Cheyenne, Wyoming is the oldest and largest city in Wyoming with a population of 62,448. Established July 4, 1867, it is considered the nation’s rodeo and railroad capital – home to museums, historic hotels, mansions, steam engines, western-themed attractions, shopping, resorts and ranches. The city’s name was derived from the Cheyenne Native American people and is a Lakota term meaning “people of different speech or red talkers”. A large influence on the growth of the town, was the discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1875, along with the development of The Union Pacific Railroad.
The town literally sprang into existence, with numerous barkeeps, gamblers, merchants, and prostitutes that traveled with the construction gangs of the railroad. When the first train from The Union Pacific Railroad arrived on November 13, 1867, Cheyenne’s population had grown rapidly to 4,000.
With the opening of the Black Hills gold fields in 1875, the town profited from a new industry as Cheyenne merchants supplied miners and prospectors with provisions and equipment. The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage Company was formed to transport passengers and cargo between the railroad and the mines. When electric lights were installed in 1882, Cheyenne was the wealthiest city per capita in the world. Cheyenne was named the capital of the new state of Wyoming in 1890, and the Capitol building was erected in the city. By 1890 the population had reached 10,000 people.
Built in 1886 by the Union Pacific Railroad, the Cheyenne Depot Museum is the last of the grand 19th-century depots remaining on the transcontinental route and is now a National Historic Landmark. Anywhere from 75-100 trains pass through Cheyenne daily dubbing it America’s “Railroad Capital”. In 2004, a fundraising project to renovate the plaza in front of the Depot. Local artists painted 8 ft tall fiberglass cowboy boots around town to show the history of Cheyenne and Wyoming. Location maps are available at the Depot in the Visitors Center.
The Union Pacific Railroad was also essential in the development of the prosperous Wyoming livestock industry, and Cheyenne became the center of the territory’s cattle boom. Wealthy ranchers built luxurious homes in a neighborhood known as Millionaires’ Row and mingled at the elegant Cheyenne Club. Due to its rapid birth and ability to recover from periodic economic slumps, Cheyenne was called the “Magic City of the Plains.” As the city matured, it also developed a reputation as a social and cultural center, noted for its opera house, the Atlas Theater, the Cheyenne Club, the Inter-Ocean Hotel, numerous retail businesses, and more than forty lavish mansions. The success and wealth of the city attracted western legends such as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody, Tom Horn, and Wyatt Earp, who rode shotgun on the Cheyenne–Black Hills stage.
Wyoming petitioned for statehood seven times before it was finally named the 44th state in 1890. The reason for the holdup? Lawmakers in Washington took issue with the fact that the state had granted women the right to vote. The seal was adopted by the state legislature in 1893 and includes the state motto, “Equal rights,” recalling that in 1869 Wyoming’s constitution was the first document to give equal voting and office holding rights to women. At the time, men in the territory outnumbered women six to one. Leaders hoped the new law would encourage more women to settle in Wyoming.
The 1904 Historic Governors’ Mansion and 1886 Wyoming State Capitol Building are only a few blocks from each other. The Wyoming Capitol Building, one of the most important historic building in the state, remained unchanged for decades until the Wyoming Legislature decided to approve a renovation at a total cost of $300 million which took 4 years to complete and was finished in 2019. The dome is one of the key architectural features of the building, standing above the skyline, representing Wyoming’s values. Originally made of copper it tarnished so badly in 1900, gold leaf was used. Eleven states have golf leaf domes on their capitol buildings: Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, West Virgina and Wyoming. Outside the Capitol Building in a life-size sculpture stands “The Spirit of Wyoming” by Ed Fraughton – a monument to the citizens of the State of Wyoming dedicated in 1986. On the opposite of the building is another sculpture “Buffalo” by Dan Ostermiller in celebration of the centennial of the State of Wyoming. A tour of the state capital building and information on the restoration can be viewed here.
Every year, Artists from all over Wyoming are encouraged to enter the Governor’s Capitol Art Exhibition. Only Artists residing full time in Wyoming can enter. The Governor’s Capitol Art Exhibition is a biennial juried exhibit that celebrates the work of Wyoming artists. The exhibition was established in 2000 under an initiative by Governor Geringer and is organized under the direction of the Wyoming State Museum and the Wyoming Arts Council. This exhibition is the primary avenue through which the state museum acquires art for its collections. Five elected State officials and other representatives from other state agencies select purchase award winners for the Capitol art collection, while the museum’s curators select purchase awards for the permanent art collection. All other artwork in the exhibition is available for sale to the general public.I was so excited to be accepted for the Spring 2022 show running Feb 14 thru Aug 14 and made the weekend trip for the artist reception and to tour these majestic buildings.
Wyoming Governor’s Capitol Art Exhibition
Show runs Feb 14-Aug 14, 2022 Feb 24, 2022 5-7 pm | Artist reception Open to the public
The Wyoming State Museum a few blocks from the Wyoming State Capitol Building was established in 1895 as a state-run museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It is a FREE educational, historical, and cultural institution whose goal is to collect, preserve, and interpret artifacts that reflect the human and natural history of Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West. The museum houses artifacts and collections showcasing Wyoming’s history from its earliest beginnings from dinosaurs and wildlife to Folk Art and Native American collections.
Cheyenne Frontier Days, the 10-day Western rodeo and celebration, is known as “the Daddy of ‘em All” and has remained a constant for over 120 years since its inception in 1897. It has been held every year except 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The barrel racing, bareback riding, roping, bronco riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, and a wild horse events are bigger, faster, noisier and dustier than you’ll see in any other rodeo. The world’s largest outdoor rodeo draws nearly 1,500 contestants competing for a total purse of more than $1 million and between 200,000 to 400,000 attendees and 3,000 volunteers. Other events included nightly concerts by well-known entertainers, comedy acts, a midway, a carnival, free pancake breakfasts, cook-offs, parades, Indian village, an old frontier town, Wild West show, art show and Thunderbirds air shows.
In 1947, Fort Warren became a U.S. Air Force Base, with no airfields, the oldest active base in that military branch of service. In the late 1950s it was chosen as headquarters for the Atlas ICBM missiles under the leadership of the Strategic Air Command. By the summer of 1963, 200 missiles were located in silos within 100 miles of the base in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska and was one of the largest missile-command bases in the nation. U.S. Air Force officials estimated the annual economic contribution of the facility in 1982 as more than $156 million, which included military and civilian salaries for personnel who comprised about 13 percent of Laramie County’s workforce. In 1977, F.E Warren Air Force Base, was designated a National Historic Landmark. Listen to the audio here.
For more information on Wyoming, watch the 1 hour Wyoming PBS video here.