Tag Archives: Laramie

Laramiewood: Douglas Fairbanks Films in Wyoming

The_Man_From_Painted_Post_1917

 

On August 8, 1917, while guns blazed in Europe, silent film and Broadway star Douglas Fairbanks and his troop of actors began filming scenes for his newest movie, “The Man from Painted Post” at the Riverside Ranch near Laramie, Wyoming. They would stay for 2 weeks.

The film arrived in Wyoming theatres in mid-October 1917 to record crowds. Theatres around the state, who usually only showed a film twice a day on Friday and Saturday, scheduled double or triple this number to keep up with local demand.

(WSA Wyoming Tribune October 17, 1917)

(WSA Wyoming Tribune October 17, 1917)

Fairbanks had grown up in Denver before moving to New York to pursue an acting career on Broadway. In 1915, he began acting for the camera when it was still being looked down upon by many “serious” actors. His gamble paid off and he was soon one of the biggest names in the blossoming motion picture industry.

Fairbanks not only acted in “The Man from Painted Post”, originally titled “Handsome/Fancy Jim Sherwood,” he also wrote the screen play and acted as producer for the film. His brother, John, was the general manager of the Fairbanks Company troop. Many big name rodeo cowboys, like Sam Brownell, also made appearances beside the famous actors.

(WSA Laramie Daily Boomerang August 4, 1917)

(WSA Laramie Daily Boomerang August 4, 1917)

The climactic fight scene was shot at the Woods Landing schoolhouse with students playing themselves while Fairbanks fights the “bad guy” for the schoolmarm’s affection. Apparently the cameraman caught some “real” action when a couple of boys also started to brawl.

Filming was not without incident. $1500 in jewelry went missing from cowgirl Prairie Rose Judd’s tent. A fire broke out and destroyed most of the wardrobe for Douglas and two other actors. Cloudy skies and rain stalled filming on several occasions. The mayor of Rock River interrupted filming of the final scene on Main Street, insisting the company needed permission first. Despite these setbacks, Fairbanks was very pleased with his time in the “Gem City.”

(WSA Laramie Daily Boomerang August 9, 1917)

(WSA Laramie Daily Boomerang August 9, 1917)

The Laramie Chamber of Commerce took the opportunity to speak with Fairbanks about permanently locating his company in Laramie. The local paper was full of talk of setting up a permanent filming camp and even a “resort” near Woods Landing to cater to the visiting stars. Fairbanks seemed to entertain the idea, mentioning that the location half way between California and New York would certainly be convenient and promised to send a company representative to look into the possibility, but nothing ever came of it.

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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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The ABC’s of City Directories

Happy Archives Month! A wise researcher once said “genealogy without documentation is mythology.” During October, we will be taking a closer look at some of the wonderful genealogical resources available at the Archives and how they can help you dig deeper and possibly solve your family history research problems.


 

Examples of city directories from around Wyoming. These books can be wonderful resources for genealogists.

Examples of city directories from around Wyoming. These books can be wonderful resources for genealogists.

City directories first came in to use in what is now the United State in some of the east coast cities in the eighteenth century, and continue to be published today in both the US and Canada.  While there were many publishers involved, the most recognized publisher is (R.L) Polk City Directories.  The directories were used to help salespeople and deliverymen locate individuals for commercial and delivery purposes, and to provide advertising space for businesses, much like later telephone books.

The directories were often produced annually or every other year.  Before starting your research in the city directories, review the table of contents and introductory text to better understand the organization, format and abbreviations in the book.

The introduction may provide clues as to the organization of the particular directory.

The introduction may provide clues as to the organization of the particular directory.
(WSA Polk Directory, Laramie 1929-1930)

Included in the listing was the name of the head of household, the street address and often the occupation and employer of the head of household.  This information can lead to some interesting discoveries, as well as the possibility of verifying family stories of what a great-grandfather did for a living.  The listing may also include whether the individual was a boarder, renter, or owner.

This page of the 1934-35 Casper Polk Directory includes A.E. Chandler. From the entry we find his full name was Arthur E., his wife's name was Elizabeth. We can also see that Changler ran the Casper's Finest Filling Station. Business must have been going well because he had a telephone at both his home and the business.

This page of the 1934-35 Casper Polk Directory includes A.E. Chandler. From the entry we find his full name was Arthur E., his wife’s name was Elizabeth. We can also see that Changler ran the Casper’s Finest Filling Station. Business must have been going well because he had a telephone at both his home and the business.
(WSA Polk Directory, Casper 1934-35)

In some directories, only the head of household was listed, which, from the family historian’s viewpoint, can be frustrating.  As children became adults they were listed as well.  When a man died, his wife was often indexed as “Smith, Mary, widow of John”.  (This is a clue to a death date.)

By the mid-twentieth century these directories included a street cross-index, which is useful for determining neighbors, or who lived in the house prior to and following your ancestor.  Looking through the street index listing lets the researcher see if there are relatives living in the same neighborhood.  This is also helpful, if your ancestor is using a nickname.  In past research, using the street address has helped this researcher discover Gaylord Everett, who was going by Gale Everett.

It is much easier to determine the address of a residence using the directories than from the census records.  They give the researcher the opportunity to go to the physical address and visualize where their ancestors lived.  In the absence of census records, directories are very helpful in tracking the movement of those elusive ancestors more frequently than census enumerations since they were published annually or bi-annually.  Many directories include community pages which would list houses of worship, clubs, cemeteries, businesses and possibly a city map.  If your ancestor lived in a small town or a big city, chances are they can be found in a city directory.

This "directory of householders" includes the area surrounding the Historic Governor's Mansion in Cheyenne.  This portion of the directory can help you  identify neighbors or neighboring businesses. It is also quite helpful when researching buildings. Once you have a name, the "white page" style listing can tell you more about the individual.  (WSA Polk Directory, Cheyenne 1907)

This “directory of householders” includes the area surrounding the Historic Governor’s Mansion in Cheyenne. This portion of the directory can help you identify neighbors or neighboring businesses. It is also quite helpful when researching buildings. Once you have a name, the “white page” style listing can tell you more about the individual.
(WSA Polk Directory, Cheyenne 1907)

As with any mass produced item, accuracy may be an issue.  In some instances, people had to pay to have their names included in a directory and ethnic and racial minorities were often excluded. Also the year on the cover is most often the publication dates, which is not necessarily the year the information was collected.  But most of all, don’t be surprised if you find yourself “reading” the directory!  They are full of clues, and facts that help place your ancestor in historical context.

— Robin Everett, Processing Archivist

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