Advertising in Old Wyoming
By Phil Roberts
1. “Individual Towels”
Sign, posted in 1868, promoting one of the best features of a hotel in Benton, Wyoming Territory, now a ghost town in Carbon County. Other less exclusive establishments did not make such claims.
2. “Since man to man has been unjust
I scarcely know what man to trust.
I’ve trusted so many to my sorrow—
So pay today and I’ll trust tomorrow.”
—Poetic sign over Belander’s Butcher Shop, Carbon, 1880s
3. “All you prospector boys, drop in and get a map of your mugs.”
Newspaper ad for Ferris Photo Shop, Dillon Doublejack, 1900
4. “St. Jacobs Oil”
Sign painted on rocks before 1900 and visible to railway passengers from trains crossing the Dale Creek trestle in southeastern Wyoming. Advertising space on the nearby Ames Monument was once offered for sale at $20 per square foot or $160,000 annually, but not by the Union Pacific, who put a quick stop to the deal.
5. “Twist the Grey Mule’s tail and take the elevator.”
Bill Nye’s sign at the bottom of the stairs leading to his second floor office of the Laramie Boomerang (named for a mule). The main floor of the building, located on the southwest corner of 3rd and Garfield in Laramie, Wyo., housed a livery stable.
6. “Wagner’s Pants Are Down”
When editor Bill Nye sought an ad from Laramie dry goods merchant Henry Wagner, the merchant told Nye he didn’t think advertising worked. Nye, the intrepid ad salesman, noticed that Wagner had a sale on pants. He wrote up the sale as a “news item” in his paper the next morning. The pants sold out quickly and Wagner became a believer in newspaper advertising. When Nye founded his own paper, Wagner backed it financially.
7. “Grit, Gumption and Get There”
Newspaper slogan of early day Worland Grit editor Tom Daggett.
8. “Home of Rock Springs Coal—Welcome”
The sign, erected about 1930, spanned C Street in Rock Springs, Wyo. Half of the cost was paid by coal mine operators and the rest through popular subscription. The sign was moved to Western Wyoming College in 1980.
9. “Welcome to Fort Laramie—Population 350 Good People and 6 Soreheads”
Signs are on the eastern and western edges of the town of Fort Laramie, Wyo., and updated every ten years to reflect the change of population and, presumably, the number of soreheads.
10. “Drink Sweetwater Beer and Be Healthy”
Ad for the Sweetwater Brewing Company, Green River, Wyo., it appeared in many newspapers, including the Wyoming Industrial Journal, July 1907.
11. “Butch’s Taxidermy—Butch Mounts Anything”
Sign advertising a business in Fort Bridger, Wyo.
12. “Everybody’s—Members Only”
The contradictory sign was on the door of “Everybody’s,” an after-hours club popular with Laramie residents in the 1950s and 1960s. In theory, only members were served, but “membership cards” were available for purchase at the door.
13. “Find Yourself in Wyoming”
Wyoming Travel Commission sign near the entrance to Lincoln Tunnel, New York City, in October, 1987. In 1989, television ads starred the cartoon character, Bullwinkle Moose. The moose told national TV viewers, “If the last moose you watched was on Saturday mornings, it’s time to find yourself in Wyoming.” In early 1992, the travel commission admitted making a mistake with the slogan, “A Great Land Outdoors” after many residents complained it didn’t make sense. The original slogan, “The Great Land Outdoors,” would not fit within the sign space. In the 1990s, the commission’s slogan was “Wyoming: Like No Place on Earth.”
14. “Ten miles from water, 20 miles from timber and no grub in the house. God bless our home.”
The words, painted on a cracker box nailed above a cabin door, were seen by President Chester Arthur’s party between Fort Washakie and Yellowstone in 1883.
15. “Somewhere West of Laramie”
One of the most famous advertisements of all time, the ad was written by Edward S. Jordan, co-founder and owner of the Cleveland-based automobile manufacturing firm using the ad. The Jordan car was priced at about $2,500 when the lowest priced Ford was selling for about $500. The car was selling badly, so Jordan took a train to the West Coast, hoping he could come up with a plan to sell more vehicles. As the train passed through southern Wyoming, Jordan watched a beautiful young woman ride her horse alongside for a short distance. The sight impressed him so much that he turned to a companion and asked where they were. “Somewhere west of Laramie,” was the reply. Back home, Jordan sketched out an ad with the slogan. The ad first ran in Saturday Evening Post in June, 1923. Sales of the Jordan cars picked up immediately. Soon, other auto makers were using the new form of “image advertising.” Despite the strong sales resulting from the ads, the Jordan company eventually failed, a victim of the Great Depression. Nonetheless, the ad became legendary. In 1945, Printer’s Ink magazine readers voted it the third greatest ad ever created.
16. “Dalton Motors—Clean Comfortable Ladies”
The ad accidentally omitted the words “rest rooms” at the end of the line in the Wyoming Eagle, 1927. Years later, publisher Tracy McCraken laughed that it was errors like that that make an editor “wish he were moving to Fiji.”
17. “Summer petticoats, made of Everett, Zephyr and Mercerized ginghams, extremely well made and very wide.”
Laramie Sentinel ad, 1872.
18. “No skinning or hanging in the park.”
Sign in the Kaycee, Wyo., city park, 1999.
19. “Oysters R In”
The sign hung outside the Palace Meat Market in Evanston, Wyo., starting about September 15 each year, notifying customers that fresh oysters from Baltimore had arrived. Oysters were shipped in by train over the transcontinental route.
20. “Wanted: 100 Enterprising Young Men....”
The ad, placed by William Ashley and Andrew Henry who were forming a fur-trading firm, appeared in St. Louis newspapers in March 1822. Among those responding to the ad were Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith and David E. Jackson.
21. “Eat American lamb, 10 million coyotes can’t be wrong”
Statement painted on signs in sheep-raising areas of Wyoming in the 1990s.
22. “Anything, everything from a needle to a threshing machine”
Ad for A. G. Rupp General Merchandise in Worland Grit, 1906.
23. “Special shirt and pants sale”
A Big Horn Basin newspaper accidentally left out one crucial letter from the word “shirt” in an advertisement for a clothing store. Fearing that he had lost an advertiser, the editor called to apologize and not charge for the ad. The store owner told him that business had been so brisk after the offending ad that he wanted the paper to run it again!
24. “The Laramie Peacock”
NBC color programs from 1962-75 often began with the peacock emblem in which the bird fanned its bright plumage against a kaleidoscopic color background. Because the version first appeared in the introduction to the series, “Laramie,” on Jan. 1, 1962, it became known as the “Laramie peacock.”
25. “Farmers, please change your work boots before coming to the show.”
An advertisement from the Armada Theatre, Lovell, Wyo., c. 1940. Theater, built in 1908, became a motion picture theater in 1913.
(Editor’s note: Phil Roberts is emeritus professor of history at the University of Wyoming. This list first appeared in his Wyoming Almanac. Recycled with permission and thanks from his website.)