From 1929 and Into the Future: The History of the Rock Springs Coal Arch (Part 4)

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Elk Street, Rock Springs WY. Texaco station is on the left side of photo and John Lucas Distributing 303 Elk Street is on the right side. 1940-60. Photo courtesy of the Rock Springs Historical Museum.

When the Rock Springs Coal Sign was first lighted in June 1929, the world on the doorstep of the Great Depression was a much different place.

The 90-year-old Coal Sign is a connection to our past. What else was happening locally in 1929?

The following snippets of news were taken from the Rock Springs Rocket (now the Rocket-Miner) archives inside the “1929 Book” at the Rock Springs Museum Library:

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  • Mar. 15, 1929: Almost 64 years after the end of the Civil War, the last veteran of the Civil War with a Rock Springs connection, R.D. Woodruff, died at his home in Salt Lake City at the age of 86. The article states in part: “ Mr. Woodruff with his wife and children lived in Rock Springs in the late (18)80s and the 90s…He kept a shop on South Front Street east of the present location of the First Security Bank Building…Russell Dorr Woodruff was the last member of the Rock Springs John A. Campbell Post of the G.A.R. [Grand Army of the Republic] to pass away.”
  • May 24, 1929: Graduation day for the 87 graduates of Rock Springs High School, built during WWI. Faculty included Lola Wilson, Charles Cameron, Marie Templeton, Irene Sonder, Jean Mabee, Norita Nez, Mary Alice Stewart and Irene Joyce. Administration was strictly male: Mr. E.M. Thompson, Superintendent and Messrs. G.H. Brelham, G. Sturholm and W.R. Gilpin, school board. (Pictures and names of the 87 graduates are available at the Rock Springs Museum 1929 book.)
  • Sept. 20, 1929: A farewell banquet was given for “Jim” Lao Chee, returning to China after more than 40 years of employment with the Union Pacific Railroad. The article states in part: “’Old Jim’ first came to Rock Springs in 1880, five years before the Chinese Riot. At the time of the riot he left, as did all good Chinamen, [Sic] but returned shortly when Uncle Sam’s troops rounded up the scattered and fleeing Chinamen and returned them to Rock Springs.”
  • Jan. 15 and Feb. 3, 1929: Sex crimes today are nothing new. 1929 articles state that an unknown man nicknamed “Jack the Snooper” was terrorizing girls in the East Flat and frightening them into running for home.
  • Oct. 25, 1929: Just a few days before the Stock Market Crash of Oct. 29, a handsome new Special Six Nash “400” Sedan could be bought for $1,570.00, according to an ad (approximately $25,000 in today’s dollars).
  • Nov. 1929: Ads for the Rialto Theatre (approximately where the downtown County Health and Human Services Building now stands) promoted the handsome John Gilbert in “His Glorious Night” as being in “His First All Talkie!” and the beautiful Lenore Ulric, looking for the “right kind of man” in “Frozen Justice.”

Those were the happenings when the Rock Springs Coal Sign was first being lit.

Rock Springs Coal arch in 2019.

The World of 2009 and Beyond

It would be nice to think that the 2009 downtown Rock Springs sign over the entrance to Broadway will still be standing (somewhere) in 2099, its 90th anniversary.

Some wag reporter will likely be doing a turn-of-the-next-century story on it, with a caption on the “world of 2009” with notes such as: “In 2009, some people still had landline phones!” and “In 2009, most car drivers actually had to drive their cars rather than use self-drive!” Just predicting.


This is Part 4, the final part of a four-part series on the history and evolution of the historical Rock Springs Coal Sign, with historic photos courtesy of Rock Springs Historical Museum. Check out Part 3 of The History of the Rock Springs Coal Arch.