Celebrating Colorado’s Semicentennial

Title: Celebrating Colorado’s Semicentennial 

Date: August 3, 1926 

Location: Paul Smith’s, NY 

Context: Coolidge delivers a speech over the radio celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Colorado’s admission into the union, in which he recounts the state’s history and stresses the importance of the states in our federal system.

In order to have a complete realization of the genius, the power and the spirit of our country it is necessary to study the history of each of its forty-eight Commonwealths. In no way could the seeker after the realities of our national life be more richly rewarded.

Today our attention is fixed upon Colorado, which is observing the fiftieth anniversary of her entrance into statehood. The whole nation takes great pleasure in having a part in your celebration, for all your sister States are rejoicing in your remarkable accomplishments.

In your story we find romance, appeal to the imagination, striking exemplification of untiring courage, the pioneer spirit, the adaptability to surroundings and of the ultimate working out of a progressive civilization. Well may the centennial State be proud of her record. Her history is associated with some of the important dates and figures of our nation. The same year brings her semicentennial and the sesquicentennial of the United States–the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

It is related that Spanish explorers in the middle of the sixteenth century first set foot on the soil of what is now Colorado, and that Escalante visited there in 1776. But virtually it remained an unknown area until Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike of the United States Army, in 1806, discovered the peak that became his memorial. Ten years later Major Stephen H. Long, also an army man, gave his name to another peak towering into the sky for more than fourteen thousand feet. Nowhere in the world does scenery surpass that of Colorado. She has a mountainous area six times that of Switzerland. Nature wrought her with a lavish hand. Long was followed by Dick Wootan, Jim Barker, Kit Carson and a long line of fur traders, and by John C. Fremont, whose fifth expedition ended in 1853. 

In 1858 came the discovery of gold, that precious metal which from the beginning of time has been a lure for mankind. George A. Jackson of Missouri and J. H. Gregory of Georgia led the first bands of hardy prospectors to Cherry Creek and the Platte gold fields. The rush was on. The same pluck and grit, the same ability to overcome every obstacle that led those early settlers to push on under the slogan of “Pike’s Peak or Bust,” never has ceased to animate the people of Colorado. Dangers were never more imminent, hardships never more acute. Only the strongest, the bravest, could survive those early days. It was a time that tried souls and bred men. 

Provisions for the establishment of claims and the protection of property in this region, which was then included in the territory of Kansas, were inadequate. Steps were taken to form a new State or Territory, to be named Jefferson, in honor of the drafter of the Declaration of Independence. But it was not until the last day of February, 1861, at the close of President Buchanan’s Administration, that Colorado Territory was established. Its name, meaning “colored” and fitting so well the varied scenic displays of the State, was chosen by William Gilpin. One of the first acts of President Lincoln was the appointment of Gilpin as Territorial Governor. 

The State was then carved out of the then Territories of Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico and Utah. A part of her area had come into possession of the United States through the Louisiana Purchase, another from the Texas Cession and the remainder by the Mexican Cession. It was a gathering together of lands of varied and historic ownership. The people of the new Territory were loyal. They raised troops and thwarted the plans of the Confederate Government to capture that rich area.

When placer mining began to fail, new methods of wresting gold from the ores were invented. Silver, lead, zinc and copper deposits were uncovered. The famous Leadville, Cripple Creek, San Juan and other mining camps developed a brand of frontier life which probably never will be duplicated. 

Stages coaches and ox wagons were the only means of transportation until 1870. Then Colorado’s first railroad, the Denver Pacific, was built from Denver, the capital, to the mainline of the Union Pacific at Cheyenne. Other rail lines followed in rapid succession. The rugged character of the country presented the most difficult construction problems ever known. Their mastery wrought men famous in railroad history. The Moffatt Tunnel, nearing completion, is a marvel of engineering achievement. 

Many of those going to Colorado to mine remained to raise cattle and to till the soil. When mining began to slow down in the early ‘70s, the cattle industry grew to great proportions. It flourished for fifteen years, until the ranges had been broken up by the laying out of homesteads.

Colorado is the thirty-eighth of our galaxy of States. The act of Statehood having passed Congress the previous year, a Constitution was adopted by a vote of the people in July, 1876. On the first day of the following month President Grant proclaimed the new State. John L. Routt was elected Governor. 

Beginning as a Territory with 35,000 people, today the State has over 1,000,000. Only the thirty-third among the States in population, according to the 1920 census, she was fifteenth in the value of mineral products and eighth in rank as a coal producer. 

Although started under difficulties and discouragements, her agricultural activities now are of the utmost importance. Wherever dry farming was impossible the plucky settler resorted to irrigation. It is now widespread. In 1920 nearly 3,350,000 acres, an increase of 20 per cent. in a decade, were being tilled by the irrigation method.

In the same ten-year period the percentage of rural to total population increased by 2.5 per cent. In 1920 the rural population was 51.8 per cent. of the total. Colorado was one of three States in the Union showing the rural districts growing faster than the urban. This is a striking tribute to her agricultural possibilities. She is seventh in area, and has ample room for expansion along these lines. Already manufacturing has reached good-sized proportions, $243,826,000 being invested in such enterprises in 1919. 

Colorado’s wealth increased 20 per cent. in the decade ending 1922, when it was $3,825 per capita. This figure was larger than for States such as Massachusetts and Michigan and a little smaller in States such as New York and Illinois. 

That religious influences, which played and always will play so large a part in our national life, were uppermost in the minds of the founders of Colorado is evidenced by the State motto selected. It is: “Nil Sine Numine,” which being translated means, “Nothing without Divine will.” 

A newspaper was started by William H. Byers in 1859 and has continued to this day. From the beginning the people have demanded enlightenment. 

Colorado always has been progressive. She stands out like a beacon in the history of woman suffrage. Her Constitution was the first State Constitution to take notice of it. The Constitutional Convention of 1876, although favorable, failed to grant the franchise to women, solely for fear it might defeat the entire document at the polls. However, provision was made for submitting the question to a referendum. And in 1893 equal suffrage was carried by a substantial majority, and the State became the second to permit women to vote. 

She has been called the “Proving Ground of Woman Suffrage.” Thirty women have sat in her legislative halls. Others have acted as treasurers or auditors in more than seventy-five cities or towns. Since 1894 the State superintendent of Public Instruction has been a woman, Miss Pattie Field, Vice Consul in Amsterdam, the only one of her sex to hold such a position, comes from Colorado. The women of the State had a no inconsiderable part in the establishment of forward-looking government instruments. 

To the majesty of her scenery Colorado adds the wonderful healing balm of her climate. Within her boundaries our Government maintains two national parks, fifteen national forests, and two national monuments. To the dower given by God her citizens have added the riches which come from intelligent industry. 

This celebration is exceedingly appropriate at this time. The nation is inclined to disregard altogether too much both the functions and the duties of the States. They are much more than subdivisions of the Federal Government. They are also endowed with sovereignty in their own right. Of course, one of their chief glories lies in the fact that they are all partakers of the American spirit, all a part of the American nation, but a great deal of the strength of the Federal Government lies in the fact that the States have the power to function locally and independently, subject only to the restrictions which they themselves have invoked by adopting the National Constitution. 

This fiftieth anniversary is in celebration of that principle. It was fifty years ago that Colorado put off the garb of a Territory almost exclusively under the dominion of the National Government and put on the robes of a sovereign American State. The great progress that it has made in these years have been in no small part due to the application of the principle of local self-government. Of all the wealth and eminence that this State has achieved, this is its chief treasure. It ought to be maintained undiminished and guarded with jealous care through all the years to come.

Citation: The New York Times, August 4, 1926. 

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>