Coins and Currency in Early Colorado

You're probably aware that Denver is home to one of the United States mints.  But do you know the history behind coinage in Colorado?  It has a lot to do with Colorado being a metal mining state.

Gold brought the earliest white settlers to Colorado territory, and gold dust was used as currency during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush.  However, some people tried to pass off brass filings as gold dust, so three men from Leavenworth, Kansas, started Clark, Gruber & Company in Denver and began minting their own coins.  (You can see some original Clark, Gruber coins at the History Colorado
museum).  At this time, the Federal government had no laws against the private production of currency -- but during the Civil War, such a law was passed, and Clark, Gruber sold their minting equipment to the government.  Such was the origin of the U.S. Mint in Colorado. 

But Colorado's role in the story of American currency goes much further than the Mint.  From the late 1870s to the early 1890s, silver mining became one of the state's most significant industries.  Under the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, the United States government purchased silver for coinage, and many fabulous fortunes were made on the metal.  This only lasted until 1893, however, when the Act was repealed -- and Colorado's economy plummeted. 

Eventually Colorado recovered from the Crash of 1893, although silver never again became a sought-after commodity in the state.  Gold mining returned in the early twentieth century, and coal mining became one of the state's dominant extractive industries.  Meanwhile, however, after serving as an assay office for several decades, the U.S. Mint became official when a new building was constructed in 1904, and coin production began in 1906.  Today, the Denver Mint produces over 50 million coins per day!

You can read more about the history of coins and currency in Colorado by checking out several great resources from our library.  The Quest for Gold and Silver:  Including a History of the Interaction of Metals and Currency is a book from the Colorado School of Mines that discusses the history of bimetallism in the U.S. and Colorado.  For a more in-depth look at Colorado specifically, see the article "Currency, Coinage and Banking in Pioneer Colorado" in the May 1933 issue of Colorado Magazine.  Information on Clark, Gruber & Company coins can be found in the November, 1936 and November, 1937 issues of Colorado Magazine.

A Clark, Gruber & Company coin, minted in 1860, featuring an image of Pikes Peak.  


Time Machine Tuesday: Promoting Colorado's Resources in 1889

Throughout its history, the State of Colorado has worked hard to attract businesses. In 1889 the Colorado General Assembly created the State Bureau of Immigration and Statistics, "charged with the performance of all duties pertaining to and in relation to the encouragement of immigration and governing the same in the State."  Among the Bureau's first endeavors was to create a promotional booklet encouraging businesses to locate in Colorado.  This booklet, The Natural Resources, Industrial Development, and Condition of Colorado, was written "to present the great sources of wealth in Colorado and a statement of simple, impartial facts concerning each county in the State and its separate industrial interests."  Agriculture in the plains, mining in the mountains, and manufacturing in Denver (then part of Arapahoe County) are just some of the many topics covered.  Statistical tables provide further insight into the state's already growing industries.  Aside from mining and agriculture, other industries covered include oil, forestry, railroads, health resorts/tourism, and more.  

Today, Colorado's Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) has replaced the old Immigration Bureau.  Visit OEDIT's website to see how they are working to attract business and industry in much the same way as their counterparts 127 years ago.


Noxious Weeds in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Agriculture has a Noxious Weed Program whose mission is "to control noxious weeds, the nonnative invaders that replace native vegetation, reduce agricultural productivity, cause wind and water erosion and pose an increased threat to communities from wildfire."  The program works with state and federal partners to control the spread of noxious weeds as well as educate the community on these invasive species.

Field bindweed, an invasive species in Colorado
The program's website contains a wealth of information on noxious weeds in Colorado.  You can download a current list of invasive species; learn about early detection and rapid response; apply for grants; and more.  Click on Noxious Weed Mapping to find statewide distribution information on individual invasive species.  The Noxious Weed Species ID link provides numerous photos and other tools for identifying invasive species in the wild and on your property.  Here you can also download a mobile app to assist with identification in the field. 

For more information on noxious weeds in Colorado, search our library's web catalog using the keyword "noxious weeds."  Some of the helpful resources you will find include:

Photo courtesy Colorado Department of Agriculture


Volcanoes and Volcanic Activity

Volcanoes in Colorado?

While we don't have volcanoes in Colorado today, volcanoes certainly played a role in the geological formation of the area.  Evidence of volcanoes can be found as close to Denver as Dinosaur Ridge.  In the Colorado Geological Survey's Dinosaurs in Our Backyard:  A Dynamic Visit to Dinosaur Ridge, Fossil Trace and Red Rocks - Interactive CD-Rom and Audio Tour, available for checkout from our library, the narrator describes the evidence of volcanoes at this prehistory-rich site just west of Denver:

During the deposition of the Dakota formation, volcanoes north and west of here were spewing ash into the Colorado sky.  A layer of white ash from one of these volcanic eruptions is visible at this site.  This ash contained radioactive uranium elements, which slowly changed to lead over time.  By comparing the ratio of radioactive uranium to lead today, scientists from the United States Geological Survey were able to determine the age of the ash and the surrounding rock layers to be 106 million years old.

The San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado also show evidence of volcanic activity.  This is described in a chapter of the University Press of Colorado book The Western San Juan Mountains:  Their Geology, Ecology, and Human History, also available for checkout from our library.  "The San Juan volcanic field is part of a much larger volcanic region that was active throughout the Southern Rocky Mountains from about 40 million to 18 million years ago.  The volcanic activity...produced lavas and pyroclastic debris that covered all of south-central Colorado and the north-central part of New Mexico," according to the book.

Colorado's neighboring states have even more significant associations with volcanic activity.  New Mexico is home to the large Valles Caldera, which you can read about in the Colorado Geological Survey's Field Trip Guide to the Quaternary Valles Caldera and Pliocene Cerros del Rio Volcanic FieldThe most likely place for a volcano to occur in the future near Colorado, however, is to the north of us, in Yellowstone National Park which is known for its geothermal activity. 


Time Machine Tuesday: Winter Wildlife

In 1989, the Colorado Division of Wildlife issued a publication entitled Tales of Winter as part of their "Colorado's Wildlife Company" series.  Taking a look at the survival of wildlife during the winter season, especially in regards to their relationship with humans, the publication starts with the question "is there a future for wildlife in Colorado?"  The publication references an 1987 report, Wildlife 21:  A Report to the Governor, the Legislature, and the People of Colorado on the Future of Wildlife into the 21st Century, which is available in print from our library.  Tales of Winter sums up the report in addition to discussing winter adaptations, feeding, identifying tracks in snow, and more.

Ermine, from Tales of Winter
More than a quarter century later, we can say that yes, Colorado wildlife continues to thrive.  Numerous publications from the Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife) are available to tell the story of wildlife in Colorado.  Check our library's web catalog for more wildlife publications.