The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

A flu pandemic and a freighting empire

A flu pandemic and a freighting empire

April 2020

This month, we’ve re-posted an article we first published 18 months ago on the 100th anniversary of the worldwide flu epidemic. The 1918-1919 flu took 50 million or more lives worldwide. As of this writing, no lives have yet been lost in Wyoming to the novel coronavirus, but we have a way to go yet. We urge everyone to stay safe and look to the Centers for Disease Control for good information. 

We also offer a new article on a pair of German-immigrant brothers who built a freighting business from north to south across early Wyoming Territory. They thrived on hard work, government contracts and a sound sense of when to expand and when to rein in their operations.

Wyoming and the pandemic of 102 years ago

In October 1918, when a deadly flu was sweeping the world, a Casper newspaper offered advice as sound now as it was then: Avoid crowds, wash your hands often, “[d]on’t worry, and keep your feet warm.” But there was reason to worry. Schools, churches, and businesses closed—and 780 Wyomingites died.  Read more in UW History Professor Emeritus Phil Roberts’s article, “The 1918 Flu: A Pandemic Sweeps Wyoming.”

“75 teams employed and will shortly need 25 more”

When German-born August and Charles Trabing came to Laramie in 1868, they began selling goods and hauling supplies to settlers, mining camps and especially Army forts around Wyoming Territory. Their operations expanded for 15 years, with annual revenues sometimes topping $1 million in today’s dollars. Read more in Nancy Trabing Mickelson’s article, “A Territorial Empire: The Trabings and their Freight.”

New Lesson Plan

The Story of the Seven Sisters

Poetry Month 

Wyoming’s first poet laureate, award-winning poet and fiction writer Peggy Simson Curry, grew up on a ranch in North Park, Colo., a world that informed much of her work. As an adult she taught writing at Casper College for 25 years, nurturing the work and hopes of generations writers that followed her. Read more in poet Lori Van Pelt’s article, Peggy Simson Curry, Wyoming’s First Poet Laureate.
Robert Roripaugh, Wyoming poet laureate from 1995-2002, died last year. Much of his clear, quiet fiction and poetry was informed by his youth on his family’s ranch near Lander. In the early 1950s, he won degrees from the University of Wyoming before spending two years with the U.S. Army in Japan, where he met and married his wife, Yoshiko. In 1958, the Atlantic Monthly published a short story; Roripaugh soon joined the UW English faculty and retired as a full professor in 1993. For more on his life and work, read author John Nesbitt’s 2011 article, Robert Roripaugh, Wyoming Poet Laureate 1995-2002.

Calendar Events

Wyoming History Day moves to online format
As the University of Wyoming has canceled all in-person classes for the rest of the semester and moved to online formats, Wyoming History Day is following a similar tactic. Deadline for submissions in all categories—papers, websites, documentaries, performances and exhibits—has been extended to 9:59 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Judges will receive their assignments Friday, April 24. Results will be announced by Tuesday, May 5.
The Central Wyoming regional History Day contest in Casper has been canceled. National History Day has also moved to an all-online format

Click here for full details on the state contest for students, teachers and judges. For any questions, contact Wyoming History Day Coordinator Jessica Flock, 307-760-7643, jflock@uwyo.edu.

Wyoming Institute of Humanities Research at UW offers online reading, discussion opportunities
Join WIHR via Zoom at the links below, Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 5:30. Bring your evening meal, a tea, or some other drink of your choice.

On Tuesdays at 5:30, at this Zoom link, we will host a Silent Book Club: Show up on Zoom with whatever book you want, and then for one hour, we read. For the first ten minutes or so, we share on screen or via chat whatever book we brought. Then, for forty minutes, all the microphones go off, and we read together. For last ten minutes or so people can read aloud to the group a few interesting sentences from their books.

On Thursdays at 5:30, at this Zoom link, we will host our “Think and Drink” series, informal conversations by faculty and other invited speakers on a range of topics. This week’s topic will be “Telling It: How Stories Shape The World” and our speakers will be Willow Belden, Wyoming Public Media; Bethann Merkel, director of the Wyoming Science Communication Initiative; and Arielle Zibrak, Department of English. In future weeks, we’ll have speakers on women’s participation in politics, on healing individuals and communities, on political responses to crisis, and more.

We hope you join us! Please follow the institute on Facebook and stay tuned for further details.

Buffalo Bill Center slates Friday evening soup pickups
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody is closed, but will offer free soup for pickup Friday afternoon April 3 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Limit two quarts per vehicle; staff expects to have 200 quarts to distribute. For more information see the center’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1112735502402804/.

Sweetwater County Museum continues to offer research
The Sweetwater County Museum is also closed, but will continue to offer research services as usual by email and telephone. Museum staff can be reached at info@sweetwatermuseum.org or (307) 872-6435. Watch for more information for updates and outreach efforts at the museum website at www.sweetwatermuseum.org , or its Facebook page at Facebook@SWCHM
State Archives offers special stuck-at-home page 
Stuck at home?  Explore the Wyoming State Archives digital resources at https://wyoarchives.wyo.gov/index.php/find-it-in-the-archives/stuck-at-home
University of Wyoming American Heritage Center offers research services
Online access to digital materials and help with patron requests are available as usual. Email the AHC Reference Desk at ahcref@uwyo.edu with questions.

Casper College Western History Center offers research services
The Casper College Western History Center is closed, but people with research questions are welcome to email wyoref@caspercollege.edu  or message the center at its Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/Western-History-Center-284375484953941.