Colorado's Labor History

This coming Monday is Labor Day.  Because so much of Colorado's development was tied in with mining, transportation, and other industry, and because of events like the Ludlow Massacre, the state has been a significant part of the history of the labor movement in America.  Here are some resources, both current and historical, available from our library that tell the story of labor Colorado:

Agricultural and migrant workers:

Child labor:

Immigration policy:

Labor Movement and the Progressive Era:

  • The Archaeology of Class War:  The Colorado Coalfield Strike of 1913-1914, University Press of Colorado, 2009
  • Coal People:  Life in Southern Colorado's Company Towns, by Rick J. Clyne, Colorado Historical Society, 1999
  • From Redstone to Ludlow:  John Cleveland Osgood's Struggle Against the United Mine Workers of America, by F. Darrell Munsell, University Press of Colorado, 2009
  • The Gospel of Progressivism:  Moral Reform and Labor War in Colorado, 1900-1930 by R. Todd Laugen, University Press of Colorado, 2010
  • The Great Coalfield War, by George S. McGovern, University Press of Colorado, 1996
  • Industrializing the Rockies:  Growth, Competition, and Turmoil in the Coalfields of Colorado and Wyoming, 1868-1914 by David A. Wolff, University Press of Colorado, 2003
  • The Lessons of Leadville, or, Why the Western Federation of Miners Turned Left, by William Philpott, Colorado Historical Society, 1995
  • Making an American Workforce:  The Rockefellers and the Legacy of Ludlow, by Fawn-Amber Montoya, University Press of Colorado, 2014 
  • Persistent Progressives:  The Rocky Mountain Farmers' Union, by John F. Freeman, University Press of Colorado, 2016 
  • Radicalism in the Mountain West, 1890-1920: Socialists, Populists, Miners, and Wobblies, by David R. Berman, University Press of Colorado, 2007 
  • "Remember Ludlow!" by Joanna Sampson, Colorado Historical Society, 1999
  • Representation and Rebellion:  The Rockefeller Plan at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, 1914-1942, by Jonathan H. Rees, University Press of Colorado, 2010 
  • Western Voices: 125 Years of Colorado Writing, Colorado Historical Society, 2004
  • A Wide-Awake Woman:  Josephine Roche in the Era of Reform, by Elinor McGinn, Colorado Historical Society, 2002 
  • Working in Colorado:  A Brief History of the Colorado Labor Movement, University of Colorado, 1971


Statistics and studies:


This is just a small sampling of the many resources on this topic available from our library.  For further resources, including current labor trends, employment statistics, guidance on labor laws, state labor and employment programs, and more, search our library's online catalog.


Time Machine Tuesday: Teaching Colorado History

Anybody who attended elementary school in Colorado remembers learning about the state's history -- the colorful characters, the miners, the Native Americans, the politicians, the pioneers.  We learned to sing songs like "Where the Columbines Grow" and recite the rags-to riches-to rags story of the Tabors.  We stumbled over the pronunciation of "molybdenum" and traveled to the State Capitol to see the artworks depicting the colorful characters.  Over time, however, the resources used to teach the story of our state changed significantly, and you can see the progression of these resources through documents at our library.

If you went to school in the 1950s and '60s, you might remember using a textbook called Colorado, The Land and the People.  Issued by the State Department of Education, this book for young readers told the story of Colorado for use in the Colorado history curriculum.  The book has been digitized by our library so you can now view it online for a blast from the past.

Kids going to school around 1976 experienced a time of special emphasis on the state's (and nation's) history -- the Centennial-Bicentennial celebrations.  The state's official Centennial-Bicentennial Commission issued a teacher's guide that included lesson plans and book and film suggestions for teaching various aspects of the state's history.  The illustrated guide also included "Heritage '76" and "Horizons '76" questions and ideas to help get kids thinking about how to relate the past to the future.

By the late 1990s and into the 2000s, it was all about standards.  The Colorado Department of Education released academic standards for all subjects, including history, and in conjunction released such publications as Making Standards Work!: HistoryAlso, the University Press of Colorado issued three elementary school textbooks, Colorado:  Our Colorful State (1999), Colorado:  The Highest State (1995 and 2011), and Discover Colorado (2016), which aligned closely with the standards.  (All can be checked out from our library).  You can see the progression of the standards in the Department of Education's official publications of the Colorado Model Content Standards for History from 1995 and 2001, and the current Colorado Academic Standards: Social Studies, adopted in 2009.  For more information on the Colorado Academic Standards see the Colorado Department of Education's Standards and Instructional Support website.

The standards make numerous references to what are called "21st century skills," and today's students have a variety of resources available to them that we pre-Internet kids didn't have, including Colorado State Library-sponsored resources like the Colorado Encyclopedia, the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, and the Colorado Virtual Library's kid-friendly biographies of famous Coloradans.  An exciting result of the availability of digitized resources means that today, compared with when I was in elementary school, much more emphasis is being placed on teaching kids how to use primary sources.  And our library has many, many primary sources on Colorado history readily available online -- just search our digital repository and web catalog.


Preventing School Violence

A new school year has begun, and students deserve a healthy school experience free from violence, crime, and bullying.  Several state agencies are working to help prevent school violence and provide all children and youth with a safe place to learn and grow.

The Colorado School Safety Resource Center is the state's main agency for all matters of school safety.  They have published numerous resources on school violence prevention including
The University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV) administers programs such as Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, which provides resources about evidence-based programs to prevent bullying, violence and delinquency, youth substance abuse, aggressive behavior, and more.  Publications from the CSPV include
The Colorado Attorney General's Office provides victim assistance resources and guidance on violence and disciplinary issues.  See their Colorado School Violence Prevention and Student Discipline Manual for more information.

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment's Prevention Services Division has a Violence and Injury Prevention Program with a number of resources geared toward children and youth.  They have also developed a new Positive Youth Development Tool.  See also their report Bold Steps Toward Child and Adolescent Health:  A Plan for Youth Violence Prevention in Colorado.

The Colorado Department of Education has also published several resources on school violence prevention, such as 
Safe2Tell is a state-funded program that provides a hotline for students to anonymously report school safety issues and concerns, not limited to violence but also concerning substance abuse, suicide, and more.  Their tagline is "anonymously report anything that concerns or threatens you, your friends, your family, or your community."  Their website also includes resources for students, families, and communities.

State reports on specific incidents include
Finally, for more resources and links see our library's Quick Guide to Safe Schools and Youth Violence Prevention; you can also search our web catalog. 


The Colorado State Fair

The Colorado State Fair begins today and runs through September 4.  This annual event began in 1869 -- before Colorado even was a state -- with a horse show in Pueblo.  148 years later Pueblo still hosts the fair.  The State Fair includes a variety of contests and entertainment, including rodeos; livestock and animal shows; concerts; carnival rides; a 5K run; cooking, baking, and brewing contests; arts and crafts judging, and more.

What does the State Fair bring to Colorado?  A 2011 economic impact study of the fair reports that the fair brings about $29 million of economic activity into Colorado.  Our library also has annual financial audit reports for the State Fair back to 1990; see our library's online catalog for these and other resources.


The Buildings of Auraria

The Auraria Higher Education Center (or Auraria Campus, as it is often known) is quite unique among Colorado's college campuses.  This inner-city campus is home to not one, but three separate higher education institutions: the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the University of Colorado Denver.  Auraria is also unique for its history, as more than a century before the campus was built, Auraria was a separate town that competed with Denver.  Eventually, it became a middle-class Denver neighborhood that was home to many diverse ethnic groups.  Today, a few of the buildings from the old Auraria neighborhood remain to tell the story of the people who made Auraria their home.

The Auraria Campus is a prime place to experience the evolution of Denver's architectural styles, because the historic buildings that have been preserved coexist with forty years of evolving campus architecture.  Among the repurposed historic buildings on campus are several churches, the old Tivoli Brewery, and the 9th Street Park, one street of old Auraria homes and businesses that was preserved to commemorate the pre-campus neighborhood.

You can learn more about Auraria's architecture in the following resources, available from our library (publications without hyperlinks can be checked out in print):

The Auraria Neighborhood:

The Auraria Campus:

Old and new coexist on the Auraria Campus.  Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


Time Machine Tuesday: Highway Safety

Certainly a lot has changed in the last fifty years regarding vehicle safety!  Consider this excerpt from Highway Safety in Colorado, a 1966 legislative research report:

Seat belts have reduced deaths and injury on the nation's highways and have long been utilized by racing car drivers.  Many states have adopted legislation requiring the installation of seat belts in passenger vehicles; unfortunately these mandatory programs have not been successful in developing a high degree of utilization by persons riding in private vehicles.  For this reason, the [Legislative Committee on Highway Safety] is reluctant to recommend mandatory legislation for passenger vehicles.  On the other hand...the committee urges the State Department of Education to take action to encourage installation of seat belts in school buses.

Today we still struggle with making sure private vehicle passengers use their seat belt, but it is difficult to imagine that we would not have seat belt laws just because some people won't buckle up.  Conversely, we still don't have laws requiring seat belts in school buses, despite the legislative committee's suggestion fifty years ago.  (See the Colorado Department of Education's publication The Issue of Lap Belts in School Buses for information on current law and practice).

 Here's another excerpt from the 1966 report:

Nationwide, highway safety officials have been unable to cope with the problems posed by the drinking driver. ... Enforcement officers, licensing officials, and the judiciary have been relatively successful in fining, jailing, and suspending licenses of persons driving while under the influence of alcohol.  However, all three of these penalties have not proved an effective deterrent to the alcoholic driver.

Doesn't sound too much different from today, does it?  But consider this -- in 1966, the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) was .15, almost double what it is today.  The committee recommended "a lesser charge of drinking and driving for persons with a blood alcohol level of .10 per cent and over but less than .15 per cent.  Although an individual may not be under the influence of alcohol, his reflexes, judgment, ability to make quick decisions, etc., can be impaired."  Compare this to today, where .05 is considered "ability impaired," and .08  is the legal limit for driving under the influence -- two percentage points below what was only "impaired" in 1966.

For more comparisons between yesterday and today, you can view Highway Safety in Colorado online from our library, along with thousands of other publications that tell the story of life in Colorado.


Safe Routes to School

This month kids are heading back to school, but the weather is still nice -- so why not let them walk or bike to school and get fresh air and exercise?  The Colorado Department of Transportation has a program that encourages just that.  The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program helps schools and communities provide a safe environment for students while also encouraging physical activity:

SRTS programs can improve safety, not just for children, but for the entire community. It provides opportunities for people to increase their physical activity and improve their health. It reduces congestion and pollution around our schools and encourages partnerships.

According to the SRTS website, in 1969 about half of all schoolchildren walked or biked to school; today, 90% are driven by auto or bus.  Accordingly, today's childhood obesity rates are much higher than they were fifty years ago.  The SRTS program is available to help schools and communities in a variety of ways, whether it be to paint crosswalks, hire crossing guards, provide educational programs, or set up groups known as "walking school buses," where large groups of students walk together.

If your school or community is considering partnering in the SRTS program, or you just want to provide education on safe walking and biking, our library has some helpful resources, including


Time Machine Tuesday: Increasing Farm Production in Wartime

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, ever-increasing numbers of Americans were joining the armed forces.  Whether they were training stateside or had been shipped overseas to fight in Europe or the Pacific, the huge numbers of soldiers, sailors, nurses, and others involved in the war needed to be fed.  Luckily, the United States had millions of acres of farmland to grow crops and livestock to feed the hungry soldiers.

A USDA poster promoting wartime farm production.
There was one problem, however.  Throughout the 1930s farmers on the Great Plains had suffered through drought, dust storms, and the Depression.  Agricultural production had declined as a result, and many wary farmers were reluctant to increase production.  By 1942, however, rising farm prices and a push by government agencies to encourage farm production helped to reverse this trend.  Among the agencies here in Colorado working to help farmers increase production was the Colorado State Board for Vocational Education.  A forerunner to today's community college system, the Board worked to improve education in vocations and trades.  In 1942 they teamed up with the Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (today's Colorado State University) to offer a Rural War Production Training Program.

The program offered 20-hour courses designed to help farmers increase the production of specific commodities most needed by the war effort (beef, vegetables, wool, etc.).  The courses also encouraged home vegetable gardening due to shortages of imported foods.  "The main purpose of the war production courses is to discuss with producers ways and means, and to assist them in outlining plans of action, by which the production goal can be reached in the shortest possible time and with the greatest efficiency," wrote the Board in one of their course manuals.  These manuals, which you can read online courtesy of our library, were issued for the course instructors to help them develop syllabi. They included teaching tips, discussion questions, sample course outlines, and suggestions for film strips and reference material.  These manuals offer an interesting look at the teaching methods of the past as well as of the importance of farming during wartime.  The manuals available from our library are:


Alcohol and Impaired Driving

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), more than 26,000 people are arrested for a DUI each year.  This includes both drunk driving and drugged driving.  CDOT conducts numerous public awareness campaigns as well as their "high visibility enforcement" campaign known as "The Heat is On," which include checkpoints and increased police presence during holiday celebration periods and other times throughout the year when drinking tends to increase.

CDOT's Alcohol and Impaired Driving webpage provides numerous resources including public awareness campaign materials; breathalyzer information; links to alternative transportation sources; statistics; grant information for local agencies; and more.  Here you can also download CDOT's free "R-U Buzzed" app for calculating your BAC.  (If you don't want to download an app, you can also print out CDOT's handy wallet-sized BAC chart.)  "R-U Buzzed" can also connect you with other sources of transportation if you are impaired.

Sample screen for CDOT's R-U-Buzzed app.


Burrowing Owls

The July/August issue of Colorado Outdoors magazine features burrowing owls.  These fascinating creatures are much different than the tree-dwelling owls most of us are all familiar with.  Burrowing owls, as suggested by their name, are ground dwellers.  Unlike most owls, which live in forested areas, burrowing owls spend the summer on Colorado's eastern plains, where they live in prairie dog towns.

No, the owls don't eat the prairie dogs -- the two species have a symbiotic relationship where the owls reuse and repurpose abandoned holes.  The two species also have common predators -- coyotes, hawks, bobcats, badgers, snakes -- so the owls benefit from the prairie dogs' vocal warning systems.

Burrowing owls also differ from most other owls in that they are diurnal (active during the day) and they are also smaller than most other owl species (and cuter).  The owls mostly feed on insects, particularly grasshoppers and beetles, but they will also sometimes eat mice and small reptiles and amphibians.

Although burrowing owls migrate to Arizona, California, Texas, and northern Mexico in the winter, they are considered a threatened species in Colorado, their summer home, because of the elimination of much of their natural habitat.  Eradication of prairie dogs by humans has had an adverse effect on burrowing owls, illustrating the importance of understanding how Colorado's different wildlife species affect one another.  Recommended Survey Protocol and Actions to Protect Nesting Burrowing Owls When Conducting Prairie Dog Control, a Colorado Division of Wildlife publication available from our library, addresses this issue.

In addition to the above-named resources, you can also find information on burrowing owls in several other Division of Wildlife publications available from our library, including The Little Owls and Conservation Plan for Grassland Species of ColoradoSee also Colorado Parks & Wildlife's species profile for more information and links.


Time Machine Tuesday: Amache Relocation Center and Colorado's Japanese Americans

In February 1942, during the height of WWII, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, ordering the relocation and internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry.  Many believed that Japanese Americans were loyal to their ancestral home and would be a security risk.  This attitude can be seen in the remarks of Dr. Heber R. Harper, a federal health official in Colorado:  "in Japan...the cause is more closely allied to religion and a unique religious fanaticism.  Whether Nazi Germany or Japan is our great enemy, the morale of the Japanese may be much harder to break than that of the Germans."  Harper's remarks, and others that attest to the attitudes of the times, appear in Civilian and Community Morale Through Understanding and Participation, a report of an assembly held at the Colorado State Capitol just two days prior to the issuance of the President's Executive Order.

As a result of the order, Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to ten internment camps set up across sparsely-populated areas of the American West.  One of these ten camps was Amache (officially the Granada Relocation Center) near the town of Granada in extreme southeastern Colorado.  Forced to live in military-style barracks, relocatees faced a difficult life.  Cold in winter and hot in summer, the camps were surrounded by fences and armed guards.  Although children and teenagers were given the opportunity to attend school, most adults had to work in low-paying, labor-intensive jobs.  The government encouraged farming, but due to the arid conditions of the area, this proved difficult. (See Land Types in Eastern Colorado, published in 1944, for a description of farming in the area during that time period).  You can read about life in Amache in this 1964 article from Colorado Magazine.  Other articles about Amache can be found in the Spring 1989, Winter 2005, and Autumn 2007 issues of Colorado Heritage, available for checkout in print from our library.  History Colorado, the publisher of Colorado Heritage, has also produced an online exhibit about Amache.

A 1943 report on public welfare in Colorado, available online from our library, takes a look at the internment's effect on social services in a section called "The Japanese Problem."  However, not everyone in government believed in the Japanese relocation concept.  Colorado's Governor Ralph Carr is remembered as one who stood up for the Japanese.

Today, very little physical evidence is left of the Amache site, but it has not been forgotten.  Descendants hold an annual pilgrimage to Amache.  The site contains a museum and a cemetery, and visitors can take a driving tour with podcasts to guide them.  Numerous archaeological investigations are being undertaken on the site, and for more than 20 years students at Granada High School have done projects to assist with the preservation of Amache.

Japanese Americans have a long history in Colorado.  To learn their story, check out the book Colorado's Japanese Americans (University Press of Colorado, 2011) from our library. 

Historical photos of Amache/Granada Relocation Center courtesy of Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.


August is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month

Back-to-school time is quickly approaching, and if you're a parent, chances are you're thinking a lot about school supplies, clothes, and lunches.  But don't forget about one very important thing your kid needs for the new school year:  good eyesight.  Children's vision can change as they grow, so a child who didn't need glasses one year might need them the next.  Therefore it's important to have your child's vision checked regularly starting at age 3.  The American Optometric Association suggests that parents be on the lookout for the following signs of visual problems in young children:
  • Sitting close to the TV or holding a book too close
  • Squinting
  • Tilting their head
  • Frequently rubbing their eyes
  • Short attention span for the child's age
  • Turning of an eye in or out 
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination when playing ball or bike riding
  • Avoiding coloring activities, puzzles and other detailed activities
Many schools also offer vision screenings.  For information, see Guidelines for School Vision Screening Programs from the Colorado Department of Education.  Also, see the Department's Vision webpage.


Colorado Governors: Edward McCook

Edward Moody McCook served two non-consecutive terms as territorial governor.  Originally from Ohio, McCook had come to Colorado during the 1859 Gold Rush.  He settled in Central City and set up a successful law practice.  He returned east to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War, attaining the rank of Brigadier General.  McCook received his promotion for gallantry at the battle of Chickamauga.  As General he commanded cavalry during Sherman's March to Atlanta, and then moved south through Alabama to Florida, where he accepted the surrender of Florida and served a short time as Military Governor.  It was during McCook's service in the Union Army that he got to know Ulysses Grant.

Following the war, McCook's acquaintance with Grant first earned him the appointment to the post of Territorial Governor of Colorado in 1869, which came after an appointment by President Johnson as U.S. Minister to Hawaii.  Grant removed Colorado Territory's preceding governor, Alexander Cameron Hunt, from office to appoint McCook in his place.  This did nothing to endear McCook to Coloradans, who had generally liked Governor Hunt.  In 1873 citizens put forth a petition to remove the unpopular McCook from office, and he was replaced by Samuel Elbert, son-in-law of former Territorial Governor John Evans.  (For more on the rivalry between McCook and Elbert, see this article from Colorado Magazine). After serving just one year, the popular Elbert was removed from office and McCook was reinstated. 

Despite his lack of popularity, McCook's governorship proved quite productive.  He was instrumental in developing Colorado's public school system, and both the Colorado School of Mines and the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind were created under his watch.  McCook prioritized funding for public schools, and created the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction.  (You can read the Superintendent's biennial reports online courtesy of our library).  W.C. Lothrop was the first person to serve in that position; today it is known as the Commissioner of Education.  McCook also established a Board of Immigration to promote Colorado, and was an early advocate of women's suffrage.

The Colorado State Archives writes that during McCook's second term, "political upheaval, grasshopper infestations that destroyed Colorado crops, and numerous mining disputes created an atmosphere of tension in his administration."  Therefore he was again removed from office, this time after only serving nine months.  During the remainder of his career McCook invested in mining, railroads, and telephones.  He died in Chicago in 1909 and is buried in his hometown of Steubenville, Ohio.


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.

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