Swan Land and Cattle Company

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of reminiscences of the Swan Land and Cattle Company. The bundles of material are entitled: The Swan Land and Cattle Company. Utilizers of Wyoming Grass; The Swan Company roundups Parts I and II; The Two-Bar hands. Cowboys for the Swan Company; Blue Grass Well. World's largest water-hole; and Edward Held and the Swan Company.

Administrative / Biographical History

The home ranch of the Swan Land and Cattle Company was sited at Chugwater, Wyoming. Its corporate headquarters were in Cheyenne. This large corporate cattle company, with between 50,000 and 80,000 livestock, at one time controlled an area of land greater than the size of the State of Connecticut. In the 1870s and 1880s, this and other very large ranches grew out of the realisation that cattle could be wintered on the northern plains of America. Speculative investors were promised a twenty per cent return from the new industry.

In November 1882, Alexander Hamilton Swan (1831-1905), the President of the firms Swan and Frank Live-Stock Co., National Cattle Co., and Swan, Frank and Anthony Cattle Co., together with James Converse, Joseph Frank, and Godfrey Syndacker, entered into an agreement with James Wilson of Edinburgh to set up the Swan Land and Cattle Company as a British limited company.

John Clay (1851-1934) followed Swan as general manager of the firm.

By 1909, the company had reduced its dependence on cattle and had turned to the holding of sheep instead.

In 1926, Swan Land and Cattle was re-organised in order to avoid British taxes and became an American corporation under the laws of Delaware.

The corporation's assets were liquidated in 1948, and the last dividend was paid in 1951.

Andrew Springs (Bud) Gillespie worked as a cowboy for Swan Land and Cattle Company during the 1900s, becoming a Wyoming rancher himself, performing in rodeos, and writing books about Wyoming history.

Born on 23 August 1900 on the Flag Ranch, south of Laramie, Robert Homer Burns studied at the University of Wyoming from 1916-1920 and obtained his M.A. from Iowa State in 1921 and a Ph.D. in 1931 at Edinburgh University. He began teaching at the University of Wyoming in 1924, later serving as head of the Wool Department. From 1937-1939 Burns worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and in 1946 he participated in a mission to China to study carpet-wool. In 1949, Burns then served as consultant to the Iranian government in New York. He published widely and his writing included material on Laramie ranches and the wider ranching industry, articles and data on Wyoming wool, wool shrinkage, pelt sizes in sheep, and breeds of sheep. Burns and Gillespie collaborated in the writing of Steamboat. Symbol of Wyoming spirit (1952), Wyoming's pioneer ranches (1955) and some writing on the Swan Land and Cattle Company. Robert Homer Burns died in an automobile accident on 14 June 1973.

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Material acquired 1963, Accession no. E63.24.

Note

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Site of the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, Laramie, and the standard archival description of the Inventory for the Robert H. Burns Papers, 1910-1973. Full-text [online].  American Heritage Center / R. H. Burns papers [Accessed 23 September 2004]. (2) Swan Land and Cattle Company, Chugwater, Wyoming. Wyoming Photographs. Full-text [online].  Wyoming Photographs / Swan Land and Cattle Co. [Accessed 20 November 2001].

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

Robert Burns donated his papers to the University of Wyoming Archives beween 1947-1973. The collection there is to be cited as, Robert H. Burns Papers. The Accession Number is: 400002, Box Number, Folder Number, University of Wyoming Archives, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. There may be Gillespie material too.

Geographical Names