On April 23, 1859, William Byers lifted the very first issue of the Rocky Mountain News from the press at his Cherry Creek office above a saloon.
In the wee hours of February 27, 2009, Rocky Mountain News pressman, Robert P. Rowland, lifted the final copy of the venerable tabloid off the press in the printing plant on the edge of the now massive city of Denver.
Both of these pieces of Colorado history are currently housed in the Western History/Genealogy Department at the Denver Public Library.
The first edition of the RMN is one of the crown jewels of our Western History Collection and beautifully captures the excitement and optimism of the men and women who founded the City of Denver. Byers believed that Denver was something special and could barely wait to get here to start up his newspaper. In fact, he laid out much of typeface and sold advertising long before he ever arrived in what would become the Mile High City.
Sadly, the Rocky Mountain News Final Day Collection is a somewhat more bittersweet experience. Besides the final copy of the paper to roll off the press, this collection includes printing plates for the edition and DVD/CD copies as well. The optimism Byers had in 1859 was a distant memory for the folks who were tasked with the difficult duty of putting the paper to rest for the final time.
Using the RMN at DPL
The first and last editions of the Rocky Mountain News are just part of a sprawling RMN collection the library owns, which includes its entire run on microfilm; as well as its photo and clipping archives.
It should be noted that DPL does keep hard copies of the news from 1859-1948 in our basement storage facility, but, due to their extremely fragile nature, they are only brought out under very rare circumstances. While the first and last Rocky are fun to look at, and definitely have historical value, this is where the real meat for researchers lies.
Whether you're looking for an obituary that ran in 1905 or that picture of your mom's basketball team that ran in 1975, you can easily access it in WH/G. Even better, our microfilm readers are attached to PCs, so you can save RMN photos and stories on a USB; on cloud storage services such as Dropbox; or you can simply e-mail the files to yourself for later use.
When the RMN shuttered its doors in 2009, DPL acquired a massive photo and clipping archive that our catalogers have been working very hard to make available to the public. After more than a year's worth of work, the first batch of those photos (more than 300,000 of them) are now available through our Digital Collections site.
DPL is honored to be the steward of the Rocky Mountain News' legacy and our staff is working diligently to make certain that DPL customers can take full advantage of these collections for many decades to come.
What years are covered in your first batch of photographs on line?
Hi There - The first batch covers, roughly, 1999-2009. Enjoy!
I yawned a lot reading this article.
Fascinating stuff! Enjoyed the first edition of the Rocky!
I am very interested—my dad was a pressman at RMN and I can't wait to ask him questions and maybe even he would like to look at the records with me, explain, and show me where his friends and he did different tasks.
Thanks to DPL for preserving history of so many people, stories.