Denver’s history really began with a gold rush in the mid 1800’s, when more than 100,000 prospectors came to the Rocky Mountains to make their fortune. The Pike’s Peak Gold Rush ensued, and Denver City was founded in November of 1858. At that time it was still part of the Kansas Territory, and was named after the Kansas Territorial Governor, James W. Denver.
The Provisional Government of the Territory of Jefferson was formed on October 24th, 1859, and Robert Steele was elected Governor. The new legislature that was established on November 7th of that year went to work immediately and on Dec. 3rd, voted to incorporate the City of Denver.
President Buchanan signed an Act of Congress on Feb. 28th, 1861, that renamed the Territory of Jefferson to the Free Territory of Colorado, and newly elected President Lincoln delegated the office of the Governor of the Territory of Colorado to William Gilpin. In 1865, Denver City became the territorial capital and was renamed Denver. Colorado was admitted to the union on Aug. 1st of 1876, and in 1881, Denver officially became the capital.
On June 24th, 1870, the dream of bringing to life the Denver Pacific railroad was realized and it brought in much needed commerce, tourism and freight. The completion of this project allowed the city to grow exponentially from a population of 5,000 to 100,000 in just twenty years, and that considerable growth continues today.
By 1880, the search for precious metal in the Rockies turned from gold to silver, and a young and wild Denver went through a bawdy period marked by gambling, trollops and crime.
The Brown Palace was built and topped at ten stories, and its owner, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, became an historic icon when she survived the sinking of the Titanic. Her house (now a museum), and the Brown Palace Hotel, are still popular places in Denver.
Music and fine arts found their way into the small metropolis and The Apollo, The Tabor Opera House and the Denver Theatre became mainstays of Denver’s cultural landscape. Today, Denver is one of the biggest hubs of performing and fine arts in the nation.
Caroline Nichols Churchill was a key figure in the women’s suffrage movement and in bringing the vote to women in Colorado in 1893, twenty-seven years before the country enacted the nineteenth amendment (the Susan B. Anthony Amendment) giving all women the right to vote, on Aug. 26th, 1920.
The National Western Stock Show began in 1907, bringing in cattle ranchers and cowboys from all over the west. The Stock Show continues to be a major annual event every January and the holiday lights on the City and County Building stay up until the Stock Show is over towards the end of January, every year.
1908 brought the Democratic National Convention to the city and put Denver in the national spotlight. One hundred years later, in 2008, the Democratic National Convention was again held in Denver, during which a landmark and historic event took place when the convention chose Barack Obama as their candidate for the Presidency of the United States. No convention had ever chosen a black person for candidacy before.
World War II generated new industry throughout the city, and population continued to increase as well as commerce and manufacturing, expanding the business trades of the city, bolstering the economy and growing the opportunities for livelihood among the citizens.
Wellington Webb became the city’s first black mayor in 1991 and during his terms as mayor (until 2003), he instituted enormous advancement for the city through a new airport, a convention center, Coors stadium, and many community focused programs. He and his wife Wilma Wellington were able to get legislation passed that brought about Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Wilma coined the phrase “Marade”; a blend of a march and a parade, which is held every year on MLK Jr. day; the marade starts at City Park and several thousand people march down Colfax Avenue to Civic Center Park in celebration of the day and of Martin Luther King, Jr.