WyoHistory.org

The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts is emeritus professor of history at the University of Wyoming.
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The University of Wyoming Textbook Controversy, 1947-48

After World War II, the University of Wyoming was bursting with returning veterans just as the nation, nervous about Communist expansion worldwide, was sliding into the Cold War. UW trustees called for the investigation of textbooks in use on campus to determine if they were “subversive or un-American.” The faculty overwhelmingly resisted the move, and both sides reached a compromise guaranteeing academic freedom in the future.

Wyoming Becomes a State: The Constitutional Convention and Statehood Debates of 1889 and 1890 — and Their Aftermath

Delegates to Wyoming’s Constitutional Convention had to work quickly in 1889 to get a constitution adopted while Congress was still in session. Still, they managed to adopt some innovative ideas, especially in water law. The biggest stumbling block to statehood, in Congressional debate the following year turned out to be whether Wyoming had enough people. It was a close call.

The Most Dangerous Occupation: The Quest for Safety in Wyoming’s Coal Mines

Accidents and disasters have plagued Wyoming coal mines since territorial times. In 1886, legislators created the office of the state mine inspector to help improve safety. Still, explosions and cave-ins killed hundreds of miners in the following decades. The worst accidents happened in Hanna in 1903 and near Kemmerer in 1923. Lawmakers continued to increase safety measures and eventually expanded the duties of the state mine inspector. Modern strip mining is far safer.

The Oil Business in Wyoming

Oil seeps were reported often in the early 19th century in what later became Wyoming; it was sold, for example to Oregon Trail travelers for wagon lubricant. The first producing well in Wyoming Territory was drilled in 1883 at Dallas Dome southeast Lander. Perhaps the state’s best-known historic oil producing region is the Salt Creek Field, north of Casper, which was one of the world’s largest-producing fields in the 1920s. Oil remains an important part of Wyoming’s economy and culture today, and the state is ranked high among the top national producers.

The Teapot Dome Scandal

Although the Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s was named for a Wyoming rock formation resembling a teapot, the wrongdoers were not from the state. During the administration of President Warren G. Harding, oilmen Harry Sinclair and Edward Doheny bribed Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall to gain access to the naval petroleum reserves located at Teapot Dome in the Salt Creek field north of Casper in northern Natrona County. Fall was the first Cabinet official to be imprisoned for crimes committed during his time in office. Sinclair also served a jail sentence.

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Encyclopedia | In the fall of 1918, the deadly influenza epidemic sweeping the world swept Wyoming as well when 780 people died statewide in just a few months, victims of the so-called Spanish flu. Schools, churches and theatres shut down, towns were quarantined and many businesses closed or severely limited their trade.
Encyclopedia | In the fall of 1913, the freshman class at the University of Wyoming created a large W on a hill in north Laramie that was easily visible to “passengers on incoming and outgoing trains from both directions,” according to a Wyoming Student report. 
Encyclopedia | In 1876, Dom Pedro II, emperor of Brazil, traveled the United States in advance of the celebration in Philadelphia that year of the nation’s centennial. A Cheyenne Leader reporter managed to get a story—even though the emperor’s train stopped in the Magic City in the middle of the night. 
Encyclopedia | A fountain and a mural on the University of Wyoming campus memorialize events surrounding the 1922 death of UW student Lowell O’Bryan, who died after being bucked off a horse while preparing a “cowboy welcome” for incoming UW President Arthur Crane.
Encyclopedia | Shoshone Cavern National Monument near Cody was established in 1909 but delisted after 53 years, turned over to the City of Cody and renamed Spirit Mountain Caverns. Maintaining the site proved too difficult for local concessionaires, however. In 1977, the spot was returned to federal ownership and is now managed by the BLM.
Encyclopedia | After World War II, the University of Wyoming was bursting with returning veterans just as the nation, nervous about Communist expansion worldwide, was sliding into the Cold War. UW trustees called for the investigation of textbooks in use on campus to determine if they were “subversive or un-American.” The faculty overwhelmingly resisted the move, and both sides reached a compromise guaranteeing academic freedom in the future.
Encyclopedia | Delegates to Wyoming’s Constitutional Convention had to work quickly in 1889 to get a constitution adopted while Congress was still in session. Still, they managed to adopt some innovative ideas, especially in water law. The biggest stumbling block to statehood, in Congressional debate the following year turned out to be whether Wyoming had enough people. It was a close call.
Encyclopedia | Accidents and disasters have plagued Wyoming coal mines since territorial times. In 1886, legislators created the office of the state mine inspector to help improve safety. Still, explosions and cave-ins killed hundreds of miners in the following decades. The worst accidents happened in Hanna in 1903 and near Kemmerer in 1923. Lawmakers continued to increase safety measures and eventually expanded the duties of the state mine inspector. Modern strip mining is far safer.

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