The Modern West

The Modern West is a rich collection of news and cultural stories from the Mountain West. Catch our monthly digest of stories on The Modern West podcast.

Supported in part by a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, a program of the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources.

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Archives On The Air 13: "Tom Dewey of the West"—Byron Hirst

Jul 9, 2018
American Heritage Center

Byron Hirst was called the “Tom Dewey of the West” after Thomas Dewey, a well-known New York prosecutor who fought organized crime.

Archives On The Air 11: Hopalong Cassidy

Jul 9, 2018
American Heritage Center

"The highest badge of honor a person can wear is honesty. Be truthful at all times.”

Many children in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s were familiar with these words - part of Hopalong Cassidy’s Creed for American Boys and Girls.

 

 

Native American women used whatever materials they had to create objects. Hunter Old Elk, the curatorial assistant of the Plains Indian Museum, came across a very square, beaded box. The squareness surprised her and as she observed the object more, she realized the structure was made out of a commodity cheese box.

Wind Power Controversy In Wyoming

Jun 29, 2018
PRI’s The World

Strong winds blowing through a gap in the rocky mountains could generate electricity in Wyoming. And customers in California want to buy it. But wind power's a hard sell in Wyoming, where coal is still king. A state with an economy built on coal  - has a chance to develop a green resource. As part of PRI's The World "50 States" project, reporter Jason Margolis has more.

Melodie Edwards


Wyomingites once grew food in their own backyards or hunted it in the mountains. These days, though, more rural people are driving distances to reach a grocer, or even just a mini-mart, for their food. It’s led to nearly 75,000 people in Wyoming struggling with hunger and access to healthy fresh foods.

But now farmers markets, food pantries and nutrition groups in the state are collaborating to start a council to address the state’s food security issues.

Archives On The Air 10: Antelope Charlie—Charles Belden Papers

Jun 29, 2018
American Heritage Center

Charles Belden became known as the Antelope King. This name came from his clever ways of reducing the number of pronghorn on his Pitchfork Ranch near Meeteetse.

Thomas Moran was one of the artist documenting the expansion to the West. He was on the first formal expedition in 1871 to Yellowstone country to document the geological wonders of the area.

Archives On The Air 7: Mary O'Hara—"My Heart Is In Wyoming"

Jun 26, 2018
American Heritage Center

Could successful screenwriter and socialite Mary O’Hara exchange her glitzy lifestyle for that of a Wyoming ranch wife? Her friends did not think so.

Kamila Kudelska

The American cheetah is a prehistoric mammal that roamed Northern Wyoming in the Miocene and the Pleistocene Epoch. The American cheetah is thought to be the driving evolutionary force responsible of the speed of today’s pronghorn antelope.

Miles Bryan


Aftab Khan and his family have lived in the Gillette area for over a hundred years, and a few years back the family opened a mosque there. Bret Colvin started a Facebook page called Stop Islam In Gillette and, after the mosque opened, he knocked on the door during services while a large number of people rallied behind him, some of them armed. The event was covered extensively in the local and the international news. Quickly, the online rhetoric between them grew ugly. 

But until now, they’ve never met in person.

Archives On The Air 4: Who Gets License Plate Number 1?—Jacob M. Schwoob Papers

Jun 21, 2018
American Heritage Center

The State of Wyoming began issuing motor vehicle license plates in 1913. Who got license plate number 1? The man who wrote the motor vehicle licensing law: Park County’s state senator Jacob M. Schwoob.

The Modern West 35: Forgotten Women Of The West

Jun 21, 2018

From washing the army’s clothes to solving murders, three authors tell the stories of strong Western women.

Archives On The Air 2: Who Was The Virginian? – Owen Wister Papers

Jun 19, 2018
American Heritage Center

Around 1891 western author Owen Wister began to create his most famous character. He created a Southern-born ranch hand who was hardened to the West, yet genteel. The character also voiced Wister’s conservative blue-blooded values. This character came to be known as The Virginian.

Archives On The Air 1: Laramie Inventor Elmer Lovejoy

Jun 18, 2018
American Heritage Center

Laramie’s mechanical genius Elmer Lovejoy designed and built Wyoming’s first automobile in 1895. It was a steam-propelled carriage that carried four people comfortably. It could be driven up to eight miles an hour. Lovejoy’s “horseless carriage” predated Henry Ford’s automobile by several years.

Kamila Kudelska


A new permanent exhibition at the Draper Natural History Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West focuses on golden eagle research but it also looks at how golden eagles have been and still are significant to the Plains Indian people.

Maggie Mullen

Over the next few weeks, we're going to take you on a tour of some of our favorite public lands.  

Most people visit Curt Gowdy State Park in Southeastern Wyoming for the world-class mountain biking, reservoirs filled with rainbow trout, and hikes through steep granite formations.

But entomologist Christy Bell comes for the bees.

Kamila Kudelska

When museums have special exhibitions, what visitors don't know is that it takes years for the exhibit to evolve from a concept to the moment you are standing in front of that famous work of art. The Whitney Western Art Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West just opened its new exhibit featuring the famous Western American artist, Albert Bierstadt. But the process behind securing loans is not so easy.

6:30 a.m. is one of the best times to watch wildlife in Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Valley.

Everything smells like sage. It’s really cold and there are a bunch of retirees staring through hire-powered telescopes at a lush, verdant hill.

Rifle was a gift to the Buffalo Bill Museum from Mrs. George T. Beck in 1970.

There are stories, which pass through hearsay but one can never be sure if the story is completely true. The Buffalo Bill Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West was aware of a story behind a certain Winchester Carbine but not until recently were they able to prove it.

Peter Kienzler, Wyoming Natural Diversity Database

In mid-May, field technicians with the Wyoming Natural Diversity database went up to the Fort Laramie Historical Site for a week-long survey, looking for white-nose syndrome (WNS) for the first year. They were looking for any species of bat that showed signs of the fungal disease, but ended up evaluating little brown bats.

Courtesy of the Cody Firearms Museum

The earliest known reference to the Winchester Arms Collection is a letter from Oliver Winchester to R.S. Lawrence in 1871. Oliver Winchester asked to have the Jennings rifle for his collection because it was a link to the development of the Winchester lever action.

Bob Beck

Last week the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission voted to move forward with a plan that would lead to the hunting of up to 22 grizzly bears this fall and possibly more in the future. It would be the first grizzly bear hunt in Wyoming since the bear was listed as threatened in 1975. The hunt is part of the Game and Fish Department’s long-range plan for managing the grizzly. 

Albert Bierstadt—He’s a late 19th-century artist, most well-known for his majestic landscape paintings of the Wind River Range, Yellowstone and the American West. But there's more to him than paintings of grand open spaces. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody and the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma worked together to create an exhibit exploring Bierstadt’s influence on conservation and wildlife management in America. It’s called Albert Bierstadt: Witness to the Changing West. Kamila Kudelska speaks talks to three museum curators as they tell the little-known story of a beloved American artist. 

Artist Estelle Ishigo was one of the few white women that went to a Wyoming Japanese-American internment camp. Estelle and her husband were imprisoned at Heart Mountain in 1942. During their three years at the camp, Estelle painted watercolors portraying the daily life. A new exhibit at Heart Mountain Interpretive Center called The Mountain Was Our Secret displays a collection of Estelle’s work. 

Courtesy of the Cody Firearms Musuem

Recently the Cody Firearm Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West hosted a number of museum curators who have major gun collections. The topic of conversation centered on the ethics of firearms and the role of curators in educating the public about guns. 

Kamila Kudelska

It’s a weird story not often told at museums since it’s against the rules. But at the Whitney Western Museum of Art, there’s one painting visitors can’t resist touching.

When you hear about companies like REI or Patagonia, you might think about tents, rain jackets or hikers in puffy coats on a mountaintop. But how about politics? These outdoorsy companies are part of a new wave of business advocates fighting for public lands.


Willow Pond is like a lot of community fishing holes. It’s in a suburban park beyond the soccer fields and a baseball diamond.

Kamila Kudelska

During the 19th century, Winchester Repeating Arms Company and Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company frequently played with each other’s markets. One would manufacture double barrel shotguns another would then import double barrel shotguns. But Colt always had the lever while Winchester had the revolver.

1996. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Israel of Aspen, Colorado. Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

George Custer is most famous for the battle he did not survive: The Battle of the Little Bighorn. Popularly known as “Custer’s Last Stand,” it took place in Montana Territory against a coalition of Native American tribes. But a new exhibition at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West portrays Custer and his wife, Libby’s, personal possessions in an effort to create a picture not focused on his last battle.

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