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The Western History book collection is a significant representation of Western Americana. Over 200,000 volumes, old and new, are searchable through the library catalog. In The New Encyclopedia of the American West, edited by Howard Lamar, Sterling Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University, the Western History Department's book and manuscript collections are listed along with the Bancroft Library, the Newberry Library, the Huntington Library and Yale University as being among "the most important holdings" of western material.
Over the years, the department has acquired some specially-printed and rare books that are not western history-themed. A page from the Gutenberg Bible, a Kelmscott Press edition of Canterbury Tales, and the Audubon Elephant Folio are examples of items we own. View some scanned images of these treasures here:
Seventy-five years ago, librarians started clipping newspaper articles and acquiring pamphlets on Denver and Colorado that could later be used for historical purposes. Today these items are vital tools used by professional researchers, schoolchildren, and the interested public. The department maintains three entire shelf ranges of clippings, divided into biographical, Denver and Colorado, and general subjects. One can find articles on Denver pioneers and town builders, as well as on early visitors to Denver like Oscar Wilde and Carrie Nation. One can find articles on the parks, the mayors, and Denver societies and clubs, as well as articles on Colorado towns, labor struggles in mining areas, stagecoaching, cattle ranching, women's suffrage, and agriculture.
Newspaper clippings provide detail on a variety of subjects
The General Index
One of the unique treasures of the department is the extensive "General Index" card file that contains more than seven million entries on four million cards. Developed over the last century, it provides access to newspapers, local histories, biographical works, newsletters and journals.
The General Index is an every-name index of the Rocky Mountain News from 1865-85 (a WPA project) and a partial index to other Denver newspapers from the late 1800s to early 1990s. The General Index is one of the most important research tools available to the public. One historian said of the General Index:
"All hail to the generations of librarians and Denver taxpayers who have supported, built, and maintained such a superb research tool."
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