The Crash of 1893

The 1929 stock market crash wasn’t the only crash to occur in late October; an earlier event sparked one of the worst economic disasters in Colorado history. 121 years ago today, the U.S. Sentate gave final approval for repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. Through repeal, the U.S. government would no longer purchase silver for coinage, moving to the gold standard.

A silver mine in the Roaring Fork area. Photograph courtesy United States Geological Survey.

The nation as a whole suffered a strong economic downturn during this period, but Colorado was hit especially hard because so much of the state’s economy relied on silver mining. Fabulous fortunes, like those of Horace Tabor, were lost, business slumped, and building and construction came to a halt for more than three years. (In fact, one can generally tell pre-Crash architecture from post-Crash because after building started to resume in the late 1890s, architects were designing in simpler, neoclassical styles instead of the fussy excess of the Gilded Age.)

Even though Colorado was founded on the quest for gold, silver mining is an important part of our state’s history. Many of Colorado’s towns were formed because of silver (think of the many town names that contain the word, like Silverton, Silverthorne, Silver Plume, Silver Creek, Silver Cliff), which was even more plentiful in Colorado than gold.

You can find many resources on Colorado’s silver mining heritage in our library. Search our web catalog for titles; some highlights include:

  • The Quest for Gold and Silver: Including a History of the Interaction of Metals and Currency
  • The Rise of the Silver Queen: Georgetown, Colorado, 1859-1896
  • Silver Saga: The Story of Caribou, Colorado
  • Mining Among the Clouds
  • Aspen: The History of a Silver Mining Town, 1879-1893
  • History of Leadville and Lake County, Colorado
  • The Trail of Gold and Silver: Mining in Colorado, 1859-2009
  • Silver in Colorado
  • Colorado Mining History Resource Guide
  • Mining History of Colorado
  • The Ballad of Baby Doe
  • Horace Tabor: His Life and the Legend
  • The Tabor Story