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Topics in History: The Lake County War

(Photo from leadville.com)

The Lake County War, as it has become known, was not actually a war at all in the traditional sense.  Instead, it is the term used to describe the time period in what was once Lake County (now Chaffee County) from 1874-1881, during which law and order broke down and vigilante “justice” reigned. For nearly a century, details of the events of this time were based on scattered and varying accounts, questionable witness testimony, and even local legend. In recent decades, however, historians have gathered information from local news sources, court records, and family histories in order to piece together the events of this tumultuous time in Colorado’s Arkansas River Valley.

In the early morning hours of June 17, 1874, Lake County homesteader, George Harrington raced from his home to a nearby outbuilding that was engulfed in flames. As Harrington and his wife attempted to extinguish the fire, which had been started deliberately, shots rang out and he was struck in the back and killed on the spot. Friends of Harrington were convinced that he was murdered by a fellow Lake Countian named Elijah Gibbs, with whom Harrington had recently quarreled over rights to an irrigation ditch. When Gibbs was acquitted of the murder in a Denver court, the late Harrington’s friends and supporters took matters into their own hands.

On the night of January 22, 1875, a posse of approximately 15 men surrounded Gibbs’s cabin and demanded he come out to be lynched. When Gibbs refused, the group threatened to set fire to the home with Gibbs’s family inside. As the group prepared to storm the cabin, Gibbs opened fire, hitting two of the men and causing one to accidentally fire on his own group, leaving all three dead. The posse left and Gibbs and his family fled the area. However, Harrington’s supporters were determined to get justice. The posse reformed with greater numbers and called themselves “The Committee of Safety.”

Over the following months, The Committee of Safety rounded up many of Gibbs’s alleged supporters, sympathizers, and fellow cattle rustlers. Many were tortured, while others were lynched. The committee’s tactics for “trying” a defendant included questioning the accused with a noose around their neck and tightening it with each answer the committee disliked. The group is even believed to have been responsible for the shooting death of Judge Elias Dyer, son of the famed circuit-rider Father John Dyer, after he issued warrants of arrest for 28 members of the Committee of Safety. The violence continued to a point that the Governor of Colorado sent a special detective to the area to investigate the conflict and report back.  However, the agent never uncovered anything of substance and the violence continued for the next several years, causing many families to flee the area in fear for their safety.

As time went on, the fervor of the committee members waned and the violence eventually subsided. The last of the Lake County War deaths is believed to have taken place in 1881, but estimates of the total death toll range anywhere from 10 to 100 over the course of the conflict. Among those lives allegedly claimed by the Lake County War were two brothers from the Boone family, distant relatives of the same Boone family that explored the Missouri Territory. Though many details of the Lake County War have been lost to time, a renewed effort by historians has uncovered new information regarding the motives and power dynamics of its key players.  One thing that remains certain though, is that the Lake County War was evidence of a Colorado that was still very much the Wild West.

 

Historic Newspaper Articles About The Lake County War

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Topics in History: Leadville’s 1896 Crystal Carnival and Palace

1880’s Leadville, Colorado
(Image from WesternMiningHistory.com)

The City of Leadville was founded in much the same way as many Colorado mining towns in the mid-19th century: with the discovery of gold. The Pikes Peak Gold Rush or Colorado Gold Rush brought prospectors to the area where they founded a town called Oro City. Unfortunately, the gold in this “gold city” quickly ran out and the town all but disappeared. However, the miners discovered a high silver content in the sand of the Arkansas river and traced its source back to the nearby area that is now present-day Leadville. There they discovered heavy silver deposits and by 1877, Horace Tabor and August Meyer founded the town of Leadville and the Colorado Silver Boom began.

Over the next decade, Leadville grew to be a hub for the wealthiest members of Colorado society and was even a frequent haunt of famous personalities such as Oscar Wilde, Margaret “Molly” Brown and John Henry “Doc” Holliday. Horace Tabor became known as the “Leadville Silver King” as Leadville gained the reputation as “the richest city in the world,” though the nickname was more a comment on Leadville’s quick rise to fame than an actual statement of worth. However, the city’s prosperity was not to last. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act caused the Panic of 1893, and the value of silver suddenly plummeted. Many of Leadville’s wealthy mining residents, including Horace Tabor, lost their fortunes practically overnight, and the town fell on very hard times.

Crystal Palace Construction
(Image from Denver Public Library)

In 1895, with many of Leadville’s businesses facing bankruptcy, the town’s leaders proposed a dramatic and risky idea for a major winter carnival to draw tourists and business back to the town and keep Leadville’s remaining residents in town for the winter. The centerpiece of the carnival would be a giant, crystal palace constructed out of solid blocks of ice and large enough to house all the events of the carnival. Because Leadville stood at over 10,000 feet and often had snow year-round, town leaders believed that, placed properly, the Crystal palace could also remain all year and become a permanent community structure and tourist attraction. The carnival organizers hired architect Charles E. Jay, who had designed the ice castle for Saint Paul, Minnesota’s winter carnival.

Through funding and support from the town’s business owners, as well as project manager, Tingley S. Wood, construction of the Crystal Palace began on November 1, 1895. It took a crew of over 250 men working day and night to construct the palace’s timber and metal framework and haul its over 5,000 tons of ice in from Palmer Lake.  The ice was the shaped, shaved, and stacked to give the Crystal Palace the appearance of having been built entirely from ice.  The ice walls were then sprayed down with water to freeze the blocks together and act as a kind of mortar. After only 36 days, the Crystal Palace was complete. Its towers reached over 90 feet high and 40 feet wide and enclosed over 58,000 square feet on over 5 acres of ground. It was a masterpiece.

Skating Rink inside Crystal Palace
(Image from LegendsOfAmerica.com)

The Palace included a 20-foot wide promenade, a ballroom, a skating rink, and even a restaurant that displayed its dishes frozen in blocks of ice as part of the structure. Builders had also frozen electric lights into the walls of the palace so that it appeared to sparkle and glow. On January 1,1896, the winter carnival began and the Ice Palace was officially opened to the public as more than 2,000 visitors arrived in town to marvel at the structure. Admission to the Palace was 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children and included use of the ballroom and skating rink. Season tickets were also made available, so that town residents and frequent visitors could use the Palace again and again. The Palace appeared to be a tremendous success and local railroads even promoted the attraction with special routes and group rates.

Ice archways inside Crystal Palace
(Image from Denver Public Library)

For the next nearly three months, the Crystal Carnival hosted more than 250,000 visitors and events ranging from skating competitions to stock exchanges. However, March of 1896 brought unseasonably warm temperatures and attendance at the Carnival fell dramatically. By the end of March, the Palace had begun to melt, and there appeared to be no way to save it.  On March 28th, 1896, theCarnival hosted its last official ceremony in the Palace and as the hopes of making it a permanent fixture of the town disappeared. Though it had drawn many visitors and gained a tremendous amount of publicity for the town, investors in the Crystal Carnival and Palace took a significant loss on their investment and had no intention of trying to repeat the event. In October of 1896, the last remaining parts of the Crystal Palace were demolished.  Today, Ice Palace Park stands on the land where the Crystal Palace once was and though there was talk of reviving the Carnival and Palace in the 1980’s, high cost projections prevented any serious investment in the idea. Instead, the Carnival and Palace remain only a memory in the now comfortably thriving mountain town of Leadville, Colorado.

Leadville Crystal Palace
(Image from LegendsOfAmerica.com)

Historic Newspaper Articles About Leadville’s Crystal Palace

Illustrations

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Topics in History: The Coffee Myth and the Power of Advertising

In today’s health obsessed culture of fit watches and online trainers, it seems that most Americans should have a pretty solid grasp on what is and is not good for them. However, with the constant inundation of “new studies” and “fitness breakthroughs,” it can be tough to tell what is really new information and what is actually just clever marketing. Any kid who ever reached for their parent’s steaming mug as a child or tossed back an espresso or two for a term paper all-nighter may have heard the familiar scolding, “Kids shouldn’t drink coffee. It will stunt your growth.” Whether that seemed like a fair trade at the time or kept you off coffee for life, you may be shocked to learn that this potential “health risk” was actually the advertising creation of the Post Cereal Company (now Post Consumer Brands, LLC) in the early 20th century.

Before he started stuffing children full of incredibly healthy favorites like Fruity Pebbles and Waffle Crisp, cereal tycoon C.W. Post first developed a “cereal-based, caffeine-free coffee substitute” called Postum. While the product did not contain any caffeine, tasted nothing like coffee, and only vaguely resembled the brownish morning beverage, it was marketed as a healthy alternative for the old, the young, or anyone afflicted by the “dangerous” side effects of coffee. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any concrete, scientific evidence to support the claims that coffee was unhealthy, other than occasional jitters or nervousness it could cause when consumed in excess. Fortunately for Post, their advertising didn’t need evidence; just a strong campaign with a story that was just believable enough to scare up some customers.

Post began running newspaper ads that read like a doctor’s interview, listing symptoms (some real and some imagined) that immediately ceased when the afflicted switched from coffee to healthier Postum. Furthermore, the ads claimed that coffee was often consumed as a replacement for milk as a morning beverage, leaving the drinker without their daily requirement of calcium. This lack of calcium, they claimed, was responsible for everything from dyspepsia to weakness to, you guessed it, stunted growth. Postum’s ads implored readers to switch from coffee themselves and to protect their children from the dangers of malnourishment and impeded development caused by coffee. In doing so, Post managed to pilfer one generation of consumers and secure the next in one fell swoop.

With the story of coffee’s danger to children firmly in place, the Post Cereal Company established itself as a nationwide corporation. When the U.S. joined World War II, Postum enjoyed even more success as coffee was rationed in the States. Not only was Postum now the healthy choice, but it was the moral and economic choice in a time when coffee was needed to energize the troops overseas.  Though Postum enjoyed a long and profitable popularity in the U.S., the coffee renaissance of the 1990’s firmly re-established coffee as both a luxury and a necessity, leaving its substitute unable to compete.  Post Consumer Brands, LLC discontinued Postum in 2007, but the effects of its once genius marketing campaign have not been forgotten. The question of coffee stunting growth is still a popular one on online health, lifestyle, and coffee forums alike, and while there has never been any concrete evidence to support this claim, many parents and young people alike still stick to the “better safe than sorry” philosophy when it comes to coffee.

“Sponsored Articles” About the Dangers of Coffee

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Topics in History: Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in the Austrian Empire in what is now Croatia.  Tesla was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer and physicists who is best known for his contributions to the design of the alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.  He emigrated to the United States in 1884 and worked briefly for Thomas Edison in New York City before establishing his own company.  In his New York laboratories he patented his AC motor and experimented with wireless lighting, x-ray imaging,  and the radio remote control.

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Tesla’s experiments with wireless power and his study of the conductive nature of low pressure air brought him to Colorado Springs in 1899.  Upon his arrival, he told reporters that he planned to conduct wireless telegraphy experiments, transmitting signals from Pikes Peak to Paris. In 1901 Tesla returned to New York to build a wireless communication system to be transmitted through a large electrical tower he built on Long Island that became known as Wardenclyffe.  Tesla lost financial backing and the project was eventually abandoned. For the rest of his life, Tesla continued to work but he struggled to gain support for his experiments and inventions. He died on January 7, 1943 in New York City.  Over his lifetime he obtained around 300 patents worldwide for his inventions.

Historic Newspaper Articles About Nikola Tesla

Tesla and His Experiments

Tesla in Colorado

This topic in history and the related online primary sources are brought to you by the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, a free online resource of primary sources. For this and other topics, please visit the Colorado Historic Newspapers Topics page. For questions about CHNC, contact Leigh Jeremias, ljeremias@coloradovirtuallibrary.org

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Topics in History: Lakeside Amusement Park

Casino and Casino Tower at night, Lakeside Amusement Park. Courtesy, Western History and Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library

 

When the weather begins to warm and the school year comes to an end, many start to look for fun outdoor activities. In 1908 those looking for a new source of entertainment flocked to the Lakeside Amusement Park for its opening day on May 30th. Lakeside, also referred to as the “White City” because of the 100,000 electric lamps used to illuminate the park, boasted a 37 acre lake and 50 “big attractions” including a $100,000 casino building.

Less than a year prior to the park’s opening, the town of Lakeside was incorporated. It’s currently estimated to have 8 residents. Both town and park were founded by the Lakeside Reality and Amusement Company led by prominent Denver brewer Adolph Zang. Zang endeavored to build the resort just across the county line from Denver to move beyond the reach of city’s liquor laws. In 1935 the park was sold to Benjamin Krasner. Mr. Krasner’s daughter, Rhoda for whom the lake is named after, owns the park today. Today Lakeside is one of the oldest amusement parks in the United States and visitors can still enjoy many of the original amusements and architecture.

Historic Newspaper Articles About Lakeside Amusement Park

Courtesy, Svensk-Amerikanska Western, 1908

This topic in history and the related online primary sources are brought to you by the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, a free online resource of primary sources.  For this and other topics, please visit the Colorado Historic Newspapers Topics page. For questions about CHNC, contact Leigh Jeremias, ljeremias@colordovirtuallibrary.org

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Topics in History: Baseball

The Colorado Rockies, Colorado’s major league baseball team, played their first home game in front of 80,227 fans at the now historic Mile High Stadium on April 9, 1993. They beat the Montreal Expos 11-4 that day in their first big-league regular-season game. Baseball, one of the oldest sports played in Colorado, had captured the hearts of residents long before the 1993 season.

As Colorado grew and leisure time was more widely accepted, people began spending their free time on sports, either as a spectator or participant. Amateur baseball teams were often organized by businesses and social and ethnic organizations. In 1862, George Tebeau is said to have organized the first official Colorado team, The Denvers.  Tebeau would later go on to co-found the American League in 1900. The Colorado Base Ball Club staged Denver’s first official baseball game on April 26, 1862.

In Denver, baseball fields were created all over the city, with amateur games being played at River Front Park located at the intersection of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, Wynkoop Field at Wynkoop Street and 36th Avenue, and Sonny Lawson Field between Welton and California streets and 23rd and 24th avenues. Merchants Park located at South Broadway and Exposition Streets served as Denver professional field from 1922 to 1948. Bears Stadium, at 20th and Decatur Streets, opened August 14, 1948 with just 18,000 seats. Bears Stadium, eventually renamed Mile High Stadium, was the home of the Zephyrs, nicknamed the Bears, Colorado’s minor league team from 1955-1992. Today the Rockies play at Coors field and continue to draw legions of fans every season.

Historic Newspaper Articles about Baseball

Local Baseball News

National Baseball News

Baseball Comics and Advertisements

This topic in history and the related online primary sources are brought to you by the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, a free online resource of primary sources.  For this and other topics, please visit the Colorado Historic Newspapers Topics page. For questions about CHNC, contact Leigh Jeremias, ljeremias@colordovirtuallibrary.org

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Topics in History: Women’s Suffrage

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, giving women the right to vote. On Election Day of that year, millions of American women voted for the first time. It took women nearly 100 years to win this right. Women’s suffrage gained momentum in the 1840s and was born out of the broader women’s rights movement and the abolitionist movement. There was strong opposition to women’s suffrage based largely on conservative beliefs and fear over what women would support or not support with their votes.
In 1890 the two rival suffrage associations, the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, joined forces and formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The national associations often campaigned with and supported state movements. After two previous tries, Colorado secured voting rights for women by state referendum in 1893. While other western territories, such as Wyoming and Utah, had previously given women the right to vote, Colorado was the first state to enact women’s suffrage by popular referendum.

Historic Newspapers Articles about Women’s Suffrage

Colorado Women’s Suffrage

Women’s Suffrage Abroad

This topic in history and the related online primary sources are brought to you by the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, a free online resource of primary sources.  For this and other topics, please visit the Colorado Historic Newspapers Topics page. For questions about CHNC, contact Leigh Jeremias, ljeremias@colordovirtuallibrary.org

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Topics in History: Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day has long been celebrated but who was Saint Valentine and when did the present day traditions of Valentine’s Day begin? The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine. One of these saints was said to be a priest, who served during the third century in Rome, and performed secret marriages after it was outlawed for young men because it was decided that single men made better soldiers. Another Valentine is said to have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons. Before his death he was said to have sent a “valentine” to his love.

At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. Written Valentine’s began to appear after 1400. Americans began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. Written and handmade valentines were later joined by printed and mass-produced cards as well as small gifts such as heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolate. In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. Today nearly 62{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} of Americans honor this day of love, St. Valentine’s Day.

Historic Newspapers Articles about Valentine’s Day

This topic in history and the related online primary sources are brought to you by the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, a free online resource of primary sources.  For this and other topics, please visit the Colorado Historic Newspapers Topics page. For questions about CHNC, contact Leigh Jeremias, ljeremias@colordovirtuallibrary.org

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Topics in History: National Western Stock Show

National Western Stock Show

Littleton Independent, 1906

The first National Western Stock Show was held January 29 through February 3, 1906 at the Denver Union Stockyards.  Since then, it has been held in January every year with the exception of 1915 when it was cancelled due to an outbreak of hoof and mouth.  Organization for the event began in 1905 when a group of agriculturalists, including a future governor of Colorado, determined there was a need to hold an annual stock show to demonstrate better breeding and feeding techniques to western state stockmen. Two years later the show was expanded to include a horse show and allowed for participants from around the world.  By 1931 two more events had been added; the 4-H Roundup and a rodeo.  

Palisade Tribune, 1951

As attendance to the stock show grew, so did the stockyards site.  The National Amphitheater and Livestock Pavilion, today known as the Arena, was completed in 1909. The Coliseum was completed in 1952. By 1981 the site was comprised of numerous buildings, more than twenty acres of stockyards, and several acres of parking. Each year the National Western Stock Show continues to attract crowds, setting new records for attendance.

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Early Stock Shows

National Western Stock Show

The National Western Stock Show 1910

Stock Prices

This topic in history and the related online primary sources are brought to you by the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, a free online resource of primary sources.  For this and other topics, please visit the Colorado Historic Newspapers Topics page. For questions about CHNC, contact Leigh Jeremias, ljeremias@colordovirtuallibrary.org

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Topics in History: 1918 1919 Influenza Pandemic in Colorado

influenza2
Loveland Reporter. 11 Oct. 1918.

This topic in history and the related online primary sources are brought to you by the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, a free online resource of primary sources and a service of the Colorado State Library.

In 1918 and 1919 influenza and its complications accounted for about a half million deaths nationally.  In Colorado, between September 1918 and June 1919, an estimated 7,783 people died, with nearly 1,500 of those people living in Denver. Influenza likely originated in the United States in early spring of 1918 but it took on the nickname “Spanish influenza” because Spain had suffered an early attack.

Oak Creek Times. 11 Oct. 1918.
Oak Creek Times. 11 Oct. 1918.

Blanche Kennedy, a University of Denver student, was the first influenza-related fatality in Denver.  It is believed she contracted the disease in Chicago. Shortly after her death, Dr. William H. Sharpley, Denver’s Manager of Health, ordered the house in which she died quarantined. He quickly advised the public on the “rules of the flu”, such as washing hands and covering coughs, which mostly related to flu prevention.  As the epidemic grew, Sharpley ordered schools, churches and places of amusement to close but failed to restrict public gatherings and the use of street cars.  The flu spread across Colorado and hit many small towns, with few doctors and medical resources, hard.  Some towns, like Gunnison, avoided the high rate of infection by essentially quarantining the entire town for months.

By early 1919, the epidemic began to wane and many towns began to reopen schools.  Ultimately  the 1918-1919  influenza pandemic accounted for more deaths than suffered by United States troops in battle during World Wars I and II combined.

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Front Range Communities- Weekly Courier

Mountain Communities

A Sampling of Death Notices

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Topics in History: Halloween

Halloweenwitch

This topic in history and the related online primary sources are brought to you by the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, a free online resource of primary sources.

For many, Halloween marks the changing of seasons and is the beginning of the holiday season.  It is a time of celebration and of course candy.  The origins of the holiday can be traced back to the Celtic holiday of Samhain. This holiday was celebrated to mark the coming of the Celtic New Year (November 1), the changing of seasons and to ward off the spirits of the dead.   Over time these customs were combined with other cultures who also celebrated the passing of the dead.  The evening before the November 1 Pope Gregory III designated holiday, All Saints’ Day, became known as  All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween.

Halloween had a slow start in the United States due in part to religious beliefs.  It wasn’t until a new wave of immigrants came in the mid-nineteenth century that Halloween was celebrated on a more national level.  Annual fall festivals and Halloween parties became more common. Our modern day tradition of trick-or-treat began as an occasion when people dressed up in costumes and went house to house asking for food or money.  This American tradition continues to grow today.pumkin

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Stories

Parties and Decorations

History and Pranksters

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Topics in History: Presidential Election of 1872

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1872
From Colorado Daily Chieftain, July 9, 1872

Presidential Election of 1872

Presidential elections are often filled with interesting candidates and sometimes party conflicts.  The presidential election of 1872 was no different.  This election included numerous presidential nominees, one of which was a woman and another was nominated by two different parties.  Incumbent President Ulysses S. Grant was nominated to run for a second term at the Republican National Convention held in June 1872. Grant’s nomination caused many in the Republican Party,  who had grown weary of his corruption plagued first term, to split from the party and form the Liberal Republican Party.

horace-greeley-baker
Horace Greeley

The Liberal Republican Party nominated famed newspaper editor Horace Greeley who was also nominated by the Democratic Party in a combined effort to defeat Grant.  The 1872 ticket also included Equal Rights Party nominee, Victoria Woodhull. It’s unclear how many votes Woodhull received but her bid came nearly 50 years before women were given the right to vote. Ultimately, Woodhull was ineligible to become president, not because the law prohibited a female president but because she would not reach the constitutionally prescribed minimum age of 35 until September 23, 1873.

On November 29, 1872, after the popular vote but before the Electoral College cast its votes, Greeley died. As a result, his electoral votes were split among the other candidates. It is so far the only election in which a Presidential candidate died during the electoral process.  Ulysses S. Grant won re-election over Greeley by a margin of 56{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} to 44{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5}.

640px-1872_electoral_map
1872 Electoral Map

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