How much state knowledge do you have? | AspenTimes.com

How much state knowledge do you have?

Tim Willoughby
Aspen Times Weekly

Willoughby photoWhose state flower is this?

Do you remember studying your state history and government? Perhaps you learned important lessons about the structure of government, dates such as when your state entered the union, and less serious items — like your state flower. In today’s transient America, those eighth-grade and high-school lessons may seem irrelevant. In the days when most people died in the same state where they were born, the required subject matter sometimes sparkled with appeal.

I found “Civil Government of Colorado” by D.R. Hatch buried in the piles of books I saved from my deceased aunt’s garage. Copyrighted in 1892 and revised in 1895, that book became Aspen Public School’s government/state history textbook. The author wrote the book expressly for use at Golden High School. In the introduction he states, “I omit many things of interest and importance because of the formative condition of our institutions.” The Colorado Constitution consumes one third of the book; the remainder presents explanations of terms and processes of state and local government. If contemporary students were to study the level of detail that Hatch presented, there would be little confusion about government processes.

If you missed a course in Colorado history and government, or if you forgot everything you learned in eighth grade, I offer the following party conversation-starters.

Die-hard Colorado natives feel appalled that from 1845 to 1850 a portion of our state laid within the boundaries of Texas. Texas sold that land to the United States in 1850. Other portions of Colorado belonged at one time to Mexico or were attached to the territories of Missouri, Utah, New Mexico or Kansas.

As the Centennial State, Colorado could copy much of its constitution from other states, but not all of those gave towns and cities the power to regulate the storage of explosives, a vital power in a mining state. Homeland Security might take issue with that power today. Colorado granted to municipalities the power to regulate and to inspect steam boilers. A state official, the steam boiler inspector, held the responsibility to inspect every boiler in the state once a year. In the 1880s, nearly every commercial building and mine had a steam boiler!

The stocking of rivers and lakes resonates with our current tourist economy, but that function was valued all the way back to the 1870s. The state constitution provided for a Fish Commissioner who, “has the supervision of all fish cultural matters of the State, receives and distributes eggs and young fish, appoints a superintendent of the state hatcheries, etc.”

Recommended Stories For You

Even before the days of automobiles, legislators and other officials were reimbursed for mileage. In 1895 they collected 15 cents per mile. As a legislator earning $7 per day, an Aspen representative would make more in mileage traveling to the state capitol. The governor fared better, receiving a salary of $5,000 a year. To be governor you had to have been a resident of Colorado for two years before the election and be at least 30 years old. To be secretary of state or attorney general you only had to be 25.

The governor serves as the commander-in-chief of the militia, an important power in the days when governors favored mine owners by using the militia to squash union strikes. The governor was also empowered to call out the militia in case Colorado was invaded.

The state militia was given special treatment. “Every able-bodied male citizen of Colorado and those who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, between the ages of 18 and 45, unless exempt by law, is liable to military duty.” Idiots, lunatics, convicts, judges, ministers and county clerks were exempt. The constitution also exempted “person(s) having conscientious scruples against bearing arms,” but that person had to pay for the exemption.

Have you complained about potholes? When the Colorado Constitution was drawn up there was a road poll tax. “Every able-bodied man, except residents of towns and cities, between the ages of 21 and 50 is required to pay the road overseer of his district a road poll-tax of $1.50 every year.”

Are you having problems getting your allotment of water from an irrigation ditch? In 1891 the water commissioner divided the water and had the power to arrest anyone in violation of his adjudication.

If we formed our state today, we might establish a ski management college. Colorado, at the same time it established the University of Colorado and an insane asylum, created the State School of Mines in Golden.

Hatch’s book was flawed with only one significant omission, the state flower. The columbine was not enacted into law as the state flower until 1899, after the book was published but before my aunt was assigned to read the book.

Do you remember studying your state history and government? Perhaps you learned important lessons about the structure of government, dates such as when your state entered the union, and less serious items — like your state flower. In today’s transient America, those eighth-grade and high-school lessons may seem irrelevant. In the days when most people died in the same state where they were born, the required subject matter sometimes sparkled with appeal.

I found “Civil Government of Colorado” by D.R. Hatch buried in the piles of books I saved from my deceased aunt’s garage. Copyrighted in 1892 and revised in 1895, that book became Aspen Public School’s government/state history textbook. The author wrote the book expressly for use at Golden High School. In the introduction he states, “I omit many things of interest and importance because of the formative condition of our institutions.” The Colorado Constitution consumes one third of the book; the remainder presents explanations of terms and processes of state and local government. If contemporary students were to study the level of detail that Hatch presented, there would be little confusion about government processes.

If you missed a course in Colorado history and government, or if you forgot everything you learned in eighth grade, I offer the following party conversation-starters.

Die-hard Colorado natives feel appalled that from 1845 to 1850 a portion of our state laid within the boundaries of Texas. Texas sold that land to the United States in 1850. Other portions of Colorado belonged at one time to Mexico or were attached to the territories of Missouri, Utah, New Mexico or Kansas.

As the Centennial State, Colorado could copy much of its constitution from other states, but not all of those gave towns and cities the power to regulate the storage of explosives, a vital power in a mining state. Homeland Security might take issue with that power today. Colorado granted to municipalities the power to regulate and to inspect steam boilers. A state official, the steam boiler inspector, held the responsibility to inspect every boiler in the state once a year. In the 1880s, nearly every commercial building and mine had a steam boiler!

The stocking of rivers and lakes resonates with our current tourist economy, but that function was valued all the way back to the 1870s. The state constitution provided for a Fish Commissioner who, “has the supervision of all fish cultural matters of the State, receives and distributes eggs and young fish, appoints a superintendent of the state hatcheries, etc.”

Even before the days of automobiles, legislators and other officials were reimbursed for mileage. In 1895 they collected 15 cents per mile. As a legislator earning $7 per day, an Aspen representative would make more in mileage traveling to the state capitol. The governor fared better, receiving a salary of $5,000 a year. To be governor you had to have been a resident of Colorado for two years before the election and be at least 30 years old. To be secretary of state or attorney general you only had to be 25.

The governor serves as the commander-in-chief of the militia, an important power in the days when governors favored mine owners by using the militia to squash union strikes. The governor was also empowered to call out the militia in case Colorado was invaded.

The state militia was given special treatment. “Every able-bodied male citizen of Colorado and those who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, between the ages of 18 and 45, unless exempt by law, is liable to military duty.” Idiots, lunatics, convicts, judges, ministers and county clerks were exempt. The constitution also exempted “person(s) having conscientious scruples against bearing arms,” but that person had to pay for the exemption.

Have you complained about potholes? When the Colorado Constitution was drawn up there was a road poll tax. “Every able-bodied man, except residents of towns and cities, between the ages of 21 and 50 is required to pay the road overseer of his district a road poll-tax of $1.50 every year.”

Are you having problems getting your allotment of water from an irrigation ditch? In 1891 the water commissioner divided the water and had the power to arrest anyone in violation of his adjudication.

If we formed our state today, we might establish a ski management college. Colorado, at the same time it established the University of Colorado and an insane asylum, created the State School of Mines in Golden.

Hatch’s book was flawed with only one significant omission, the state flower. The columbine was not enacted into law as the state flower until 1899, after the book was published but before my aunt was assigned to read the book.