Stunning Illustrations Draw Readers Deep Into Even Larger Story of the History of Mining Throughout Colorado
What’s in a name?
Just about everything, in the case of Telluride: A Silver Past, a Golden Future.
This beautifully illustrated coffee-table art and history book by longtime resident Susan Dalton tells the story leading up to today’s world-class ski resort, from its early days (with spectacular historic illustrations and photographs of the Utes and early White settlers) to its segue from silver mining to gold mining (after the 1893 repeal of the Sherman act in 1893 caused a devaluation of silver) to its beginnings as a ski resort in 1972-73 and its successful summer festival season.
“Telluride shares the same early history with small mining towns across the State of Colorado,” Dalton said, in a recent interview.
But as the Telluride Centennial Commemorative coin minted by the town’s Chamber of Commerce in 1978 suggests, the town’s “silver past” heyday, from 1878 to 1893, transitioned to its “golden future” in stages, ratcheting up its gold mining after 1893, when a devaluation of the silver market led to a cessation of mining altogether in the nearby City of Aspen.
In 1972-73, the region about-faced completely. Dalton devotes a chapter to the start of the Telluride Ski Area, complete with reproductions of period ski posters and nods to Telluride local William “Senior Mahoney and Megève, France native Émile Allais (known as “the father of modern skiing”), who worked together to configure Telluride’s early runs and lifts.
Allais’ contributions are, she reminds readers, commemorated by the lift 6 run, Allais’ Alley. Dalton came up with the idea for her book – each chapter includes two pullout vintage postcards, cleverly set into glued-in “pockets” that are part of its elegantly clever overarching design – after seeing a similar book produced by the French publishing firm, Editions du Signe, headquartered in Strasbourg, chronicling the history of Megève. The Megève history is mostly illustrated with a collection of vintage postcards and historical photos from Savoie, located in the French Alps.
Dalton organizes Telluride’s history chronologically – the chapter titles (cleverly displayed on a ski trail-like signpost) range from Chapter One, “A Pure and Pristine Valley,” chronicling the Utes and the early settlers, to “Telluride Today,” replete with photos of Telluride July 4 Parade stalwart Bob (Glider Bob) Saunders (in his trademark American flag costume and face paint).
A compellingly illustrated condensation of the story behind the Harriet Fish Backus Smith classic, Tomboy Bride: A Woman’s Personal Account of Life in Mining Camps of the West, puts in historical context Backus’s experiences living at 11,500 ft. the in the early 20th century as an assayer’s wife in the silver-mining town of Tomboy, population roughly 3,000.
Dalton’s straightforward text is accompanied by an enticing array of antique prints, historic photos and memorabilia, much of it from the impressive collection of 40-year resident Dirk DePagter (a photo of the young DePagter appears on page 111), and more from the collections of the Telluride Historical Museum and the Denver Public Library. Many of THE antique prints are from Dalton’s own collection, amassed over the two-plus decades she’s spent in town, part of that time running the furniture and print shop, Cadeaux, on Telluride’s Main Street, across the street from the Sheridan Opera House. From illustrations by late 19th-early 20th century Western illustrator Frederic Remington to photographs by William Henry Jackson, the American painter, Civil War veteran and geological survey photographer famous for his images of the American West to an illustration from Harper’s Weekly in 1875 of Telluride’s Bridal Veil Park, just below the Pandora Mill, at the east end of the valley. The book is replete with images that carry the reader deep into Telluride’s – and the American West’s – storied past.
Some of the originally black-and-white images have been delicately enhanced by renowned watercolorist/figure painter/illustrator Meredith Nemirov, of Ridgway, who has lived and worked in Colorado since 1988. Nemirov and her husband, Jorge, owned the Ridgway Gallery, which specialized in antique prints, maps and books about the American West.
For readers to understand Telluride in a larger context – how Telluride relates to its fellow mining towns in America’s West, and, truth be told, what makes it sui generis – this book is a treasure.
Telluride: A Silver Past, a Golden Future is available for purchase in Telluride at Between the Covers, Jagged Edge, the Telluride Historical Museum and the Telski stores in Mountain Village, in in Ouray at Buckskin Booksellers. Quantity sales for special events, businesses and special groups can be arranged by calling 970/708-2276 or emailing Cadolog@aol.com.