Medicine Bow was made famous by Philadelphia lawyer Owen Wister's classic The Virginian (probably the very first "Western" ever written). This is the place where Trampas faced off with the Virginian over a card game by calling the Virginian a "son-of-a-bitch." The Virginian responded by drawing his pistol and uttering "When you call me that, smile!" (probably one of the most famous lines in American Western folklore).

Anyway, Medicine Bow was founded by the Union Pacific Railroad as a watering station for their steam locomotives in 1868. Watering stations like this one often became trading posts and local supply depots. The railroad also built a tie boom on the nearby Medicine Bow River and had crews cutting railroad ties in the heavily-forested mountains upstream. In the early 1900's, the Lincoln Highway came through and Medicine Bow was one of the larger stops in Wyoming. Medicine Bow grew to the point that in 1909, when the 3-story Virginian Hotel was built, the hotel was the largest hotel between Denver and Salt Lake City. And this elegant hotel with its excellent old-time western bar is still in operation. Just down the street is the Diplodocus Bar with its 40-foot-long jade bar, carved from a single 4.5-ton jade boulder that was discovered in Lander.

The fortunes of Medicine Bow declined in the early 1970's with the opening of Interstate 80 about 10 miles to the south. There was a slight economic lift in the later 1970's when coal mines west of town expanded their production and some uranium mines were opened north of town. One of the elements that sustain Medicine Bow these days is the fact that this is one of the windiest places in North America. Large wind farms to generate electricity started being developed in the area in the early 1980's and development continues even now. Plans for building a large-scale coal gasification plant southwest of town were announced in December 2007, with a 2013 projected completion date.

North of Medicine Bow is the Shirley Basin, a vast area of ranchlands with cottonwood-lined creeks and rolling hills. 7 miles east of Medicine Bow is the Como Bluff Dinosaur Site: a repository of fossilized remains going back to the Jurassic era. 247 of the 250 known Jurassic-era mammals have been found here. Also held in the dirt and rock of the long, low ridge are the remains of some of the largest and oldest dinosaurs ever discovered.