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

The circa-1898 dress is decorated with hand-painted landscape and railroad scenes, as well as the railway company's logo. (Carnegie Branch Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)

Switzerland Trail dress remains a mystery

Camera, July 1, 2018
In 1898, when the Colorado & Northwestern Railway began an ambitious advertising campaign and asked the public's help with a name (or brand) for its new narrow-gauge railroad into the mountains west of Boulder, J. E. Snook came up with "The Switzerland Trail."

The C&NW added "of America." Promotional literature promised flatlanders (limited at the time by horse-drawn vehicles) a chance to experience unsurpassed mountain scenery only a few hours from home.

The company's brochures and photographs still exist today and are well-known collectors' items. But one obscure artifact -- a dress -- has railroad fans baffled. Read more

Switzerland Trail Dress

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

This photo from the 1894 flood in Boulder was taken from the top of a flour mill at 11th and Walnut streets. The large building on the far side of Boulder Creek is the still-standing Highland School. (Carnegie Branch Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)

Flooding in the city has long been the norm

Camera, June 3, 2018

In 1908, while the flood of 1894 was still in recent memory, members of the Boulder City Improvement Association invited Harvard-educated landscape architect and planner Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to Boulder, then a city of 9,000 residents. In his report, "The Improvement of Boulder, Colorado," he included recommendations on flood management..…. Read more

Flooding has long been the norm




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