Posts Tagged 'Local History Archive'

From the Archive: Scanned Maps

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Local History Archive

Did you know the Fort Collins Local History Archive has nearly 50 historical maps that are scanned and available for viewing online at the Fort Collins History Connection website?

1881 Map of Fort Collins

If you search for “scanned maps” on the History Connection website, you’ll be able to explore maps dating from the 1880s to the 1980s that depict Colorado and Larimer County. You can also view a scanned aerial photograph of Fort Collins in 1977. Any guesses as to what and where this is?

One of my favorite scanned maps in the collection is entitled “Map of the Irrigated Farms of Northern Colorado, 1915.”

This map measures nearly 27 square feet and shows detailed property ownership for  parts of Larimer, Weld, and Boulder County, and speaks to how critical farmland irrigation was and continues to be in our semi-arid climate. You can view this map, scanned in four pieces and indexed by owner name, right here!


Congratulations to volunteer Jackie Smith

by Amy Scott, Volunteer Coordinator and Director of Visitor Services

The Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center would like to applaud our own Local History Archive volunteer Jackie Smith on earning his most recent President’s Volunteer Service Award. This award honors Americans who have served their communities with distinction. In recognition of his exemplary service, Jackie has received a lapel pin, congratulatory letter from President Obama, and a certificate of achievement.

Super volunteer Jackie Smith at work in the Local HIstory Archive

Jackie began volunteering in the Local History Archive in 2002, when it was still located at the Fort Collins Public Library. Over the years, he has scanned and written up information from thousands of tax records for inclusion in the Archive’s collection. He has also worked extensively with a collection of several thousand negatives donated by Eugene Hancock, a photographer and editor of the Fort Collins Express newspaper.

An invaluable volunteer, Jackie continues scanning collections of old photos in the Local History Archive at its present location in the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center. He has put in approximately 3,300 hours in the Archive so far. According to Local History Archive Curator Lesley Drayton, “Jackie is an incredible volunteer in the Local History Archive. He’s the one who scans all of the wonderful historic Fort Collins photographs that can be found on the History Connection website. He’s amazingly organized and efficient; this year alone he has scanned over 600 images that we have added to our database. This work simply couldn’t get done without his time and effort, and he does it all with a great sense of humor and a smile.”

Jackie has great interest in the photographs he scans, and he enjoys seeing the progression of Fort Collins history though them. What he likes best about volunteering, however, is working with the people he has met. They become like family, Jackie says. Well, we are certainly proud to have Jackie in our Museum family, and we join the President in thanking him for the difference he has made in the Local History Archive and in our community. Bravo!

From the Archive: Spectacular spectacles

by Lesley Drayton, Curator of the Fort Collins Local History Archive

True visionaries in Italy invented eyeglasses in the 1200s, but specs didn’t start becoming fashion statements until the Victorian era. During the mid-20th century, improved plastics allowed bespectacled folks to let their personality shine through their lenses. Take a gander at these examples of Fort Collins residents in their high-style eyewear from the 1950s and 60s! (Names have been suppressed to protect the innocent.)

Do you wear glasses? Do you have fond memories of a certain pair? Add a comment!

From the Archive: Shave and a Haircut …

by Lesley Drayton, Curator of the Fort Collins Local History Archive

While going through a folder of photographs that includes Fort Collins businesses beginning with the letter “B” (encompassing Bakeries, Billiard Parlors, Blacksmiths and more!), I found this wonderful picture of the Campus Barbershop that was located at 647 South College in the early 1920s. What is so much fun about this photograph are the details that come to light after scanning the image at high resolution, from bottles of Lucky Tiger aftershave tonic lining the countertops to the hair on the floor. My favorite detail in the barbershop is the sign hanging against the back wall. It reads: “Do Not Ask For Credit. We need the money. If you can’t RAISE the PRICE, RAISE WHISKERS.” Duly noted, gentlemen!

Mystery cracked: Only a shell of what it once was!

by Ashley Houston, Collection Dept. Intern

When I started researching the Berry Egg collection several weeks ago, I never imagined what kind of tantalizing information I would uncover. One source led me to another source, and to another, and so on. There were so many questions I had wanted to answer!

The first one that I set out to find was how Mr. Berry had made such perfect and tiny holes in the small and delicate eggs to extract its contents. And for that matter, how did he do it with just one hole? Growing up, whenever I blew eggs for Easter I would make a small hole in the top and in the bottom and blow in one hole for the contents to escape out of the other one. It not only led to two holes, but my holes were also jagged and sometimes cracked the egg. So how, then, did John Berry create such a perfect little hole? Well, after reading about the practices of Ornithologists (who study birds) and Oologists (who study bird eggs) I found that even back in the late 1880s, oologists had started perfecting their techniques for preserving bird eggs. It involved a set of very small drills and a blowpipe. To prepare an egg, one would start with a very small needle to pierce the shell. Once that was completed, the drills would be used to make the perfectly cut holes in each of the eggs. Finally, a very small pipe was used to blow air into the hole causing the contents to bubble out and around where the air was coming in. Accomplishing this task successfully meant that only one hole in each egg would need to drilled. So, of course, finally answering this question means that a little experimentation needs to be done! I fully intend to test this out on an egg from the grocery store, and invite others to try it as well! For my blowpipe, I figured I would use one of those coffee stir sticks that are essentially extremely small straws and see if I can make a hole as small as Mr. Berry’s ones.

The next questions I wanted to answer were just who exactly was John T. Berry , and why did he collect nearly 500 eggs? A trip into the Local History Archive revealed that we had a vertical file on John and his wife with newspaper articles and a transcript of an oral history from his step-daughter. Turns out, Mr. Berry was a stone worker in Stout, the town that in now buried under Horsetooth reservoir. He owned a farm right outside Spring Canyon, which was the main entrance from Fort Collins to Stout that was filled in when they made the reservoir. This information only led to more questions, however. If he was a stone worker in Stout, why did he have a collection card from the Colorado Agricultural College? More digging finally brought the answer — W.L. Burnett. Mr. Burnett wrote an article in 1915 discussing how he was in debt to Mr. Berry for helping him collect information on the local birds. Apparently, Mr. Berry’s farm was a favorite place for birds to stop and nest. At the very end of the article, after a list of birds they had found, many of which are the ones now in our collection, was the words “Colorado Agricultural College.” There it was! Mr. Berry’s connection to the college and where the note card came from. William L. Burnett had worked in the Entomology and Zoology department of the college as the Deputy State Entomologist and Museum Curator. With the help of John Berry, Burnett was able to discover and record bird species that were not yet known in Larimer County and Colorado. He reported many of his findings to the Cooper Ornithological Society, who in turn, published them in their magazine, The Condor. So as it all works out, John T. Berry wasn’t just some man who collected bird eggs as a hobby, he was also indirectly responsible for expanding the field of ornithology in Colorado. What an exciting find!

From the Archive: Traffic jam

by Lesley Drayton, Curator of the Fort Collins Local History Archive

Take a peek at one of my favorite photographs of historic Fort Collins. Legend has it that this image, taken by local photographer H.C. Bradley circa 1908, shows every automobile in Fort Collins at the time. That’s right folks–about a century ago, every single car in Fort Collins fit into the intersection of Oak Street and College Avenue.

Apparently it is also one of the earliest shots of the then brand-new municipal railway system in Fort Collins. Can you find the streetcar in the picture?

From the Archive: Urban wildlife

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Local History Archive

How about a little historical inspiration for the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center’s Urban Wildlife Photo Challenge? Fort Collins residents have been photographing the wild creatures that share our environment for years.

In this photo from 1992, a family of geese crosses Mountain Avenue at the entrance to City Park.

geese crossing road

Raccoons peer out of this sewer grate at the corner of Magnolia and Gordon Streets. This photo appeared in a 1992 issue of the Fort Collins Triangle Review newspaper.


Max Hancock is having an up-close and personal visit with some chipmunks at the Deer Ridge Chalet in Estes Park in 1934.


If you’re feeling inspired to participate in our Urban Wildlife Challenge, don’t hold back! You can read more about the project here, or take a look at what other people have contributed to the project in our Flickr Urban Wildlife Challenge group. Join in!

From the Archive: Stand up straight!

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Local History Archive

The Fort Collins Local History Archive recently received a wonderful donation of scrapbooks from the Fort Collins chapter of Quota Club International, an organization founded in 1919 by and for professional women that is known for its service to “deaf, hard-of-hearing, and speech-impaired individuals and disadvantaged women and children.”

Quota Club International granted its 121st charter to Fort Collins, Colorado on June 12, 1940. The 16 charter members, referred to by the local newspaper as “the city’s leading business and professional women,” focused club efforts on promoting “girl’s service work, good citizenship, crime prevention, extending friendly relations, promoting world peace, and gaining recognition for the achievement of women.”

Fort Collins, Colorado Quota Club Charter Dinner

Fort Collins, Colorado Quota Club Charter Dinner

The group has since maintained thirteen scrapbooks spanning over 60 years that chronicle the members, events, and activities of the club. These fantastic scrapbooks provide a unique glimpse of life for women in Fort Collins over the last half-century. You can view the full finding aid for the collection here on the Fort Collins History Connection website.

One particularly charming entry in the 1940-1959 scrapbook details a posture contest for young ladies, sponsored in part by the Quota Club, which took place in the early 1940s. The contest was described as such:

Each girl had a silhouette picture made at the beginning of the contest. From the picture, she was able to tell what exercises and improvements she needed to attain a better posture. After several months of corrective work, another silhouette picture was made, and the winners were chosen from these.”

quota posture

Look at the way this young lady improved her posture from September 1941 to May 1942. Sure enough, she won the first prize of ten dollars that year.

Hail, hail

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

It hailed Monday night. I know this because I awoke to find my marigolds mangled and the hood of my car looking like the craters of the moon (speaking of the moon, be sure to come see our new temporary exhibit, To the Moon and Back, starting July 25th!). Growing up on the East Coast means that I’m unfamiliar with this painful variety of weather, so I did a little research. Wouldn’t you know it, the information I found was an intriguing blend of science and history. Hmm, where have we seen that before…?

First, some science:

Hail occurs when strong winds inside thunderclouds create temperatures low enough to freeze would-be raindrops into ice pellets. The interior winds move the pellets through the cloud, propelling them through warmer, wetter regions and then back into colder areas. Each time a pellet makes that cycle, a new layer of ice is added. This makes the interior profile of a hail stone look a lot like an onion. Eventually the pellets get so big that the wind can’t hold them and they drop to the ground and ding up your car (I’m not bitter, honest…). While hail storms generally last an average of 6 minutes, they still do considerable damage: $1 billion in damage to crops and property each year.

Second, some history:

Here in Fort Collins, we’re in the middle of “Hail Alley,” a 625 square-mile area near where the borders of Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming intersect. Hail Alley gets 9-11 hailstorms per year, more than any other area in North America, in part because of our proximity to the mountains, which encourage those nasty updrafts that freeze the raindrops into ice.

Fort Collins’ worst hailstorm happened July 30th, 1979. That day, 4 ½” diameter hailstones (grapefruit-sized) fell for over 20 minutes and damaged over 2,000 homes and injured at least 25 people. One CSU atmospheric researcher estimated that some of the hailstones may have been traveling at as fast as 100mph that day. That would definitely be fast enough to split open a person’s arm to the bone and then break that bone in two places, which is exactly what happened to one 84 year old woman. While most of the other injuries that day were minor, one 3 month old baby was hit in the head and didn’t recover, becoming only the second person recorded in the United States to die as a direct result of hail.

Two photos from that historic hail storm, courtesy of the Local History Archive:

Richard Agnew and the rear window of his car from July 31, 1979 Coloradoan

Richard Agnew and the rear window of his car from July 31, 1979 Coloradoan

Grapefruit-sized hailstones that fell near 2700 Trenton Way from July 31, 1979 Coloradoan

Grapefruit-sized hailstones that fell near 2700 Trenton Way from July 31, 1979 Coloradoan

Third, some bizarre:

Along with safety concerns, hail is also an agricultural worry in Colorado because hailstones do so much damage to crops (have I mentioned what happened to my marigolds?). Enter the hail cannons! These machines claim to be shockwave generators that disrupt the formation of hailstones as they’re growing inside clouds. In southern Colorado, disputes between farmers and their less clamor-inclined neighbors have erupted (pun intended) over the noise the cannons create. Additionally, there’s also little proof that the machines are anything other than very loud lawn art, and most atmospheric scientists don’t recommend them.

So, put away your hail cannon and be prepared for more hailstorms – they’re just going to keep coming. And if you happen to think you’ve found the world’s largest hailstone, remember to send it to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. If you have, they’ll authenticate it and preserve it indefinitely.

More in the news about the Monday night hailstorm:

Pounding storm includes intense rain, hail, floods

Hail devastates Weld County farm

From the Archive: Mouse ears for the inmates!

by Lesley Drayton, Curator of the Local History Archive 

I was scrolling through microfilm of the old Fort Collins Triangle Review newspaper and came across this article from August 25, 1976 with the following headline:

county jail headline

Naturally, I had to read this article, and so do you. Here are some highlights:

One Fort Collins resident is anxiously awaiting to hear if she has won a trip to California, a new car, or cash. What makes her different is she is Mrs. Larimer County Jail.

Is the county jail a “missus” or even a woman for that matter? According to McCall’s Magazine’s latest sweepstakes contest, she is both.

Sheriff’s Capt. Jack Colwell, who is in charge of the jail, said he always wondered about Mrs. Jail’s gender until he received a letter from McCall’s. “Just think what $35,000 cash can do for you, Mrs. Jail. We would send off a check to you in Fort Collins for the full $35,000—yours to use at once.”

What’s more, McCall’s offered a possible trip to Disneyland or Disney World, with travel and lodgings on them. “I’d like to see them find accommodations for Mrs. Jail,” says Capt. Colwell. “The transportation costs alone would be terrific.”

Since Mrs. Jail is made of brick and is half a block long, Capt. Colwell doubts she will fit in the two-door sports coupe she might win, but he is interested in the seventh place prize of “very exclusive scarves.”

He said, “If they have a scarf big enough to fit Mrs. Jail, we’ll take it.”

While the jail staff isn’t sure if they will actually enter McCall’s contest, one thing is for sure. The cold steel bars will never be the same.

I scrolled ahead a few weeks through the microfilm, and it looks like Mrs. Larimer County Jail never won that trip to Disneyland. It’s too bad, really; I bet she would have loved Pirates of the Caribbean.

March 2023

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