Mick McMurry’s Contributions to Wyoming Extended Far and Wide

ah560001_526In 2010, the AHC began an oral history project to look at the effects of natural gas development on Sublette County, Wyoming.  We interviewed more than forty people; many were residents of Sublette County, but there was also a number of people outside that area who were very influential in that gas development.  One of them was Neil “Mick” McMurry.

In November 2010, Mick sat down with Sublette County historian Ann Noble to talk about his philosophy when it comes to oil and gas development and the chances he took in developing a largely forgotten gas field that became the Jonah Field, one of the largest on-shore natural gas discoveries in the U.S. in the early 1990s.  Mick sold his stake in the field to Alberta Energy (now Encana) and became of the Wyoming’s leading philanthropists.

Here is an excerpt from that interview:

[Jonah Field] was a great Wyoming story because a lot of good things started happening in 1991.  We bought the leases at the right moment as far as value…Fracking technology was quickly improving.  We had a very astute fracking engineer, James Shaw, and he devoted 100% of his time to McMurry Oil focused on fracking wells at Jonah, and we had a lot of other dedicated hardworking people that just focused on Jonah. Our whole company, McMurry Oil, Nerd, and Fort Collins, that’s all we had was Jonah, so we all got focused on Jonah, we didn’t look at any other investments, didn’t need to.  We had lots of needs of spending money in the Jonah. We were having success; nobody else wanted it.  And, you know, I think that just a lot of good things happened at the right moment for the State of Wyoming and McMurry Oil, and the family.

The entire interview (audio and transcript) is part of the Wyoming Energy Boom Sublette County Natural Gas Oral History Project.

The American Heritage Center joins many others in the state of Wyoming in recognizing Mick’s contributions to our state, especially to our home institution, the University of Wyoming.

–Leslie Waggener, Processing Archivist

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American National CattleWomen Films Now Available Online

Good news!  The University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center (AHC) has digitized and made accessible online 16 films and video from the American National CattleWomen records.  The collection as a whole documents the promotional activities of the organization, especially the National Beef Cook-Off contest, in particular. The National Beef Cook-Off materials includes budgets, clippings, contestant entry forms, materials relating to the promotion of the cookbooks, photographs and negatives of the events, and contestant recipes.  Some of the digitized film also documents the Cook-Off, but also covers the National Beef Ambassador Contest.

Third place cook-off winner, Frances Davis, 1974, American National Cattlewomen records, Box 19, Folder 1. Collection #5552,  University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center,

Third place cook-off winner, Frances Davis, 1974, American National CattleWomen records, Box 19, Folder 1. Collection #5552, University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center,

A group of fifteen women met at the Four Bar Ranch near Douglas, Arizona, in October 1939 to form the Cowbelles, an organization to help promote the beef industry and friendship among cattle people; by 1951 it development into a national organization. The organization changed its name to the American National CattleWomen in 1986 to provide national leadership and coordinate promotion, education and legislative activities for women in the cattle industry. The collection documents the activities of the American National Cowbelles and the American National CattleWomen in promoting the beef industry and consumer education from 1951-1995. The collection includes correspondence, articles of incorporation, minutes, membership index and rosters, minutes and reports with state members and chairs, scrapbooks, news clippings, photographs, budgets, and audio visual materials relating to its annual conventions, committees, and promotional activities, especially the National Beef Cook-Off.

Links to digitized items and additional information about the American National CattleWomen records can be found in the on-line finding aid at: http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah05552.xml

–Jamie Greene, Archives Specialist, Digital Programs Department

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CJ Box at the AHC next week!

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We’re so excited to host this event at the AHC and we hope you’ll join us!

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Victor Gruen: Architect of Urban Renewal

Anyone interested in American architectural history, especially those intrigued by the mid-century modern style, will be pleased to learn that the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center (AHC) has recently digitized part of an important collection in this area.  The AHC has digitized and made accessible online 5 films, 2 audio recordings, and a small sample of blueprints and photographs from the Victor Gruen papers.

Black and white photograph of a Victor Gruen architectural drawing. Taken from back "Project: VG Book, Heart of our Cities."  University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center, Victor Gruen Papers, Collection #5809, Box 57.

Black and white photograph of a Victor Gruen architectural drawing.  American Heritage Center, Victor Gruen Papers, Collection #5809, Box 57.

Victor Gruen was an Austrian-born architect known for pioneering the design of shopping malls in the United States and urban revitalization projects in the late 20th century. He worked as an architect in Vienna until 1938 when he emigrated to the U.S. to escape World War II. He first worked as a set and store designer in New York City and then established Victor Gruen Associates, one of the nation’s leading architectural, planning and engineering firms. Gruen Associates designed the first regional shopping center, the Northland Shopping Center in Detroit in 1954 and the first fully enclosed shopping center, Southdale Shopping Center near Minneapolis in 1956. This collection contains materials relating to Gruen’s architectural career including speeches, clippings, professional correspondence, photographs, audio tape, film, blueprints, and architectural project files on shopping centers, urban renewal, and area planning.

Black and white photograph of a Victor Gruen architectural drawing. Taken from back "Project: VG Book, Heart of our Cities."

Black and white photograph of a Victor Gruen architectural drawing. Taken from back “Project: VG Book, Heart of our Cities.”   American Heritage Center, Victor Gruen Papers, Collection #5809, Box 57.

Links to digitized items and additional information about the Victor Gruen papers can be found in the online finding aid at: http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah05809.xml

We hope you enjoy this new digital collection!

-Jamie J. Greene, Archives Specialist

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Liz Byrd: Pioneering Stateswoman, Educator, and Advocate

Photograph of Elizabeth Byrd, ca. 1960, University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center, Harriett Elizabeth Byrd Papers, Accession Number 10443, Box 3, Folder 6.

Photograph of Elizabeth Byrd, ca. 1960, Harriett Elizabeth Byrd Papers, Collection Number 10443, Box 3, Folder 6. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

This week, Wyoming had to say goodbye to one of its heroes: Elizabeth (Liz) Byrd passed away Tuesday at her home in Cheyenne.  Byrd was the first African-American woman to serve in the State Legislature.  It was due to her tireless efforts over almost a decade that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day/Wyoming Equality Day is celebrated in the state.  Byrd also worked to promote the interests of children and teachers in the state, which was what compelled Byrd to first run for office.  Politics was not her first career; she had been a teacher for many years before her election to the State House of Representatives in 1980; she later won a seat in the State Senate in 1988.  She worked in education for 37 years in all, an impressive career on its own, but also advocated for children and their educators in her political capacity as well.  Byrd lived a life that was full of milestones and will be greatly missed.

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Happy Holidays from the American Heritage Center!

The American Heritage Center will be closed from December 24th until January 1st.  We will reopen on January 2nd.  See you in the New Year!

Winter solitude in the Tetons showing a cabin covered in snow with the Teton Mountains in the background. Taken from the back: Snowbound in the Tetons. Fritiof Fryxell Papers, Collection #1638, Negative #22587. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

Click on the image to see it in its full glory! Winter solitude in the Tetons, showing a cabin covered in snow with the Teton Mountains in the background. Taken from the back: Snowbound in the Tetons. Fritiof Fryxell Papers, Collection #1638, Negative #22587. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

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AHC Receives Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund Grant to Digitize Women’s Political Collections

The American Heritage Center is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund for the 2015 calendar year.  The grant will fund the digitization, preservation, and online access of four collections from the theme “Wyoming Women in Politics and Leadership.”  As a part of the only university in the “Equality State,” the AHC is continuing a long tradition of collecting and making available material on women’s issues and political accomplishments—and indeed, we already have digitized the papers of Wyoming’s and the nation’s first elected woman governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross, in conjunction with the Wyoming State Archives

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For this project, we are digitizing the League of Women Voters of Wyoming records, as well as the collections of Edith K. O. Clark, Sheila Arnold, and Harriett E. Byrd.

Edith K. O. Clark was a schoolteacher who became Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction, a position in which she served from 1915 to 1919.  She also served as Sheridan County school superintendent, volunteered with the YWCA in France following the First World War, and later retired and homesteaded in Johnson County until her death in 1936. Her daily entries and photographs detail her time as Superintendent in Cheyenne, and include pasted in newspaper clippings, drawings, photographs, and notes. The diaries continue with her volunteering after World War I, and her time as a homesteader.

Harriett Elizabeth Byrd was a public school teacher elected to the Wyoming State House in 1980, and became the first African American legislator in Wyoming since statehood as well as the first African American woman to ever serve in the Wyoming State Legislature. After serving eight years, she ran for and won election to the Wyoming State Senate in 1988, where she served four years. During her legislative career, Byrd was the prime sponsor of legislation to create Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day.

Sheila Arnold was a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives from 1978 to 1992.  While a State Legislator she was a member of the Joint Interim Mines, Minerals, Industrial Development Committee, Committee on Revenue, and the Committee on Rules and Procedures, the Governor’s Council on Disabilities, and the Governor’s Committee on Health Insurance.

The League of Women Voters of Wyoming records span the postwar years to the dawn of the millennium, and detail the organization’s ongoing advocacy and outreach to women in clarifying election issues, sponsoring voter registration drives and debates, and raising awareness of voter fairness issues such as apportionment, initiatives, referenda, and balloting.  Records from the local chapters include Laramie, Cheyenne, Casper, Teton County, and Yellowstone.

In recent years the AHC has dramatically expanded the reach of its unique holdings through the digitization and online hosting of collection materials. With generous support from the Cultural Trust Fund and private funding, the AHC now hosts over 111,000 digitized collection items totaling over 3,200 gigabytes of data, with material from over 110 of our most prominent collections, making the AHC one of the largest providers of digital cultural material in the state.

Two recent grants from the Cultural Trust fund have supported the digitization of the films of Adolph and Olaus Murie, noted naturalists, and the interviews of Wyoming pioneers and early state residents. This collection material, along with a wide variety of other documents, photographs, and films, are available on our digital collections website.

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