Statesman and a founder of the Swan Land and Cattle Company - the largest cattle operation in the nation, amassing millions of acres of land and carrying a reported 110,000 head of cattle.
1831-1905 | Artist: Elizabeth Nelson Fairchild (1910-1985)
Impact & Accomplishments
Born in Pennsylvania, Alexander Swan first entered the cattle business in Iowa, with his brother Thomas, in the 1860s. In 1873, Swan Brothers Company was founded in Wyoming. The two brothers became active members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, with Alex Swan serving as president for several years. He also briefly served in the territorial legislature.
In 1883, Swan became involved in several major enterprises: founding the South Omaha Land Syndicate, the Union Stockyards of Omaha, a Montana railroad syndicate, the Union Mercantile Company, and most significantly, the Swan Land and Cattle Company. Under Swan’s leadership, this latter company became the largest cattle operation in the nation, amassing millions of acres of land and carrying a reported 110,000 head of cattle. With more than £2 million of capital provided by Scottish investors, Swan imported Scottish Hereford bulls—the first in the territory—to improve the beef quality of the Texas Longhorn herds. He also established the Wyoming Hereford Association. Swan bought land along railroads and streams, to control more acreage and discourage settlement. Because of his land monopolizing and overgrazing strategies, he fell out of favor with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. After devastating stock losses during the winter of 1886-1887, the directors of Swan Land and Cattle Company filed suit against Swan, and he was removed from the company he had founded.
Did You Know?
Swan Land & Cattle Company, Limited, Chugwater, 1914. Photo courtesy of Brian Dunlop.
Exploring the Nature of Wyoming | University of Wyoming Extension