Visit any city in the U.S. and you are likely to see statues representing that area’s culture and artistic flavor, but what sets Laramie apart is a collection of statues representing American history as a whole.
Whether it’s the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, frontier expansion, fallen soldier memorials or nods to the average citizen, Laramie boasts an impressive number of statues built to remind residents the importance of art and history, men and woman, foreigner and native, soldier and civilian.
As a history teacher, tour guide and Albany County Historical Society board member, Jessica Flock has spent years studying Laramie’s bronze memorials.
“We have a unique set of statues that few other cities can offer,” Flock said. “I think it’s important to represent a lot of different viewpoints throughout our community. You visit some places, and they capitalize on one or just a few aspects of their culture. But here, we have it all.”
Flock said there are dozens of statues visitors could tour, but for the sake of space we’ve decided to pair this article down to three.
On Sept. 6, 1870, Louisa Swain donned an apron, grabbed a tin pail and headed into Laramie.
Somewhere between the store and home, she stopped in at a polling place, cast a ballot and became the first woman in the United States to vote in a general election, according to the Laramie Daily Sentinel.
One hundred and thirty-eight years later, in the fall of 2008, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution proclaiming Sept. 6 “Louisa Swain Day” in recognition of her contribution to history.
“I think Laramie is unique in that we are an international city of women — we have the first woman to cast a ballot in a general election, we have the first women to serve on a grand jury, we have the first woman to serve in the Wyoming State Legislature,” Flock said. “There’s a lot of struggles within women’s suffrage that happened right here, so I think it’s wonderful to acknowledge that history.”
“The Franchise” by John Baker is a bronze likeness of Swain, which can be visited at the Wyoming House for Historic Women, 307 S. Second St.
BATTLE OF TWO HEARTS
Just outside the University of Wyoming’s Washakie Dining Center, a 24-feet-tall bronze likeness of Chief Washakie riding a horse into battle with an 8-feet-long lance raised to the sky towers over Grand Avenue.
“Chief Washakie was the last chief of the Shoshone,” Flock said. “In that particular battle, it was between the Crow Chief Big Robber and Chief Washakie. They negotiated to settle the battle with a duel, which saved hundreds of lives from both tribes.”
While Washakie won the fight, he was known for more than his battlefield prowess. Regarded as a statesman, representative and friend to the settlers, Washakie was selected in 2000 as one of two people memorialized in the U.S. Capitol Building to represent Wyoming.
Shortly thereafter, the Wyoming State Legislature appropriated $150,000 to commission Dave McGary for “Battle of Two Hearts.” Driving down Grand Avenue, the enormous ode to Wyoming’s first people is difficult to miss. But, just in case, keep an eye out between 16th and 17th streets.
WORLD WAR I MEMORIAL
While the U.S. attempted to avoid being sucked into World War I — thus, missing the first two years of the war — Congress eventually declared war on Germany in 1917, resulting in the deaths of more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers and nearly 1,000 U.S. civilians.
Despite still being in its infancy as a state, Wyoming did not shirk its duties to the nation, sending thousands to fight the global threat.
Many did not return, including 11 UW students. To commemorate the student’s sacrifice, University of Wyoming Professor Grace Raymond Hebard and noted philantropist Edward Ivinson partnered to commission the WWI Memorial statue. As plans for the statue moved forward, Ivinson and Hebard decided to dedicate the memorial to all Albany County veterans who’d fallen in the great war.
“Originally, the statue was placed in a roundabout at the intersection of Second and Ivinson (known as Thornburgh Street at the time),” Flock said. “But, they eventually moved it to the courthouse.”
The statue is topped with a bronze eagle and lists more than 1,000 names, but after it’s commission, more families came forward to reveal relatives fallen in the war. Hebard hand-wrote letters of apology to each family who’s relatives were not listed on the plaques, Flock said.
The memorial is located on the corner of Ivinson Avenue and South Sixth Street.
“To have statues honoring everyday people mixed with those honoring our heroes and fallen is one of the things that really makes Laramie stand out in my mind,” she said.