Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: History of Aspen, Colorado

Today, Aspen’s riches come from the ski industry — but they used to come from silver mining. Aspen was founded in 1879, during the glory days of Colorado silver mining — the same era when mining boomtowns like Leadville and Georgetown were being established. With seemingly endless amounts of silver in the nearby Elk and Sawatch mountains, Aspen thrived until 1893, when economic disaster struck. That year, Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, under which the federal government had purchased millions of ounces of silver for coinage. Without a market for the silver, Aspen and the other boomtowns nearly became ghost towns.

Despite a steady decline in population, and area mines and railroads going bankrupt, Aspen managed to survive — but it needed something to sustain it. Tourism, and the newly fashionable sport of skiing, became the answer. In 1924, the Independence Pass Highway was completed, making travel to Aspen easier. Then, in 1936, Aspen’s first ski lodge was opened, ushering in the industry that would give rebirth to the town. Ski enthusiasts and wealthy vacationers descended on Aspen. In 1946, the area’s first chairlift opened, the longest in the world at the time, according to an article in the Colorado Encyclopedia. New ski resorts opened, and Aspen continued to thrive.

It wasn’t just skiing that made Aspen famous, however. It became known as a center for arts and culture, hosting such notable events as the Aspen Music Festival, the International Design Conference, and the Aspen Institute. Today, Aspen is known as a playground for celebrities, with some of the most expensive real estate in the United States — a far cry from the Silver Crash days.

You can read more about Aspen in numerous publications from our library; many are available online. In 1958, William Wardell wrote a delightful article in the Colorado Historical Society’s Colorado Magazine, sharing his memories of childhood in Aspen before the Silver Crash. You can also read about Aspen during the mining years in Aspen: The History of a Silver Mining Town, 1879-1893, which is available for checkout.

Over the past several decades the University of Colorado’s business school has prepared numerous studies on Aspen tourism, including:

The University’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research also published several studies on Aspen environmental issues, including Quality Skiing at Aspen, Colorado (1975) and Landslides Near Aspen, Colorado (1976).

Other historical resources on Aspen available from our library include highway studies, air quality studies, a 1965 report on the Aspen general area plan, and, more recently, Climate Change and Aspen from 2006. Search our online catalog for titles. Finally, be sure to check out the Aspen Historical Society’s website for a historical timeline, digital archives, and more.


Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Colorado State Publications Blog

How Geology Helped Build the Moffat Road

Our library recently received a fascinating new document for our collection that will be of interest to historians researching Colorado’s railroads as well as to those interested in our state’s geology and mineral resources.

Exactly one hundred years ago, in 1918, a special committee of the Denver Civic and Commercial Association asked State Geologist Russell George to produce a report of the mineral resources that could be found in the Northwest Colorado region of the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad, known informally as the “Moffat Road.” The committee, led by Denver Tramway Company president William Gray Evans, was interested in “the extent and location of the deposits of coal, oil shales, hydrocarbons, and other minerals of economic value…to be used by [the] Committee to make clear the public advantage and public necessity for the completion of the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad — the “Moffat Road” — and its main range tunnel.” In other words, Evans — one of the major promoters of the Moffat Tunnel after the 1911 death of its namesake, David Moffat — wanted to use this report as justification for the railroad and tunnel through the mountains, construction of which would be no easy task.

George and the Colorado Geological Survey provided Evans and his colleagues with a thorough description of the area’s resources, the most prominent being coal — the mining of which was one of the state’s major industries during this era. George’s narrative is bound together with three large foldout maps. One map shows the Road’s route and proposed tunnel location alongside existing (supposedly inadequate) rail lines. The second map details the area’s coal resources, and the third map points out locations of other mineral resources, including copper, molybdenum, tungsten, carnotite, gold, and oil and gas.
Evans and his colleagues were likely very pleased with the report, because George concluded that “the industrial value of many million dollars’ worth of useful mineral deposits depends largely upon the quick completion of the railroad enterprise, including the proposed tunnel through the main range.” However, it would be nearly a decade before the Moffat Tunnel finally opened in 1927. Evans didn’t live to see the tunnel’s completion; he died in 1924.

This document is an incredible primary source for anyone researching Colorado’s railroad history. Although it is not presently available online (the large size of the maps would make this difficult), anyone is welcome to come and view the document here in our library. Search our library’s online catalog for many more resources on Colorado’s history, geology, and transportation.

A D&SL train near Kremmling in 1928. Photo by Otto Perry courtesy of Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.
Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Victor Labor War of 1903-04

Victor, Colorado, near Cripple Creek in Teller County, is one of Colorado’s most historic mining towns. Incorporated in 1894, Victor flourished during the gold mining era that followed the Silver Crash of 1893. The repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act meant that silver mining, which had been a huge part of Colorado’s economy, was no longer profitable. So mining interests instead turned to the gold mines, and the Cripple Creek District became the heart of Colorado gold mining. Victor reached a peak population of about 12,000 at the turn of the century, making it, for a time, one of the largest cities in Colorado.
Victor’s first period of labor unrest occurred in 1894. That year, striking miners demanded a minimum daily wage of $3.00 and an eight-hour workday. The issue was resolved in favor of the miners, but in 1903 the miners again went on strike after mine owners quit honoring the agreement. Nearly 4,000 miners walked off the job under the direction of labor leader “Big Bill” Haywood.  Working with the Western Federation of Miners, the strikers managed to shut down several mines, but when the mining companies brought in strikebreakers and “scabs,” violence ensued.

The Miner’s Union Hall in Victor, Colorado in 1904.
At the Vindicator Mine, two non-union replacement workers, or “scabs,” were killed when striking miners set off explosives in the mine.  Then, on January 27, 1904, fifteen men were killed and another man seriously injured when an elevator cable inside the Independence Mine was sabotaged, causing the miners to fall to their deaths. Following the two incidents, Governor James Peabody declared martial law and ordered the state militia to quell the strike. “Striking miners were arrested and detained in bull pens,” according to an article in the Colorado Encyclopedia, and “the entire staff of the Victor Daily Record was arrested after printing an anti-mine owners editorial.”
The militia withdrew in the spring of 1904 and violence started up again.  Striking miners bombed a train depot in the nearby town of Independence, killing thirteen more nonunion workers. It took several more years of unrest before the strike was finally settled in 1907.
In their 1904 report, the State Commissioner of Mines reported on the deadly incidents at the Vindicator and Independence Mines, referring to both as “accidents” but acknowledging that the Independence Mine incident “was caused by premeditated plan executed by someone unknown.”  The report contains not only the Commissioner’s official report of the incident, but also reprints correspondence from the State Attorney General to Governor Peabody regarding the matter along with the official report of a Board of Inquiry that looked into the elevator incident. The Board of Inquiry and the Attorney General recommended a study of new safety devices for mine elevator shafts, and the report includes several illustrations of pulley devices proposed for study.
The report, which has been digitized by our library and is now available online, is a significant primary source document now available to scholars researching the history of Colorado mining and associated labor struggles. The 1904 report is part of a series of annual and biennial reports that were produced by the State Bureau of Mines and have been digitized by our library; reports from 1894 through 1965 are available online. Search our library’s online catalog for more resources, both primary and secondary, that tell the story of mining and labor history in Colorado.

Newspaper articles such as these from the Eagle County Blade (January 28, 1904), top, and the San Miguel Examiner (January 30, 1904), bottom, are available online from the Colorado State Library’s Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection.
Miner’s Union Hall photo courtesy Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Uranium Mining

Uranium was discovered in southwestern Colorado in the late nineteenth century.  It comes from carnotite ore, which also produces vanadium.  When these elements were first mined, vanadium was considered to be the more valuable of the two; it was used as an alloy to strengthen steel.  In 1921 the Colorado Geological Survey issued Radium, Uranium, and Vanadium Deposits of Southwestern Colorado, an excellent resource for understanding the early development of the industry prior to the nuclear age.

By the mid-twentieth century, during WWII and especially during the Cold War, uranium was highly sought after by the military for its use in the development of nuclear weapons.  Most of Colorado’s uranium extraction took place in what is known as the Uravan Mineral Belt, located primarily in Montrose and San Miguel counties.  Uranium extraction produced a yellowish substance resembling a cake mix, so the mill towns that developed were nicknamed “yellowcake towns.”  (Check out from our library the book Yellowcake Towns:  Uranium Mining Communities in the American West, published by University Press of Colorado, for more information).  Examples of yellowcake towns in Colorado included Naturita, Nucla, Paradox, Slick Rock, and Uravan.  Uranium has also been mined in other parts of the state as well.

Uranium mining became one of Colorado’s major industries in the Cold War era; according to the Colorado Encyclopedia, 63 million pounds of uranium were produced in the Uravan Mineral Belt between 1948 and 1978.

Eventually, the decades of radium, uranium, and vanadium extraction began taking a toll on the environment.  In 1971 the State published Uranium Wastes and Colorado’s Environment, which exposed many of the problems caused by uranium mining.  Colorado’s Involvement with Uranium Mill Tailings, published in 1976, also explored this issue.  Both reports are available online via our library.

The impact on public health was also a growing concern.  A linkage between uranium mining and the development of cancer in mine workers became apparent, and in 1990 Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.  These health concerns, alongside new environmental regulations and the availability of cheaper uranium from other countries, caused Colorado’s uranium industry to bust.  By the early 2000s, however, development of new radioactive waste disposal facilities caused a resurgence in interest in uranium.  (See Uranium, It’s Hot!! And Back by Popular Demand, part of the Colorado Geological Survey’s Rock Talk series.) 

Further resources on uranium available from our library include:

Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Coal Resources

Coal is one of Colorado’s most significant mineral resources, and over the years has played an important part in our state’s history and economy.  You can learn about Colorado coal in numerous publications available from our library.  Some highlights from our collection include

General resources:


Inactive/abandoned mines:

Industry information:


  • The Archaeology of Class War:  The Colorado Coafield Strike of 1913-1914, 2009
  • Coal People:  Life in Southern Colorado’s Company Towns, 1890-1930, 1999
  • From Redstone to Ludlow:  John Cleveland Osgood’s Struggle Against the United Mine Workers of America, 2009
  • The Great Coafield War, 2009
  • High Altitude Energy:  A History of Fossil Fuels in Colorado, 2002
  • Industrializing the Rockies:  Growth, Competition, and Turmoil in the Coalfields of Colorado and Wyoming, 1868-1914, 2003
  • “Remember Ludlow!”, 1999
  • Routt and Moffat Counties, Colorado, Coal Mining Historic Context, 1991
  • When Coal Was King:  A History of Crested Butte, Colorado, 1880-1952, 1999


Safety and inspection:




Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Leadville Metals Exposure Study

Leadville is one of Colorado’s most historic mountain towns.  Though a small mountain town today, in the 1870s and 1880s Leadville rivaled Denver for the state’s most prestigious city and many millionaires were made through Leadville’s silver mines.  Following the Crash of 1893, most of Leadville’s silver mines were abandoned, although other mining activities such as molybdenum mining did continue in Leadville through the twentieth century.
Because of the sheer volume of mining near Leadville, the entire town is included in the 18-square-mile California Gulch superfund site.  While much of the site has been cleaned up, there is still continual monitoring of the site and cleanup of some areas is still ongoing.  Much of the cleanup work began after the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment and federal partners undertook a major study of the area in 1990.
The Leadville Metals Exposure Study, available digitally from our library, reported that “soil surveys done in connection with a remedial investigation of [the site] found elevated levels of lead (Pb), arsenic (As), and Cadmium (Cd) in surface soils in residential areas.  A study of heavy metal exposure to individuals living in Leadville, Colorado is described in this report.”  The report especially focused on the exposure of children to toxic lead.  “Studies have linked lead in the blood of children to lead in dust on children’s hands to lead in floor and sill dust in houses and to lead in the soil outside the children’s houses.”  The study presents detailed data on the lead exposure to humans in Leadville, including comparisons to other places in the United States.
The following year, another study, this one by the Colorado Water Resources Research Institute at Colorado State University, measured the effects of the metal contamination on the water quality in the California Gulch site.  Entitled Fate and Effects of Heavy Metals on the Arkansas River, this publication is also available online from our library.
Twenty-five years later, the site is still undergoing remediation.  The EPA website reports that the “human exposure status” is still “not under control,” although the “contaminated ground water status” has been controlled.  For more documents relating to mining, hazardous waste, and public health, search our library’s online catalog.

The effects of mining are visible in this EPA photo of the California Gulch superfund site.
Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The White Ash Mine Disaster

This fall the Colorado School of Mines unveiled a new memorial dedicated to the victims of the White Ash Mine disaster of 1889.  Ten miners lost their lives in the accident near Golden, Colorado.

The White Ash Mine was located adjacent to the Loveland Mine, which had been shut down in 1881 following a fire.  The fire had damaged the 90-foot pillar that separated the two mines.  Meanwhile, water from nearby Clear Creek had been seeping into the Loveland Mine, and after eight years the damaged pillar finally broke, unleashing water into the White Ash Mine and drowning ten workers.

In the 1889 report of the State Coal Mine Inspector, which is available online through our library, inspector John McNeil recounts how he immediately responded to the disaster, which had occurred at about 4pm on September 9, 1889.  In attempting a rescue effort, he found that water had reached a height of 100 feet above the shaft, making survival impossible.  McNeil and White Ash foreman Evan Jones and mine manager Paul Lanius worked all night in the hope of reaching some survivors.  Water was not the only deadly issue they had to contend with, however.  “By three o’clock on the morning of the tenth instant, I lowered a light with a hand line to a depth of 530 feet, at which point it was extinguished by the carbonic acid gas.”  McNeil was also “astonished to find that the water had a temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit.”  McNeil and Jones descended the mine in a bucket with a hoisting cable.  They “found that a portion of the old workings on this level were on fire, and judging from the intense heat…felt satisfied that the fire itself would soon reach the shaft timbers, [which were] already smoking.”  Coming back up to the surface, McNeil ordered the two mines be sealed up in order to keep the fire from spreading.  Later in the month the mines were reopened and water pumping and debris clearing began, which took several months.  It was during this cleanup period that the bodies of the ten men were found.

The 1889 report is of enormous historical value relating to this incident, because it not only gives us McNeil’s eyewitness account, but also contains copies of correspondence; information on the investigation; a fold-out illustration of the underground workings of the mine, showing the conditions for the accident; and a list of the names of the deceased.  All other mine fatalities occurring that year are also listed in the report.

Starting in 2009, Golden citizens and civic organizations raised money for the memorial statue, which replaced a small memorial plaque that had been dedicated in 1936 by Golden Mayor Albert Jones, son of foreman Evan Jones. Colorado School of Mines donated the land for the new memorial, which was dedicated on October 29, 2016.

The new memorial commemorating the White Ash Mine disaster.  Photo courtesy Colorado School of Mines.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Molybdenum

When most people think of Colorado mining, they think of gold or silver, or maybe coal.  But one of Colorado’s most significant mineral resources of the past century is molybdenum.  Today, however, demand for “moly” is declining.  Plans were recently announced to shutter Clear Creek County’s huge Henderson Mine — the world’s largest primary producer of moly, according to their website.  The Henderson underground mine is owned by the same company that owns the Climax Mine, an open-pit moly mine.  Over the past century, demand for moly has fluctuated, with the Climax Mine closing and reopening several times.

What is molybdenum, and how is it used?  Moly, for short, is used as an alloy in steel production.  Its usefulness as an alloy is due to it having a higher melting point than iron.  The Climax Mine began production in 1914.  After the U.S. entered the war in 1917, demand for moly rose sharply due to its use in the production of war matériel; however, at the end of the war, the mine shut down when demand was reduced.  It reopened in 1924, shut down in 1995, and reopened in 2012.  During its heyday during mid-century, Climax had been its own town, with schools, housing, a post office, and a railroad station.  Most of the houses were moved to nearby Leadville in 1965.

The Climax Molybdenum Mine. Photo attribution: By JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
In 1919, the Colorado Geological Survey produced a report examining the industry.  Molybdenum Deposits of Colorado: With General Notes on the Molybdenum Industry was the resulting report from a research analysis of moly that had started during the war.  “Soon after it was declared that a state of war existed between the United States and Germany, the Colorado Geological Survey was asked to cooperate with Federal officials in determining the extent of the undeveloped molybdenum resources of Colorado,” wrote the report’s author, P.G. Worcester.

This report includes analysis of the history, use, and chemical properties of moly along with a review of moly deposits across the state.  Moly deposits in countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, and Norway are also examined, as is an analysis of the predicted future of the industry.  Because the report had been commissioned during the war but was not produced until 1919, after its completion (and the same year the Climax Mine closed the first time), the report had begun with optimism for the industry but ended on a much different note.  “From what has been said in the preceding pages it is evident that, at the present time, the outlook for a rapidly expanding industry is none too bright…It is the writer’s belief that the demand will increase slowly as successful metallurgical experiments develop new uses or improved uses for the metal,” wrote Worcester.

Want to learn more about moly? In 2001, the Colorado Geological Survey produced an entry in their “Rock Talk” series entitled Unsinkable Moly:  Colorado’s World-Class Metal ResourceThis pamphlet describes in plain language the uses, geology, and history of moly in Colorado as well as its two major moly mines.  For more on Colorado’s geology and mining history, search our library’s online catalog and digital repository.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado's Coal Mines

While Colorado was founded on gold and silver, coal mining became the state’s most significant mining industry by the turn of the 20th century.  The State of Colorado had a designated Inspector of Coal Mines, and each year he issued a report to the governor.  The Annual Report of the State Inspector of Coal Mines is a valuable primary source for anyone researching Colorado’s coal mining history.  The reports, issued from the 1890s to the 1960s, show the development of the industry in the state as well as the labor struggles, economics, and operations of the mines.  The most poignant aspect of the reports, however, are the lists of fatalities — which also makes these reports excellent resources for geneaologists.  The reports offer not only the names of the deceased from that year, but also their ethnicity/country of origin (many were European or Mexican immigrants), age, years of experience in the mines, marital status, number of children, name of employer, and a description of what caused the fatality.  Fatalities occurred at a rate of several per month in the early decades of the 20th century.

For further reading about life in Colorado’s coal towns, check out Coal People:  Life in Southern Colorado’s Company Towns, 1890-1930, a publication of the Colorado Historical Society available from our library.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Mining Towns

In our library’s collection you can find a number of books and websites that tell the story of Colorado’s mining towns.  A sampling of these resources includes:

  • Aspen: The History of A Silver-Mining Town, 1879-1893 (University Press of Colorado, 2000)
  • Coal People:  Life in Southern Colorado’s Company Towns, 1890-1930 (Colorado Historical Society, 1999)
  • Denver:  Mining Camp to Metropolis (University Press of Colorado, 1990)
  • Hard as the Rock Itself:  Place and Identity in the American Mining Town (University Press of Colorado, 2013)
  • History of Leadville and Lake County, Colorado (Colorado Historical Society, 1996)
  • The Rise of the Silver Queen: Georgetown, Colorado, 1859-1896 (University Press of Colorado, 2005)
  • Rocky Mountain Boom Town: A History of Durango, Colorado (University Press of Colorado, 1992)
  • Silver Saga: The Story of Caribou, Colorado (University Press of Colorado, 2003)
  • A Tale of Two Towns: A Mining and a Farming Community in the 1890s (University Press of Colorado, 1997)
  • When Coal Was King: A History of Crested Butte, Colorado, 1880-1952 (Colorado School of Mines, 1984)
  • Yellowcake Towns: Uranium Mining Communities in the American West (University Press of Colorado, 2002)

Colorado State Publications Blog

More Information on the Animas River Spill

The State of Colorado has set up several new information sites where you can find out what is happening with the Animas River/Gold King Mine release.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a new webpage which includes up-to-date information on public meetings, water sampling and data, frequently asked questions, health recommendations, and GIS data.  Further, the Gold King Mine Release Unified Command Joint Information Center has started a blog that has current information on the status of the spill and any associated health risks.  Blog posts answer such questions as how the spill affects wildlife, and whether you can eat the fish caught in the Animas River. Check out these two resources for the most current information on the situation.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Colorado State Publications Blog

Animas River Spill Situation

Yesterday the governor issued an Executive Order declaring a disaster emergency for the release of toxic chemicals from the Gold King Mine into southwest Colorado’s Animas River.  The accidental spill by the EPA caused the river to turn an orangey-yellow, shutting down the river to tourists and potentially impacting the river’s aquatic species.  Further information on the spill is available from the Colorado Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management.

Our library collection contains several helpful resources on the impact of mine contaminants on water.  The following items are available for checkout:

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Vulcan Mine Explosion

This week we use our digitized historical documents to travel back to 1896 and one of the state’s worst mining disasters.  On the morning of February 18 of that year, an explosion at the Vulcan coal mine near New Castle, Garfield County caused the death of forty-nine miners.  Among those killed were the mine’s foreman, assistant foreman, and fire boss.  Two fourteen-year-old boys were also among the victims.  About half of the fatalities were Italian immigrants.

The mine was owned by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad to supply coal for the railway.  Just ten days before, the mine had been inspected by David Griffiths, the State Inspector of Coal Mines, who pronounced it in fine condition.  His report and justification can be accessed online from our library — information on the Vulcan explosion starts on page 47.  “I did not visit all the working faces, but was satisfied from what I had seen that the local management was doing everything for the safety of life and property,” he wrote.  He also noted that he had not received any complaints from miners about the condition of the mine.  However, later investigation revealed that miners had issued complaints.  Five days after the disaster, Governor Albert McIntire tasked the inspector with determining the cause of the explosion, particularly in light of his positive report of just days prior.  The inspector’s “endeavors were fruitless,” however, and the cause of the explosion remained a mystery.  He suggested that the accident may have been caused by a defective safety lamp igniting gas in the mine, or a miner’s carelessness in exposing a lamp to gas and flammable coal dust.  Griffiths finally concluded, however, that the accident was caused by explosives used to open a blocked entryway, mixing with dust to form a flame that elongated and then exploded when it reached an area with an accumulation of gas.  However, a team of representatives of the mine had varying opinions on this potential cause and no consensus was reached.  “There are some peculiarities in connection with this explosion,” Griffiths admitted.

The forty-nine deaths made the Vulcan disaster one of the deadliest mine disasters in Colorado history.  It was such as large explosion that “the town of New Castle was shaken as if by an earthquake,” noted the Colorado Springs Gazette.  The explosion caused so much debris that the bodies could not be recovered until March 15, four weeks later.  The 1896 disaster would not be the Vulcan’s last.  In December 1913, another explosion, also thought to be caused by gas and dust conditions in the mine, caused the deaths of thirty-seven men.  The report of the 1913 explosion can be found starting on page 46 of the 1913 coal mine inspector’s report, also available from our library.  Following the second disaster the mine reopened on a smaller scale, later being operated by the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company and renamed the Garfield-Vulcan.  In 1919 a fatal explosion again rocked the mine, this time causing three deaths.  Following these disasters the mine ceased to operate, but coal seams still burn in the mountains around New Castle to this day.  In 2004, the town erected a memorial on the town’s Main Street commemorating the victims of the mine explosions.

A memorial dedicated to the lost miners is in New Castle’s Burning Mountain Park on Main Street.  Courtesy Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Program/Colorado Tourism Office.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Ludlow 100th Anniversary

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre, which took place April 20, 1914.  On that day, the State Militia was called in to deal with striking coal miners, who wanted recognition of their union.  The Milita fired on the Colorado Fuel & Iron laborers at the Ludlow tent colony for 14 hours.  It culminated with the torching of the camp, which led to the deaths of two women and 11 children, who had burned to death after seeking protection by hiding in pits dug underneath their tents.  A number of striking miners were also killed in the incident.

An eyewitness account can be found in the 1913-14 Biennial Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the State of Colorado, available in our library.  From a dispatch of the United Mine Workers of America, reprinted in the Biennial Report:  “‘One hundred and fifty gunmen, in militiamen’s uniform and with state equipment, have, with six machine guns, kept up a constant attack on men, women and children since daybreak Monday morning. … One boy, aged 11, was murdered by the gunmen when he ran to get a drink for his mother, who had lain in a cellar ill…the bodies of from fifteen to twenty men and women are lying on the prairie and in the ruins of the tent colony.'” 

The Biennial Report also includes affadavits of striking miners, testimonies of state officials defending their actions, and even the texts of President Woodrow Wilson’s proclamation, proposal for strike settlement, and appointment of a national Peace Commission in response to Ludlow.  The Biennial Report represents an important collection of primary source documents in this event of national significance in the Labor Movement.

More resources and eyewitness accounts can be found in the newspapers of the time.  See this post from the Colorado State Library’s Yesterday’s News Blog for local newspaper articles of the time.  Additionally, the El Pueblo Museum, a property of History Colorado, is running a special exhibit, Children of Ludlow, through 2015.  You can also visit the Ludlow site itself, in Las Animas County near Trinidad, which includes a memorial.  The site is a National Historic Landmark.

A number of secondary sources can also be found in our library, including several books: 

  • Representation and Rebellion:  The Rockefeller Plan at the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company
  • From Redstone to Ludlow:  John Cleveland Osgood’s Struggle Against the United Mine Workers of America
  • The Archaeology of Class War:  The Colorado Coalfield Strike of 1913-1914
  • Remember Ludlow!
  • The Great Coalfield War
Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Mining Data

Did you know that the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety has made available a great deal of mining data online?  Visit their Mining Data page to search by county, operator, permit, or mine name.  On the site you can also find GIS data, imaged documents, and other reports.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Mining Accidents

Yesterday a mine accident in Ouray killed two miners and injuried 20 others.  Authorities say the two miners died from carbon monoxide poisoning, possibly triggered by an explosion in the mine.  You can read about mine safety from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety.  Additionally, our library has mine reports going back to the nineteenth century that list mine accidents, injuries, and fatalities.  Contact us for more information.

Colorado State Publications Blog


99 years ago this Saturday, Colorado was the scene of one of the bloodiest and most controversial incidents in the Progressive Era labor wars.  The Ludlow Massacre, April 20, 1914, occurred when Colorado National Guard troops fired on striking coal miners and their families in the Ludlow tent colony near Trinidad.  The miners, employed by John D. Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I), were part of a strike organized by the United Mine Workers of America that lasted from September 1913 to November 1914.  One of the great tragedies of the massacre was that not just striking workers, but also their families, were the victims.  At least 19 people died in all; of these, two women and 11 children were killed when, trying to protect themselves by burrowing under a tent, fire consumed the tent above them.  Historian Howard Zinn called the massacre “…perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history.”  Today the massacre site includes a monument to the victims and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The story of the strike and its aftermath is a complicated one, and many books have been written about Ludlow and the Colorado coal strike.  Some of the resources that you can find in our library include:

  • Brandstatter, Natasha.  “Remembering Ludlow:  A Monument for the Masses.”  Colorado Heritage, July/August 2012.
  • Larkin, Karin, and Randall H. McGuire, eds.  The Archaeology of Class War:  The Colorado Coalfield Strike of 1913-1914.  Boulder, CO:  University Press of Colorado, 2009.
  • McGovern, George S., and Leonard F. Guttridge.  The Great Coalfield War.  Niwot, CO:  University Press of Colorado, 1996.
  • Munsell, F. Darrell.  From Redstone to Ludlow:  John Cleveland Osgood’s Struggle Against the United Mine Workers of America.  Boulder, CO:  University Press of Colorado, 2009.
  • Pascoe, Pat.  Helen Ring Robinson:  Colorado Senator and Suffragist.  Boulder, CO:  University Press of Colorado, 2011.
  • Rees, Jonathan.  Representation and Rebellion:  The Rockefeller Plan at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, 1914-1942.  Boulder, CO:  University Press of Colorado, 2010.
  • Sampson, Joanna.  Remember Ludlow!, Denver, CO:  Colorado Historical Society, 1999
  • Secrest, Clark.  “Ludlow:   A Colorado Horror.”  Colorado Heritage, Winter 1992.
  • Wolff, David A.  Industrializing the Rockies:  Growth, Competition and Turmoil in the Coalfields of Colorado and Wyoming, 1868-1914.  Boulder, CO:  University Press of Colorado, 2003.

Numerous other books and articles have been published on Ludlow and the Colorado Coal Strike, so be sure to check your local public or university library for more information.  You can also find records on the Ludlow Massacre at the Colorado State Archives.

The Colorado State Archives has in its collection this and other telegrams to Governor Elias Ammons two days after the Massacre, when strikers retaliated against the troops.  “…strike situation absolutely beyond control…men women and children now among dead…” 
Colorado State Publications Blog

Silver Mining

Colorado is famous for its gold – our State Capitol dome is clad in the precious metal, and the Pikes Peak Gold Rush was one of the major reasons settlers started moving to our state.  But did you know that in the 1870s through the early 1890s, Colorado’s economy was much more dependent on silver than on gold?  Silver was a hot commodity during that time because it was purchased by the federal government for use in making coins.  Then, in 1893, Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, sweeping Colorado into the Panic of 1893, one of the worst financial panics in the Nation’s history.  Many mines were forced to close, and the great silver boom era was closed.  It was, however, a colorful time in Colorado’s history, giving rise to a number of legendary millionaires and causing the birth of numerous towns, many of which are still thriving today, albeit through different industries, such as tourism.  You can read more about Colorado’s silver mining towns in these books, available from our library:

  • The Rise of the Silver Queen:  Georgetown, Colorado, 1859-1896.
  • Silver Saga:  The Story of Caribou, Colorado.
  • Aspen:  The History of a Silver Mining Town, 1879-1893.
  • History of Leadville and Lake County, Colorado.
  • Mining Among the Clouds:  The Mosquito Range and the Origins of Colorado’s Silver Boom

Also see the following resources on silver mining in Colorado and its relationship to gold mining:

  • The Trail of Gold and Silver:  Mining in Colorado, 1859-2009.
  • The Quest for Gold and Silver:  Including a History of the Interaction of Metals and Currency.
Colorado State Publications Blog

The Colorado Gold Rush.

Did you know it’s believed that more people came to the Colorado Gold Rush than to the California Gold Rush? It’s true. The Colorado Gold Rush was the boom in the prospecting and mining of gold in present-day Coloradoin the United States that began in 1859 (when the land was still in the Kansas Territory) and lasted through the early 1860’s. It is still considered to be the largest gold rush in American history.Many people still believe, “There’s gold in dem thar hills!” If you’re one of them you should check out Gold Panning and Placering in Colorado – How and Where by Ben H. Parker Jr. This book was written for the Colorado Geological society and is available from the Colorado State Publications Library.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Tourist Mines

Colorado has a rich history of mining and mineral extraction; in fact, if not for the 1859 Pikes Peak Gold Rush and silver boom of the 1870s and 1880s, Colorado might not be what it is today. Some of these mines still operate to this day, but many of the boom years’ mines and mine shafts have been left abandoned, played out or no longer useful. While it is fun to see the rickety old shafts clinging to the sides of mountains, and tempting to explore the secrets within, visiting an old mine is both dangerous and illegal – you can be cited for trespassing…if you make it out alive, that is. Abandoned mines present multiple hazards from risks of cave-ins to poor air supply. Therefore, if you want to visit a mine, it is best to do so by visiting one of the state’s specially designated tourist mines. The Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology has put together a brochure listing sixteen mines that you can safely tour; many of them are close to the Denver metro area. For more information on tourist mines, visit the Division’s website.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Mining for Facts

Mining was one of the industries most important to shaping our state’s history and growth, and many Colorado mountain towns had their roots as mining towns. Precious metals, such as gold and silver, as well as other mineral resources, such as coal and molybdenum, were mined in Colorado, and, although on a smaller scale, are still mined today. CoSPL has a rich “lode” of resources on Colorado mining heritage, from both the historical and scientific perspectives. Examples from CoSPL’s collection:

Colorado mining history, general:
-Directory of Mining-Related Properties in the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties, HED6/50.2/M66/2003 (also online)
Mining History of Colorado, NR12/20.2/M66/2001 (also online)
-Colorado Geological Survey reports and maps

Mining towns and areas:
-The Rise of the Silver Queen: Georgetown, Colorado 1859-1896, HED13.2/R49/2005
-History of Leadville and Lake County, Colorado, From Mountain Solitude to Metropolis, HED6.2/L47/1996
When Coal Was King: A History of Crested Butte, Colorado 1880-1952, HED4/2.2/C86/1984
Mining Among the Clouds: The Mosquito Range and the Origins of Colorado’s Silver Boom, HED6.20/2002/6
Song of the Hammer and Drill: The Colorado San Juans, 1860-1914, HED4/2.2/SA5/1982

Mine labor:
-Coal People: Life in Southern Colorado’s Company Towns, 1890-1930, HED6.20/1999/3
Biennial Report of the Bureau of Mines of the State of Colorado, NR9/200.1. Collection includes years 1912-1919.