The 105th Anniversary Of The Wyoming Legislature Riot
This week marks the 105th anniversary of the wildest political battle in American history, the infamous riot at the Wyoming State Capitol.
On Jan. 20, 1913, the Wyoming House of Representatives were embroiled in a heated debate over who would become Speaker. Shortly before noon, the shouting match escalated into an all-out brawl when Republican Martin Luther Pratt shoved Democrat William Wood from his chair.
Representatives from both sides traded verbal and physical jabs for nearly an hour. One of the legislators even smashed a photograph over a rival’s head. Finally, after 45 minutes of fisticuffs, cooler heads prevailed and both sides called for a recess.
The next morning, they returned and agreed to strike any reference to the altercation from the official record. Unfortunately for the legislators, the damage had already been done. Wyoming Tribune reporter John Thompson published an eyewitness account of the brawl the following day.
Republican House Speaker Martin Luther Pratt later commented on the incident.
“I regret that the Democrats so far forgot propriety and parliamentary usage as to try to take forcible possession of the speaker’s chair, but as they did so, I was obliged to use physical force to retain my position. After that one incident, there was no question as to my right and authority—possibly my ability—to retain possession of the speaker’s chair and wield the gavel."