Colorado Front Range life — a hundred years ago

This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise.

If you’ve ever wondered what life was like in the front range a century ago, you can poke around in the online Colorado Historical Newspaper Database or browse through old newspapers at the Mamie Doud Eisenhower library. You’ll find that at least a few things haven’t changed. For example, around New Years Day, 1913, Golden’s Colorado Transcript reported that a “monster” windstorm ripped through the area at “a velocity of at least a million miles an hour,” breaking windows, pulling down chimneys and uprooting trees.

Broom corn      Other aspects of life are quite different: in 1913, the Golden Steam Laundry ran a wagon from village to village, picking up laundry from busy households. Hacks and livery stables continued to thrive, as did sellers of coal and wood. Broomcorn (Broomfield’s namesake) was big in the local economy, and farmers were encouraged to ship their crops off to Chicago by train, where the Coyne Brothers would sell the broomcorn on commission for a much better price than local buyers paid.

 Local papers printed a surprising number of health-related articles and ads. One notice reported that the new “cereal beverage” called Postum had cured all sorts of terrible ailments in a surgeon, making his hand “steady” again. Invented in 1895 by C.W. Post of Post Cereal Company, Postum is a caffeine-free coffee substitute, made from wheat and molasses. (You can buy it today on postum.com.)

Ad for Postum

1910 Ad for Postum

Plenty of cure-alls were available to those who believed, including Mrs. Winslow’s “soothing syrup,” which addressed the problem of teething children. According to the ads, the syrup would “soften the gums, allay all pain, cure wind colic and also cure diarrhea (and it’s absolutely harmless!).”

 Dr. Price’s Cream Baking Powder advertised itself as a protection against “alum food,” warning that the stuff is “not healthful.” Alum is a chemical that was used by bakers in the 1800s to make bread whiter. Today, it’s used in pickling and in deodorants. It has been approved by the FDA but is reportedly toxic in large doses.

Samuel Hahnemann

Samuel Hahnemann

 Homeopathic medicine was widespread in those days. Invented by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who died in 1843, its aim was to replace the “purging, bloodletting and use of toxic chemicals” commonly employed by doctors. Early homeopathic physicians had success in treating scarlet fever, typhoid, cholera and yellow fever. Around the turn of the century, there were 22 homeopathic medical schools and 100 homeopathic hospitals in the USA, but most later closed under the influence of the American Medical Association and with the advent of pharmaceuticals.

 Denver city planners wanted to get city folks outdoors, and with this in mind they began developing the Denver Mountain Park system. They purchased chunks of federal land, declaring that they would preserve our natural forests and provide easy access for those seeking respite in the wild. Today there are 22 such parks. The first was Genesee Park, which hosts a small herd of bison, which you can often see when you drive into the mountains on I-70.

Bison in Genesee Park

Bison in Genesee Park

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