|Irving Hastings "Larry" Larom|
June 3, 1889|
New York City, USA
|Died||December 23, 1973
Cody, Park County
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
founder of Dude Ranchers Association
Irving Hastings Larom, known as Larry Larom (June 3, 1889 – December 23, 1973), was the founding president of the Dude Ranchers Association and an owner of the former Valley Ranch near Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Wyoming.
Born in New York City, Larom's father was a prominent merchant there. Larom attended Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Madison Square Garden in New York City in 19 and became inspired to travel to Cody in northwestern Wyoming the following year for a summer vacation on Jim McLaughlin’s Valley Home Ranch. After three more summer visits there, he decided to become a dude rancher. He persuaded a fellow New Yorker, Winthrop Brooks, to become his partner in the purchase and operation of Valley Ranch on the south fork of the Shoshone River. Larom and Brooks, scions of wealthy New York families and educated at Princeton University, had an advantage in selling the concept of a dude ranch vacation to members of their social class. In a few years Brooks left the partnership and was the president of Brooks Brothers men's clothier from 1935 to 1946.
Larom recruited ranch guests by advertising among the East Coast elite. Each guest was required to be of the Christian faith (No Jews were invited.), make advanced reservations, and furnish references. Valley Ranch functioned much like a self-contained community. Pack trips into the mountains acquainted the guests with the scenery and a plentiful supply of elk, bison, and deer.
After sponsoring pack trips for both boys and girls into Yellowstone, Larom in 1922 established a college preparatory school for boys. The operation folded in 1934 because of the impact of the Great Depression. One of the instructors at the school confessed that most of the boys were not promising students because their family wealth already provided them with financial security.
Larom was a conservationist, a conservative, a Republican, an Episcopalian, and a teetotaler. He opposed the Wyoming Civil Rights Act of 1957, signed into law by then Governor Milward L. Simpson as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which then U.S. Senator Milward Simpson and five Republican colleagues voted against. Larom feared that the unintended consequences of such laws would render it impossible to screen his guests. When he could no longer find enough high-paying guests who fit into his image of Valley Ranch, Larom sold the enterprise but resided with his wife, Irma, on the property for a few more years, despite his declining eyesight. He opposed government measures that opened areas near the ranch to public campgrounds and day-use picnicking facilities.
W. Hudson Kensel, Larom's biographer, contends that the primary factor in the success of Valley Ranch was neither the scenery, the solitude, nor the wildlife but Larom himself: "People were attracted to Valley Ranch for a summer, and often for many successive summers mainly because they liked Larom. His warm generous hospitality was the magnet that attracted thousands of guests and ultimately accounted for the extraordinary growth and success of the ranch."
In 1926, Larom was instrumental in the establishment of the Dude Ranchers Association and became its first president. Larom was also involved in the civic and cultural affairs in Cody, where he died in 1973.
- Billy Hathorn, review of Dude Ranching in the Yellowstone Country: Larry Larom and Valley Ranch, 1915-1969 by W. Hudson Kensel, South Dakota History, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 458, 460
- W. Hudson Kensel, Lecture, "The Valley Ranch and Irving H. 'Larry' Larom: A History of Dude Ranching on the South Fork of the Shoshone River," Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming, October 16, 2006
- W. Hudson Kensel, Dude Ranching in the Yellowstone Country: Larry Larom and Valley Ranch, 1915-1969 (Norman, Oklahoma: Arthur H. Clark, 2010), p. 218