we honor all of those who served.
May 28, 2009
World's tallest building and nearby skyline from Jumeira Beach, Dubai
The new Intercontinental Hotel in Dubai, next to Festival City Mall. Dubai, although impacted by the global slowdown, continues to thrive as a tourist destination and shopping destination. Phil Roberts photo.
A game of cricket in the square of "Old Town" in the Heritage District of Sharjah, UAE. Phil Roberts photo.
December 30, 2008
Sharjah: UAE Cultural Center
In the beautiful weather of the Gulf, it is difficult at times to keep to the task of research and writing. During one break, I visited the Sharjah Cultural Center in the downtown area of the this city, just a few miles from the glitz of Dubai. The 1820 fort has been restored and other structures demonstrate what life was like before oil and international trade transformed this corner of the world. I even had a chance to stop for a cola in a cafe in the Souq.
December 23, 2008
Researching at American University in Sharjah
While snow and wind keep temperatures near zero back in Wyoming, I'm researching in the collections of American University in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. The new campus has spectacular architecture, beautiful fountains, and picturesque views of flowers and palm trees.At times, it seems hard, with temperature outside in the mid-70s, to sit inside, squinting at archives, but someone has to do it....
AUS main entrance, looking toward Administration Building, December 23, 2008. Phil Roberts photo.
June 1, 2008
When Wyoming Almost Repealed Women Suffrage
The first Territorial Legislature in 1869 passed the suffrage bill, giving women the right to vote for the first time anywhere in America. But it almost didnt stay that way. Two years later, the second legislature nearly repealed the law. In fact, repeal failed by just one vote.
William Bright, the South Pass City Democrat who introduced the suffrage bill in 1869, didnt run for re-election, but Ben Sheeks, his South Pass City colleague who opposed the suffrage bill in 1869, did win another term. Sheeks was the only incumbent House member in the second legislature.
Just as soon as the second legislature convened, newly elected Uinta County House member C. E. Castle said he intended to get the suffrage law repealed.
Why did the 2nd legislature try to repeal women suffrage? Castle did not state a reason, but historian Dr. T. A. Larson claimed it was because of alcohol. Many men believed that women voters favored Sunday closing of saloons, a very unpopular move in the hard-drinking railroad towns in southern Wyoming.
Gov. John A. Campbell, the man who made history on Dec. 10, 1869, by signing the suffrage act into law, urged legislators not to repeal the law. women have voted in the territory, served on juries, and held office, Campbell pointed out. It is simple justice to say that the women entering, for the first time in the history of the country, upon these new and untried duties, have conducted themselves in every respect with as much tact, sound judgment, and good sense, as men.
Nonetheless, Castle introduced the repeal. The next day repeal passed the House by a vote of nine to three with one member absent and not voting. When the bill went to the Council, it passed there by a narrower vote of 5-4. It looked like Wyomings two-year experiment with women suffrage would be coming to an end.
But Gov. Campbell had other ideas. He vetoed the repeal attempt, returning the bill to the House. Both houses needed two-thirds votes to override and House Speaker Ben Sheets immediately sought to override the veto. On Dec. 9, just a day short of two years since Wyoming had become the first place to give women equal rights, nine legislators voted to override the governors veto--voting to repeal women suffrage. Just two voted no while two others were absent and not voting. The House had mustered the necessary two-thirds vote. The veto override went to the Council.
There, on the 32nd day of the session, the five Council members seeking to repeal suffrage voted to override the governors veto. The four who had voted against the bill when it first came before the Council again voted to keep women suffrage. The override effort failed, falling just one vote short of the necessary two-thirds.
The opponents of women suffrage had taken their best shot and narrowly lostby one vote. The four supporters of suffrage in the Council held firm and Campbells veto kept women suffrage part of the territorys laws.
In 1873, Campbell told the legislators in his joint message: . Two years more of observation of the practical working of the system have only served to deepen my conviction that what we, in this Territory, have done, has been well done, and that our system of impartial suffrage is an unqualified success.
From that day on, no serious effort was ever mounted to repeal the suffrage law, granting women the vote and equal political rights. Wyoming entered the Union on July 10, 1890, and embedded in its Constitution was the suffrage bill in the form of Article 6, Section 1, guaranteeing equal political rights for all.
First Woman to Vote in America Lived in Laramie
Louisa Swain was the first woman to vote in a general election in the United States. She voted on Sept. 6, 1870, in Laramie.
Born Louisa Gardner in Norfolk, Va., in 1801, she was the daughter of a sea captain who was lost at sea while she was a child. She and her mother moved to Charleston, S. C., where her mother died. Orphaned, Louisa went to Baltimore to live with an uncle, Ephraim Gardner. While in Baltimore, she met and, in 1821, married Stephen Swain who operated a chair factory. When their fourth child was six weeks old, Stephen Swain sold the chair factory and the family moved, first to Zanesville, Ohio, and later to Indiana. Soon after their son Alfred and his young family moved to the new town of Laramie, Wyoming, in 1869, the Swains joined them.
On Sept. 6, 1870, Louisa Swain rose early, put on her apron, shawl and bonnet, and walked downtown with a tin pail in order to purchase yeast from a merchant. She walked by the polling place and concluded she would vote while she was there. The polling place had not yet officially opened, but election officials asked her to come in and cast her ballot. She was described by a Laramie newspaper as "a gentle white-haired housewife, Quakerish in appearance." (Laramie Daily Sentinel, September 7, 1870). She was 69 years old when she cast the first ballot by any woman in the United States in a general election.
Soon after the election, Stephen and Louisa Swain left Laramie and returned to Maryland to live near a daughter. Stephen died Oct. 6, 1872, in Maryland. Louisa died Jan. 25, 1880, in Lutherville, Maryland. Her body was buried in the Friends Burying Ground, Harford Road, Lutherville. A statue in her honor, by sculptor John Baker, was dedicated in front of the Women's History House, Laramie, Wyoming, in 2005.
Wyoming Politics: An Almanac Blog of Current Events, History and Opinion The opinions expressed here are the views of Phil Roberts and do not represent the views of his university, his family, or any political party, interest group or candidate.
For in-depth information about Wyoming history, check Phil's University webpage: http://uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/ROBERTSHISTORY/
Books by Phil Roberts
Readings in Wyoming History, edited by Phil Roberts, is a book consisting of essays by numerous historians covering various aspects of Wyoming history. It is primarily designed as a book for instruction in Wyoming history. The 5th revised edition will be available soon.
A Penny for the Governor, A Dollar for Uncle Sam: Taxation History of Washington. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002). The book tells the story of why Washington is one of just seven states not having an income tax and how politics has influenced tax policy in that Northwest state since the Civil War.
Wyoming Almanac, soon to be released in its sixth revised edition, is a book of facts about the Equality State/Cowboy State. It has no connection to this site except that Phil Roberts is a co-editor of the book, along with his two brothers, David L. Roberts and Steven L. Roberts.
David is assistant professor of journalism at Missouri Valley College and former publisher/editor of the Medicine Bow Post, a prize-winning weekly newspaper he founded in 1977 in Medicine Bow, Wyoming. Steven L. Roberts works for the U. S. Postal Service in Denver. He formerly taught high school and coached in Wyoming high schools.
Wyoming Politics: An Almanac Blog of Current Events, History and Opinion is a website featuring comment and opinion about everything involving Wyoming. Some pages contain factual data, history, or feature stories about the state. Primarily, however, this site presents observations and analysis of Wyoming politics, mostly from a historical perspective, written by a long-term observer of that subject.