104 Years Ago Today: Brawl Breaks Out On the Floor of the Wyoming State Legislature
Today marks the 104th anniversary of the wildest political battle in Wyoming history, the infamous fist fight on the floor of the State Legislature.
At the time, the Wyoming House of Representatives consisted of 29 Republicans and 28 Democrats, who were embroiled in a heated debate over who would become Speaker of the House.
Shortly before noon on Jan. 20, 1913, what began as a shouting match quickly escalated into an all-out brawl when interim speaker Martin Luther Pratt shoved House Democrat William Wood from his chair.
Representatives traded verbal and physical jabs for nearly an hour. One person reportedly smashed a photograph over a rival’s head.
After 45 minutes, the fight died down and cooler heads finally prevailed. Members from 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 parties involved, 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."