Edward Ivinson and the 1892 Wyoming Election

Many of us complain about the negativity of recent political campaigns.  However, things were not much better in Laramie’s past.  Take the election for governor of Wyoming in 1892, for example.

Laramie banker Edward Ivinson ran as the Republican nominee for governor that year.

The 62 year old Ivinson had little interest in political office before the year began.  But Republicans were the majority party in Wyoming and felt that the 1892 election was theirs for the taking.  Besides, they reasoned, the wealthy Ivinson could largely finance his own campaign.

Despite those hopes, in 1892 the Wyoming Republican Party was in trouble.  It was widely believed that they had supported the wealthy land owners against the “common man” in the Johnson County War.  Also, their leader, U.S. Senator Frances E. Warren of Cheyenne, introduced legislation in Washington D.C. that many felt would lead to a land grab in Wyoming by wealthy men.

Newspapers in those days made no secret of their political orientation.  The inexperienced Ivinson was an easy target for the Democratic press.  Opponents branded him “Old Gilded Guts” and tied him (unfairly) to the unpopular “war” and to Warren’s bill.

Adding to his woes, and causing more ridicule in the press, was the fact that Ivinson was a poor public speaker.

The Buffalo Free Lance  paper mocked him, stating: “Ivinson … seems to be afflicted with an impediment in his standing up capacity.  He might make a good reading clerk in a … barn  if he could be tied up far enough away from the stalls to keep the animals from kicking him.”

Some Wyoming newspapers even made up stories about him.  The Rock Springs Miner claimed that he had failed to pay men who worked for him.  Others circulated rumors that he had been in the Confederate Army; a ludicrous statement about a man who was a candidate in the Party of Lincoln. 

Ivinson could not even get the respect of all Laramie newspapers.  In those days there were three in Laramie; the Boomerang, the Republican and the Sentinel.  Strangely, the Boomerang was strongly against him while the other two supported him.  Even if it supported the Democratic Party, the Boomerang might have tempered its criticism of Ivinson just in case the home town candidate did win.  Having the governor mad at you would not make for good business.

Prior to the summer of 1892, the Boomerang had been quick to praise Ivinson, saying:  “Mr. Ivinson is a gentleman of a high degree of originality, together with remarkable executive ability in dealing with all classes.”

But now the Boomerang linked candidate Ivinson to images of the devil, belittled his nomination and even poked fun at the decorations at the 1892 Republican state convention held in Laramie.

Most glaring of all, however, was that the Boomerang did what the Democratic Party did; it printed mock ballots before the November election.  Those ballots, which took up a sizeable portion of a page, were labeled “how to vote” and were already filled in for Ivinson’s Democratic opponent, John Osborne.  (A copy of one of these 1892 ballots is on view in the Historic Ivinson Mansion Museum.)

As a result of the attacks, Ivinson lost all but one county in the election.  He even lost Albany County by a slim margin.

Edward Ivinson would not be prominent again on the statewide political scene.  However, he was elected Laramie mayor in 1918 at age 88.  In a complete turnaround from 1892, the Boomerang had high praise for him and even proudly proclaimed that he was the oldest mayor in the United States. 

 By Kim Viner,

Photo Caption:  Sample ballot from the November, 8, 1892 Wyoming election, with Populist and Democrat candidates pre-marked with an "X".  Such ballots were distributed by political parties prior to the election to "help" voters decide how to cast their votes. Edward Ivinson, the Republican candidate for Governor (third box down from the top), also had an opponent from the Prohibition party.  The Democrat, John Osborne of Rawlins was the ultimate winner.  This ballot is for Laramie County, but there would have been a similar one for Albany County, a Wyoming Territory starting in 1868.  The fifth box down shows that there was also a vote for "seat of the Wyoming Agricultural College" (with the federal money that came with its establishment), which is pre-marked by these partisans for Douglas.  The Albany County lobbying effort kept the Agricultural College in Laramie at the University of Wyoming, which had been established in 1887.  Shown on the desk in Mr. Ivinson's Smoking Room in the Ivinson Mansion, now the Laramie Plains Museum.  Yis image and the thumbnail courtesy Laramie Plains Museum