“I didn’t know how much I didn’t know: AHC perspectives from the immigration symposium

When I read that convoluted quote I gave to the Laramie Boomerang, I thought to myself, “Now why did they print that?  I sound like an idiot.”  But then I realized it is the only way to describe it.  The immigration symposium has me thinking about immigration issues from angles I’ve never considered before.  The event humanized the issues for me in a way I’ve never experienced, but also revealed the tremendous complexities.  I know I’m not alone in my impressions, so I set about this morning to poll my AHC colleagues who attended sections of the symposium.


Jose Antonio Vargas and former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson share a laugh over lunch.

Details from the morning panel struck a chord with AHC Associate Director Rick Ewig and recalled to him that immigration is nothing new to Wyoming. During that panel, UW History Professor Phil Roberts spoke of the roles Wyoming U.S. Senators John B Kendrick (D – 1917-1933) and Francis E. Warren (R – 1890-1893, 1895-1929) had in encouraging immigrants to come to Wyoming for agricultural labor, especially in the sugar beets fields.  And Dr. Roberts reminded us that Europeans, Blacks, Asians and Hispanics comprised 40.5% of the total population in 1870; 29.6% in 1880; and 26.1% in 1890 at the time of Wyoming statehood. As of 2010, 3.2% of Wyoming residents were foreign-born.

Particularly moving to AHC Director Mark Greene was the personal testimony of José Rivas, Bertine Bahige, and Jose Antonio Vargas.  Mark noted that “all of them had different perspectives on the process and dilemma of being an ‘alien,’ documented or undocumented, in the U.S.”  Jose Antonio Vargas’ candid and engaging presentation manner impressed AHC Accounting Associate Meghan Monahan. “I liked his personal touch in that he took the time to research Wyoming statistics when it came to immigration, especially since he does so many talks around the country.”

Panelists for morning session

Panelists for the morning session of the symposium.

Arrangement and Description Head Claudia Thompson noticed that although U.S. Senator (Ret.) Alan K. Simpson made the point in his presentation that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts, speakers on the afternoon panel “asserted contradictory facts, each in perfect faith that their facts were right.” After the symposium, she concluded, “Many people have much to gain from reform, and reform is possible if everyone is willing to look for common ground and compromise. Without compromise, nothing can be changed. Senator Simpson said it would take another thirty years to find resolution…I don’t think we can wait another thirty years. The current situation isn’t fair to anyone.”

It was a great day of dialogue, and we hope the dialogue will continue.  Thanks to all of you who were part of it!

–Leslie Waggener, Simpson Institute

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From Storage to Stage: Using Archives to Research, Create, and Perform

Join us on October 14 for the Klausner Lecture!  This year’s Klausner Fellow is Jeanine Thompson and she’ll be talking about Marcel Marceau!


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“The Land Divided, The World United:” Reporting from the Panama Canal

A newly digitized collection, the Eleanor McIlhenny papers, provides researchers with a glimpse into the keen reporting of of woman journalist working in the Panama Canal zone from the pre- to post-WWII era.  The University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center (AHC) has digitized and made accessible online 180 photographs, printed materials, and subject files from the collection; the majority of the collection is now digitized.

McIlhenny's photos aren't all work and no play! Here is a photograph of a wedding, shedding additional light on the social life and customs of the Panama Canal Zone. Eleanor McIlhenny papers , #7704, Box 3. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

McIlhenny’s photos aren’t all work and no play! Here is a photograph of a wedding, shedding additional light on the social life and customs of the Panama Canal Zone. Eleanor McIlhenny papers , #7704, Box 3. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

Eleanor McIlhenny was a reporter living and working in the Panama Canal Zone from the 1940s to the 1960s. She covered life and work in the Canal Zone during World War II for a variety of papers. The collection contains drafts of stories on the Canal Zone by Eleanor McIlhenny (1940s-1960s); printed materials; photographs, including original canal construction, a 1906 visit by President Theodore Roosevelt, and the Third Locks Project (1941); and bound newspapers.

A ship in the Canal. Eleanor McIlhenny papers , #7704, Box 3. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

A ship in the Canal. Eleanor McIlhenny papers , #7704, Box 3. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

Links to digitized items and additional information about the Eleanor McIlhenny papers can be found in the on-line finding aid at: http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah07704.xml

–Jamie Greene, Digital Programs Department

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Paper, Silver, Gold . . . Oil Anniversary!

This week is the 155TH anniversary of the discovery of oil in Titusville, PA.  Edwin Drake drilled the first oil well on August 27, 1857 and launched what would become the modern petroleum industry.

Are you interested in learning more about the history of petroleum? American Heritage Center holdings include more than 200 collections related to various aspect of the industry.  The collections include Wyoming, the West, the U.S., and even elsewhere in the world, individuals and corporations, and variety of time periods with the strongest emphasis on 20th century. A few highlights of this collecting area can be found at http://www.uwyo.edu/ahc/collections/by-subject/geology.html.

With so many petroleum collections to choose from, here are just a few examples.

Oil Gusher and Overflow, Carbon County, Wyoming, 1920. Frank Meyers Collection

Oil Gusher and Overflow, Carbon County, Wyoming, 1920. Frank Meyers Collection.

Frank J. Meyers (1890-1973) was a photographer who lived in Rawlins, Wyoming where he ran a photography business for 50 years until his death. The collection contains photographs and negatives, some postcards, and photograph albums.   More than 900 images from his photo albums, including images of petroleum work in WY are digitized and available online, http://digitalcollections.uwyo.edu:8180/luna/servlet/uwydbuwy~17~17.

Dave’s Standard Gas Station, Rawlins, WY, ca. 1914. Frank Meyers Collection, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Dave’s Standard Gas Station, Rawlins, WY, ca. 1914. Frank Meyers Collection.


M. King Hubbert teaching, ca. 1935

M. King Hubbert teaching, ca. 1935

AHC collections go beyond Wyoming’s borders, too. Geophysicist M. King Hubbert, is best-known for being the first scientist to articulate a model for depletion of energy resources, a theory that came to be known as “peak oil,” or “Hubbert’s curve.”    He taught at Columbia University primarily in the 1930s,  served as senior analyst of world mineral resources on the Board of Economic Warfare during World War II, worked for Shell Oil, and as a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.  Hubbert’s papers contain 61 boxes of correspondence  with colleagues on his research interests and teaching; lectures and class notes on physics and geology; publications; research notes and subject files; glass negatives; maps and charts. You’ll find the collection guide here:  http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah01238.xml.

And, just for fun, let’s provide just one example of corporate records from the collections.

Ethyl Corporation Records, 1823-1983

Ethyl Corporation Records, 1823-1983

The Ethyl Corporation originated from the research efforts of scientists and chemical engineers Kettering and Midgley who discovered an anti-knock agent for automobile engines which they named “Ethyl” gasoline.  Midgley and Kettering founded the General Motors Chemical Company to provide distribution of the new product. Standard Oil Company of New Jersey joined General Motors Chemical in its manufacturing to create Ethyl Corporation in 1924.

The 25 box collection, 1823-1983, contains mainly historical materials for the history of the petroleum industry and gathered by James Boudreau, who served as vice-president and director of public relations.  The collection includes account books, stock certificates, newspapers and maps, advertisements, and other materials. Also included in the collection is a set of Thomas Midgley’s papers.

With hundreds of collections to choose from, these examples are just a start!

-Ginny Kilander, Reference Department Head and Acquisitions Archivist for Economic Geology

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UW Professor Phil Roberts Discusses Teapot Dome Scandal

Recently, the American Heritage Center hosted a film crew from the C-SPAN network. While at the AHC, the crew sat down with UW History Professor Phil Roberts and interviewed him about the Teapot Dome Scandal that rocked U.S. politics in the early 1920s.  Archival materials from the AHC’s collections also played a starring role in this interview!

Click on the link below to watch the interview with Dr. Roberts.  We bet you’ll learn something you didn’t know about this old-time scandal!

Professor Phil Roberts talks about the Teapot Dome Scandal with C-SPAN


Other AHC faculty members also talked with the C-SPAN crew and their segments should be airing soon.  You’ll find more information about the C-SPAN visit and the expected air dates of those interviews in this UW Press Release.

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Meet MEChA!

With the immigration symposium (“Where Are We Now? Immigration Policy and Its Impact from a Wyoming and a National Perspective”) approaching next month, we thought it would be timely to share some background information on one of the organizations that has been involved in the planning of this event, the UW student group, MEChA.  Here, one of the members of the UW chapter talks about the history of the group and its involvement on the University of Wyoming campus.  

Members of the UW chapter of MEChA.

Members of the UW chapter of MEChA.

Nationally, MEChA was born out of the Chicano rights movement and other civil rights movements across the U.S.  Founded in Denver in 1969, MEChA slowly began gaining momentum within the Southwestern states where there was a heavy influx of Mexicans or descendants of Mexican immigrants, eventually becoming nationally recognized at universities across the nation.  More importantly, this group also helped give birth to programs of Chicano Studies within universities.  In order to resist oppression and hold on to cultural ties, members of MEChA, as seen in the name, identify as Chicanos. This was used in place of “Mexican-American”, which implied one had lost respect and ties of their mother culture.  MEChA’s purpose is to “encourage pride, dignity, and unity among all students; to further our educational standards and opportunities; to establish an awareness and sensitivity of the value of Chicanos to the entire student body.”

MEChA has been a student organization at UW for more than 25 years.  They are involved in social, political, and educational actions and events to help build Chicano/Latino pride, confidence, and identity.  And they encourage and support their gente in attaining higher education.  One of our primary objectives is to bring forth cultural awareness and its importance to the University of Wyoming and the Laramie community.

Members of MEChA have attended national conferences that benefit the advancement of Chicana/o people, one conference being the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS). MEChA holds an annual Cesar Chavez Blood Drive every spring to honor his activism within the Chicano Movement and they contribute to UW Diversity Week.  In 2013, we had Cheech Marin as our guest during his visit to UW. This year we also had the opportunity to organize a successful event on the UW campus—Fiesta Primavera.  MEChA members have volunteered for numerous student activities on campus as well as communal services and we collaborate with other student organizations to promote cultural awareness on campus.

-Norma Lira-Perez, UW student and member of MEChA

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Save the Date! MEChA and the AHC to Host Unique Event with Art, Music, Poetry and Discussion

The UW American Heritage Center (AHC) and the UW student organization Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicana/o de Azltán (MEChA) are hosting an exciting event on September 17 from 6:00 P.M to 8:00 P.M. at the AHC, which is located in the Centennial Complex, 2111 Willet Drive on the UW campus.  Join us in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and to kick-off the symposium, “Where Are We Now? Immigration Policy and Its Impact from a Wyoming and U.S. Perspective” (September 18, Hilton Garden Inn).


The event will open at 6:00 P.M. with time to allow everyone to settle in and enjoy the art display and music.  Snacks will be provided.  The artwork will speak to the immigration experience here in the United States.  The display will include Community Artist/Muralist Ruby Chacón’s famous piece, Trabajo Y Suenos En Todo Los Generaciones de Mestizaje en Wyoming (oil on canvas, 2006) that is part of the UW MEChA Collection.

Beginning at 6:30 P.M., five UW MEChA members will discuss how immigration has affected them either personally or through people they know.  The purpose of sharing these stories is to promote cultural awareness among community members in Laramie.  There will be an open Q&A session after the panel presentations.

At 7:30 P.M. there will be poetry readings by students – submissions will feature work done by fellow MEChA members.  Students will also read monologues about immigration written by Chicano authors.  A musical performance and a closing scene will round out the evening.  Please plan to join us!

-Norma Lira-Perez, UW student and member of MEChA

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