Friday, November 22, 2013

Reading a One Hundred Year Old Text

Sometimes history can be entertaining. I spent years trying to make history come alive and be relevant to today’s kids. Maybe I missed the point, I should have just made it up, or most of it anyway.

I am researching/reading a Wyoming History book published in 1918. Historians have widely panned the work, as too much fiction and not enough fact. I don’t find that true for much of the text, but some of it does read more like the society page of a hundred year old weekly than it does true history.

When the author described one member of the legislature, as one who didn’t like to speak in public, not sure we have any politicians like that anymore. It made me want to read on. Not many history books have punch lines, this one does. He goes on to say that this particular law maker was more concerned with the, after the secession was over day, than he was the law making process of the work day. The punch line – “the longest speech he ever made in his years in the state legislature, was, ‘I make a motion we adjourn.’ Now that is some pretty good history.

I.S. Bartlett    History of Wyoming, published 1918

Monday, November 11, 2013

Head Scratching Research

Have you ever started to research and got more, way more than you wanted? I taught Wyoming history for many years and always found the following to be head scratching, but fun.

Remember one of the first puzzles you put together as a kid, sure we all do? It was the wooden map of the United States. Just find the shape of the state and put it in the correct place, which was properly embossed into the cardboard or wood backing for young learners. Every state had a unique shape and this made learning where each state was located fast and easy. But wait a minute, hold on here, what about Colorado and Wyoming, they are square, or almost so, properly rectangles. How did they get their rather non-unique shape? Not sure about Colorado as I am a Wyoming guy, but as for Wyoming.

Wyoming is the only state whose territory was taken from all four of the major land accusations of the United States. Parts of Wyoming have been claimed by five different countries and parts of Wyoming came under the rule of a dozen Spanish kings between 1479 and 1821. Not that it’s important but there were four kings named, Charles, four Phillips and four named Ferdinand.  

France also ruled parts of Wyoming under kings, Francis One and two, three Henry’s, Charles IX and four guys named Louis. At long last the little Emperor himself, Napoleon, gave up the French claim to Wyoming when Jefferson made the greatest land purchase in history, the Louisiana Purchase, in 1803.

Wyoming was also part of:  Utah Territory, Washington Territory, Nebraska Territory, Colorado Territory, Dakota Territory, and Idaho Territory.

It took thirty boundary changes to come up with the present day shape of Wyoming, an almost square rectangle- ahh, the government at work.

Oh- then we named it after a valley in Delaware.

Wyoming where mule deer sleep in your front yard, bear’s wander through local parks, elk, moose and pronghorn outnumber the people, mountain views are everywhere and people ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon. It really is like no other place on earth.

It’s good to be back.