At this Denver museum, the key players in the Colorado drama come to life: The cliff-dwelling Anasazi Indians; the Spanish, who named it Colorado, meaning red; the 19th century ranchers, miners, missionaries and Native Americans. Highlights include the reality of the Black cowboy life; the boom and bust days of mining when only a few like Horace and Baby Doe Tabor would strike it rich. Through a specially designed glass wall visitors glimpse the 95 percent of the collection that is in storage, and gain a unique sense of what “preserving our history” entails.
Elizabeth “Baby” Doe’s wedding to Horace Tabor, a US Senator and rich silver miner, was the epitome of society weddings. It was even attended by President Chester A. Arthur. But Tabor’s fortunes came crashing down in 1893 when the government stopped purchasing silver. For the Tabors the fairytale was over. Horace died heavily in debt. Abandoned by both her daughters, Baby Doe Tabor eventually froze to death in the winter of 1935.
After a tough stretch for miners at the end of the 19th century, fortunes rebounded. The gold that glitters on the dome of the state capitol is testimony to that. But echoes of the boom and bust days reverberate through more recent history.
The Myth of the Cowboy
As Colorado became a part of the United States, thousands of settlers began to arrive from every part of the country and from around the world. And many of them wound up cowboys. But the myth of the cowboy overshadowed the reality. Being a cowboy was not a bit glamorous. It was monotonous, dangerous, difficult work.
Meals on Wheels
The chuckwagon on display in the museum has Colorado history attached to it. This signature piece comes from the Zapata Ranch in the San Luis Valley. Often black cowboys were given the task of being the camp cook.
Buffalo Bill Rides Again
The US cavalry was led to the Indian camp at Summit Springs by a 29-year old scout named William Cody better known as Buffalo Bill. Almost 20 years later, he had a painting of this event commissioned in which he appeared on this horse shooting guns at nameless Indians.