Tag Archives: Gov. Cliff Hansen

An Overview of the Poll Tax in Wyoming

The poll tax was an integral part of Wyoming since the territory’s inception.  The Territorial Legislature required counties to impose a poll tax of two dollars ($25.94 in 2015) for each adult.  Initially, it applied only to individuals over the age 21.  In 1873, the territorial legislature limited it to individuals between the ages of 21 and 50.   Later, firemen and their wives and veterans were exempted from the poll tax.

Money raised from this tax was delegated to funding schools.  This provision would be incorporated into the state constitution.  In 1909, a new statute allowed county commissioners’ could institute a special poll tax to pay for roads.

The (WSA Session Laws of Wyoming, 1873)

The statute passed by the 1873 State Legislature limited those responsible for the poll tax to citizens over the age of 21. It did not specify what the money raised would be used. The only penalty for non-payment was a seizure and sale of property to pay the tax by the sheriff or collection agent. It does not appear that non-payment threatened the individual’s access to the polls on voting day.
(WSA Session Laws of Wyoming, 1873)

The poll tax seems to have elicited little discussion in Wyoming circles. Elsewhere, it was a serious matter.   In many states, particularly in the South, failure to pay one’s poll tax resulted in the loss of voting rights.  In Wyoming, failure to pay a poll tax put an individual on a delinquent list.  If still unpaid after a period of time, a person’s property could be seized and sold or wages garnished.

Legislation already defined in broad terms, who could and who could not vote.  Moreover, there is no connection between paying a poll tax and the right to vote.  It seems that the only connection between poll taxes and voting was that poll tax records were used to compile a list of qualified voters.  

In 1890, the state legislature passed legislation that made it unnecessary for individuals to pay their poll tax in order to vote.  One can only guess at the legislature’s generosity.  Maybe they saw this as a way to push the process of statehood forward.  We may never know the true reason.

Telegraph from ___ to Governor Hansen  (WSA RG0001.36, Hansen gubernatorial records)

Telegraph from US Senate leadership to Governor Hansen urging him to ask the State Legislature to discuss ratification.
(WSA RG0001.36, Hansen gubernatorial records)

In 1962, Congress passed a resolution to amend the US Constitution by barring the poll tax as a requirement for voting in federal elections.  In January 1963 Sen. Gale McGee fervently encouraged Governor Clifford Hansen to get Wyoming to support the amendment.  McGee believed that “it would be in the interest of our State to have the legislature consider the proposal during its present session . . .”   Two months later, US Senators Mike Mansfield and Everett Dirksen also strongly urged Governor Hansen to should push the Wyoming legislature to support the amendment.  In their cable they stated that  “The strength and vitality of our democratic processes rests upon every qualified citizen expressing his views through the ballot – surely in this day, those otherwise qualified to vote should not be prevented from doing so by the anachronistic device of a poll tax.”    

Letter from Sen. McGee to Governor Hansen. (WSA RG0001.36, Hansen gubernatorial records)

Letter from Sen. McGee to Governor Hansen personally urging consideration of the amendment in the State Legislature.
(WSA RG0001.36, Hansen gubernatorial records)

Governor Hansen did not share any of the senators’ enthusiasm.  Moreover, even if the political logic seemed to have little effect on him, the matter was poorly timed.  At the time of McGee’s letter, the legislature was already in mid-session.   Hansen acknowledged Magee’s letter and in a dry, dispassionate terms that he had sent a memorandum to the speaker of the House and the President of the Senate to “take whatever action they deem advisable.”  After the legislative session had concluded, he stonily reported that no action had been taken by either chamber.  

Letter from Governor Hansen. (WSA RG0001.36, Hansen gubernatorial records)

Response from Governor Hansen to Senator Gale McGee.
(WSA RG0001.36, Hansen gubernatorial records)

With the legislative session concluded, the only possibility was a special session, but it did not seem practical to do so.  Unlike his Washington colleagues, Hansen was not inspired by the amendment to take any further action.  

In the meantime, between January and March 1963, 29 states ratified the amendment.  Between March 1963 and January 1964, 9 additional states ratified the measure and it became officially adopted into the US Constitution.  Wyoming is one of 8 states, most in the South, that did not ratify the 24th amendment.  

Wyoming is one of only a handfull of states that did not ratify the 24th Amendment. (map from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:24th_amendment_ratification.svg)

Wyoming is one of only eight states that have never ratified the 24th Amendment.
(map from Wikimedia Commons)

To its credit, the Wyoming legislature was not totally oblivious.  From 1957 to 1963, several house members called for repealing the poll tax provision from the state constitution but the issue failed to get the support of the majority of the house members.  

Finally in 1967, both chambers agreed to endorse the idea, and the proposed constitutional change was strongly approved at the general election in November 1968.  The following year, the legislature repealed the poll tax statutes.

— Carl Hallberg, Reference Archivist


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Esther Morris Turns 50…

Or at least her statue turned 50 earlier this month. On December 8, 1963, the bronze statue of Esther Morris was unveiled in front of the Wyoming State Capitol Building.

Secretary of State Thrya Thomson standing beside the statue of Esther Morris. This photo was taken during the 75th Anniversary of statehood celebration in 1965.  (WSA Sub Neg 2669)

Secretary of State Thyra Thomson standing beside the statue of Esther Morris. This photo was taken during the 75th anniversary of statehood celebration in 1965.
(WSA Sub Neg 2669)

The bronze is a replica of the sculpture on display in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. Sculpted by Avard Fairbanks, the statue commemorates Esther Hobart Morris and those who worked to give Wyoming’s women the right to vote in 1869. This piece was the first to represent the state of Wyoming in the national capitol and was joined by one depicting Chief Washakie in 2000. The statue of Morris was the third to depict a woman in the statuary hall.

The story of the statue starts in 1953 when the State of Washington presented their statue depicting Doctor Marcus Whitman. Apparently, it was mentioned during the presentation that Whitman and his wife had crossed South Pass in 1853 on their way to Washington. Senator Lester Hunt, the man behind the bucking horse license plate, witnessed the ceremony and the wheels began to turn. In November of that year, he finally wrote a letter to Frank Bowron, president of the Wyoming Historical Society, laying out his grand vision.

“Each time as my work in the Capitol takes me through this great room of Americana, I have a renewed desire to see Wyoming represented among our sister states…”

(WSA RG0013, Esther Morris Memorial Commission)

Hunt’s letter to Frank Bowron.
(WSA RG0013, Esther Morris Memorial Commission)

Hunt felt that the women of Wyoming would be best qualified to handle the project. Though he proposed to leave the decision in their capable hands, he did offer the suggestion that perhaps Esther Morris should be memorialized for her work in championing suffrage in the state.

The official Esther Morris Memorial Commission was created by Governor Simpson in 1955, at the request of the State Legislature. The Wyoming State Historical Society asked interested parties around the state for their opinion as to who should be memorialized. Morris was by far the most popular, with Jim Bridger coming in a weak second. But not everyone was happy with the decision. Dr. T.A. Larson, professor of history at the University of Wyoming, wrote several lengthy letters to the editor of the Laramie Boomerang that were published. He believed that was little proof that Morris was as influential as folklore claimed she was.

Once the decision was made to immortalize Morris, members raised the funds necessary and commissioned Dr. Avard Fairbanks, who had inspired Sen. Hunt with his statue of Whitman.The statue was unveiled in Washington D.C. in 1960 with former Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross representing the state and office of the governor. State Representative Endness Wilkinson made the official presentation. All three of Wyoming’s congressmen, Sen. Joseph O’Mahoney, Sen. Gale McGee and Rep. Keith Thomson also spoke at the ceremony.

Tourism Photos, Esther Morris statue unveiling crop1

Removing the covering from the statue. Secretary of State Thyra Thomson watches to the side.
(WSA Dept of Tourism slide)

In 1961, the State Legislature provided $7500 to place a replica of the statue to be placed at the state capitol building. The Commission was organized by Governor Jack Gage and consisted of seven citizens, some of whom had served on the original commission.

On a clear but chilly December day in 1963, the statue was finally placed in front of the Capitol Building. According to the newspaper “A crowd of 125… stuck by the ceremonies despite temperatures in the low 30s and a bone-chilling wind which caused most speakers to pare their remarks drastically.” Thyra Thomson stated that this statue honored not only the women of Wyoming but also “the men who put action to their words.”

Tourism Photos, Esther Morris statue unveiling crop2

Governor Cliff Hansen, the only male speaker at the ceremony, gives his very brief comments. According to the newspaper he “skipped all but the last paragraph of his prepared speech.” The Central High School band, who provided the day’s music, is seated on the steps of the Capitol behind him.
(WSA Dept of Tourism slide)

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Filed under State Symbols, This Day in Wyoming History..., Women's Suffrage

Friday Foodie: Governor’s Mansion Hollandaise Sauce

In 1965, First Lady Martha Close Hansen helped to compile a cookbook full of Wyoming family recipes for the 75th anniversary of statehood. This was a special anniversary for Wyoming as there were still many people living who had either seen the original statehood celebration or had heard about it from those who had lived it.

Publicity photo for the Cooking Wyoming cookbook. Mrs. Martha Hansen and three ladies all dressed in period dresses in the Historic Governor's Mansion. The Hansens lived in the house from 1963 to 1967. (WSA Cheyenne Star P83-11/269)

Publicity photo for the Cooking in Wyoming cookbook. Mrs. Martha Hansen and three ladies all dressed in period dresses in the Historic Governor’s Mansion. The Hansens lived in the house from 1963 to 1967.
(WSA Cheyenne Star P83-11/269)

One entire section of the book was dedicated to Wyoming’s first ladies’ recipes and included submissions from Mrs. Robert D. (Julia) Carey, Nellie Tayloe Ross, Mrs. Frank (Jean) Emerson, Mrs. Leslie (Margaret) Miller, Mrs. Nels (Marie) Smith, Mrs. Lester (Emily) Hunt, Mrs. Frank (Alice) Barrett,  Mrs. C.J. (Mabel) Rodgers, Mrs. Milward (Lorna) Simpson, Mrs. Joe (Winifred) Hickey, Mrs. Jack (Leona) Gage,  and  of course Mrs. Cliff (Martha) Hansen.

Cooking in Wyoming, 1965 (WSA 641 H249)

Cooking in Wyoming, 1965
(WSA 641 H249)

Hollandaise Sauce (submitted by Martha Hansen)

When we first came to the [Governor’s] Mansion, Mrs. Conroy, our housekeeper, said that she would try to cook anything we asked her to, except Hollandaise Sauce. We tried this recipe and she has made it successfully every time. We serve it often with vegetables. 

1/2 cup butter  or margarine
1/4 cup hot water
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of cayenne

Melt butter or margarine in top of double boiler over simmering water; stir in hot water. Remove top from heat and set on work surface. Add unbeaten egg yolk all at once; beat with electric or rotary beater 2-3 minutes, or until mixture is almost double in bulk. Stir in lemon juice, salt and cayenne.

Place over simmering water again; cook, stiring constantly, 5 minutes, or until thickened.

(Be sure water in lower part does not touch bottom of upper part or boil at any time during cooking.)

Remove sauce from heat; let stand, uncovered until serving time. To reheat: Place over simmering water again and stir lightly for 2-3 minutes (In reheating, sauce may lose some of its fluffiness but it will keep its golden rich creaminess.)

Fake Hollandaise

If you are in a hurry.

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup milk
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Cook milk and mayonnaise together in top of double boiler for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper; stir.

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