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Rare 1885 Book Lists Brands

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Several weeks ago we wrote,  a cutline for a 1890 photograph entitled “Branding a Maverick” states the real art of the maverick hunter is properly applying a hot running iron… 

This prompted us to note the following.  

Many an outfit got their start in Wyoming by “branding a maverick,” while many other ranches sported legitimate brands which are listed in a copy of a rare leather-bound 1885 brand book recently discovered in the Dick Perue/Bob Martin collection. The cover page states, “This fourth edition of the Brand Book is issued by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association for the use of, and it is hoped, for the benefit of all persons interested.” 

History notes one reason to mark cattle with an indelible brand is to prevent theft and thus discourage the “branding of a maverick.” In Wyoming Territory, brands were also used to help sort cattle during annual roundups on the open range. 

The Wyoming Livestock Board office in Cheyenne notes the first complete list of Wyoming livestock brands was published in a 1899 brand book. 

However, the 1885 book lists more than 375 outfits with over 1,000 registered brands covering most of the Cowboy territory. Swan Land and Cattle Co. alone registered more than 100 brands, as shown in the accompanying illustration copied from the 1885 publication. Ranges occupied by the company in 1885, as listed at the top of this illustration, were North Platte, Sheep Creek, Laramie River, Medicine Bow, Sabile and Chugwater, Wyoming and Nebraska. 

Beginning in the mid-1880s and continuing into the 1920s, local brands were also published in most weekly newspapers. 

Alexander H. Swan moved to Wyoming Territory in 1874, and with his older brother Thomas, established the Swan Land & Cattle Co. near present Chugwater. At their greatest extent in the mid-1880s, the holdings of the Swan Land and Cattle Company stretched from its headquarters at Chugwater in the southeast to lands along Bates Creek, south of present Casper in the northwest, plus extending as far as Baggs on the west and into Nebraska on the east – perhaps 5,800 square miles…  But, then, that’s for another branding. 

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