The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

An artist-prisoner paints at Camp Douglas, and editors in Wyoming write about King’s death

An artist-prisoner paints at Camp Douglas, and editors in Wyoming write about King’s death

November 2020

This month, we feature a skilled Italian muralist painting western scenes on the officers’ club walls at Camp Douglas, and across-the-spectrum responses to Martin Luther King’s assassination.

Not working as cowboys, but painting them

When Enzo Tarquinio surrendered to U.S. Rangers in Sicily in 1943, he didn’t know he’d end up at Camp Douglas, Wyo. While other POWs worked at farms and ranches, Tarquinio and at least two fellow artist-prisoners painted murals in the officers’ club. Their subjects? Cowboys, Indians, geysers and mountain goats. Read more in Laura Ruberto’s article “An Italian Painter in a Wyoming POW Camp.”

Horror but also racism surface after King’s death

After Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, newspaper editors across the nation expressed varying degrees of shock and outrage. Wyoming joined in, but some editorials hinted at mixed sentiments about the killing and its aftermath. Read more in Phil White’s article “1968: Wyoming Reacts to the King Assassination.”

New Wyoming History Day site launched by UW’s American Heritage Center 

new website to support Wyoming History Day launched this week. Wyoming History Day, an affiliate of National History Day, brings together hundreds of Wyoming middle school and high school students in an annual competition. Created by the American Heritage Center (AHC) at the University of Wyoming, the website makes tons of historical materials—original primary sources held at the AHC— available on line to students for their projects and presentations. The competition begins with district meets in February and March,  continues through the state competition in April to a chance for top projects to at the national level in June.

Find the site at https://www.wyominghistoryday.org. The American Heritage Center created it with the help of a grant from the IMLS CARES Act Grants for Museums and Libraries awarded this September. The website begins operations with six topics that may intrigue students and offers digitized items drawn from fifteen archival collections. In coming months the site will provide materials for 30 topics from nearly 90 collections. The site was designed by Steve Foster, designer as well of the WyoHistory.org and Wyoming State Historical Society websites; WyoHistory.org has also been collaborating with the AHC on developing the content.

No longer will students need to make the long trip to Laramie to work in these collections. Thanks to the grant, the materials are now available to students across Wyoming and around the nation. 

AHC Director Paul Flesher says, “Since large numbers of Wyoming’s History Day students use our historical materials every year (often going on to win their category at the national competition), we are quite gratified and pleased to be able to up our game at this time when physical access to our collections is difficult.”

To help students find topics that fit the 2021 National History Day theme, “Communication in History: The Key to Understanding,” the site’s initial offerings include collections about the Pony Express, wartime journalism and propaganda, the comics industry and transmission of Native American cultural values. 

The site will be updated each year to accommodate the new annual History Day theme. It will allow the AHC to keep offering a reliable location for digitized materials, making access easy from near and far, even as COVID-19 recedes.

The American Heritage Center has coordinated Wyoming History Day for over a decade, hosting the state competition in Laramie every April. This year the competition will be held virtually, due to the pandemic. For more information, contact AHC Archivist Leslie Waggener at lwaggen2@uwyo.edu or 307-766-2557.

New, expanded edition of the history of I-80

Snow Chi Minh Trail: The History of Interstate 80 Between Laramie and Walcott Junction, 50th Anniversary Edition, by John Richard Waggener. Wyoming State Historical Society, 2020, 348 pages. $19.95 paperback.

When Interstate 80 opened between Laramie and Rawlins, it only took four days for a storm to wreak havoc on the new road. This October 7, 1970, road closure would be the first of many, and so a portion of the highway between Rawlins and Laramie became known as the Snow Chi Minh Trail. There were so many crashes and closures in the early years that the Wyoming Highway Department realized its conventional wintertime maintenance program and its snow fences were no match for the new highway.

The Golden Anniversary edition of this book contains many updates, new interviews, additional critically important historical information, additional maps and photographs made available to the author after the release of the previous edition of the book in February 2018. It is now available at select bookstores across the state, or through the Wyoming State Historical Society. Email Linda Fabian at linda@wyshs.org to order a copy.

Excerpted from Wyoming History News, October-November 2020, with thanks and permission.