Time Machine Tuesday: A Governor’s View of Colorado Political History

This Election Day, as history is being made in our state, let’s step back and take a look at the first fifty years of Colorado politics.

Early governors, from History of Colorado.

In 1927, the State Historical and Natural History Society of Colorado (later the Colorado Historical Society, and now History Colorado) issued an illustrated five-volume History of Colorado.  (All five volumes are available digitally from our library).  Edited by James Baker and LeRoy Hafen — still considered to be one of the most significant Colorado historians — the five detailed volumes examine nearly every aspect of our state’s history, including Indians and early white settlement; government; industry and economics; geology and geography; mining, agriculture, and industry; forestry and natural resources; transportation; law; medicine; the military; “woman’s contribution;” education; religion; and arts and culture.  Volumes 4 and 5 present biographies of important Coloradans (or, likely, some who paid to be included).

The section on Colorado politics can be found in in Volume 3.  It covers in detail Colorado’s achievement of statehood through the post-WWI period.  Discussed are some of the more controversial elections of governors and U.S. Senators, as well as strife between Democrats and Republicans, and the influence of the mining industry on Colorado politics.  What sets it apart from other histories of Colorado politics, however, is that it was authored by a former Colorado governor.

Charles S. Thomas, a Democrat, served as Governor of Colorado from 1899 to 1901 — when Colorado was recovering from the Crash of 1893.  Originally from Georgia, Thomas earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1871 and moved to Denver soon after, setting up practice as a mining attorney.  He became Denver City Attorney in 1875 and later, in private practice, partnered with future U.S. Senator Thomas M. Patterson.  Charles S. Thomas was elected governor in 1898 and then went on to serve as U.S. Senator from 1913 to 1921.  He died in 1934.

For more election history and information on Colorado elected officials, search our library’s online catalog.