At home in Aspen: Nerd out on local history in the Aspen Historical Society online archives

The 'boat tow' on Aspen Mountain in 1945 before ski lifts were installed. Courtesy Aspen Historical Society/ Litchfield Collection
ASPEN HISTORY ONLINE The full Aspen Historical Society archive is HERE View the photo gallery is HERE An introduction to the historic newspaper collection is HERE Listen to the oral histories HERE The Aspen Historical Society’s YouTube channel hosts video recordings of past programs, special events and tours HERE

The Wheeler/Stallard Museum has been closed since mid-March due to public health concerns about spreading the novel coronavirus, and the Aspen Historical Society’s program of tours and living history presentations are off the books for the foreseeable future.

But during stay-home orders around here, the Historical Society’s vast online resources are an entertaining and enlightening virtual rabbit hole to go down.

The nonprofit’s online archive includes nearly 30,000 historic images of Aspen and complete scanned issues of local newspapers from the founding of The Aspen Times in 1881 until 1963.

There are also free audio files of oral histories by people present at the creation of modern Aspen, including Elizabeth Paepcke.

Below are some highlights of the free, easy-to-navigate virtual collection. (If the local quarantine extends much beyond April 30, we may even find ourselves digging into the trove of Aspen High School yearbooks that go back to 1909, cemetery records and phone books dating to 1885 HERE).


I wandered around the voluminous Mary Eshbaugh Hayes archive, which includes nearly 7,000 images of her time chronicling the town for the aspen times from the 1950s through the 2010s (she died at 86 in 2015) .Here you’ll find glamorous 1960s ski shots of Sepp Uhl and Stuart Mace to contemporary party photos of folks you may know, from the Food & Wine Classic to World Cup races and the 50th anniversary of The Sundeck in 1997.

The archive also includes currated collections of historic Aspen photos by Dick and Margaret Durrance and Robert M. Chamberlain, along with some 28,000 in the main Aspen Historical Society database.

Click HERE to browse.


Digitized and easily searchable, the local newspapers from the silver mining heyday to the dawn of the ski bum era are here. With simple keyword searches, you can go back and read about the Wild West days, early explanatory journalism on skiing in the 1930s, the postwar moment when Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke first arrived in town and started talking about “the Aspen Idea,” read contemporaneous reports on the exploits of 10th Mountain Division soldiers, you can read new about the 1918 flu pandemic during the town’s “Quiet Years” era, you can skim oddball advertisements for snake oil elixirs from the 19th century and diverting tales of yore, from Doc Holliday’s obituary to Aspen’s cocaine fiends of the Theodore Roosevelt era.

Click HERE to browse.


This trove of recordings from historic Aspen figures is an entertaining introduction to modern Aspen history, and a source of wonderful tidbits for local buffs. I listened to 10th Mountain Division soldier and Aspen architect Fritz Benedict tell the wild story of how he first came to Aspen for a ski race in the winter of 1941-42, riding trains and hitch-hiking (with his skis in tow) from architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter school in Arizona.

“I broke both skis in practice but this town was so great to me those three or four days,” he recalls. “I was an imposter really. So I’ve been trying to get even with the town ever since [by] doing civic things.”

Click HERE to browse.