25-50-100 Years Ago
December 24, 2008
National and international trade negotiations, as well as discussions about whether the United States should at least partially return to the silver standard as the basis for its monetary system, raised hopes in Aspen for a renewed boom. The town’s fortunes plummeted in 1893 when the U.S. Congress pulled the plug on silver as the basis for the dollar and the price of silver dropped to below 50 cents an ounce. Local boosters had agitated for a return to the silver standard ever since, and The Aspen Democrat trumpeted the town’s hopes in its headlines:
SILVER WORTH ONE DOLLAR AN OUNCE; This Will Prove a Fact If the United States Government Cuts Loose From Wall Street and Cooperates With Great Britain; Moreton Frewen Shows Us How to Reap Great Benefit From Our Silver; Will We Do It?
Another bit of boosterism was a paean to John C. Osgood, coal and iron magnate of Redstone, who had been contributing to the cost of building a road from Carbondale up the Crystal River gorge, which was completed in mid-December. Plans were to continue the road to Marble, where Osgood owned the quarry, the following year.
This is one of the best pieces of road work in the state and penetrates the heart of the Elk mountain range, following the course of the Crystal River through the most picturesque section of the Rocky mountains … It is an ideal road for automobiles and it is expected that large numbers of tourists will yearly avail themselves of the opportunity to visit the largest and best marble fields in the world … It has been suggested that this automobile drive may be continued across the low divide at the head of the Crystal river, doubling back across Maroon pass down Maroon creek to Aspen and from Aspen to Carbondale, completing the greatest scenic circle in the world.
In his long-standing, broad-ranging disputes with The Aspen Daily Times, editor Charles “Cap” Dailey of The Aspen Democrat would fire off broadsides concerning his belief that the Times and its owner, B. Clark Wheeler, had corrupt dealings with the Pitkin County government, this one concerning the publication of legal announcements.
The board of county commissioners met in special session … at the request of B. Clark Wheeler, for the express purpose of allowing a warrant of $2,488 for the publication of the tax list in the Aspen Daily Times. Graft was easily apparent when the bill was considered … The Democrat in 1907 published the tax list at the full legal rate … at a cost of $1.371.72 … the difference being a steal of $1032.16. All this illegal graft was made possible because the list this year was not set according to law.
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In a later edition that same week, the editor wrote seriously and then satirically of two of the county commissioners, Powell and Smulling:
Never in the history of the county has there been such wanton waste, such an idiotic dribbling away of the public funds as during this administration … [in which] King Powell mounts his throne [and] Jester Smulling takes his little stool at the feet of his king … and both patiently await the arrival of the great mogul Attorney Lyman Hays [and of the sole member of the board with the editor’s backing] William Platt … the only commissioner that is a commissioner.
(Microfilm of The Aspen Times 1904-1909 is missing from the Colorado Historical Society’s archives. These 1908 excerpts are from The Aspen Democrat.)
Ice hockey had proved popular with Aspen athletes and spectators alike, and it was with some glee that the paper announced a resumption of games in Aspen.
Ice hockey will return … when the Aspen Allstars meet the Denver University ski team at the Aspen Highlands. A return engagement which has been called a vengeance match, the game will give local skaters an opportunity to make up for the defeat [by] the husky DU skiers last year. The match is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on the pond beside the triple A-frame restaurant building.
A group of Aspen skiers was promoting what the paper called “national competition between professionals and amateurs” in the ski racing world.
Olympic gold medal winner and former world champion Stein Eriksen, former American Olympic team members Steve Knowlton and Dick Durrance, former FIS member Pete Seibert and co-directors of the Aspen Ski School Friedl Pfeifer and Fred Iselin have formed a committee to promote such an event … sending letters out now to ranking skiers around the country touting a national ski open, comparable to the existing open tournament for golfers.
A scarcity of snow prompted local officials to investigate the possibility of using science to force snow from the clouds.
After numerous meetings and several false starts, residents of Aspen decided this week to gamble $3,617 in an attempt to produce more snow by seeding the clouds during the next month. The decision was made … at a special meeting of lodge owners and members of the Chamber of Commerce [after a week of talks with] Irving Krick’s weather modification firm. Krick will ring the area with eight to 10 ground generators … to send silver iodide into the clouds upwind from the city. However, no guarantee of results could be made.
Under the headline, “Drunks can leave their cars in peace instead of in pieces,” the paper announced the inauguration of the Tipsy Taxi Service. The service, designed to provide public subsidies for taxi rides as a way of keeping drunk drivers off the road, remains active today.
People who’ve had a little too much to drink will be eligible for a ticket [from the bartender], which they can exchange for a free ride with one of the city’s two taxi companies. Actually, says Deputy Sheriff Ellen Anderson, the service isn’t for those who are the type to plan on getting drunk. However, the program may serve to expose those habitual drinkers and encourage them to seek help.
Local weather watchers were reporting record amounts of snow falling on the local mountains and in the local streets and neighborhoods.
That snow building up on roofs is not only picturesque but it could be dangerous. According to Jim Markalunas, director of the Aspen Water Department, “Roofs could collapse.” The snowfall for December already is 46 inches as of Dec. 21. The record December snowfall was in 1951, with 58.3 inches of snow.
The controversy surrounding plans for the Centennial affordable housing complex, then known as the Phase IV employee housing project, had prompted a group of local landowners to begin working to bring the project into city jurisdiction.
Local attorney Ashley Anderson told the Aspen Times this week that … a group of anonymous landowners are dedicated to blocking the Phase IV project [and] has prepared petitions designed to trigger an annexation election, which could bring the Phase IV land ” along with Williams Addition and possibly the Silverking Apartment Complex ” under city control. The attorney confirmed that the group he is working for consists mostly of Williams Addition homeowners who object to having the housing project for a neighbor.