SILVIA PETTEM
THE BOOK LODE, LLC

Historical Research & Writing

ARTICLES

I have been writing for the Boulder Daily Camera since 1977, starting with historical features, as well as a food column. From 1984 to 1988, I wrote historical features for the Longmont Times-Call. From 1996-1998, I wrote a history column for the Boulder Planet. During this time, I also contributed to the Coloradan (the University of Colorado's alumni magazine) and have freelanced for a number of national and international publications from the California Mining Journal and Evidence Technology Magazine to the British magazine Cornish World.

In 1998, I returned to the Camera as history columnist. Compilations of some of my history columns are in my books Only in Boulder: The County’s Colorful Characters and Boulder: A Sense of Time and Place Revisited (see Books page). I still write a history column for the Camera, sharing the position with long-time friend and colleague Carol Taylor.

Below are links to a couple of my recent history columns.

Dr. Luman Giffin, shown here with a class dissecting a cadaver, was head of the CU Medical School in Boulder from 1896 to 1907.

CU Medical School started, but didn’t stay, in Boulder

Camera, February 11, 2018

In 1882, when the University of Colorado graduated its first class, only six students made it to commencement. Even so, university president Joseph Sewall was determined to start a medical school on the Boulder campus. ..… Read more

CU Medical School

A crowd is shown leaving the "tabernacle" built in 1909 for Rev. Billy Sunday's revival meetings in Boulder. (Carnegie Branch Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)

The Rev. Billy Sunday’s rhetoric polarized Boulder

Camera, April 8, 2018
In 1909, evangelist Billy Sunday came to Boulder and led five weeks of revival meetings. Focused on sin and evil, he called Boulder "a sinkhole of iniquity, crying for redemption," even though city residents already had out-lawed liquor (one of his chief complaints)

People in Boulder were polarized. Many praised the itinerant preacher, while others weren't so complimentary. One newspaper reporter who did try to remain neutral found Sunday's sermons on hellfire and damnation "wholly lacking in wishy-washy qualities.”Read more

Rev. Billy Sunday

The oil derrick left of the farmhouse likely was added to photo. (Carnegie Branch Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)

Early photographer Joseph B. Sturtevant likely altered images

Camera, January 14, 2018

Most people know better than to believe everything they see. This is especially true today when alterations to photos can easily be done on computers and electronic devices. Who would have thought that Joseph Bevier Sturtevant, one of Boulder’s most prolific photographers more than a century ago, appears to have made changes to some of his own images? From 1884 to 1910, Sturtevant, also known as “Rocky Mountain Joe,” took photos of nearly everything and everyone in the Boulder, Colorado, area. Years ago, a librarian at the Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, in Boulder revealed a startling discovery involving two of Sturtevant’s photos..… Read more

Sturtevant - altered photos

This photo of the 1200 block of Pearl Street is the earliest-known photo of Boulder. (Carnegie Branch Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)
Detailed look at earliest-known photo of Boulder

Camera, August 27, 2017
Lots of photos exist from Boulder's early days, including many taken by Joseph B. Sturtevant between 1884 and 1910. However, an 1866 photo of Pearl Street clearly bears his name, and it wasn't taken by him at all.

On March 20, 1889, the editor of the Boulder County Herald wrote, "In the rubbish, at a second-hand store, Joseph Sturtevant found an old photograph which he would not sell for $20. It was taken in Boulder in 1866.” Sturtevant re-photographed the image, then wrote his name on his own glass plate negative. Although his action confuses today's historians, the prolific photographer did us a service by allowing us to peer into the past. Read more

Boulder’s Oldest Photo

This bottle of laudanum was manufactured after 1906 and is clearly labeled, but opium, morphine and other additive drugs still were being prescribed as cure-alls for adults and children.
Drug abuse, cures, go way back

Camera, May 6, 2018

In the 1890s, at the height of the patent medicine era, residents of Boulder County and elsewhere imbibed an assortment of addictive drugs. Women took laudanum (a tincture of opium) for "female complaints," while parents gave opium-laced cough syrup to their children and rubbed cocaine onto their babies' gums when they were teething.

Purchasers may have been unaware or unconcerned that their medical products contained opium. But even then, Boulder newspaper readers were told that doctors "carelessly" prescribed the powerful drug. Addictive drug use and overuse, as well as cures, have been around for a long time. Read more

Drug Abuse, Cures

Store manager Tom Chapman posed on May 21, 1964 with a pony and a burro to be given away in a store promotion. (Carnegie Branch Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)
Promotions made Crossroads Mall popular

Camera, March 11, 2018
When I was a kid growing up in another part of the country, I went to my local shopping center and filled out 150 separate name-and-address forms in a contest to win a pony. I was so sure the pony would be mine that I even urged my father to start building a corral.…. Read more

Crossroads Promotions




Edward Baker’s grave has finally has been recognized, as documented in the Buffalo Soldier story. Below, in the first row, are a few photos from October 11, 2016 when members of the Buffalo Soldier Organization assisted Jack Box in setting the stone.

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

RESEARCH SPECIALTIES:
Long-term missing persons
Unidentified remains
Cold case homicides
Boulder County, Colorado, history