WYOMING has no congested industrial centers. Its oil refineries, coal and iron mines, sugar-beet factories, flour mills, and small enterprises are scattered about the State. Since no navigable rivers link the sources of supply, these have had to wait the extension of railway and truck lines for commercial exploitation. Widely distributed natural resources remain unproved, not only because of their inaccessibility to present markets, but because their location and proportions have not been generally known. Wyoming has always been an agricultural State, and until the oil boom of the 1920's investment depended largely upon livestock, ranching, and farming for its returns.
Except for the petroleum and beet-sugar industries, manufacturing enterprises are not large, but the State has great potentialities of hydroelectric energy, and fuel reserves in crude oil, natural gas, and coal. The increasing development of these and other resources is inevitably hastening the process of industrialization.
The first white men to enter the Wyoming region in the early 1800's traded in furs and by 1860 had built up a flourishing business. Many of the big fur companies of the United States maintained large crews of trappers, who worked the streams of this territory for beaver and other pelts. The first posts of importance established in the State, Forts Laramie and Bridger, were built for trading purposes, as were the Portuguese Houses, built about 1828 by a free trader (seeTour 3).
After the fur trappers came professional hunters, mostly frontier settlers who commercialized their marksmanship and disposed of thousands of buffalo robes and tons of buffalo and antelope meat. With the depletion of natural resources, trapping and hunting declined. For many years there was little commercial activity beyond that connected with the livestock industry.
As early as 1842 gold was discovered in the South Pass district in the Wind River Mountains, but actual prospecting did not begin until the 1850's. In 1861 the prospectors abandoned their claims