Laramie is a city in and the county seat of Albany County, Wyoming, United States. The population was 30,816 at the 2010 census. Located on the Laramie River in southeastern Wyoming, the city is west of Cheyenne, at the junction of Interstate 80 and U.S. Route 287.
Laramie was settled in the mid-19th century along the Union Pacific Railroad line, which crosses the Laramie River at Laramie. It is home to the University of Wyoming, Wyoming Technical Institute, and a branch of Laramie County Community College. Laramie Regional Airport serves Laramie. The ruins of Fort Sanders, an army fort predating Laramie, lie just south of the city along Route 287. Located in the Laramie Valley between the Snowy Range and the Laramie Range, the city draws outdoor enthusiasts because of its abundance of outdoor activities.
In 2011, Laramie was named as one of the best cities in which to retire by Money Magazine due to its scenic location, low taxes and educational opportunities.
From 1959 to 1963, Laramie was also the name of an NBC western television series, starring John Smith and Robert Fuller as ranch partners who operate a stagecoach station twelve miles east of the city.
The city and its name became associated with homophobic violence following the murder of Matthew Shepard on October 6, 1998. Shepard, a young gay man, was tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, brutally beaten and left to die. The widely reported crime served as the basis of The Laramie Project, a documentary-style theatre tribute to Shepard and journalism-based exploration, followed by an HBO film and ten-year anniversary production looking at the event's aftermath and impact.
Laramie takes its name from Jacques LaRamie, a French or French-Canadian trapper who disappeared in the Laramie Mountains in the late 1810s and was never heard from again. He was one of the first Europeans to visit the area, and his name was given to a river, mountain range, peak, US Army fort, county, and city. More Wyoming landmarks are named for him than any other trapper but Jim Bridger.
Laramie was founded in the mid-1860s as a tent city near the Overland Stage Line route and the Union Pacific portion of the first transcontinental railroad. By May 10, 1868, when the first train entered town, entrepreneurs were building more permanent structures, and Laramie soon had stores, houses, a school, and churches. Laramie's fame as the western terminal of the Union Pacific Railroad, acquired when the 268 mile section from North Platte, Nebraska was opened in May ended in early August 1868 when a 93 mile section of track was opened to Benton, six miles east of present day Sinclair, Wyoming.
Laramie suffered initially from lawlessness. Its first mayor, M.C. Brown, resigned after three turbulent weeks in mid-1868, saying that the town was "ungovernable." This was much due to threats he received from three half-brothers, early Old West gunman "Big" Steve Long, Con Moyer and Ace Moyer. Long was Laramie's first marshal, and with his brothers owned the saloon Bucket of Blood. The three began harassing settlers, forcing them to sign over the deeds to their property to them. Any who refused were killed, usually goaded into a gunfight by Long. By October 1868, Long had killed 13 men.
However, the first Albany County sheriff, rancher N. K. Boswell, organized a "Vigilance Committee", and on October 28, 1868, Boswell led the committee into the Bucket of Blood, overwhelmed the three brothers, and lynched them at an unfinished cabin down the street. Through a series of other lynchings and other forms of intimidation, the vigilantes reduced the "unruly element" and established a semblance of law and order.
In 1869, Wyoming was organized as Wyoming Territory, the first legislature of which passed a bill granting equal political rights to the women of the territory. In March 1870, five Laramie residents became the first women in the world to serve on a jury. Also, since Laramie was the first town in Wyoming to hold a municipal election, on September 6, 1870, a Laramie resident was the first woman to cast a legal vote in the United States.
Early businesses included rolling mills, a tie treatment plant, a brick yard, a slaughterhouse, a brewery, a glass-blowing plant, and a plaster mill, as well as the railroad yards. In 1886, a plant to produce electricity was built. Several regional railroads were based in Laramie, including the Laramie, North Park and Pacific Railroad and Telegraph Company founded in 1880 and the Laramie, North Park and Western Railroad established in 1901.
A bill signed by Governor Francis E. Warren established the University of Wyoming (UW) in 1886, making it the only public university in Wyoming. Laramie was chosen as the site, and UW opened there in 1887. Under the terms of the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act, UW added an agricultural college and experiment station in 1891.
The city was mentioned in worldwide news coverage in 1998 after the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming. His murder caused an international outcry and became the symbolic focus for a nationwide campaign against gay hate crimes, with federal hate crimes legislation signed into law in 2009. As of January 2011, Wyoming does not have a hate crimes law. Shepard's murder was the subject of the award-winning play and movie The Laramie Project.
In 2004, Laramie became the first city in Wyoming to prohibit smoking in enclosed workplaces, including bars, restaurants and private clubs. Opponents of the clean indoor air ordinance, funded in part by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, immediately petitioned to have the ordinance repealed. However, the voters upheld the ordinance in a citywide referendum which was conducted concurrently with the 2004 general election. The opponents then challenged the validity of the election in court, claiming various irregularities. However, the judge ruled that the opponents had failed to meet their burden of showing significant problems with the election, and the ordinance, which had become effective in April 2005, remained in effect. In August 2005, Laramie's City Council defeated an attempt to amend the ordinance to allow smoking in bars and private clubs.