Laramie takes its name from Jacques LaRamie, a French or French-Canadian trapper who disappeared in the Laramie Mountains in the late 1810s and was never heard from again.
Laramie suffered initially from lawlessness. Its first mayor, M.C. Brown, resigned his office on June 12, 1868 after six turbulent weeks, saying that the other officials elected along side him on May 2nd were guilty of "incapacity and laxity" in dealing with the city's problems. This was much due to the threat to the community from three half-brothers, early Old West gunman "Big" Steve Long, Con Moyer and Ace Moyer. Long was Laramie's first marshal, and with his brothers owned the saloon Bucket of Blood. The three began harassing settlers, forcing them to sign over the deeds to their property to them. Any who refused were killed, usually goaded into a gunfight by Long. By October 1868, Long had killed 13 men.
However, the first Albany County sheriff, rancher N. K. Boswell, organized a "Vigilance Committee", and on October 28, 1868, Boswell led the committee into the Bucket of Blood, overwhelmed the three brothers, and lynched them at an unfinished cabin down the street. Through a series of other lynchings and other forms of intimidation, the vigilantes reduced the "unruly element" and established a semblance of law and order.
In 1869, Wyoming was organized as Wyoming Territory, the first legislature of which passed a bill granting equal political rights to the women of the territory. In March 1870, five Laramie residents became the first women in the world to serve on a jury. Also, since Laramie was the first town in Wyoming to hold a municipal election, on September 6, 1870, a Laramie resident was the first woman to cast a legal vote in a United States general election.
A bill signed by Governor Francis E. Warren established the University of Wyoming (UW) in 1886, making it the only public university in Wyoming. Laramie was chosen as the site, and UW opened there in 1887. Under the terms of the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act, UW added an agricultural college and experiment station in 1891.
In 2004, Laramie became the first city in Wyoming to prohibit smoking in enclosed workplaces, including bars, restaurants and private clubs. Opponents of the clean indoor air ordinance, funded in part by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, immediately petitioned to have the ordinance repealed. However, the voters upheld the ordinance in a citywide referendum which was conducted concurrently with the 2004 general election. The opponents then challenged the validity of the election in court, claiming various irregularities. However, the judge ruled that the opponents had failed to meet their burden of showing significant problems with the election, and the ordinance, which had become effective in April 2005, remained in effect. In August 2005, Laramie's City Council defeated an attempt to amend the ordinance to allow smoking in bars and private clubs.