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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's Own Tartan

Today is National Tartan Day.  Did you know that Colorado has a state tartan?  According to information from the State Archives, the Colorado tartan, or plaid pattern, “is comprised of a pattern and colors that symbolize Colorado’s splendor and history.” The colors of the tartan include forest green, cerulean blue, black, lavender, and white – colors that bring to mind evergreen trees, blue sky, columbines, and snowy peaks. Although it is a Celtic tartan, Colorado’s pattern may be worn by “any resident or friend of Colorado,” even if they are not of Celtic heritage.  To read the original 1997 House Joint Resolution designating the official Colorado tartan, click here.  Although April 6 is National Tartan Day, a previous resolution designated July 1 as Colorado Tartan Day — giving you two chances to wear your Colorado colors!

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: State Industrial Schools

In the nineteenth century Colorado established industrial schools for girls and boys who were in trouble.  A State Industrial School was established in 1881 for boys ages 7-16 who were convicted of crimes. A few years later, it became apparent that such a school was needed for girls as well, and the State Home and Industrial School for Girls was established by state statute in 1887.  The girls’ school took in “wayward” females up to age 18 who were convicted of crimes; pregnant; or arrested for “habitually wandering about the streets…at unseemly or improper hours.” If the girl was found to be without a proper home, or “is growing up in habits of vice or immorality,” the girl would be committed the school for not less than nine months.  Girls with no place to go could also apply to live at the school voluntarily.  Babies delivered at the school were put up for adoption.

Both schools were located in Jefferson County.  The military-style boys’ school put youngsters to work learning farming, masonry, blacksmithing, printing, woodworking, tailoring, and other industrious tasks that would allow them to learn a trade and make a living off of the streets.  The girls, on the other hand, learned the domestic arts at their school, preparing them either to run a household or to enter into domestic service.

Biennial reports of the schools for selected years from the 1890s to the 1940s are available from our library and can be viewed online.  They provide a fascinating picture of the lives of juvenile corrections inmates, including what they studied and, in some cases, what they wore and ate.  The reports feature statistical and financial information on the school, as well as numerous photographs.  The boys’ school even printed the reports in their print shop.  These reports are valuable resources for any researcher studying the Progressive era in Colorado and the institutions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

A student at the State Industrial School for Boys, from the 1909-10 biennial report.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's New State Symbols

Some years ago in this blog I posted a series about Colorado’s state symbols and emblems.  Since then, Colorado has adopted several new state symbols.
The State Pet is the shelter pet.  Dogs and cats rescued from shelters in Colorado were designated as the state pets in 2013.  School kids from Walsenburg came up with the idea.  The bill designating the state pet can be viewed here.  The Colorado Legislature has recognized shelter pets in numerous ways over the past few years, by establishing an Adopt a Shelter Pet license plate and holding a Pet Adoption Day at the Capitol.

Pack burro racing was designated as the State Summer Heritage Sport in 2012.  Pack burro racing as an organized event started in 1949 between Leadville and Fairplay.  The sport is meant to commemorate Colorado’s mining heritage.  Miners used pack burros, or donkeys, to carry their supplies through the mountains in places where it was often too dangerous or cumbersome to use a vehicle, or where trains didn’t go.  Pack burro racing is also considered to be the only sport indigenous to Colorado.  The resolution designating the sport can be viewed here.

I’m sure you can guess the State Winter Recreational Sport.  Yep, skiing/snowboarding, designated by the Legislature in 2008.

Colorado’s newest state symbol is the State Cactus. The Claret Cup Cactus was designated in 2014, proposed by a Girl Scout troop from Castle Rock.  View the Act here.  Check out the book Colorado Flora:  Western Slope, available from our library, for more information on this and other Colorado cacti and wildflowers.

Photo courtesy National Park Service

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Colorado State Publications Blog

New State Logo

The new state logo, a green mountain with the letters CO, has been receiving quite a bit of attention lately.  The logo has been established to be used by state agencies for branding purposes (it does not replace the official state seal).  However, negative reactions toward the logo have prompted House Bill 14-1071 being introduced to the Legislature.  If passed, the bill would refer acceptance of the logo to the voters (see full news article here.)  The trademarked logo is already in use on some state websites, such as the Dept. of Personnel and Administration.  You can read about the process for developing the logo at its official website, http://www.brandcolorado.gov/.
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Amphibian

Colorado’s newest state symbol, designated just this year, is the State Amphibian, the Western Tiger Salamander.  This small amphibian can be found in ponds and lakes statewide; also look for them near rodent burrows and on ground surfaces at night during damp weather.  For more information, see the Tiger Salamander page in the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Colorado Herpetofaunal Atlas.  You can find other resources on Colorado’s amphibians in our library, including Quick Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of Colorado (Colorado Division of Wildlife, 2008); Hip on Herps:  Colorado’s Reptiles and Amphibians (Colorado Division of Wildlife, 2004); and Colorado’s Underworld (Colorado Division of Wildlife, 1994).  The latter two publications are especially written for kids.  You can find more on the designation of the State Amphibian in this article from the Denver Post.

Photo courtesy Colorado Division of Widlife

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Reptile

Like many of our other state symbols, schoolchildren petitioned the Legislature for the designation of the State Reptile.  In 2007 the distinction went to the Western Painted Turtle, a small, multicolored turtle found in ponds and lakes around the state.  Check out the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife’s website for a species profile of the Western Painted Turtle. 

Photo courtesy Colorado Division of Parks & Wildlife

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Rock

Not to be confused with the State Gemstone (Aquamarine) and the State Mineral (Rhodochrosite), the State Rock is Colorado Yule Marble.  Quarried in Marble, Colorado in Gunnison County, Colorado Yule Marble has been used in many important buildings around the state including the Colorado State Capitol; it has also been used in the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C.  Colorado Yule Marble was designated the State Rock in 2004 on petition from a girl scout troop from Lakewood.  For more information on Colorado Yule Marble, see Engineering Geologic Factors of the Marble Area, Gunnison County, Colorado, available from our library.
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Mineral

Colorado’s State Mineral is the deep red Rhodochrosite.  The Colorado State Archives tells us that “On April 17, 2002, Colorado Governor Bill Owens signed a bill passed by the General Assembly designating the Rhodochrosite as the new state mineral. While there was some debate as to whether the state mineral should be gold or silver or another mined mineral historically associated  with Colorado, it was decided that the deep red to rose pink manganeze carbonate (MnCO3) mineral, Rhodochrosite, is associated internationally with the state more than any other mineral. It is found in some gold and silver ore-bearing veins. The specimen at left is the world’s largest Rhodochrosite crystal, called the Alma King, which is on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It was found in the Sweet Home Mine near Alma (Park County), Colorado.”  You can find out more about Rhodochrosite on the Colorado Geological Survey’s State Mineral webpage.  Also, check out CGS’s Messages in Stone:  Colorado’s Colorful Geology, available from our library.

Photo courtesy Colorado State Archives

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Tree

The Colorado General Assembly officially designated the Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens) as Colorado’s State Tree on March 7, 1939.  This coniferous tree found in the higher elevations of Colorado is of a bluish color.  It was first documented on Pikes Peak in 1862.  You can read more about Colorado Blue Spruce on the Colorado State Forest Service’s Colorado’s Major Tree Species website.
Image courtesy Colorado State University, Colorado State Forest Service
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Tartan

In Scotland, different patterned tartans, or plaids, are used to symbolize different clans, or families.  Well, did you know that Colorado has its very own tartan design?  The General Assembly adopted the state tartan in 1997.  The dominant color is cerulean blue, accented with forest green, black, lavendar, gold, white, and red, all chosen to symbolize something about Colorado.  The Colorado statutes declare Colorado Tartan Day officially as July 1, but Colorado legislators wear the state tartan-patterned ties and scarves on April 6, which is National Tartan Day, since the Legislature does not meet in July. 
Image courtesy Colorado State Archives
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Songs

Colorado actually has two state songs.  The traditional state song is “Where the Columbines Grow,” which was adopted as the state song back in 1915.  The song was composed by traveler A.J. Fynn, who was inspired by a meadow full of Columbines (which are also our state flower).  You can read the words to the song and listen to audio of the music at the Colorado State Archives website.  If you would like a copy of the sheet music for the song, email our library at spl@cde.state.co.us.

In 2007, Colorado adopted a second state song, “Rocky Mountain High,” with music by Mike Taylor and lyrics by John Denver.  The song was written in 1973.  You can also read the words to this song at the State Archives site.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Insect

The Colorado General Assembly designated the Blue Hairstreak Butterfly, Hypaurotis cysalus, as the State Insect in 1996.  The two-inch-wide, black, orange and purply-blue butterfly is generally found at elevations between 6,500 and 7,500 feet.  To learn more about Colorado butterflies, see the Colorado State University Extension publication Attracting Butterflies to the Garden.  
Image courtesy Colorado State Archives
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Grass

Yes, Colorado has an officially designated State Grass – the Blue Grama.  Blue Grama grass is easily recognizable to those familiar with prairie landscapes, though it can be found in all parts of the state.  It was designated the State Grass by the General Assembly in 1987.  You can learn more about Blue Grama and other grasses found in Colorado in the book Grasses of Colorado (University Press of Colorado, 2008) available from our library.  See also Native Grasses for Colorado Landscapes and Handbook of Colorado Native Grasses, both from the Colorado State University Extension.
Photo courtesy CSU Extension
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Gemstone

Because Colorado’s mountains are rich in minerals, there are many gemstones to be found in our state, but only one has the distinction of being named Colorado’s state gemstone – the aquamarine.  This light blue to green mineral was designated our state gemstone in 1971; it is found primarily at Mount Antero and White Mountain in Chaffee County.  For more about Colorado minerals, see the following Colorado Geological Survey publications, available from our library:  An Introduction to Mining & Minerals in Colorado; and Messages in Stone:  Colorado’s Colorful Geology.  See also The Minerals of Colorado and Area Locations from the Colorado Bureau of Mines.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Fossil

Schoolchildren suggested Colorado adopt a state fossil, the dinosaur Stegosaurus, in 1982.  One of the most recognized dinosaurs, with its line of plates along its back and spiky tail for defense, Stegosaurus lived in what came to be Colorado during the Mesozoic era, Jurassic period 150 million years ago.  Stegosaurus fossils have been discovered in Colorado.  For more on Colorado dinosaurs, see

  • Dinosaur Remains in Colorado from the Colorado Office of Archaeology & Historic Preservation;
  • Dinosaurs in our Backyard from the Colorado Geological Survey (on CD-Rom);
  • and Colorado’s Dinosaurs, also from the Colorado Geological survey,

all available from our library. 

Image courtesy Colorado Geological Survey

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Folk Dance

Did you know that Colorado has a state folk dance?  It’s the Square Dance, and was designated by the Legislature in 1992.  Square dancing, which is a dance where steps are called out by a caller, was especially popular in the 19th century, but continues to be practiced by many today.  The best-known square dance is the Virginia Reel.  Colorado children often learn to square dance as part of their 4th grade Colorado history studies.  For more about dance instruction in schools, see the Colorado Department of Education’s Academic Standards for Dance.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Flower

Since 1899 the Columbine has been the state flower of Colorado.  The distinctive lavender, white, and yellow flower has been under the protection of law since 1925, so that it is unlawful to dig up the flower on public lands, and no more than 25 buds can be picked on a single day on public lands.  Although Columbine is a wildflower, you can purchase seeds to plant in your yard so you don’t have to uproot the wildflowers.  While the lavender blossom is the official state’s flower, Columbine is also available in a rose-and-white version.  For more on this flower that has become one of the most recognizable symbols of our state, check out the Colorado Flora books, published by University Press of Colorado and available for checkout from our library. 
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Fish

Colorado’s state fish is the Greenback Cutthroat Trout, Oncorhynchus clarki somias.  Colorado’s waters are filled with many kinds of trout, such as Rainbow Trout and Brook Trout; however, the Greenback Cutthroat is special because by the late 20th century it was on the brink of extinction.  Then, in the 1990s, scientists discovered a few small populations of the fish in Rocky Mountain National Park and were able to protect it and reintroduce it to other parts of the state.  You can find out more about the story of the state fish in the video Incredible Journey of the Greenback Cutthroats, available in both DVD and videocassette from our library.  Also, be sure to check out Life-History and Ecology of the Greenback Cutthroat Trout; Greenback Cutthroat Trout Restoration; and Greenback Cutthroat Trout Recovery Project Progress Report, all available from our library.  See also the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s species profile

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Bird

The Lark Bunting was designated Colorado’s State Bird in 1931.  It is a black and white bird that makes its home on the plains of Colorado from April to September, then flies south in the winter.  In the past it was sometimes referred to as the bobolink.  You can find more about lark buntings from the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s lark bunting page, including where to look for them.  Check out some of the publications from our library for more information on this and other Colorado songbirds:

  • Colorado Breeding Birds Atlas
  • Wonders on the Wing:  Colorado’s Migratory Songbirds
  • Colorado Wildlife Viewing Guide
You might also enjoy The Birds of Colorado, a historical publication from 1897 which includes some information on the Lark Bunting.
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Animal

Colorado’s official “State Animal,” as designated by the Colorado General Assembly in 1961, is the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.  This majestic animal is only found in the Rockies.  You can learn more about this animal by reading their species profile from the Colorado Division of Wildlife.  Also, the CDOW has created a great video about Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.  CDOW has also created a 10-year management plan for Bighorn Sheep in Colorado, available online or in our library.
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's State Symbols: The State Seal

Colorado’s state seal is a circular seal that uses the same colors as are found in the state flag – red, blue, white, and gold.  The outer edge of the circle features the year 1876 – this was the year Colorado became a state.  Inside the circle are symbols depicting government, authority, and leadership.  The center of the seal also features a blue, snowcapped mountain and miner’s tools depicting Colorado’s significant mining heritage.  The State Motto, “Nil Sine Numine,” Latin for “Nothing without the Deity,” is also within the circle.  The use of the state seal is authorized by the Secretary of State’s office, which ensures the seal is used properly and appears in its correct size and form.  For a more detailed explanation of the state seal and what its parts symbolize, visit the Colorado State Archives webpage.
Image courtesy sos.state.co.us.