Western History / Genealogy > Manuscripts

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The Denver Public Library's Manuscript Collection comprises material on the American West, particularly Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Region; on the twentieth-century environmental conservation movement in the United States; on the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division of World War II, and the papers of author Eugene Field.

The repository contains historical documents, personal papers, correspondence, diaries and journals, scrapbooks, architectural records, club and association papers, natural resource management documents, and business records. More than 3700 collections range in history and size from an 1835 diary documenting an expedition to the Rockies (Lemuel Ford) to 396 boxes of organizational records donated by The Wilderness Society.

For questions and information about donations, processing, finding aids, and specific collections, see our Manuscripts Guide. Here is information for out of town researchers. For Research Questions, Ask Us.

Western History

From the 1858 gold prospectors in Cherry Creek, Kansas Territory, to twentieth-century growth in the Rocky Mountain region, Colorado has played an important role in Western History. Pioneer settlement, the adjustment of divergent Euroamerican, Asian American, and American Indian cultures, plains and mountain railroad development, the economic booms and busts of the mining industry, and Civil War and Spanish American War involvement - all have pivotal Colorado references.

The Western History Manuscript Collection documents topics including the exploration of the Rocky Mountains, militia activities, Colorado politicians, dignitaries, prominent citizens, frontier families, and regional, state, and local government organizations and businesses. The scope of the collection is from mid-nineteenth century to current times.

1879 Bank draft from the Kountze brother's Colorado National Bank
1879 Bank draft from the Kountze brother's Colorado National Bank

Prominent and Ordinary Individuals and Families

The manuscripts contain documentation on prominent and sometimes controversial individuals, for example, George Bent, John Chivington, Nathan Cook Meeker, Horace Greeley, Buffalo Bill and James Denver. The papers of prominent families include those of William O. Collins, William S. Jackson, the Kountze brothers (banking), and Grenville Dodge (Civil War and Union Pacific Railroad). In addition, the manuscript collection contains the papers of individuals who fought with militia regiments, worked in the mines or who traveled to the frontier during the 1850s and 1860s. Although their names are not well-known, their diaries, correspondence and reports provide important information on the conflicts and events that transpired on the Western frontier.

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A letter from William F. Cody [Buffalo Bill], dated September 24, 1916


Social Organizations and Businesses

Numerous organizations and businesses have donated papers to the department. Organizations include civic agencies, like the Denver Chamber of Commerce and the City Club of Denver. Local neighborhood groups are represented, such as the Capitol Hill United Neighborhood and the University Park PTA and Community Council. The department houses the papers of socially conscious, non-profit organizations, such as the Colorado AIDS Project, Neighborhood House and the Mullen Foundation.

We are guardians of the records of organizations such as The Pan American Club, Business and Professional Women's Club of Denver, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, Colorado Archaeological Society, Colorado Folklore Society, Colorado State Association of Colored Women's Clubs, The Ladies' Relief Society of Denver and the Musicians Society of Denver. Together, these collections illuminate Denver's cultural heritage and social history.

Some of the collections that document business history in Denver and Colorado are: Denver Tramway Corporation, Elizabeth Mercantile Company, Swedish Medical Center, Rippey Advertising Company, Patrick Red Sandstone Company, Inc., and Moffat Estate Company.

To the right is an image from the 1930 program "Gala Opening of The Paramount," 16th and Glenarm, Denver. Temple Buell, a Denver architect, designed the theater.

1930 program for the Opening of the Paramount Theater


Writers, Artists, Theater

Manuscripts and records of prominent writers, arts programs, visual artists, performers and theatrical companies date from the 1880s to current times. Manuscripts of revered writers such as Eugene Field, the children's poet who lived in Denver while working for local newspapers, complement the collection. The papers of artists Angelo Di Benedetto and Vance Kirkland document regional and national art exhibits and programs from the 1920s to the 1980s. The Colorado Writers Program, which operated under the WPA Federal Writers Project, is accessible to researchers, as well as the records of two exceptional Denver theaters, Su Teatro and Changing Scene.

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A Eugene Field poem and drawing in the writer's own hand


The architecture collections date from the 1880s through current times and cover the work of major regional architects, including Burnham Hoyt, Fisher & Fisher, Temple Buell, William Muchow, and Victor Hornbein. S. R. DeBoer, one of Denver's major landscape architects and city planners, deposited his extensive professional records with the department. Building, landscape, and city zoning plans offer insights into the development of professional regional architecture and urban planning.


A sample of structures and buildings from the Fisher & Fisher Architects portfolio:

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Access to Manuscripts

Unique and fragile, the manuscripts are used on location. By signing in with the reference librarians, researchers can examine material in the J. K. Mullen Manuscript Room of the Western History/Genealogy Department, Level Five of the Central Library. Researchers can search the collection in the Library's catalog, accessible from the Denver Public Library Website. Searches can be conducted by surname (e.g., Hoyt), subject (e.g. mining), or type of material (e.g. diary, ledger).

Architectural drawings for the Denver Botanic Gardens
Blueprints, floorplans, and site maps from selected architects enrich the Manuscript Collections.

For questions and information about donations, processing, finding aids, and specific collections, see our Manuscripts Guide. For Research Questions, Ask Us.


Western History / Genealogy Department
The Denver Public Library

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