1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Denver

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DENVER, the capital of Colorado, U.S.A., the county-seat of Denver county, and the largest city between Kansas City, Missouri, and the Pacific coast, sometimes called the “Queen City of the Plains.” Pop. (1870) 4759; (1880) 35,629; (1890) 106,713; (1900), 133,859, of whom 25,301 were foreign-born and 3923 were negroes; (1910 census) 213,381. Of the 25,301 foreign-born in 1900, 5114 were Germans; 3485, Irish; 3376, Swedes; 3344, English; 2623, English-Canadian; 1338, Russians; and 1033, Scots. Denver is an important railway centre, being served by nine railways, of which the chief are the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé; the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific; the Denver & Rio Grande; the Union Pacific; and the Denver, North-Western & Pacific.

Denver lies on the South Platte river, at an altitude exactly 1 m. above the sea, about 15 m. from the E. base of the Rocky mountains, which stretch along the W. horizon from N. to S. in an unbroken chain of some 175 m. Excursions may be made in all directions into the mountains, affording beautiful scenery and interesting views of the mining camps. Various peaks are readily accessible from Denver: Long’s Peak (14,271 ft.), Gray’s Peak (14,341 ft.), Torrey Peak (14,336 ft.), Mt. Evans (14,330 ft.), Pike’s Peak (14,108 ft.), and many others of only slightly less altitudes. The streets are excellent, broad and regular. The parks are a fine feature of the city; by its charter a fixed percentage of all expenditures for public improvements must be used to purchase park land. Architectural variety and solidity are favoured in the buildings of the city by a wealth of beautiful building stones of varied colours (limestones, sandstones, lavas, granites and marbles), in addition to which bricks and Roman tiles are employed. The State Capitol, built of native granite and marble (1887-1895, cost $2,500,000), is an imposing building. Noteworthy also are the Denver county court house; the handsome East Denver high school; the Federal building, containing the United States custom house and post office; the United States mint; the large Auditorium, in which the Democratic National convention met in 1908; a Carnegie library (1908) and the Mining Exchange; and there are various excellent business blocks, theatres, clubs and churches. Denver has an art museum and a zoological museum. The libraries of the city contain an aggregate of some 300,000 volumes. Denver is the seat of the Jesuit college of the Sacred Heart (1888; in the suburbs); and the university of Denver (Methodist, 1889), a co-educational institution, succeeding the Colorado Seminary (founded in 1864 by John Evans), and consisting of a college of liberal arts, a graduate school, Chamberlin astronomical observatory and a preparatory school—these have buildings in University Park—and (near the centre of the city) the Denver and Gross College of Medicine, the Denver law school, a college of music in the building of the old Colorado Seminary, and a Saturday college (with classes specially for professional men).

The prosperity of the city depends on that of the rich mining country about it, on a very extensive wholesale trade, for which its situation and railway facilities admirably fit it, and on its large manufacturing and farming interests. The value of manufactures produced in 1900 was $41,368,698 (increase 1890-1900, 41.5%). The value of the factory product for 1905, however, was 3.3% less than that for 1900, though it represented 36.6% of the product of the state as a whole. The principal industry is the smelting and refining of lead, and the smelting works are among the most interesting sights of the city. The value of the ore reduced annually is about $10,000,000. Denver has also large foundries and machine shops, flour and grist mills, and slaughtering and meat-packing establishments. Denver is the central live-stock market of the Rocky Mountain states. The beet sugar, fruit and other agricultural products of the surrounding and tributary section were valued in 1906 at about $20,000,000. The assessed valuation of property in the city in 1905 was $115,338,920 (about the true value), and the bonded debt $1,079,595.

At Denver the South Platte is joined by Cherry Creek, and here in October 1858 were established on opposite sides of the creek two bitterly rival settlements, St Charles and Auraria; the former was renamed almost immediately Denver, after General J. W. Denver (1818-1892), ex-governor of Kansas (which then included Colorado), and Auraria was absorbed. Denver had already been incorporated by a provisional local (extra legal) “legislature,” and the Kansas legislature gave a charter to a rival company which the Denver people bought out. A city government was organized in December 1859; and continued under a reincorporation effected by the first territorial legislature of 1861. This body adjourned from Colorado City, nominally the capital, to Denver, and in 1862 Golden was made the seat of government. In 1868 Denver became the capital, but feeling in the southern counties was then so strong against Denver that provision was made for a popular vote on the situation of the capital five years after Colorado should become a state. This popular vote confirmed Denver in 1881. Until 1870, when it secured a branch railway from the Union Pacific line at Cheyenne (Wyoming), the city was on one side of the transcontinental travel-routes. The first road was quickly followed by the Kansas Pacific from Kansas City (1870, now also part of the Union Pacific), the Denver & Rio Grande (1871), the Burlington system (1882), the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé (1887), and other roads which have made Denver’s fortune. In April 1859 appeared the first number of The Rocky Mountain News. The same year a postal express to Leavenworth, Kansas (10 days, letters 25 cents an ounce) was established; and telegraph connexion with Boston and New York ($9 for 10 words) in 1863. A private mint was established in 1860. In the ’seventies all the facilities of a modern city—gas, street-cars, water-works, telephones—were introduced. Much the same might be said of a score of cities in the new West, but none is a more striking example than Denver of marvellous growth. The city throve on the freighting trade of the mines. In 1864 a tremendous flood almost ruined it, and another flood in 1878, and a famous strike in Denver and Leadville in 1879-1880 were further, but only momentary, checks to its prosperity. As in every western city, particularly those in mining regions whose sites attained speculative values, Denver had grave problems with “squatters” or “land-jumpers” in her early years; and there was the usual gambling and outlawry, sometimes extra-legally repressed by vigilantes. Settled social conditions, however, soon established themselves. In 1880 there was a memorable election riot under the guise of an anti-Chinese demonstration. In the decade 1870-1880 the population increased 648.7%. The ’eighties were notable for great real estate activity, and the population of the city increased 199.5% from 1880 to 1890. In 1882-1884 three successive annual exhibits of a National Mining and Industrial Exposition were held. After 1890 growth was slower but continuous. In 1902 a city-and-county of Denver was created with extensive powers of framing its own charter, and in 1904 a charter was adopted. The constitution of the state was framed by a convention that sat at Denver from December 1875 to March 1876; various territorial conventions met here; and here W. J. Bryan was nominated in 1908 for the presidency.