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Historic Materials

Available in the Library


The Western History book collection is a significant representation of Western Americana. Over 200,000 volumes, old and new, are searchable through the library catalog. In The New Encyclopedia of the American West, edited by Howard Lamar, Sterling Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University, the Western History Department's book and manuscript collections are listed along with the Bancroft Library, the Newberry Library, the Huntington Library and Yale University as being among "the most important holdings" of western material.

Over the years, the department has acquired some specially-printed and rare books that are not western history-themed. A page from the Gutenberg Bible, a Kelmscott Press edition of Canterbury Tales, and the Audubon Elephant Folio are examples of items we own.

Newspaper Clippings

Seventy-five years ago, librarians started clipping newspaper articles and acquiring pamphlets on Denver and Colorado that could later be used for historical purposes. Today these items are vital tools used by professional researchers, schoolchildren, and the interested public. The department maintains three entire shelf ranges of clippings, divided into biographical, Denver and Colorado, and general subjects. One can find articles on Denver pioneers and town builders, as well as on early visitors to Denver like Oscar Wilde and Carrie Nation. One can find articles on the parks, the mayors, and Denver societies and clubs, as well as articles on Colorado towns, labor struggles in mining areas, stagecoaching, cattle ranching, women's suffrage, and agriculture.

Western History Subject Index

One of the unique treasures of the department is the extensive Western History Subject Index (formerly the General Index) card file that contains more than seven million entries on four million cards. Developed over the last century, it provides access to newspapers, local histories, biographical works, newsletters and journals.

The Western History Subject Index is an every-name index of The Rocky Mountain News from 1865-85 (a WPA project) and a partial index to other Denver newspapers from the late 1800s to early 1990s. The Western History Subject Index is one of the most important research tools available to the public. One historian said of it:

"All hail to the generations of librarians and Denver taxpayers who have supported, built, and maintained such a superb research tool."


Ephemera are short-lived items like tickets, receipts, invitations and posters that were created for a single purpose and were never meant to be saved for posterity or reused. Many such items now provide historical evidence of past ways of life, artistic styles, and values of our predecessors. Search the Digital Collections for ephemera using terms like "ephemera," "broadsides," "tickets," "advertisements," or "posters."

Trade Catalogs

The DPL trade catalog collection is substantial and represents a variety of local and regional companies, with a great range of products being advertised. Catalogs, brochures, price lists, and some company histories can be found in the collection. Some representative catalogs are those of: The Mine and Smelter Supply Company, Hendrie & Bolthoff Manufacturing & Supply Company, Barteldes Seed Company, and The C. S. Morey Mercantile Company. Researchers can find answers to their questions about the design of an item, who made it, its date of manufacture, and its intended use.

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A Train Ticket from The Denver & Rio Grande and The Rio Grande Western.

A Train Ticket from The Denver & Rio Grande and The Rio Grande Western.

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Updated: June 25, 2013