Western History Collection and the Genealogy Collection merged
into one department in 1995, moving into the fifth level of
the sumptuous new Michael Graves library building. Both departments'
holdings started being collected in the first decades of the
twentieth century, 1935 and 1910 respectively. The staff of
the combined department numbers approximately forty-five,
with many volunteers assisting with special projects.
collection of Western Americana officially opened to the public
in 1935, though it built upon a pre-existing Colorado authors
collection of books and a Colorado history collection of pamphlets.
Today the western subject specialty reflects all phases of
development of the trans-Mississippi West. The collection
continues to grow and presently includes 200,000 cataloged
books, pamphlets, atlases, maps, and microfilm titles. In
addition, it offers 600,000 photographs, 3700 manuscript archives,
and a remarkable collection of Western fine art and prints
to researchers across the world.
Collection is the second largest between the Mississippi River
and the West Coast and the largest in the Rocky Mountain area.
Family history researchers find material spanning dozens of
generations and covering a wide spectrum of ethnic and geographic
categories. Sixty-thousand books, 75,000 pieces of microform,
and hundreds of magazine and newsletter titles, charts, clippings,
atlases and manuscripts constitute the collection. The joint
holdings offer extensive historical resources to both western
history researchers and genealogy researchers.
particulars about the Western History Collection
The Western History
Collection began under the leadership of City Librarian Malcolm
G. Wyer. Of the collection, he has been known to say "[It]
is one of my great satisfactions." He and an academic adviser
built the collection upon a sound base of books by Colorado
authors and pamphlets on Colorado history. His efforts to
collect in local and western history were validated by none
other than renowned American author Willa Cather:
Not long after we began actively building
up the Western collection, Willa Cather spent two
or three weeks working in our library in connection
with research on the early history of Colorado and
New Mexico in preparation for her book, Death Comes
for the Archbishop. She talked with us about her
work and expressed regret that several important books
on this region which she had seen referred to were
not in our library nor had she been able to locate
them in other libraries in the two states. She discussed
the importance of library facilities for literary
and historical study, especially in a city like Denver
which has the only large public library for the entire
region and in which writers might expect to find the
source materials giving background history and early
development of the surrounding region. From the point
of view of an author she considered it the obligation
of a library such as ours to furnish the essential
regional materials for scholarship and research. This
visit confirmed the soundness of the objectives we
fixed in establishing this new field of development.
from Malcolm G.
Wyer's Western History Collection, its Beginning
By 1935 the collection
had reached such size as to warrant its organization as a
separate department. Efforts had succeeded in finding Colorado
and western newspapers, magazines, programs, yearbooks, maps,
emigrant guides, broadsides, leaflets, local organization
information, business records, mining and cattle company records,
municipal reports, photographs and western art.
The emphasis on
regional collecting attracted the interest and assistance
of many individuals. One donor offered a sizable number of
photographs and lantern slides, which are now priceless. Another
donor initiated conversations with photographer David F. Barry
about his valuable images of Sioux Indians, Indian life and
encampments, U.S. Army officers, and Buffalo Bill; eventually
the department received 1900 Barry negatives.
One early friend
of the department offered a superior collection of books illustrated
by Remington, including autographed copies. Many notable works
of William H. Jackson, L.
C. McClure, Alfred E. Mathews, David
F. Barry, George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, Thomas Moran, Albert
C. Poley, Benjamin S. Hopkins, George Elbert Burr, Harry
Rhoads, and Edward S. Curtis - to name a few - came to
grace the Western History Collection over the years.
authors have used the collection in researching for their
books. A short list includes John Rolfe Burroughs, Ruth Underhill,
Martin Castle, Luke Short, Marshall Sprague, William McLeod
Raine, Muriel Sibell Wolle, and Louisa Ward Arps. Authors
beyond Colorado include Lucius Beebe, Donald J. Berthrong,
Dr. Robert Taft, Ramon Adams, Mari Sandoz, David Lavender,
Irving Stone, James Michener, and Michael Streight.
Gates Reading Room, Western History / Genealogy Department
Denver Public Library
particulars about the Genealogy Collection
Chalmers Hadley directed the establishment of the Genealogy
Collection in 1910. The collection is primarily a U.S. research
collection, though it offers some Great Britain and European
resources. The collection has come to be the official depository
for the Colorado Genealogical Society, the Colorado Council
of Genealogical Societies, Colorado Chapter of Palatines to
America, the Colorado Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society,
the Olibama Lopez Tushar Hispanic Heritage Research Center,
and Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England Family History Society,
and many hereditary and patriotic societies.
The past few years
have seen an emphasis upon the collecting of Southern, African-American,
North American Indian, and Southwestern Hispanic resources.
Go to the Genealogy page to see special
features of the Genealogy Collection.
to the entire department's collections is available through
the library's catalog
and through the OCLC network called WorldCat.
about the collections on the collections
or subjects overview pages, or
the main page. To see some rare items,
visit the Booklover's Tour.
Awards and Fellowships
offered by the Western History Genealogy Department include
the Caroline Bancroft History Prize
and DPL Environmental Fellowship.