Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Past Future of the University of Wyoming’s Half Acre Gym

Man is of mind and body formed for deeds of high resolve — Percy Bysshe Shelley

So reads the words etched over the entrance of the old gymnasium on the campus of the University of Wyoming. This fall, UW is working towards the completion of Phase I of a renovation of Half Acre Gym on campus, which included the demolition and rebuilding of half of the historic building. The west half of the building was saved and is being remodeled, along with the new east portion, to house modern fitness and wellness facilities.

Half Acre Gym (WSA BCR state government buildings survey photo album, ca 1931)

Half Acre Gym soon after completion. You can see a corner of the practice field in the lower right of the photo.  The original entrance and western half of the building (left side of the photo) is being remodeled. The eastern half has been demolished and rebuilt. 
(WSA BCR state government buildings survey photo album, ca 1931)

When Half Acre was first opened in 1925, it was a state of the art facility. One of the largest indoor university facilities in the nation, its arena covered about half an acre, thus the name Half Acre Gym. The building was home to the UW/Laramie National Guard Armory as well as the athletics program until the field house was completed in 1951.

Aerial view of the University of Wyoming campus in 1931. Half Acre Gym is the large building located on the very edge of campus at the top of the shot, just to the left of the stadium and athletic fields where the student union now stands.  (WSA BCR state government buildings survey photo album)

Aerial view of the University of Wyoming campus in 1931. Half Acre Gym (16) is the large building located on the very edge of campus at the top of the shot, just to the left of the stadium and athletic fields (17) where the student union now stands.
(WSA BCR state government buildings survey photo album)

The following images are part of a lantern slide presentation on the then current and future prospects of UW, created in the late 1920s.

P72-25_49 Print 308, UW Physical Education, New vs Old Gymnasium, 1925-2025, lantern slide

Check out the projected lifetime of the “new” gymnasium. It looks as though at least half of the building will make it to 2025 and beyond. Considering how far exercise and sports medicine has come since 1925, 89 years isn’t anything to sneeze at either. 
(WSA P72-25/49 Print 308)

P72-25_49 Print 309, UW new gymnasium, 1925, lantern slide

The slides themselves are 4 inches by 3.25 inches and made by sandwiching the emulsion layer (the gelatin layer that contains the image) between two pieces of glass. This would then be projected onto a screen or wall for an audience using a candle or later a light bulb. Eventually, glass would give way to celluloid film and the slides would shrink to the familiar 35mm slides before being replaced entirely by digital presentations.

A group of men gather in the Woodmen of the World Hall to view a lantern slide presentation. The contraption on the table is the lantern slide projector.  (WSA Meyers Neg 1009, 1910-1915, photo by Joe Shimitz)

A group of men gather in the Woodmen of the World Hall to view a lantern slide presentation. The contraption on the table is the lantern slide projector.
(WSA Meyers Neg 1009, 1910-1915, photo by Joe Shimitz)

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Happy Veteran’s Day!

In honor of Veteran’s day, the Wyoming State Archives will be closed tomorrow, November 11th. A big thank you to all past and present service members for your sacrifice.

"C Battery Boys at Hohr, Germany", 1917-1919. Note the bucking horse stencil that designated the Wyoming troops' unit. (WSA No Neg, real photo postcard)

“C Battery Boys at Hohr, Germany”, 1917-1919. Note the bucking horse stencil that designated the Wyoming troops’ unit.
(WSA No Neg, real photo postcard)

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This Day is Wyoming History… Happy Birthday Governor & Senator Barrett

Today is the birthday of former governor, US Senator and World War I veteran Frank Barrett.

No Neg, P73-3-2, H65-208-2, Frank Barrett portrait, with handwritten comments

Happy Birthday to Wyoming Governor and Senator Frank Barrett!
(WSA P73-3/2)

Frank A. Barrett was born in Omaha, Nebraska on November 10, 1892. He resided in Omaha during the early years of his life, graduating from hometown Creighton University in 1913 and from Creighton’s law school in 1916.

Barrett Collection school record examples

Examples of Senator Barrett’s middle and university school records. He presented the speech “A Usable Wage” in Chreighton’s 1913 annual oratorical contest.
(WSA H97-33)

During World War I he served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army’s Balloon Corps. After the war he married his childhood sweetheart, Alice Donoghue, in 1919. They were married by Father Edward Flanagan, founder of Boys’ Town. Shortly thereafter the young couple moved to Lusk, Wyoming where Frank set up shop as an attorney.

Barrett Print 4, Alice Barrett and children, 1920s-30s

After college, Barrett married his childhood sweetheart, Alice.
(WSA Barrett Print 4, Alice Barrett and children, ca 1928)

Barrett served as Niobrara County Attorney from 1923 to1932. His public service career then shifted to the state legislature, where he served from 1933 to 1935. He lost a 1936 bid for a U.S. Congressional seat, but succeeded in that effort six years later. He served as Wyoming’s Representative until 1950, when he was elected Governor of Wyoming. Historian T.A. Larson noted that while in Congress Barrett “acquired a reputation for folksiness, alertness to the needs of his constituents, and attention to details.”

Barrett Print 64, Gov Barrett at desk in Capitol 1951026

Governor Barrett seated at his desk in the Capitol Building, 1951.
(WSA Barrett Print 64)

Barrett only served two years as Governor of Wyoming, winning election to the U.S. Senate in 1952. He was Senator for six years, but failed in re-election efforts in 1958 and 1960. Senator Barrett died on May 30, 1962.

H97-33, Congressional Records and Senate report by Barrett023

Three opinions and reports given by Barrett during his time as US Senator.
(WSA H97-33)

The records of Governor Barrett maintained by the Wyoming State Archives consist of subject files maintained by his staff. Through correspondence, reports and meeting minutes, the files document interaction with state officials and agencies, and cover issues of concern to the state at that time.

Sub Neg 176 deriv, Sen Barrett attaching name plate made by Mrs Opal Templeton of Lusk

Senator Barrett attaching the bucking horse name plate made by Mrs Opal Templeton of Lusk to his office door.
(WSA Sub Neg 176)

Personal papers and political records of Senator Barrett are also held by the State Archives. These are cataloged as collection H97-33. Much of the collection deals with Senator Barrett’s political career and concurrent events. However, the collection also documents the activities and accomplishments of the family from Senator Barrett’s youth to the careers of his children, Frank A. Barrett, a surgeon; James Emmett Barrett, a federal judge; and Marialyce Tobin, an attorney.

H97-33, Home & School Speaker cover and example page

This child’s speech textbook was given to Barrett in 1901, according to the inscription. It is a “practical manual of delsarte exercises and elocution” complete with diagrams of gestures. Perhaps this book helped the young Barrett to develop the skills that served him so well as both a lawyer and a politician.
(WSA H97-33)

These collections document the lives of one of Wyoming’s most influential families, and events and issues which impacted the state during the mid-years of the 20th century.

Barrett Neg 87 derivative, Barrett family photo, 1951

Governor and his family at the Governor’s Mansion in Cheyenne, 1951.
(WSA Barrett Print 87)

— Curtis Greubel, Wyoming State Imaging Center Supervisor

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The Sweet Sound of… Saxophones!

Today is national saxophone day! Why November 6th? Because that is the birthday of Adolphe Sax, the Belgian inventor of the saxophone. And today happens to be his 200th birthday. Incidentally, today is also the 160th birthday of John Phillip Sousa, legendary march composer and promoter of saxophone use in bands.

In honor of both of these men, we bring you the O.P. Thayer Saxophone Band of Rock Springs!

The OP Thayer Saxophone Band shows off their new maroon uniforms in front of the Rock Springs City Hall, ca 1902. (WSA Sweetwater Museum Collection Sub Neg 5550)

The O.P. Thayer Saxophone Band shows off their new maroon uniforms in front of the Rock Springs City Hall, ca 1902. The large instrument in the front row, far right is the first bass saxophone manufactured by the Conn musical instrument company.
(WSA Sweetwater County Museum Collection Sub Neg 5550)

(WSA Rock Springs Rocket  10/9/1902 p4)

One of the first concerts given by the Saxophone Band(WSA Rock Springs Rocket 10/9/1902 p4)

Born in Massachusetts around 1875, Oliver “Ollie” Pearson Thayer, moved with his family to Rock Springs around 1877. In high school, he played in the band and orchestra, often with his sister Mary. For a while in his late teens-early twenties, Thayer dabbled in professional photography but found his calling in music.

Around 1902, he organized his saxophone band, possibly the first of its kind in the nation. The group often serenaded the residents of Rock Springs at concerts, dances, community events, commencements, weddings, for visiting dignitaries and even at a few funerals. The band received rave reviews from local and national press. Thayer’s band also received the first bass saxophone produced by the Conn company, a leading instrument manufacturer. By the 1910s, saxophone bands had sprung up all around the country.

Thayer Fremont Clipper July 10, 1903, page 4

(WSA Fremont Clipper 7/10/1903 p4)

1903 seems to have been the height of the band’s popularity, though they continued to perform until about 1905. During the summer of 1903, the band traveled to Fort Washakie, Lander and Atlantic City and entertained President Theodore Roosevelt during his visit to Evanston that year as part of a three day trip through Wyoming on his way back from the West Coast.

Thayer Wyoming Press May 30, 1903, page 9

(WSA Wyoming Press 5/30/1903 p9)

In addition to leading various bands and orchestras in the Rock Springs area, Thayer also composed several pieces of music.

O.P. Thayer composed several pieces of music including this 1909 march and two step, punctuated by "Indian yells." Unfortunately, he used a photo of Shoshone chief Washakie to illustrate his "Sioux" war dance. (WSA H2012-10)

O.P. Thayer composed several pieces of music including this 1906 piece punctuated by “Indian yells.” Unfortunately, he used a photo of Shoshone chief Washakie to illustrate his “Sioux” war dance. Most of his compositions seem to have been marches and/or two steps.
(WSA H2012-10)

Thayer and his family moved to Havre, Montana in 1914 but kept in contact with their family and many of their friends in Rock Springs. By 1932, he and his family had moved to Redlands, California where he directed the school band and orchestra. Thayer died in California in 1957.

 

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This Day in Wyoming History: Nellie Tayloe Ross Elected Governor in 1924

On November 5, 1924, Wyoming made history by electing Nellie Tayloe Ross governor, once again shattering a glass ceiling for women. The state that led the way in women’s suffrage became one of two that year to elect a female chief executive.

Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross seated at her desk in the Governor's Office, Wyoming State Capitol Building, 1924-1926. Ross was the first female governor in the United States. She and MA Ferguson of Texas were both elected on November 5, 1924, but Ross took office before Ferguson. (WSA Sub Neg 2260)

Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross seated at her desk in the Governor’s Office, Wyoming State Capitol Building, 1924-1926. Ross was the first female governor in the United States. She and Ma Ferguson of Texas were both elected on November 5, 1924, but Ross took office before Ferguson.
(WSA Sub Neg 2260)

Just over a month before, Nellie had been just another first lady, albeit a very involved one. Her husband, Governor William B. Ross, had bucked the Republican stronghold on Wyoming politics and was elected Governor in 1924, despite a lack of support from Senator John B. Kendrick of Sheridan, Wyoming’s Democratic powerhouse. Nellie was her husbands constant helper, companion and confidant, even writing and refining speeches for him.

Governor William B. Ross standing on the steps of the Governor's Mansion following his inauguration. His wife, Nellie, was offered the Democratic nomination for governor following his unexpected death in 1924. (WSA Bristol Collection 31-8)

Governor William B. Ross standing on the steps of the Governor’s Mansion following his inauguration. His wife, Nellie, was offered the Democratic nomination for governor following his unexpected death in 1924.
(WSA Bristol Collection 31-8)

In September 1924, she accompanied him on a tour of the state to promote his plan to introduce a proposal for constitutional amendment for a mineral severance tax. Following his well-received speech in Laramie on the 23rd, William came down with what he thought was a bad case of indigestion. By the time a doctor was called the next evening, his appendix had ruptured and there was little the specialists from Denver could do once the sepsis set in. William hung on until October 2, with Nellie at his side as often as the doctors would allow. Nellie was devastated by the loss.

Nellie was a considerate corespondent and dutifully sent many hand written thank you notes. This one was sent to Gertrude Hicks in thanks for flowers for William funeral.

Nellie was a considerate corespondent and dutifully sent many hand written thank you notes. This one was sent to Gertrude Hicks in thanks for flowers for William funeral. “You, perhaps, can understand something of the desolation his going has left in my heart – Truly it is unspeakable.”
(WSA H64-36)

William was buried in the family plot in Cheyenne on the 4th. Following his funeral, chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Committee Dr. J.R. Hylton, called on Nellie to offer his sympathies and a novel opportunity. How would she like to run for governor to serve out her husband’s term?

Almost as soon as Frank Lucas took over as acting governor, he had called for a special election for governor as statue mandated. There was no time to lose since the general election was coming up on November 5. Including the governor’s race would save the state time and money. But that meant that both parties had only one month to produce candidates and organize a campaign. Who better to take up the Democratic platform than Nellie?

Nellie's suporters were quick to point out that it would be an honor for the

Nellie’s supporters were quick to point out that it would be an honor for the “Equality State” to be the first to elect a woman as governor.
(WSA Cheyenne Daily Leader November 3, 1924)

Against her brother George’s council, Nellie turned down the offers of a comfortable position as a clerk or even State Librarian and accepted the party’s unanimous nomination on October 14. Still in mourning, Nellie declined to campaign for herself. But this did not stop her supporters from taking out newspaper advertisements and publishing literature on her behalf. Even Senator Kendrick endorsed her campaign saying:

No one who has even a passing acquaintance with Mrs. Ross would for a moment doubt her qualifications to act as chief executive of this state. She is highly educated, intensely practical, and is inherently conscientious in the fulfillment of every responsibility. It is a well-known fact that no husband and wife ever lived in our state’s capitol whose relationship was more intimately devoted, and there has perhaps never been an official of the state whose wife enjoyed more fully his complete confidence in his every public act than Governor Ross. She was his chief counselor, and, as he often said, his most severe critic, and his record of service clearly indicates the wisdom of her counsel. — Cheyenne Daily Leader October 29, 1924

Senator and former Governor, John B. Kendrick endorsed Nellie's campaign for governor.  (WSA Cheyenne Daily Leader 10-29-1924)

Senator and former Governor, John B. Kendrick endorsed Nellie’s campaign for governor.
(WSA Cheyenne Daily Leader October 29, 1924)

Despite running as a Democrat, Ross, like her husband before her, made it clear she was her own woman and would not necessarily follow strict party lines.

I am not unmindful of the great responsibility this office entails and… I shall expect and feel in duty bound to make my own decisions in every case… Under no circumstances would I have accepted this nomination had not my familiarity with and my interest in my husband’s work given me an understanding of the problems of the office and a reliance upon my own ability to assume the responsibilities laid down by him. — Cheyenne Daily Leader 11/3/1924

She also made it known that she was of a mind with her late husband and would follow his lead in many areas.

Ross had her detractors, though in deference to her recent loss they tended to be more discrete than in most campaigns. On the eve of the election, Edna Bartlett of Cheyenne published a lengthy political editorial in the newspaper addressing what she saw as the unfounded and wrong assumptions of her fitness for office, and the unfitness of women in general for politics.

We want to answer an objection to Mrs. Ross’ election that is sometimes heard: “I am afraid she isn’t strong enough.” Of course those who know Mrs. Ross personally don’t pay any attention to this: we know that her political enemies have to think of something to say against her election and it is absolutely impossible to say anything against the lady herself, they are forced to attack her strength, sometimes under a pretense of solicitude for her. — Cheyenne Daily Leader November 3, 1924

Edna Bartlett's methodical, logical response to many of Nellie detractors pointed out what she saw as the flaws in the logic against a woman, and Nellie in particular, serving as governor.  (WSA Cheyenne Daily Leader 11-3-1924)

Edna Bartlett’s methodical, logical response to many of Nellie detractors pointed out what she saw as the flaws in the logic against a woman, and Nellie in particular, serving as governor.
(WSA Cheyenne Daily Leader November 3, 1924)

Bartlett goes on to counter such arguments as:

– No woman has the strength to be Governor — “if the Governor’s job was moving pianos or making steel or prize fighting we wouldn’t want a woman governor. But the… quality which determines the winner in these cases is endurance.”

– Women are inferior to men in endurance — “Rather the contrary. Ask your doctor [about childbirth]… There is every reason to believe that [Mrs. Ross] has more of the kind of physical strength needed by an executive than many men who have held the office of Governor or who aspire to it.”

– Strength of mental character and spirit — “Read her letter of acceptance and her letter to the women and note in them the evidence of mental and moral strength, how clear-cut her views, how firm her expression of them!”

– Women are all emotional — “Well, we are willing to concede this… and that Mrs. Ross may be, for here is one of her strong points. She is governed by one emotion:… love… The noble emotion of love will keep her clear-headed and steady… Who can doubt that this emotion is her strength and will mean wisdom and justice for the benefit of the whole state?”

On election day, Nellie watched out the window of the Governor’s Mansion as voters filed into the carriage house, a designated local polling place. Her fate was in their hands.

Nellie won the governor's race in 1924. She was the only Democratic candidate elected to a statewide office in Wyoming that year. (WSA Cheyenne Daily Leader 11-5-1924)

Nellie won the governor’s race in 1924 as the only Democratic candidate elected to a statewide office in Wyoming that year. Her win was much less contested than that of MA Ferguson of Texas.
(WSA Cheyenne Daily Leader November 5, 1924)

In the end, the people of Wyoming elected her by an almost 8,000 vote (55%) majority over E.J. Sullivan. In 1926, she ran for re-election again with a promise of “no pledges except to the people.” She was very narrowly defeated by Frank Emerson. In 1933, she was appointed director of the United States Mint, a position in which she served with distinction as both the first woman and longest-serving (20 years) director.

Newly elected Governor Nellie Taylor Ross signs her oath of office in the Governor's Office, January 5, 1925. (WSA Sub Neg 12564)

Newly elected Governor Nellie Taylor Ross signs her oath of office in the Governor’s Office, January 5, 1925.
(WSA Sub Neg 12564)

Fliers from Nellie's unsuccessful re-election campaign of 1926. (WSA H62-42)

Fliers from Nellie’s unsuccessful re-election campaign of 1926.
(WSA H62-42)

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