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Beautiful Boom Towns in the Colorado Rockies

Cripple Creek & Victor, Colorado. PHILLIPS & DESJARDINS/ WESTERN LITHO. CO. [Denver, 1896]
18 Cripple Creek 96/ Victor. 27 x 36 ½ inches
Chromolithograph. Area of lower left printed border restored, a mended but invisible split, few reinforcements to outer margin edge; a very good & appealing example.


A very attractive if idealized bird's-eye view of the Colorado mining towns of Cripple Creek and Victor, sites of the last major Colorado gold rush. The bright, vibrant image, enhanced by the coated stock on which it was printed, effectively conveys the sharp clarity of the towns’ high mountain valley settings. On April 25th, 1896, Cripple Creek suffered a major fire and then just four days later a second fire, in which the entire business district and a total of 27 blocks were destroyed. Thus, this view, made at considerable expense, was no doubt intended to display the area’s, in theory, complete recovery and still-flourishing mining operations. Twenty mines are depicted in the vignettes surrounding the views, including the site of the famous Independence Lode (see below), and Pike’s Peak can be seen in the backgrounds of both views. Images such as this depicting charming, even somewhat lush towns amid towering yet gentle peaks certainly helped foster romantic notions of the West.
On the 20th of October, 1890, Robert Miller Womack discovered a rich ore in the Cripple Creek area, attracting thousands of prospectors to the region. Soon after, Winfield Scott Stratton located the famous Independence Lode, one of the largest gold strikes in history. In three years, the population increased from five hundred to ten thousand by 1893 with $500 million worth of gold ore being dug from Cripple Creek. However, Cripple Creek and its mining operations also played a significant role in American labor history. Many of the mining laborers unionized and engaged in a major strike in 1894. Strife between workers and mine owners continued well into the next century, often involving considerable violence, with the state government taking one side then another.

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