Life in the Old West

True stories, tall tales, memorabilia of the American West

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Book offers treasure trove of stories about Colorado’s gold, silver rushes

One of my very favorite books about the Old West provides a treasure trove of stories about Colorado’s gold and silver rushes. From Bat Masterson to “Baby Doe” Tabor and from Cripple Creek to Leadville — the whole sprawling adventure packed with tales and tall tales is in this book.

The book I’m talking about is “The New Eldorado: The Story of Colorado’s Gold and Silver Rushes” by Phyllis Flanders Dorset, published in 1970 by The Macmillan Company.

The hefty hardback edition I have came from a used bookstore in Denver. I found it gathering dust on a back shelf when I was browsing the small store’s section on Colorado history and Americana. I honestly don’t even remember the name or location of the bookstore now, as I made that visit to the Mile High City in 1993. (While I’m on the subject, as far as I know Denver’s premier independent bookstore is still The Tattered Cover; give it a look when you’re in or near Denver.)

The book is an absolute “hoot,” a real page turner for anyone interested in the oh so colorful and dramatic history of the Colorado mining and prospecting stories from 1858-1910. A delightful “Author’s Note” at the beginning of the 400+ page volume puts the book in great perspective:

“In selecting stories involving personalities I used two approaches. If the story was told by an eyewitness I used that version in preference to those based on hearsay. If, however, all versions I found of a particular story were based on hearsay I chose the one that most nearly fit the character of the individual or the temper of the time, depending on which I wished to emphasize. The era of Colorado’s gold and silver rushes was a turbulently creative period in which contradiction and exaggeration took on a truthfulness all their own when placed beside documented fact.”

How can you not love a work about such a vibrant part of the story of the Old West written from a perspective like that??

I confess I know nothing about the author or her status as a historian. She is identified on the book jacket as “a freelance technical editor [who] is the author of ‘Historic Ships Afloat’ ….” But I am in awe of the comprehensive book she produced, a book that looks into every nook and cranny of Colorado’s colorful mining history during that time span. And she does it with flare and keeps you reading from start to finish.

I saw recently that there were a few copies of the book available on eBay and a few on I urge you to check both of those sites, as well as keep an eye open in used bookstores where you may live — or simply to search for other online locations where you can grab a copy. It’s well worth the money; you won’t regret this great little adventure story!

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