History of the American West

About the Collection

The images in History of the American West are drawn from the more than 600,000 photographs in the holdings of the Western History and Genealogy Department at Denver Public Library. In 1997, the Denver Public Library won an award through the Library of Congress / Ameritech National Digital Library Competition to support the digitization of approximately 4,000 images that document the place of mining in the history of Colorado and the West and 3,500 that show the lives and culture of Native Americans from more than forty tribes living west of the Mississippi River. To these, the Denver Public Library has added approximately 23,000 additional photographs digitized as part of its large-scale Photodigitization Project.

These pictures tell many stories. The collection includes formal portraits of Indian chiefs as well as clothing, dwellings, and daily lives of Taos, Santa Clara, San Juan, and San Ildephonso pueblo Indians, and Ute, Crow, and Lakota peoples. Other pictures illustrate the place of mining in the history of Colorado and the West, from life in the wide open boom towns of Telluride, Cripple Creek, and Leadville to the national disgrace of the Ludlow coal field massacre. These photographs include images of mining technology; organized labor, labor unrest, and strikes; mining families and their daily lives; industrialists, union leaders, and politicians; and the domestic and public architecture of Colorado mining communities.

Among the other topics featured are early railroads, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show with Annie Oakley, the architecture of Denver, national parks, and ghost towns. Streetscapes and interiors illustrate daily life at the turn of the century. Colorado towns and western landscapes were recorded by local photographers. A group of photographs showing the Tenth Mountain Division ski troops in the Rocky Mountains and in Italy during World War II makes a unique contribution to this digital collection.

Samples of the Diversity of the Collection

Prominent Photographers' Choices of Places and Topics

American Indian Communities


Prominent Photographers' Choices of Places and Topics Top of Page
The work of many prominent photographers based in the American West is featured. The table below lists some of the photographers and a sampling of the places and subjects they chose to record.

Photographer Places Topics
David Barry North Dakota
Studio portraits
Wild West shows
George Beam Mesa Verde (Colorado)
Pikes Peak (Colorado)
Archaeological sites
Edward Boos Montana Portraits
Joseph Collier Denver
Central City (Colorado)
San Francisco (California)

Donald Kemp Central City (Colorado) Mining
Harry Lake Central City (Colorado)
Blackhawk (Colorado)
L.C. McClure Boulder (Colorado)
Denver (Colorado)
Grand Canyon (Arizona)
Steamboat Springs (Colorado)
Business districts
Carriages, coaches
Jesse Nusbaum Mesa Verde (New Mexico)
New Mexico
Archaeological sites
Cliff dwellings
Horace Poley Colorado Springs (Colorado)
San Ildefonso (New Mexico)
San Juan (New Mexico)
Santa Clara (New Mexico)
Taos (New Mexico)
Harry Rhoads Denver (Colorado) Accidents
Frank Rinehart
Studio portraits
Rose & Hopkins Studio Denver (Colorado)
Garden of the Gods (Colorado)
Pikes Peak (Colorado)
Rock formations
Studio portraits

Diversity of American Indian Communities Represented Top of Page

Among the American Indian communities richly represented are:

Arapaho Indians

Crow Indians

Dakota Indians

Flathead Indians

Hopi Indians

Jicarilla Indians

Pawnee Indians

Pima Indians

Pueblo Indians

Tewa Indians

Ute Indians

Diversity of Subjects Photographed Top of Page
These pictures have been cataloged in detail, and the full list of subject headings used can be browsed. The sampling of search terms below reveals the extent and variety of the content of this collection.

Abandoned buildings Gauchos Parades
Adobe buildings Laborers Pottery
Amusement parks Military Officers Rock art
Annie Oakley Miners' strike -- Cripple Creek Shoshone Indians
Bathhouses Miners' strike -- Ludlow Skiing
Blankets Missions Ski troops
Buffalo Bill Mountain Division, 10th Wild West shows
Cavalry Mules

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