"Mountains of Money: A Colorado Story"
Exhibit Opens April 26 at Money Museum
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Gold and silver extracted from the mountains and minted into coins,
tokens and medals in mining camps, towns and cities transformed the
wilderness of the Colorado Territory into the booming Centennial State. The
story of the people and the state they shaped is told in "Mountains of
Money: A Colorado Story," an exhibit opening April 26 at the Money Museum at
818 North Cascade Avenue in Colorado Springs.
"Gold strikes, the silver boom and the Denver Mint are three primary
forces that shaped Colorado," says Curator Lawrence J. Lee. "This exhibit
traces the early saga of the state, from the first major gold rush following
the discovery of gold near the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South
Platte River in 1858, through the late 1800s when silver was king to the
founding of the United States Mint in Denver and the end of gold-backed
American currency in 1933. It is the most complete collection of such
material ever brought together and includes original paintings and other
artwork of Colorado mountains scenes created in the 1880s."
Throughout those 75 years, Colorado's fortunes were linked directly to
the precious metals hauled from its mountains. Almost immediately after the
discovery of gold, private minting firms set up operations to transform
nuggets and dust into coins for general circulation. Dr. John Parsons, a
multi-talented medical doctor from Quincy, Illinois, assayed and struck gold
coins from the back of his wagon in the Tarryall Mining District in South
Park in 1861. At the same time, John J. Conway & Co., jewelers and bankers,
briefly struck gold pieces in Summit County. However, the most successful
private minter in Colorado was Clark, Gruber & Co., which operated in Denver
from 1860 to 1861. The firm later was purchased by the federal government as
the foundation for the Denver Mint.
Only a handful of the coins produced by these early minters remain in
collections today, and the finest examples from the Frederick R. Mayer
Colorado Pioneer Gold Collection are included in this exhibit. Of particular
interest are the obverse designs for Clark, Gruber's $10 and $20 gold
pieces. An engraver in Philadelphia, who had never been west, made Pikes
Peak look like a pile of whipped cream.
A special section in the "Mountains of Money" exhibit describes of the
creation of the United States Mint in Denver, from its early days in 1863 as
an assay office to the striking of the first coins there in 1906.
Colorado's first fortunes waned by the late 1860s, when the days of
"easy" gold disappeared. The second boom began the next decade, when silver
was discovered near Leadville and prices rose because of a congressional
mandate for the precious metal. Mining towns sprouted like wildflowers, and
the state's population grew by 676 percent from 1860 to 1880.
"Along with these towns rose a proliferation of tokens used by merchants,
saloons and laborers," Lee says. "Visitors to the exhibit can see the
bewildering assortment of shapes, denominations, metallic compositions and
imagery. We also have a wide assortment of tokens and medals issued by
fraternal organizations, political parties, and local and state governments
for a wide variety of uses, from club rituals and tax payments to chauffeur
badges and military medals."
While new fortunes blossomed during the Cripple Creek-Victor gold rush of
the 1890s, lifestyles supported by silver collapsed when the federal
government stopped buying the metal. The Gold Standard Act of 1900 finally
killed Colorado's silver boom, but protests continued. One silver advocate
was Victor miner Joseph Lesher, who had his own "dollars" produced in 1900
and 1901. Merchants who signed on with his program could have their name
engraved on the silver pieces. Some of the finest examples of these rare
items are included in the exhibit.
"Mountains of Money: A Colorado Story" opens April 26 and runs through
January 31, 2004. The Money Museum is free and open to the public Monday
through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information about this exhibit, contact the ANA Museum at 818 N.
Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80903-3279; phone 719-632-2646; e-mail
email@example.com; or visit the ANA web site at
THE AMERICAN NUMISMATIC ASSOCIATION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 18, 2003
CONTACT: Stephen L. Bobbitt
Telephone 719/632-2646 x113 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org