The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History



July 2017

Here in Wyoming, local and state officials are preparing for big crowds in the days leading up to a total eclipse of the sun on Aug. 21, 2017. The path of totality runs northwest to southeast across the entire state, from Jackson through Riverton, Casper and Douglas to Torrington. Shops already are showing eclipse glasses, eclipse caps and t-shirts in their windows; hotels have been booked solid for months.
In that light, we thought we’d take a look back at three earlier eclipses that crossed Wyoming and at the scientists—and one famous inventor—who came here, the science they were pursuing and the instruments they used to do so.
Because the Union Pacific made it possible for that science to get done in the first place, we also offer an earlier piece on the huge role the railroad has played in our politics and economy over time.
Finally, from Wyoming’s historic trails, part of our ongoing collaboration with the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office and TravelStorysGPS™ of Wilson, Wyo., this month we offer an article on the grave of a gold-rush wagon maker who died on the trail—and on the fine house and large family he left behind in Indiana. Read on!

Scientists and moon shadows

Before 2017, three total solar eclipses have crossed Wyoming since territorial times—in 1878, 1889 and 1918. Two in particular drew prominent astronomers and scientific discoveries. These are especially interesting now, with the upcoming eclipse drawing people to a very different Wyoming from the one that last saw moon shadows in daytime. Read more in Rebecca Hein’s new article, Moon Shadows over Wyoming: The Solar Eclipses of 1878, 1889 and 1918

Edison and the sungazers 

The yarn that Thomas Edison dreamed up the idea of a bamboo filament for the incandescent electric light bulb while staring into a Wyoming campfire is almost certainly not true. He did come to Rawlins in 1878, however, with an astronomical expedition packed with prominent astronomers, and he did go fishing afterwards. Read the rest of the story in University of Wyoming History Professor Phil Roberts’s article, Edison, the Light Bulb and the Eclipse of 1878.

The railroad and its times

One of the most significant moments in Wyoming history didn’t occur within its borders. On May 10, 1869, a large crowd gathered at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, to celebrate the completion of the world’s first transcontinental railroad. At the given signal, a hammer slammed down on a golden spike, sending an electric pulse out over telegraph lines west to San Francisco, and east to Omaha … Read more at Gregory Nickerson’s article, “Industry, Politics and Power: The Union Pacific in Wyoming.

A life lost and a life left behind

The lure of the California Gold Rush led even a prosperous wagon maker like Daniel Lantz of Centreville, Ind. to try his luck. But illness struck him on the trail and he died in what’s now southwestern Wyoming. Months later, his wife and five children at home learned he never made it through. Read more at trails historian Randy Brown’s article, The Grave of Daniel Lantz.