For over 56 years from 1914 to 1971, the Tripeny Drug and Jewelry Store was a familiar setting in the heart of downtown Casper’s business district, providing ice cream, sodas, candies, fruits, nuts, drugs, jewelry, cigars, stationery, books, magazines, and novelties from the same location on the east side of Center Street between 2nd Street and Midwest Avenue (across the street from the Wonder Bar), to generations of loyal patrons.
Tripeny Drug Co. (Fort Caspar Museum).
Casper’s Beginning (1888-1910)
Casper was founded in 1888 with the arrival of the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad from Douglas, Wyoming. Three years prior to Casper’s founding, and 1,600 miles to the east, William Tripeny and Angelica Trevett married in New York in 1885.
West side of Center Street, Grand Central Hotel on right, 1890s (Fort Caspar Museum).
They were the proud parents of four children – Delmar William, Marie, Maud, and John. John’s older brother Delmar, who was known by his middle name William, moved to Casper around 1907, where he found work at the Webel Commercial Store before becoming Natrona County’s Deputy Undersheriff in 1910. William and John’s sister Marie and her new husband Fred Villnave followed William to Casper around 1909.
Natrona Hotel dining room, circa 1900 (Fort Caspar Museum).
By the early 1900s, Casper was becoming a thriving town in central Wyoming, with the heart of downtown being along north/south Center Street and east/west 2nd Street. Along with the railroad, some other noted downtown businesses, and the year they opened, were the Grand Central Hotel on the southwest corner of Center & 2nd Streets (1894), Wyoming’s first oil refinery east of Center near the C&NW railroad depot (1895), the Richards & Cunningham Mercantile and the Natrona Hotel on the east side of Center (both opened in 1896), Natrona County Tribune (1897), Schulte Hardware (1899), Nicolaysen Lumber (1899), Stockman’s National Bank and Casper National Bank (1903), Townsend Mercantile (1903), Webel Commercial Store (1908), and the Golden Rule (1908), which later became J.C. Penney.
In 1901 the Natrona County Pioneer Association formed, and in 1903 the Casper Chamber of Commerce was formed. Casper was “lit up” in 1900 when the Casper Electric Power Plant was completed next to the oil refinery, and telephone service began soon after in 1902 by Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone. In 1908 the great Salt Creek Oilfield was discovered 40 miles north of Casper, and the Natrona County Courthouse was completed at the north end of Center Street. The next year saw the North Platte River north of downtown somewhat tamed with the completion of Pathfinder Dam in 1909.
The Early Years (1910-1919)
Center Street looking north, Webel Commercial Co. on right, 1912 (Fort Caspar Museum).
Across the street on the somewhat notorious west side of Center, known as “saloon row” were the Grand Central Hotel, Wyoming Bar, Kimball Drug, Globe Shoe, Schulte Hardware, Pekin Café, Manhattan Café, Elkhorn Bar, Rhinoceros Restaurant, Parlor Car Bar, Smokehouse Cigars, The Inn Bar (becoming The Mint Bar and later the New Wonder Bar in 1937), Burke’s Oil Exchange Bar, Poodle Dog Billiards and Bowling, and the Adsit Hotel on the southwest corner of Center and Midwest. When Prohibition went into effect from 1919 to 1933, Center Street’s west side reputation for rowdiness quieted down significantly.
John Tripeny, the youngest of the Tripeny children, moved from New York to Casper with his older sister Maud and widowed mother Angelica around 1910. Casper’s population was tallied at 2,639 people by the 1910 census. John found work as a clerk for Kimball’s Drug Store, located next to the Grand Central Hotel on the west side of Center Street while he finished high school, and later at Schulte Confectionery, also on Center Street. At the age of 20, John and his brother William open Tripeny Confectionery on December 19, 1914 at what is now 241 South Center.
Some of John and William’s Confectionery Store's initial neighbors on the east side of Center included the Casper National Bank, Richards and Cunningham Clothing and Hardware, Bloom Shoe and Clothing, Gem Café, Acme Barbers, Bon Ton Café, Lyric Theater, Senate Café, World’s Fair Barbers and Bath, and the Natrona Hotel on the southeast corner of Center and Midwest.
Announcement of the Tripeny Confectionery Store opening, December 17, 1914 (Natrona County Tribune).
Center Street looking south, Grand Central Hotel on right, late 1910s (Fort Caspar Museum).
Other notable Casper businesses and establishments in the early 1900s included the Dodge Brothers Coliseum Motors at 5th & Wolcott (1910), the State Hospital a mile east of downtown (1911), Midwest Oil Refinery a mile west of downtown (1912), Iris Theater (1912), the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (1913), Midwest Hotel (1913 - later becoming the Henning Hotel in 1919), Wyoming National Bank (1914), Masonic Temple (1914), Natrona County High School south of downtown on CY Avenue (1914 - the current building was constructed in 1927), Boyle’s Ford (1914), Consolidated Royalty Building (1917), America Theater (1918), Kassis Department Store (1919), and Ayers Jewelry (1919).
Center Street looking north with Adsit Hotel on left, 1913 (Fort Caspar Museum).
Tripeny Confectionery with John Tripeny in the middle, resting his arm on the counter, late 1910s (Fort Caspar Museum).
Downtown Casper’s early landscape was also influenced by the Pioneer Monument erected by the Natrona County Pioneer Association west of Center and north of the C&NW Depot in 1911, later moved to its present location east of the County Courthouse in 1952 to allow construction of the new Sears & Roebuck Building at Center and Midwest Avenue. In 1914, what would be commonly known as the Sand Bar area west of David and north of 2nd Street extending to the new CB&Q rail spur began to develop into Casper’s after-hours entertainment neighborhood.
After being in business for over three years, the John Tripeny Company incorporated June 24, 1918 with John as President, William Tripeny as Secretary-Treasurer and General Manager, and their mother Angelica Tripeny as Vice President.
Soon afterward John was inducted into the U.S. Army to serve during World War I. Upon his return from service, Tripeny Confectionery expanded and became Tripeny Drug and Jewelry in March 1919.
Tripeny Drug Store opening, March 6, 1919 (Casper Daily Tribune).
The Roaring Twenties (1920-1929)
The 1920 Census pegged Casper’s population at 11,447 people – over a four-fold increase in ten years. Because of Casper’s rapid growth due in part to the booming oil industry development in Wyoming, at the urging of the downtown merchants and the U.S. Postmaster, some of the streets were renamed and a more orderly numbering of businesses was enacted.
Chicago & Northwestern depot and Oregon Trail monument, 1920s (Fort Caspar Museum).
The Tripeny Brothers, March 2, 1924 (Casper Sunday Tribune).
The Tripeny Drug Store site, whose original address was 145 S. Center, now was at 241 S. Center, although the location did not change. By 1920, the Tripeny business was well established, however a serious setback occurred when on March 21, 1920 a fire caused by an electrical circuit malfunction destroyed part of the Tripeny building. The remaining structure was razed later in the year in preparation for re-building. Tripeny Drug and Jewelry Store re-opened March 1, 1921 in a new 28’ x 140’ brick building constructed at a cost of $150,000. A portion of the basement was rented out to other business enterprises.
Downtown Casper continued to grow during the 1920s, welcoming new businesses such as Harry Yesness Clothing, Grant Street Groceries, and Rex Theater in 1920, the Rialto Theater in 1921, the Townsend Hotel in 1923, the Gladstone Hotel in 1924, Nolan Chevrolet in 1925, the relocation of Kistler Tent and Awning to Center Street in 1926, and Woods Men’s Wear in 1928.
Tripeny Drug and Jewelry Store's new building, circa 1928 (Fort Caspar Museum).
In 1921 the new Fire Station #2 and Municipal Garage were constructed one block west of downtown on South David Street, and a new pipeline brought natural gas to Casper homes and businesses in 1920. Casper Motor Bus Line initiated local bus service in 1924, and Wardwell Field Airport (now the town of Bar Nunn) began commercial air service into Casper in 1926. In 1925 the Natrona County Historical Society was formed.
Noteworthy to Casper’s social scene, on June 10, 1925 John Tripeny and Mae Redington were married in Galesburg, Illinois. Ms. Redington had moved to Casper from Illinois in the early 1920s, and was a secretary at Casper Realty, located on Center Street a block north of the Tripeny store. John & Mae Tripeny's oldest child Lois Tripeny was born two years later in October 1927.
Harry Yesness "The Man in the Barrel" store, 1920s (Fort Caspar Museum).
Nolan Chevrolet showroom, 1925 (Fort Caspar Museum).
Masonic Temple and Townsend Hotel at Center and First Streets, 1920s (Fort Caspar Museum).
Inside the Tripeny Drug and Jewelry store, John in the center of the aisle, 1920s (Fort Caspar Museum).
The Depression Years (1930-1939)
At the beginning of the Great Depression, Casper’s population in 1930 was 16,619 people. The second of John & Mae Tripeny's three children, John Jr. was born in June 1930 and was better known as Jack. Their youngest child, Robert was born in September 1931, who would depart from the family drug store business and start Tripeny Motors in 1957. In 1933, Casper fireman Maurice Kelliher and his wife Mary had their fourth daughter, Patricia, born in May. Maurice would later become the Fire Chief from 1938 until his retirement in 1949, and Patricia would in time become Mrs. Pat Tripeny, marrying Jack in 1955.
Casper’s business district continued to grow and evolve in the 1930s, but at a slower pace than previously. New business included Montgomery Wards (1930), Kistler Tent and Awning (1930) moved across Center Street next to and south of Tripeny Drug, Klines Dry Goods (1934), Walgreens (1935), and Gambles (1936) which moved to Center Street in 1943.
In May 1931, John and William Tripeny opened their second business, the American Finance Company, operating out of the second floor balcony at the back of the Tripeny building, making loans “on Character, Diamonds, Automobiles, Furniture and Collaterals” with “no red tape or delays.”
John Tripeny family in the early 1930s. Mae Jack, Robert, John, and Lois in front (Fort Caspar Museum).
American Finance Company, on the balcony in the back of the drug store, circa 1931 (Fort Caspar Museum).
Announcement American Finance Co., May 13, 1931 (Casper Tribune Herald).
Bus parked on Center Street in front of Rialto Theater, 1932 (Fort Caspar Museum).
Officers of the Wyoming Pharmaceutical Association at their June 1934 convention in Casper. Secretary-Treasurer John Tripeny is second from the left in the back row. Photo taken in front of the Gladstone Hotel (Fort Caspar Museum).
The 1940s into the 1970s
The Tripeny Drug and Jewelry Store survived the Depression years of the 1930s, and in 1940 acquired a retail liquor license from the City of Casper. John bought out his brother William’s interest in both the Tripeny Drug Store and the American Finance Company, and became the sole owner of both enterprises in June 1941. William then purchased the Daly Building located north of the Tripeny Building on Center Street.
Southwest corner of Second and Wolcott, Klines on corner, 1941 (Fort Caspar Museum).
Casper’s business district continued to see changes when in 1940 a new County Courthouse was completed on North Center next to the old courthouse and A Street. Elsewhere around town, the Casper Army Air Base (now Natrona County International Airport) was active from 1942 to 1945 training pilots for service during World War II. Lois (Tripeny) Shickich, the oldest child of John and Mae Tripeny, worked at the store in sales and as a bookkeeper during World War II, and recalled her father cautioning her about getting too friendly with the soldiers training at the base when they would patronize the store, as “it was clear she was too young to date any of them."
1947 Lou Taubert opened his Ranch Outfitters at 261 S. Center, moving to its present location (the original Golden Rule Store on E. 2nd Street) in 1964. The Casper Petroleum Club opened in the Henning Hotel in 1949, and moved into the basement of the Townsend Hotel in 1952. In 1949 Triangle Motors Pontiac opens at Midwest & Wolcott. Bowen's Sporting Goods opened at 240 S. Center in 1949.
Advertisement, December 23, 1941 (Casper Tribune Herald).
A second floor was added to the Tripeny building in 1956, with the added office space leased out to various professional enterprises.
Fred Goodstein purchased the site of the Grand Central Hotel on the southwest corner of Center and 2nd Street and constructed the six-story Petroleum Building in 1957, and the Casper Army Store moved into the Schulte Hardware building across from Tripeny’s in 1957. Zales Jewelry moved into a new building at the southeast corner of Center and 2nd, and the Sunrise Shopping Center opens south of downtown in 1961. In 1962, the State’s Employment Security Commission moved into its newly constructed office building at the site of the old Adsit Hotel.
The Tripenys purchased the adjacent vacant building north of their drug store in 1967 and converted the area to a parking lot. This was the site of Casper’s original post office built around 1890, and used in the early 1900s by Marvin Bishop, a prominent sheep rancher and U.S. Postmaster, as a grocery store.
Northeast corner of Center and Midwest Streets, early 1940s (Fort Caspar Museum).
Jack and John Tripeny in the pharmacy, early 1950s (Fort Caspar Museum).
The End of an Era - 1971
The year 1971 was unfortunately a turning point in the Tripeny Drug and Jewelry Store legacy in Casper. On January 10th, Jack Tripeny died unexpectedly at the age of 40 years old. His father John then made the decision to close the drug store on April 22nd and liquidate the assets. John Tripeny, Sr. then passed away four days later on April 26th at the age of 76. John’s wife Mae Alice followed him in passing on January 4, 1974 at the age of 79.
Jack’s wife, Pat Tripeny, retained many of the store’s fixtures and furnishings, relocating them into the basement of her home. Pat remodeled her basement into a partial replica of the drug store’s interior, consisting of a phone booth, soda fountain cabinets, booths and tables, vintage prescription bottles, weight scales, and many other remembrances of the store’s history.
Tripeny Anniversary, March 15, 1970 (Casper Star-Tribune).