Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Springtime!!

Hooray for the first day of Spring!  Coloradans have always enjoyed springtime, with our mild and sunny weather.  A century ago, however, Coloradans celebrated more springtime holidays than we do today.  The State of Colorado Spring Holiday Book 1913 is a fun look back at some springtime holidays we still celebrate, like Mother’s Day, and others that have mostly been forgotten, like Good Roads Day.

The Spring Holiday Book was published by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for use by teachers to help plan lessons around the holidays.  They include songs, stories, poems, artwork, and other items, such as “how to tell the age of a tree.”  Many of the items were contributed by well-known Colorado writers.  Also contained in this volume are many wonderful historical photos of Colorado schoolchildren and their celebrations; Colorado scenery; and more.

This book is a treasure for what it tells us about life and culture in Colorado more than a century ago.  It could also make a fun resource for today’s teachers to use to teach kids about life in Colorado’s past.  This particular copy, which has been digitized by our library, is extra fun because it includes handwritten notes in the margins from some long-ago teacher.

Photo of the Adams County Schoolhouse, from the Spring Holiday Book

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado's Poet Laureates

Was Colorado the first state to have a poet laureate?  It depends on who you ask.  Alice Polk Hill, Colorado’s first poet laureate, was appointed by Governor Oliver Shoup on September 10, 1919.  However, California’s Ina Donna Coolbrith had been appointed by her state’s governor four years earlier, in 1915.  But the Library of Congress notes that California’s poet laureate was an unofficial position until 2001.  So using this logic, it could be said that Colorado had the first official poet laureate.

Alice Polk Hill
This is the assertion that writer Ann Hafen made in her 1953 Colorado Magazine article about the history of Colorado’s poet laureates.  She cites a national survey on poet laureates, to which, Hafen writes, “California reported a law for a poet laureate being considered, but not yet enacted.”  Another source, the Colorado Encyclopedia, writes that Alice Polk Hill “was the prototype poet laureate for the rest of the nation as well as a newspaper reporter, music teacher, and the first female member of the Colorado Historical Society.”
Alice Polk Hill, born in Kentucky in 1854, had come to Colorado as a young bride in 1873.  She developed an interest in writing, publishing the book Tales of the Colorado Pioneers in 1884.  (It was later revised as Colorado Pioneers in Pictures and Story.)  She was also one of the founders of the Denver Woman’s Press Club, and “was the only woman among twenty-one delegates sent to the convention to draft a Charter for the City and County of Denver, when the city was given Home Rule in 1904,” writes Hafen. In August 1919 Hill wrote to Governor Shoup suggesting the creation of a post of poet laureate, and she was appointed a month later.  She only served two years, however; she died in August 1921.
The next poet laureate was Nellie Burget Miller, serving nearly thirty years, from 1923 until her death in 1952.  You can read some of her poetry in the Colorado Magazine article referenced above.  She was followed by Margaret Clyde Robertson of Boulder, who wrote many Colorado-themed poems including “Mistress of the Matchless Mine,” a poem about Baby Doe Tabor.  Colorado’s next poet laureates were Milford E. Shields (1954-1975), Thomas Hornsby Ferril (1979-1988), Mary Crow (1996-2010), David Mason (2010-2014), and Joseph Hutchinson (2014-present).

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Day

Her gleaming mountains capped with snow,
Rolling plain and high plateau,
Make the land the best I know–
Sunny Colorado!
— from the poem “Sunny Colorado” by Eugene Parsons

August 1 is Colorado Day, the anniversary of Colorado’s statehood (August 1, 1876).  In 1913, the state’s Department of Public Instruction (now the Department of Education) issued A Book of Holidays, which included poems, essays, songs, and activities that could be used by teachers — or anyone — in commemorating and learning about holidays and anniversaries throughout the year.  Included were the popular holidays we still celebrate, as well as some that are no longer really remembered, such as Susan B. Anthony’s Birthday (February 15), Good Roads Day (May 9), and Peace Day (May 18).

Among the holidays covered in the book is Colorado Day, August 1.  The Colorado Day section includes several poems, such as the one excerpted above; photos of Colorado scenery; “Some Books of Interest on Colorado;” a couple of essays on Colorado tourism; a speech by Robert W. Steele, an early Colorado Territory politician; and “Origin of Some of the Names of the Counties of the State of Colorado.”

A Book of Holidays has been digitized by our library.  For more online documents that tell the story of our state, visit our library’s digital repository.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Thomas Hornsby Ferril

Since April is National Poetry Month, it seems an appropriate time to celebrate Colorado’s own Thomas Hornsby Ferril, one of our state’s greatest writers and Colorado’s Poet Laureate from 1979 until his death in 1988.  A poet, journalist, and playwright, Ferril wrote many poems about the Colorado landscape.  Ferril’s words have even been inscribed in a wall in the State Capitol:

You can read more about Ferril and his writings in the book Thomas Hornsby Ferril and the American West, available for checkout from our library. 

Photo courtesy Colorado State Archives

Colorado State Publications Blog

Folk Arts in the Classroom

Attention teachers:  as you probably know, one very meaningful way of teaching children the arts is by teaching about other cultures.  This not only challenges the children to think creatively but also helps them learn about traditions they may not be familiar with, and help promote acceptance of diverse peoples.  You don’t need a big arts budget to bring these lessons into your classroom.  One very helpful toolkit is Ties That Bind:  Folk Arts in the Classroom, produced by the Colorado Council on the Arts (now Colorado Creative Industries).  Here you can find information on creative projects your students can use to learn about folk arts from the many cultures represented in Colorado.  Wherever you are located in the state, there is a section of the toolkit specific to that region.  Some of the cultures explored include Hmong cultures, Latino cultures, and St. Patrick’s Day and the Irish.  Also, you will find various activities your students will enjoy, including Colcha embroidery; exploring cowboy life through poetry; folklore bingo; quilts across cultures; and wheat weaving. 

For more information on arts in education, see also Arts Education in Colorado:  Guidebook and Resources from the Colorado Dept. of Education.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado has a Poet Laureate.

Per Executive order A2010-127, available at our library, Colorado has an official Poet Laureate.
David Mason was born and raised in Bellingham, Washington. David Mason’s family goes back four or five generations in Colorado. His father grew up in Trinidad, his mother in Grand Junction, and except for family visits did not spend an extended time in Colorado.
He and wife Anne Lennox live in the mountains outside Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Mason has published three full-length books of poems to date, plus quite a few chapbooks and limited editions. He is co-editor of four major anthologies and the author of many dozens of poems, essays, reviews, translations, stories and memoirs. An advisory editor at the Hudson Review, the Sewanee Review and Divide, Mason’s work can be found in The Nation, TLS, The Hudson Review, Poetry, The American Scholar and many other periodicals here and abroad. His poetry has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac,” and he has been interviewed for other MPR and NPR programs. He remains committed to performance as a guide to the composition and teaching of poetry.

To see examples of his work click the following link.