Tag Archives: Wyoming Firsts

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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On This Day In Wyoming History… 1894: Wyoming’s First Jewish Wedding

Mazzal tov to the happy couple! On September 5, 1894, the first Jewish wedding in Wyoming as officiated in Cheyenne, making today the couple’s 120th anniversary. Louis D. Jacobs married Miss Sylvia Adamsky at her parent’s home. The ceremony was officiated by Rabbi H. Saft of St. Louis, Missouri, who was also Louis’ uncle.

Louis and Sylvia had met in Cheyenne, where she had grown up. Louis’ family had briefly lived in Cheyenne before moving to Deadwood. They had both attended Cheyenne High School and Sylvia had graduated from there in 1888 with a stellar academic record. She was well-known around Cheyenne as a stellar speaker and musician. Louis was a budding salesman in South Dakota.

The event was auspicious enough to be described in detail in both Cheyenne newspapers. The chuppa, or ceremonial wedding tent, was held by four young men, two of whom also served as official witnesses, and the service was conducted in a mix of Hebrew and English.

Jacobs Adamsky wedding, 1st Jewish in WY, CDL 9-6-1894 p3

The newspaper accounts of the wedding included a short introduction of the couple, a description of the ceremony as well as a list of the wedding presents received by the bride and groom.
(WSA Cheyenne Daily Leader September 6, 1894 p3)

After the ceremony, the couple honeymooned in Illinois before settling in Deadwood, South Dakota. Their happiness was unfortunately short-lived. Louis died in 1903 from pneumonia, leaving Silvia to care for their 2 small boys, Ralph and Morris.

The Laramie County Clerk's records include a copy of the couple's marriage license.  (WSA Laramie County Clerk Marriages, Book 4 Page 179)

The Laramie County Clerk’s records include a copy of the couple’s marriage license.
(WSA Laramie County Clerk Marriages, Book 4 Page 179)

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Friday Foodie: Estelle Reel Meyer’s Fruit Cake

Today’s Friday Foodie recipe comes from the scrapbook of Estelle Reel Meyer, the nation’s first woman elected to public office in the United States (Wyoming’s Superintendent of Public Instruction 1894-1898) and Director of Indian Education for the Bureau of Indian Affairs 1898-1910. Her extensive and eclectic scrapbooks also contain various beauty remedies and exercises, eye wash prescriptions and a recipe for a cholera cure.

Estelle Reel Meyer, 1890s (WSA No Neg)

Estelle Reel Meyer, 1890s
(WSA No Neg)

Meyer, Estelle Reel, scrapbook recipe for fruit cake, nd

Estelle’s Fruit Cake

1 pound of sugar
1 pound and a half of flour
16 eggs
Brandy, quarter of a pint
Raisins, 4 pounds
Currents, 2 pounds
1 1/2 teacups molasses
1 spoon full of soda
1 spoon full of cinnamon
1 spoon full of cloves
1 spoon full of nutmeg

Bake 4 hours if all put in one cake.

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