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Book Review – Historic Photos of Colorado Mining

Text and Captions by Ed Rains
2009 – Turner Publishing Company

Reviewed by Mike Rosso

Having spent several years as a photo restorist in Durango, working with museums in Durango, Cortez, Dolores and Silverton, I was eager to obtain a copy of Historic Photos of Colorado Mining when it was offered for review.

Historic photos of Colorado Mining

Compiled by Colorado geologist, mineralogist and mining historian Ed Rains, the 206-page hardback book is arranged in six chapters, from The Gold Rush and the Initial Mining Effort to Mining for Industry. Each chapter is introduced by a comprehensive history, each topic well researched and informative without becoming overly technical. In most cases the photographs are limited to one per page along with an accompanying description, helping to avoid the clutter found in many books of its type.

Represented in these pages are overall shots of early mining camps as well as individuals at work in the mines, helping shed light on the often treacherous and cramped conditions the early miners had to endure. One particular photograph, taken in Creede in 1892, depicts a bustling scene on the main street of the box-canyon town with wall-to-wall workers, horses, shops, and a real sense of the huge boom that mining had brought to the Colorado mountains. The ingenuity and determination of these early miners and entrepreneurs is well illustrated in photos of men operating the clunky machinery needed to remove and process the precious metals they were eager to exploit, often under extremely dangerous and harsh conditions.

One particular photo showing a miner standing over a raging creek washing his trousers is evocative of an era in which luxuries were hard to come by and men managed to make do with what their surroundings offered. Another stunning photo shows a team of 52 mules, all lined up and weighed down with 10,810 feet of wire rope about to be hauled up to the Nellie mine outside Telluride, serving as another testament to the ingenuity and perseverance of the early miners.

The photos chosen were culled from a variety of sources from the Denver Public Library to the Colorado School of Mines where Rains has served as the consulting Collections Manager for the Geology Museum.

The book is part of an extensive series of historic photo books published by Turner Publishing of Nashville, Tennessee which also includes Historic Photos of Chicago, Historic Photos of Denver and Historic Photos of Theodore Roosevelt among others.

If I have any complaints with the book it is that some of the photos are a bit dark, although the publisher reveals some touch-up and retouching was done on the historic images. Otherwise, this book is a great addition for any fan of Colorado history and particularly its mining history.