History & News

In the Old West, photographers traveled the rails in highly mobile “photo cars”


- Two babies photographed in his photo car by W.A. Bradley, identified as twins, the “Cary Babies.” Bradley charged $3.00 per dozen for copies. - (Sweetwater County Historical Museum photo)

(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - July 20, 2021)       Frontier-era cameramen once roamed the west in special railroad cars configured as traveling studios called “photo cars.”

Photo cars were converted cabooses, fitted out with a small studio, a skylight for illumination, a darkroom, and living quarters for the photographer. Historians believe the first was J.B. Silvis, who began traveling the Union Pacific tracks in his photo car in 1870. His photo car made frequent stops, with people all along the line eager to have their pictures taken. Business was brisk and Silvis could make $100 per day. (His success did not go unnoticed by the criminal element. In Evanston, Wyoming, in 1881, he was awakened in his car one night by a burglar armed with an iron bar. Silvis shot the intruder, who fled.)

Silvis retired in 1882. In its collection, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River has portraits taken by another such roving photographer, W.A. Bradley, who continued operating the photo car until at least 1889.


The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and admission is free.

New firearms display at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - June 30, 2021)     A new firearms exhibit - the first in a series - is now complete and on display at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River.

“Single Action Revolvers” is the first of a planned series of exhibits titled “Firearms of the American West.” The exhibit features six vintage revolvers, a contemporary Ruger Vaquero,

and an Uberti reproduction of the Colt Walker of 1847, a huge pistol that was, arguably, the most important handgun in American history; a powerful, six-shot percussion revolver that

rescued the Colt company from certain bankruptcy.

The Walker reproduction and Ruger Vaquero are included in the exhibit to provide museum visitors the opportunity to handle a single-action percussion revolver as well as a cartridge revolver, if they so desire. Upon request, patrons can request the “hands-on” feature from museum staff, which includes a short presentation about single-action revolvers on the frontier.

Among the handguns in the exhibit are the .44-caliber Remington New Model Army percussion revolver that belonged to “Big Nose” George Parrot, and old west highwayman and cattle rustler. In 1878, Parrot and his gang murdered a Carbon County, Wyoming, deputy sheriff named Robert Widdowfield and Union Pacific special agent Tip Vincent in the wake of a bungled train robbery not far from Medicine Bow. Parrot was later arrested in Montana and returned to Rawlins, the county seat of Carbon County, for trial. He was sentenced to hang on April 2, 1881, but attempted a jailbreak, fracturing the skull of a jailer in the process. After the failed escape, a lynch mob took him from his cell and hanged him from a telephone pole.

Murderous in life, Parrott’s story was bizarre in death. Two doctors named Thomas Maghee and John Eugene Osborne took charge of Parrott's body after his death. The top of his skull was sawed off and is believed to have been used as an ashtray. Much of his skin was removed, tanned, and incorporated into a pair of shoes, which Osborne wore to his inaugural ball after being elected Governor of Wyoming.

Also included in the exhibit is a special display of Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office badges; some from the museum’s collection, and others on loan from Gary Bailiff, himself a retired Sheriff of Sweetwater County and Sweetwater County Commissioner, and Betty Blackwell of the High Desert Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The museum is located at 3 East Flaming Gorge Way in Green River. Hours are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is free.

Frontier-era Winchester rifle now on display at county museum


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - June 26, 2021)    The Sweetwater County Historical Museum recently added a rifle to its exhibit gallery known by many as “The Gun That Won The West” - a Model 1873 Winchester lever-action.

A .44/40, the museum’s 1873 was manufactured in 1884. Winchester’s first rifle was the Model 1866, basically an improved and modified version of the Henry rifle that saw combat as a Union arm late in the Civil War. The Model 1873 came next. Basically a modified and improved Model 1866, (with an iron or steel frame rather than the 1866's brass frame), the 1873 was chambered for the .44/40 cartridge which, while essentially a pistol round, was substantially more powerful than the Henry and Model 1866's .44-caliber rimfire. (Later, it was also produced in .38/40 and .32/20.)

While “The Gun That Won the West” tag is commonly associated with the Model 1873, it was actually a clever advertising ploy that was not used by Winchester until well into the 20th century.

Though the standard Model 1873 was produced in three basic variations - a long rifle fitted with a 24-inch barrel, a 20-inch barrel carbine, and a musket designed for the military market with a full-length stock - Winchester’s practice was to make individual special-order rifles according to customers’ specifications, including non-standard barrel and magazine lengths, engraving, and special stocks.


Over 720,000 Model 1873s were manufactured; production ceased in 1923. The museum’s 1873 is now on display as part of its “Cattle Ranchers and Sheep Herders” exhibit.

The museum is located in Green River at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and admission is free.


June 11, 2021
The Sweetwater County Historical Museum’s Vintage Firearms Research Program recently examined a military rifle that was the mainstay of U.S. Army troops fighting in Europe during World War I.
The rifle’s official designation was “United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1917,” but is commonly referred to as a “1917 Enfield.”
World War I began in Europe in 1914. Great Britain found itself short of infantry rifles and contracted with Remington and Winchester to manufacture a bolt-action rifle called the “Enfield P-14" or “Pattern 14" in the standard British caliber, the rimmed .303 British cartridge.
The U.S. military’s standard-issue rifle at the time America entered World War I three years later, in 1917, was the bolt-action .30/06 Model 1903 Springfield. Like the British, the American army found itself lacking rifles, and the decision was made for Remington and Winchester to produce the P-14 in .30/06 for American troops. The result was the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1917. Over two million were made; production ceased late in 1918. (The rifle examined by museum staff was manufactured in August of 1918.)
Though the 1903 Springfield was the standard rifle for the American military, the majority of U.S. troops deployed in Europe during World War I were armed with 1917 Enfields, including Medal of Honor Winner Corporal Alvin York. In October of 1918, while serving with the 82nd Infantry during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, York was one of 17 men in a patrol ordered to neutralize a German machine-gun emplacement. Coming under heavy fire, the patrol lost half its men, but York, an outstanding marksman from Tennessee, took command.
With a 1917 Enfield and a Colt 1911 .45-caliber pistol, he killed more than 20 German soldiers and ultimately took 132 prisoners. In 1941 his story was made into the hit film "Sergeant York," starring Gary Cooper as York, for which Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Actor. (Though a fine film and a classic, "Sergeant York" is not known for its accuracy. Historians have long thought that a remake that adheres more closely to the facts would be an excellent project.)
An accurate rifle with a strong action, the 1917 Enfield is still the official rifle of the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol, a highly Elite Danish naval unit that conducts long-range dog sled reconnaissance patrols in Greenland over a vast area that includes the Northeast Greenland National Park, the largest national park on Earth. The unit’s patrols can last for months and its personnel prefer the rifle due to its durability and reliability in extreme conditions.