Photo of Robert Bonner

Robert Bonner

Marjorie Crabb Garbisch Prof of History & the Lib Arts, Emeritus, History

Education & Professional History

B.A., History and American Studies, University of Wyoming; M.A., European History, University of Oregon; Ph.D., English History, University of Minnesota.

Robert E. Bonner, Marjorie Crabb Garbisch Professor of History and the Liberal Arts, Emeritus at Carleton is recognized as an outstanding scholar and historian of Wyoming and the American West.

Raised in Powell, Wyoming, Professor Bonner began teaching at Carleton in 1967 and retired in 2001. Having taught English and European history until the early 1990s, he inaugurated the study at Carleton of the History of the American West, the History of American Indians, and American Environmental History. From 1992 to 1995 he served as Carleton’s Dean of Students, and from 1997 to 2001, he served as the Director of the American Studies Program.

Since 1999 he has written three books and six journal articles dealing with the history of Wyoming. His 2007 book, William F. Cody’s Wyoming Empire; the Buffalo Bill Nobody Knows, published by the University of Oklahoma Press, was awarded top honors by the Wyoming State Historical Society in 2008. It was also a finalist for the 2008 Spur award in historical non-fiction from the Western Writers of America and for the 2008 award in biography from the Society of Midland Authors. The Wyoming State Historical Society honored his 2008 book, Home in the Valley, in 2009. He was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, the University’s highest award, from his alma mater, the University of Wyoming, in 2011.

Highlights & Recent Activity


  • Home in the Valley: Powell’s First Century. Cody, WY, Wordsworth Publishing, 2008. (Co-authored with Beryl Churchill.)
  • William F. Cody’s Wyoming Empire: The Buffalo Bill Nobody Knows. Norman, OK, University of Oklahoma Press, 2007.
  • American Studies at Carleton: The First Fifty Years.  Carleton College, Northfield, MN, 2003.
  • Farm Town; Stories of the early history of Powell [Wyoming]. Privately published by the Powell Tribune, June 1999.
  • Land, Water, and People: The Shoshone Project Story (1998). Co-authored with Beryl Churchill. Powell, Wyo.: Shoshone Irrigation District.

Selected Articles

  • “Sarah Trimmer.” In: Paul and June Schlueter, editors. An Encyclopedia of British Women Writers. New York: Garland Publishing, 1988.
  • “Poetry and History.” History and Theory, 1975, 14.
  • “The Dam and the Valley: Land, People, and Environment below Buffalo Bill Dam in the twentieth century,” Agricultural History, 2002, 76: 272-288.
  • “Buffalo Bill Cody and Wyoming Water Politics,” Western Historical Quarterly, 2002, 33: 433-452.
  • “Local Experience and National Policy in Federal Reclamation; the Shoshone Project, 1909-1953,” Journal of Policy History, 2003, 15: 301-323.
  • “Elwood Mead, Buffalo Bill Cody, and the Carey Act in Wyoming,” Montana, the Magazine of Western History, Spring 2005, 55: 36-51.
  • “‘Law or No Law!’–Elwood Mead and the Struggle over Power Plant Revenues, Shoshone Project, 1926-1953,” in Reclamation; Managing Water in the West; The Bureau of Reclamation History Essays from the Centennial Symposium, (U. . Government Printing Office, 2008), vol. 1, 407-428.
  • “‘Not an Imaginary Picture Altogether, but Parts;’ The Artistic Legacy of Buffalo Bill Cody,” Montana, the Magazine of Western History, Spring 2011, 61: 40-59.

Selected Reviews

  • Irrigated Eden; The Making of an Agricultural Landscape in the American West, by Mark Fiege (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), in Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Fall 2000.
  • Drowning the Dream: California’s Water Choices at the Millennium, by David Carle (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000), in Western Historical Quarterly, Spring 2001.
  • Groundwater Management in the West, by Jeffrey S. Ashley and Zachary A. Smith (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999), in Western Historical Quarterly, Spring 2001.
  • Collecting Nature: The American Environmental Movement and the Conservation Library, by Andrew Kirk (Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas, 2001), in Western Historical Quarterly, Winter 2002.
  • The American West: The Invention of a Myth, by David H. Murdoch (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2001), in MONTANA; The Magazine of Western History, Summer 2002.
  • The Politics of Western Water: The Congressional Career of Wayne Aspinall, by Steven Sturgeon (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2002), in Western Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2003.
  • Water and American Government; The Reclamation Bureau, National Water Policy, and the West, 1902-1935 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), in Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Winter 2003.

Honors and Awards

  • For William F. Cody’s Wyoming Empire; The Buffalo Bill Nobody Knows:
    • Western Writers of America, Finalist for 2008 Spur Award in Historical Non-fiction
    • Society of Midland Authors, Finalist for 2008 Award in Biography
    • Wyoming State Historical Society, 2008 Award in Biography
  • For Home in the Valley; Powell’s First Century:
    • Wyoming State Historical Society, 2009 Award in Reference
  • Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Wyoming College of Arts and Sciences, 2008
  • 2011 Honorary Doctorate, University of Wyoming
  • Jointly received the Sertoma Service to Mankind Award, with Barbara Bonner, 2005
  • First recipient of the Robert Bonner Distinguished Service Award from the Laura Baker Services Association Board, 2009

Organizations & Scholarly Affiliations

  • American Society for Environmental History
  • Western History Association
  • Western Writers of America
  • Wyoming State Historical Society