Archive for the 'Collections' Category

From the Collection: Dinner at the Tedmon House

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Local History Archives

I’m a big fan of the Tedmon House Hotel, which once stood at the northwest corner of Linden and Jefferson Streets in Fort Collins, Colorado. Featured in previous posts, the Tedmon House was an icon in Fort Collins from its grand opening in 1880 until it was demolished in 1910. Luckily, many unique items remain in the collections at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center.

One such item is this menu for Sunday dinner from October 29, 1883.

The menu also has an extensive wine list on the back; there are more than just wines featured.

Sign me up for the haunch of elk with cranberry sauce, and just some Apollinaris mineral water, please! I’ll pass on absinthe.


From the Collection: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911

by Linda Moore, Curator of Collections

March 25, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of an important historical event known by the name of a turn of a 20th century garment that appears in most historical clothing collections, including the one at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center: the shirtwaist.

A shirtwaist is a woman’s button-down blouse modeled on a man’s tailored shirt, a distinctly un-fussy garment compared to the general wardrobe maintained by 19th century woman. As the 20th century opened the shirtwaist was implicated in women’s growing professional freedoms, as well as in their continued workplace oppression.


Worn with a skirt and jacket, the shirtwaist offered the women who were starting to enter the workplace a garment choice more akin to the professional man’s suit than anything available before it. These liberating garments, however, were produced in factories that epitomized the dangerous, exploitive working conditions endured by early 20th century industrial workers before effective labor and safety legislation; workers who were overwhelmingly young, female, and recently immigrated.

Women at sewing stations in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, in which workers found themselves trapped in a rapidly burning building without usable exits, fire escapes or elevators; far out of reach of the firefighters’ tallest ladders, resulted in the deaths of 146 women. This tragedy is said to have shocked the American public into recognition of the inhuman conditions of factory workers, and to have contributed directly to a revolution in labor conditions and workplace safety regulations.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory after the fire


The 100th anniversary of this tragic event is being marked with many events, educational programs, and exhibits throughout the country. To learn more about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, see:

From the Collection: Can You Count the Moves?

by Leigh Westphal, Museum Coordinator

A few months back I wrote about a recent acquisition of prescription slips from the City Drug store. After completing the re-housing of prescription slips from the store’s cigar boxes to archival boxes, I was left with one burning question… where was this place? The answer- as is often the case- was not a simple one.

Boasted as “the oldest legitimate business in Fort Collins,” City Drug first opened in 1873. Its original owners were a pharmacist, M.E. Hocker, and two local business men, William C. Stover and John C. Mathews. City Drug’s first location was at the southwest corner of Jefferson and Linden streets in one of the oldest buildings in Fort Collins, known as “Old Grout” for the enthusiastic use of grout in its construction.

From Old Grout, City Drug went on to have numerous locations and owners. When the Yount Bank Building on the southeast corner of Jefferson and Linden was completed in 1874, City Drug quickly moved across the street and into it. In the same year, William Stover sold his interest in the business to his brother, Frank, who had just arrived in Fort Collins.  At this point, both W.C. Stover and Mathews retired from the drug store in order to pursue other business interests in town.  Eventually, Frank P. Stover bought out Hocker and became sole owner of City Drug.  During this time Stover moved the business again, this time to the northwest corner of Jefferson and Linden streets, where he rented a corner section of the Tedman House.  Soon after, the store made its way back to its original location, but this time it inhabited a brand new brick building since the log-walled Old Grout had been torn down and replaced at the commission of Frank Stover.

City Drug c. 1884, located at the Tedman House

Upon his retirement in 1919, Stover sold City Drug to C.L. Brewer. With Brewer at the helm, the drug store moved three more times in an attempt to be a central part of the city. In its first year of Brewer’s ownership, City Drug relocated to 143 Linden Street. Seven years later, it moved to 145 N. College Avenue and again to the “Woolworth Building” at the northwest corner of College and Mountain avenues.

City Drug c. 1906, southwest corner of Linden and Jefferson streets

In 1946, Brewer sold City Drug to brothers Arthur and Harold Grovert. The Groverts also relocated the business more than once. First, they moved to 139 N. College Avenue and again in 1967 to the southwest corner of College and Mountain Avenues.

City Drug c. 1969, 101 S. College Ave.

In 1992, City Drug was purchased by its current owners, the Wilkins family. The Wilkins continued to run the drug store at the southwest corner of College and Mountain until September of 2009, when the business made its final move to 209 N. College Avenue, formerly know as the Ghent Motors Building.

Current location of City Drug just north of LaPorte Ave.

Whew, moving makes me tired… even if it is just reading about it!

From the Collection: Military Currency: It’s a Small World After All

by Ashely Houston, Museum Coordinator

As the months pass by and we get closer to the opening of the new museum, the collections staff has been hard at work behind-the-scenes making preparations for the big move. It has been an exciting opportunity for the collections department because we have been able to take the time to do a thorough examination of the objects in our collection. These objects, stored carefully on shelves and in cabinets, have so much history behind them. Each and every one of them is getting their chance to jump out at us and demand our attention. Most recently, some paper currency caught our eyes.

The museum has a small collection of bills from around the world. What struck me as I was going through these was the blending of cultures represented on different bills. Take this one for example: “The Japanese Government- One Peso.”

If it’s a Japanese bill, why is it written in English? And why is it a Peso instead of Yen or another form of Japanese currency?

Other bills led to similar questions. “Italy 1 Lira?” Why isn’t it in Italian?

A little research revealed that the answer has to do with war. During World War II, an occupying military force would often print and circulate their own money in the area they were controlling. This money could be used alongside the occupied-country’s existing currency. Doing this allowed the military to pay their troops in currency they could use locally, pay the occupied territory for supplies and other services, and ultimately  manipulate the economy. In the case of the Japanese Government Pesos, this money was issued by Japan and used in the Philippines. Due to hyperinflation in the Philippines, though, the money was nearly worthless and was deemed “Mickey Mouse” money.

It might seem a little strange to have money that was issued by one country and used in another to end up in our locally-focused museum. However, the great thing about this currency is that it represents how war reaches people around the world, including those who lived right here in Fort Collins and brought it back after serving oversees.

Not a Trick, but Definitely a Treat!

By Ashley Houston, Museum Coordinator

It’s October and you know what that means…trees turning beautiful fall colors, that crisp feeling in the air, the possible snowstorms, but most of all, it’s my favorite holiday: Halloween! Candy, costumes, ghosts and ghouls! It’s that one time of year when we embrace our imaginations and let our inner children come out to play. Thinking about throwing a festive Halloween party? Well, if it was the 1920s, you might have wanted to think about checking out that year’s annual Dennison’s Boogie Book.

I recently came across a real “treat” – a copy of Dennison’s Boogie Book in the museum collections that dates to 1925. Inside are ideas for parties, dances, games, decorations, costumes, and even a ghost story with directions on how to make your telling of it extra scary! One of my favorite parts is the section for “The Business Girl” where there are helpful hints for the woman who needs to throw together a party in limited time. I personally like the matching headband for the girl and sash for the guy to tell who came to the party together

If you had a little extra time on your hands, perhaps you could purchase some of Dennison’s accompanying products to easily make the decorations and then to create your own crepe paper costume! Simply sew the crepe paper to a muslin foundation and slip the costume over your other clothes to make one of these lovely creations:

Perhaps parties and costumes are simply too much. If so, you could always just send a Halloween themed postcard to some of your friends wishing them a happy Halloween on this “spooky night.” That’s what a woman named Anna did with this postcard titled “Hallowe’en Precautions” from 1909.

Found in the Collection: Prescriptions…for Cigars?!

by Leigh Westphal, Museum Coordinator

The Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center recently acquired a lovely collection of cigar boxes from, what might seem today, a very unlikely source.  The boxes were found in the basement of the former City Drug building at the southwest corner of College and Mountain Avenues when City Drug moved to their new location. The  old builing was being prepared for renovation and they found cigar boxes. A LOT of cigar boxes.

However, this was not just a simple collection of novelty boxes (nor the trail of a cigar afficianado),  because inside each box was a stack of papers and the exterior of each box was labeled with a strip of tape with a set of numbers hand-written on it. This was the filing system for the drug store’s filled prescriptions  dating all the way back to 1919.  Genius!  In an age when computers were non-existant, someone came up with a cohesive, compact, and organized fashion of storing these documents.

One of the earlier boxes, circa 1919

So, why did City Drug keep the prescription slips in the first place and why would the museum want them now?  The slips contain private medical information about individuals within the community that would have been difficult to disposed of in a discreet manner.  Moreover, as fellow collections staff member Ashley Houston and I cleared the dust off this collection – literally – we also uncovered trends for Fort Collins, such as population growth, the appearance of female doctors, spikes in prescriptions in relation to certain times/months/seasons  of the year, and the popularity of certain drugs during specific time periods.

Collections Assistant Ashley Houston in her "hazmat" gear getting all those numbered boxes in order

As lovely as the cigar boxes may have been, the prescription slips were removed, cleaned and rehoused in archival boxes to be stored in the museum.

From the Collection: Japanese fairy tales

by Ashley Houston, Collections Assistant

Today’s fun find in the Museum’s collections is a set of 20 small books. Books, yay! Wait…yay? Actually, they are much more than simply books, these little guys are Japanese fairy tales told in English. They immediately caught my eye because of the beautiful crepe paper they are printed on, their colorful illustrations, and their delightful titles such as The Silly Jelly Fish. Looking more into the history of these books, I found out that they were produced from mulberry trees to make them lightweight and durable. In Japan, these books are known as “chirimen-bon” or crepe paper books. The writing and the illustrations were created through woodblock printing. This process involved an artist who carved the illustrations and then dipped the image in ink before the paper was stamped. To speed up the process, two pages were printed on one sheet and then folded down the middle before binding. This creates a little pouch, which is why the process is named “fukuro-toji” or pouch binding.

These little books were made by Takejiro Hasegawa, who put them into production in the 1880s all the way through the 1930s. They were used to help teach Japanese children English, but more often they were intended specifically for Westerners as unique souvenirs. Takejiro’s relationship with Presbyterian missionaries helped him develop the idea to create these books and market them to Westerners. The popularity of the books grew even more when Takejiro sent shipments of them to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. In the following years, he employed translators not only for the English books, but for books in German, French, and Dutch.

I’d love to tell you when our set was made, but unfortunately dating them is easier said than done. What we do know is that these books originally belonged to a Japanese missionary family. Our records say they were given to the family by a “well-known” Japanese author. Who that author was, it doesn’t state, but it does say that the daughter’s name was Ione Nelson. Ione was born in Japan in 1906 where her family lived until 1921. Her family could have received the books at any point during this time or possibly earlier. Her father originally came to Japan in 1890 for a few years and returned in 1900. These books would have been perfect for the family. As a missionary, her father taught English to Japanese children, while Ione and her siblings probably enjoyed them as well. These little books traveled a long way with Ione to eventually end up here in our Museum and we couldn’t be happier!

From the Collection: Archives in iron

by Linda Moore, Collections Curator

Branding iron collection at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center

Note: This entry utilizes information from “The History and Practice of Branding: A Guide for the Branding Iron Collection at the Fort Collins Museum” (2007) by former Fort Collins Museum intern Maren Bzdek.

As we continue working through the Museum’s artifact collections this month, preparing things for our eventual Big Move, we’ve turned up another set of eloquent objects: our branding irons. The Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center has a collection of forty-one hand-forged branding irons, which come in a variety of designs and sizes; all but four of which would have been used to mark cattle’s hide. The other four, noticeably smaller irons would have been used on horses or mules. The handles of the irons in the Museum range from about two and a half feet, to just over four feet long. This is about typical, apparently. Irons any shorter than two feet long require that the hand wielding them be protected with a heavy gauntlet or glove; the longer irons provide enough distance from the heated end for their handles to keep cool.

The size of the marking end of a branding iron is a clue to its age. Cattle and horse branding irons were made in a wide variety of sizes throughout the nineteenth century, but became quite standardized at the turn of the twentieth century. At this time the growing market for hides lead to a reduction in brand size to five inches for adult cattle and three inches for younger animals. Of course, the most important piece of information carried by an iron is in the unique design of an iron’s brand. Way back in 1867 ranchers in Colorado founded the organization which is now known as the Colorado Cattleman’s Association to register brand designs. It is the oldest group of its kind to have continuously operated in the United States. At the Association’s brand board office in Denver giant Rolodexes record brands going back to Colorado’s earliest ranching days. The State’s Department of Agriculture maintains a registry of brands as well. The history preserved in these brand registries reflects the presence and movements of individuals who, without land ownership or formal employment, are not likely to appear in any other type of record.

Prominent Western writer Ivan Doig brought the historic significance of branding irons into the news recently, when he made a large donation to the Montana Historical Society to fund the conversion of Montana’s state branding records to microfilm. This makes the records more accessible and usable to researchers; since the conversion these records have become the third-most-used collection in the State Library’s collection–right behind newspapers and marriage records. “Branding irons are the classic language of the American West,” Doig said at the time of his donation. The author’s own father, a Montana sheepherder, is untraceable in the state’s property records, but is associated with several livestock brands registered in these newly accessible records.

S Bar branding iron

S Bar

The S Bar brand was registered to James H. Swan, who lived in Livermore and operated Swan’s Hotel on the North Fork of the Poudre. He and his wife, Julia M. Doane, homesteaded a 160-acre claim on the Poudre in 1869 where they developed a farming and ranching operation.

Running iron

Running Iron

Both cattle thieves and legitimate cowhands used simple running irons like this one for freehand branding—to create fresh brands or to alter existing ones. A straight bar could be used to change a “C” to an “O,” an “F” to an “E,” or an “R” to a “B.” To make the new marks look old, skilled “brand artists” would place a wet blanket between the hide and the branding implement to more effectively run old and new together. Though most states eventually made running irons illegal, rustlers continued their nefarious craft, using horseshoes, bailing wire, and riding bits to alter brands.

“Howe” did this get here? Part 2: Finding the trail of the Howe lynching

by Ashley Houston, Collections Assistant

In the first installment of this post, I talked about two mysterious items we found in our collection: a knife and a piece of rope that have been traced to the hanging of James Howe, Fort Collins’ only lynching.

To round out my research on Fort Collins’ only lynching, I went with my coworker Museum Coordinator Leigh Westphal to find the modern-day sites of where the murder happened, where the house is now, and the location of the hanging. As it turns out, the house that the Howes lived in is still standing…though not in its original location. You might recognize the original location, though — it’s on Walnut Street in Old Town where the former Goodwill building is now standing.

The Howes’ house was moved in 1947 to W. Myrtle where it still resembles its original form, except a second door on the front has been filled in and a porch roof has been added.

Original Howe house on Walnut Street

Howe house in its current location on Myrtle Street

Next stop was to find the courthouse. The courthouse that was standing at the time of the lynching has since been torn down and rebuilt, but the modern edition stands in the same place as the original. Howe was hung from a derrick used during the construction of the old courthouse. It is the one you can see to the right if you look close enough in this old picture. The derrick was standing at the south end of the building where the entrance is now located.

Original courthouse under construction

Current courthouse, same orientation

Another view of the south side of the Larimer County courthouse

So while we tracked down some of the mysteries surrounding the knife and rope that the Museum has in its possession, many questions still remain. Nevertheless, it’s always fun to learn something new about Fort Collins history — hopefully you learned something new, too!

From the Collection: “Howe” did this get here?

by Ashley Houston, Collections Assistant

We have been finding all kinds of objects within our collection while we prepare for the move to the new museum. Unfortunately, the histories behind many of these objects are shrouded in mystery. Many of the materials come from the old Pioneer Museum and do not have very good records. Like many museums, they took in objects, displayed them, and then stored them away without writing about their history for future generations. This can lead to some very frustrated museum staff!

Some of the time, we get lucky and are able to recover quite a bit of information on objects, but other times we are left with a lot of unanswered questions. A few months ago, I was going through some boxes of archival materials (mostly old letters, newspapers, etc.) when I pulled out an envelope that had some bulky objects inside. I opened it up and out slid an old knife and a piece of a rope! With these objects were an old museum label and two newspaper articles. The rope, it is said, was from Fort Collins’ only lynching. The knife…well, that’s one of those unanswered questions. In faded black ink, written on the blade, is “Thomas H. Davy, Sheriff” along with “April 4, 1888.”

The Story of the Howe Lynching

James Henry Howe was married to Eva Schuyler. James was known to drink a lot and often took out his aggression on his wife. According to newspapers, on April 3, 1888, James came home and assaulted his wife. Eva called the police, but refused to have him arrested. The next morning, James left the house. Eva dropped their 5-year old daughter Gertie off at a neighbor’s house, then returned home and began packing and making arrangements to leave him.

Before she could finish, James returned home. According to a neighbor’s sworn statement, Eva cried out “Murder!” before she fell to her hands and knees through the front door. James then cut her under the left side of her jaw. She got up, cried “Murder!” again before finally collapsing. By this time, other witnesses arrived and a doctor was summoned, but by the time the doctor arrived Eva was dead.

When the police took James into custody he claimed that “She has cut her own throat and tried to cut mine.” He did have two shallow cuts on his neck, but as to who started the fight, the answer was never found. Eva ended up with cuts on both sides of her neck, one on the palm of her left hand, one on the back of her right hand, and a bruise on her right knee. At 8 p.m. the lights in the city were cut and a mob formed at the jail. The mob took him outside to the courthouse and hung him. Both James and Eva were brought to Grandview cemetery to be buried next to each other. You won’t find their headstones though, if you attempt to look because they do not have any. As to why that is the case, one can only guess. The Howes had money. In fact, the account of their burial states that they were buried in “beautiful dark mahogany caskets.”

As for the knife and rope that we have…According to the old label, the knife belonged to the Sheriff, but why does it have the date that James Henry Howe was lynched written on it? Other than the fact that Davy was the Sheriff at the time, the knife does not seem to make a lot of sense. It is not the murder weapon (the terrifying thought that first crossed my mind) – the knife James used was a lot smaller. Next I thought perhaps it was the knife that was used to cut James down, but according to the newspapers the coroner was the one to do that. So at this point, it remains an unsolved mystery.

As for the rope, the old label said that it belonged to Thomas Pendergast. A Thomas Pendergast was living in Fort Collins at the beginning of the 1900s, so it’s possible he was there at the time of the lynching and kept a piece of the rope as a grisly souvenir. The rope also has a faded blue silk ribbon tied around one end that reads “Reina Victoria.” As it turns out this piece of fabric looks like ribbon that once was used to tie cigars together, and cigar ribbons like these date to around the same time period as the lynching. Both of these artifacts seem to be from the time period of the lynching and so therefore could actually be artifacts from the event.

Next week we’ll publish part 2 of this blog — “Finding the Trail of the Howe Lynching”

March 2023

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