Time Machine Tuesday: Denver's Trees

Friday, April 27 is Arbor Day, a day for encouraging the planting of trees and celebrating their importance.  Today, Arbor Day is somewhat overlooked, being mostly supplanted by Earth Day. But a century ago, Arbor Day was a pretty big deal.

During the early decades of the 20th century, urban areas around the nation were swept up in the City Beautiful Movement, a movement to enhance cities by adding parks, parkways, and monumental, neoclassical civic architecture inspired by the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.  In Denver, Mayor Robert Speer was one of the movement's strongest advocates.  On Arbor Day, Mayor Speer would give away thousands of free trees, and schoolchildren would plant trees in Denver's City Park.

Denverites wait in line to receive their free trees on Arbor Day, 1912. 18,000 trees were given away that day.  Photo from Denver Municipal Facts, v.4 n.17, 1912.

Among the most popular trees in Denver were American elm, ash, locust, maple, and birch, according to The Shade Trees of Denver, a 1905 publication from the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station that has been digitized and made available online from our library.  This publication includes tips for planting trees and discussion of the various types and how well they grow in Colorado.  The best part, however, is the series of plates at the end of the book, illustrating the various tree types in Denver.  Examples are shown from parks as well as from the grounds of some of Denver's large estates: 

Ash trees in City Park
Hackberry tree in Fairmount Cemetery
Sycamore tree on the grounds of the Kountze Mansion at 16th and Grant

For other resources about growing trees in Colorado, search our library's online catalog.  Also, for a look at how Arbor Day was celebrated in the public schools, see the Superintendent of Public Instruction's Arbor Day books from 1908, 1911, and 1912, available online from our library.


Call 811 Before Digging

Gov. Hickenlooper has proclaimed April 2018 as "Dig Safely Month in Colorado."  The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) reminds property owners and contractors to call 811 at least three days before any digging project. You can also submit a request online. Upon receiving the request, local utility companies will be dispatched to the property to mark underground utility lines. "Every nine minutes an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig without first contacting 811.  Striking a single utility line can cause injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages," says the PUC.  "Installing a mailbox, building a deck, and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin after contacting 811."  The service is free.  Go to colorado811.org/  or view the Colorado 811 procedures guide for more information.


Surveying Historic Properties

What are the hidden stories behind the buildings in your community? How can you determine which ones should be preserved as part of your community's heritage?  One of the tools that historic preservationists use to answer these questions is the historic survey.  Surveying historic properties can mean anything from what is known as the "windshield survey" -- a quick drive or walk down the street to visually identify architecturally significant historic properties -- to a detailed survey involving research into the the history of individual properties on a street or in a neighborhood or town.

History Colorado's Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) has published a number of helpful guides on how preservationists can conduct historic surveys.  To learn about the benefits of conducting a historic survey, see OAHP's brochure Why Survey?  Two OAHP publications are mentioned in this brochure as important tools for communities using the survey process to identify historic resources: the Colorado Cultural Resource Survey Manual and the Field Guide to Colorado's Historic Architecture & Engineering. Both of these publications can be accessed from our library. If your survey includes in-depth research on historic properties, another helpful resource is OAHP's Researching the History of Your House, which provides helpful information and a checklist of what, and where, to search. For more resources, see our library's Historic Preservation in Colorado subject resource guide, or visit OAHP's website.

Historic surveys can be helpful tools for both large and small communities.  The City of Denver is currently engaged in a city-wide historic building survey, Discover Denver, which is supported in part by a grant from OAHP's State Historical Fund.

Photo courtesy Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.


Time Machine Tuesday: The State Board of Land Commissioners

One of Colorado's oldest state agencies is the State Board of Land Commissioners, known informally as the State Land Board.  The Land Board was established in 1876 at the time of Colorado's statehood.  Its purpose is to manage lands granted to Colorado by the Federal Government in public trusts that financially benefit public schools and institutions.  The Land Board is the second-largest landowner in Colorado, after the Federal Government itself.  The money to fund schools and other public institutions is raised through leasing the land for agriculture, resource extraction, renewable energy, and recreational uses. 

Our library has digitized the Land Board's annual/biennial reports back to 1903. In these reports researchers can find detailed lists of land transactions, statistics on funding to schools and institutions, and data on mineral leases, timber sales, and other revenue-generating activity. (To see more recent reports up to the present day, click here.)  For historical information on land laws, see another Land Board publication that has been digitized by our library, Colorado's State Land Laws (1917). Finally, check out this fun interactive timeline that the Land Board has posted on their website.


Get Ready for Wildfire Season

With this past winter being relatively dry, fire danger is expected to be higher than usual this year, especially in areas of lower elevation.  The State of Colorado has numerous resources to help you prepare.
  • This consumer alert from the Colorado Division of Insurance will help you determine if your property is adequately insured.
  • The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention & Control offers a helpful Wildfire Information Resource Center website. Here you can find information on education and public awareness, preparedness and mitigation, fire bans and restrictions, and information on any current fires.
  • READYColorado's wildfire page also has many helpful tips. 
  • The Colorado State Forest Service's Wildfire Mitigation website is another helpful resource.  Here you can find information on how to protect your home, as well as about wildfire education programs that can help communities prepare.  Also, you can use their Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal to help determine if you are at risk.
  • Planning for Hazards: Wildfire is a resource from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs that can help communities plan for wildfire.
Be sure also to check out these helpful state publications:


Citizen Science

Colorado State University's Natural Resources Economy Lab (NREL), along with several other partners, has developed CitSci.org, a site where everyday citizens can go to contribute data and scientific research.  Using the site, researchers can create a project, collect data, and view the results.  For instance, one of the site's projects is a the "Front Range Pika Project," where volunteers log photos and data on sightings of this endangered mountain critter. Other projects include tree species mapping, water data, birdwatching observations, invasive species monitoring, beaver sightings, butterfly-plant interactions, an amphibian survey, and much more.  You can log in to volunteer for any of the projects, or access the data to learn about the natural environment in Colorado and other states.

CSU also sponsors another, separate but also citizen-driven scientific data collection site, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, or CoCoRAHS.  As suggested in its name, this site relies on citizen volunteers to collect meteorological data.  You can use their site to find maps and data on precipitation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, and climate. 


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.

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