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Denver Inside and Out

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Denver turned 150 just a few years ago--not too shabby for a city so down on its luck in 1868 that Cheyenne boosters deemed it "too dead to bury." Still, most of the city's history is a recent memory: Denver's entire story spans just two human lifetimes. In Denver Inside and Out, eleven authors illustrate how pioneers built enduring educational, medical, and transportation systems; how Denver's social and political climate contributed to the elevation of women; how Denver residents wrestled with-and exploited-the city's natural features; and how diverse cultural groups became an essential part of the city's fabric. By showing how the city rose far above its humble roots, the authors illuminate the many ways that Denver residents have never stopped imagining a great city. Published in time for the opening of the new History Colorado Center in Denver in 2012, Denver Inside and Out hints at some of the social, economic, legal, and environmental issues that Denverites will have to consider over the next 150 years.

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Building Denver

ePub

How Denver Got Two Railroads (Sort of),
but Not the One It Really Wanted

Eric L. Clements

Above: Laying the track for the Kansas Pacific Railroad. From New Tracks in North America by William A. Bell (London: Chapman and Hall, 1869). 10027376

ISOLATION was the greatest problem confronting Denver City in 1860. Horace Greeley, visiting in 1859, noted Colorado goods selling “at far more than California prices.” He recommended “a railroad from the Missouri to the heads of the Platte or Arkansas.” The locals certainly agreed, but Colorado’s first railroad wasn’t even intended for the territory. The Union Pacific crossed nine miles of northeastern Colorado in June 1867 on its way to Promontory Point, but the company’s decision that same summer to build north of Colorado was received with much dissatisfaction in Denver.1

To understand Denver’s enthusiasm for railroads, consider the alternatives. The town’s first stagecoach arrived in May 1859 after a nineteen-day slog from Leavenworth, Kansas. Service got faster, a week to ten days, but never much easier. Demas Barnes, traveling west from Atchison, Kansas, described the stagecoach experience as “fifteen inches of seat, with a fat man on one side, a poor widow on the other, a baby in your lap, a bandbox over your head, and three or four more persons immediately in front leaning against your knees.” Even the arrival of the railhead at Cheyenne in 1867 only alleviated the stage trip’s agony by decreasing its duration.2

 

Women’s Space

ePub

Denver as the Birthplace of Women in Party and
Electoral Politics, 1893–1897

Marcia Tremmel Goldstein

Above: Women take to the polls at Broadway and Third Avenue. From Harper’s Weekly, November 24, 1894.

ON THE MORNING of April 3, 1894, nine hundred women dutifully cast their ballots “in their own sweet way” in Highlands, a middle-class suburb of Denver.1 “The day resembled a holiday,” the Rocky Mountain News reported, “and the election was original, being the first municipal election since the enactment of the equal suffrage law.”2 Colorado women had won full voting rights in November 1893, when a statewide referendum made Colorado the second state (after Wyoming) to embrace universal suffrage. Denver instantly became the largest city in the world where women boasted full voting rights, a distinction that endured into the first decade of the twentieth century.3

The Highlands spring election of 1894 consummated Colorado women’s hard-fought campaign to gain entry to the political world.4 Black-skirted activists marched the streets to get out the vote, while women attired in their Sunday churchgoing outfits formed long lines at the polls. Female poll workers encouraged wary first-time voters by creating a welcoming atmosphere that felt like home, the familiar domain of women. Cookies and punch flowed generously under decorated tents at each precinct polling place. Every woman voter in Precinct 10 received a bouquet after casting her vote. Lenient judges allowed pairs of women or wives and husbands to occupy the same booth to help each other mark their ballots. Denver’s political spaces became especially home-like when voting women brought another population new to election-day public rituals—children. The News reported that “babies were troublesome in the booths,” and one election judge served as a “walking baby carriage” so as to “facilitate the manipulation of the ballot in the hands of the fair voter.”5

 

Cultural Identity

ePub

Denver’s Early Jewish Community

Jeanne Abrams

Above: The Shwayder Brothers, owners of an early Denver trunk company that evolved into the Samsonite Luggage Corporation, stand on a suitcase to demonstrate the durability of their product. Courtesy Ira M. and Peryle H. Beck Archives, Special Collections, Penrose Library and Center for Judaic Studies, University of Denver.

COLORADO was still an “untamed wilderness” when the discovery of gold near Pikes Peak in 1858 brought the area to the nation’s attention. By the spring of 1859 fortune seekers began to reach the rival infant camps of Denver and Auraria in droves, men and women from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds. During 1859—the “Big Excitement,” as the year of gold discovery was termed—at least twelve Jews of Central European (primarily German) descent joined the westward migration in the quest for freedom, new opportunities, and wealth. After enduring centuries of discrimination in Europe, Jews who migrated to the American West in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries encountered unprecedented opportunity and acceptance in the region as pioneer community builders who helped construct basic institutions. In Denver, Jews played a central role from the very beginning in the city’s political, economic, religious, medical, and social development.

 

Urban Nature

ePub

Denver and the Building of a Recreational Empire

Michael Childers

Above: Hosa Lodge in Genesee Mountain Park. Courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection.

ON a cold February day in 1909, newly elected Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer stood in front of a small crowd at the Denver YMCA and talked of his vision for Denver’s future. He spoke of a city of parks, open vistas of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains, and tree-lined boulevards radiating outward from the center of the city. Looking toward this future, Speer announced his desire for the creation of a mountain park that would lie within twenty-five miles of the city where “[t]he masses could spend happy days and feel that some of the grandeurs of the Rocky Mountains belong to them.”1 Speer linked the growing popularity of outdoor recreation with the city’s surrounding natural beauty, envisioning means by which not only to provide opportunities for Denver residents but also to exploit the city’s surrounding mountains economically through the construction of recreational opportunities. This idea reflected the growing reality in most western cities, where residents and tourists alike were venturing further into the hinterlands to sightsee, picnic, hike, camp, and even ski.

 

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