Inaugural Speeches of Colorado Governors

Governor Frederick W. Pitkin, 1879-1883. Courtesy Colorado State Archives.

Today is Inauguration Day in Colorado — the governor’s swearing-in.  In our library you can find the inaugural addresses of many of Colorado’s past governors, all the way back to Governor Frederick W. Pitkin in 1881.  In fact, we have Governor Pitkin’s inaugural address in German, along with those of several other early governors.  Colorado had a large German-speaking population in the late nineteenth century, so state documents were printed in three languages — German, English, and Spanish.

Through the years, Colorado governors’ inaugural messages changed with the times, as state and national events made their impact on our state.  Yet as the times changed, the optimistic, can-do attitude of the speeches did not change.  Pitkin’s successor (and predecessor), John L. Routt, discussed state lands, irrigation, mining, and the construction of the State Capitol in his January 1891 inaugural address.  Thirty-six years later, in 1927, Governor William H. Adams also addressed agriculture and mining, but focused heavily on a new issue unforeseen in Governor Routt’s day — state highways.

Governor John C. Vivian, 1943-1947. Courtesy Colorado State Archives.

Governor Ralph L. Carr noted in his 1939 inaugural speech, “Can we not unite in a common cause for the good of Colorado? Our goal should be the establishment of economy and efficiency in state government.”  While Carr served as the state’s chief executive at the outset of WWII, John C. Vivian presided at the time of its conclusion:  “Colorado is about to enter one of the most important epochs in its history.  We are preparing, in common with other sovereignties, to emerge from the state of war and plan for peace and peace time pursuits.  We have given to the war effort, all that has been asked of us.  We shall continue this policy until hostilities cease, even to the last dollar in our treasury and the last vestige of manpower,” he remarked in January 1945.

Governor James Peabody, 1903-1905. Courtesy Colorado State Archives.

Perhaps the most interesting of the inaugural speeches in our library’s collection is the joint message of Governors James Peabody and Alva Adams, two of Colorado’s three governors in a day in 1905.  In the 1904 elections, Adams, a Democrat, won the vote, but his opponent, incumbent Republican Peabody, sued the state claiming that the election was fraudulent.  Two months into Adams’ term, the Republican-controlled legislature favored Peabody and declared him the winner, on the condition that he resign within twenty-four hours.  In our library you can find a 1905 copy of Alva Adams’ concise remarks preceding his resignation, bound with Governor Peabody’s long, detailed inaugural speech covering many points of state government.  Following the speech he, too, resigned, and his lieutenant governor, Jesse F. McDonald, took the reins.  I was unable to verify the existence of an inaugural speech for McDonald; likely, he didn’t need one, as his predecessor so exhaustively covered so much.  However, our library does have a copy of McDonald’s “biennial message” (today known as the State of the State speech) from 1907, two years later.  Check our library’s web catalog for these and other historic Colorado documents.