With the passage of this bill in 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state. The sparsely populated region had been a territory since 1868. When Wyoming sought to become a state more than 20 years later, the consensus in Congress was that a territory needed at least 60,000 residents to be admitted. Concerns about the exact number of citizens in the territory arose when, in the November 1889 election to ratify the proposed Wyoming state constitution, only about 8,000 votes were cast.
In his report to Congress, Territorial Governor Francis E. Warren argued that because of its size and difficult terrain, an accurate census of the region would be difficult and unlikely to reflect the true territorial population. Proponents of statehood blamed poor turnout on a bad snowstorm that preceded the special election. Territorial Delegate to Congress Joseph M. Carey, who introduced the bill, reminded his colleagues that other states had been admitted with fewer people and experienced a population boom soon after admission.
The House narrowly approved the bill by a vote of 139 to 127 on March 26, 1890. After a lengthy debate, the Senate passed the bill, and President Benjamin Harrison signed it into law on July 10, 1890.