For more than half a century the Wyoming State Historical Society (WSHS), an independent, non-profit organization with more than twenty-one chapters across the state, and its many members from throughout the United States and Europe, have been promoting the collection and preservation of Wyoming’s history. Since its beginnings in 1953, the Society has also served as a strong advocate for Wyoming’s historical resources.
The Wyoming State Historical Society has had its own growth pangs throughout the years since first being authorized by the Wyoming legislature in 1895. That effort didn’t take hold and in 1921 the formation of a state historical society was attempted once again. Mrs. Cyrus Beard took the lead and her efforts led to encouragement membership at $1.00 a year. In 1924 the Society began publishing what is today Annals of Wyoming: The Wyoming History Journal. However, by 1932, Wyoming again was without a statewide organization. Several county historical societies remained active at this time, but it was not until the early 1950s that a stronger effort prevailed thus launching the organization as we know it today, thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Lola Homsher. She traveled the state discussing the importance of a Society and encouraged people to participate in an organizational effort. Her work resulted in a meeting held at the Woman’s Club House in Casper on October 18, 1953, attended by more than seventy people from all areas of Wyoming. The attendees selected Frank Bowron of Casper as president of the new Wyoming State Historical Society, adopted a constitution and by-laws, and determined that its purpose shall be “to collect and preserve all possible data and materials including historical relics, relating to the history of Wyoming and illustrative of the progress and development of the state; to promote the study and preservation of such data and materials and to encourage in every way possible interest in Wyoming history.” Shortly thereafter county chapters began to form, with the Fremont County Historical Society being the first.
For dues of $3.50 per year WSHS members received copies of Annals of Wyoming and the Society’s newsletter, “History News,” both published by the department.
Today the Wyoming State Historical Society is a completely independent organization. The Society publishes the award winning and prestigious journal, Annals of Wyoming: The Wyoming History Journal, in cooperation with the History Department and the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming and the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources. The WSHS encourages quality teaching of Wyoming history in all schools and since the early 1980s has been a supporter of Wyoming History Day which is administered by the American Heritage Center in cooperation with the Society. Other activities advocated by the Society include its popular annual trek, which is one of the best ways to get to know Wyoming; it supports historical preservation efforts in Wyoming, and recognizes individuals and organizations for contributions to Wyoming history through a strong annual awards program. It continues to publish a monthly newsletter, Wyoming History News, for its members; supports efforts of its twenty-one chapters, and has recently initiated a publications program to assist authors in publishing their works on Wyoming history. Membership in the WSHS is open to all persons who support and enjoy the history of Wyoming.
The Wyoming State Historical Society Records were given to the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming by the Society between 1996 and 2000. Please see the Guide to WSHS Records, 1873-1999 (bulk 1953-1999), prepared by Melanie Francis.