Since the Western History Department’s creation more than 70 years ago, our librarians and archivists have acquired over 5,000 manuscript collections, making our archival materials a resource of national significance. The Department’s collections span the period from 1718 to the present, with the bulk addressing the last one-and-a-half centuries. And the Department continues to actively acquire significant material within the scope of its collecting mission, including an impressive array of personal papers, diaries, journals, ledgers, scrapbooks, organization and business files, club and association papers, natural resource documents and family genealogical records. Collectively, these items bear witness to the history, growth, and development of the city of Denver, the state of Colorado, the Rocky Mountain region, and the Trans-Mississippi West. Our collection includes papers on land use, mining, agriculture and ranching, railroads, architecture, writers, artists, theaters, and organizations and businesses. Its growing collections aim to document the full complement of the region’s ethnic and racial diversity, representing African American, Hispanic, Native American, and LGBTQ communities.
A few examples of notable personal and family collections include Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, founder of the Crusade for Justice and advocate for the rights of Mexican Americans in the U.S. Southwest; Polly Baca, a Colorado state senator and Hispanic political leader active on the national political stage; the papers of Denver Mayors James Quigg Newton and Benjamin Stapleton; and the papers of Regional business is documented with such collections as the records of the Banning-Lewis Ranch, the San Miguel Cattle Company, and the Colorado Ostrich Farm. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad collection is substantial, including plans and drawings for railcars, terminal buildings, and rail lines and the Denver Parks and Recreation Department Records illustrate the growth of public green space in Denver in the early 1900s. Our architecture collections contain plans and project documents dating from the 1880s to present, and represent the works of significant regional architects such as Temple Buell (Paramount Theater), Fisher and Fisher (Phipps Mansion), Burnham Hoyt (Red Rocks Amphitheater), and Victor Hornbein and Edward White, Jr. (Denver Botanic Gardens Conservatory).
William E. Barrett (The Lilies of the Field), Leonora Mattingly Weber (young adult fiction writer), and Thomas Hornsby Ferril (Colorado Poet Laureate) are three significant authors whose manuscripts are held by the Department. Manuscripts of regional artists include the papers of Muriel Sibell Wolle, George Elbert Burr, Angelo Di Benedetto and Su Teatro, a renowned Denver arts and theater organization preserving Chicano-Latino cultural arts since the 1970s. And numerous organizations have arranged for the Library’s stewardship of their papers, including the Denver Chamber of Commerce (from the 1860s), the City Club of Denver and the Colorado AIDS Project. Notable businesses such as the Moffat Estate Company, the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, the Swedish Medical Center, and the Denver Tramway Corporation have also donated their extensive records for preservation and access. In addition, the department works with a diverse community acquisitions team for help in collecting material for future researchers, so that all library users can find some of their stories in the collections of the Denver Public Library. Research Guide