Friday, October 25, 2013

The Girls on the Line

"Interior of The Senate, 1921."
Lillian Edwards, Alice Elliott, Fanny Lewis, Effie Reynolds, Louise Walker- These residents of Telluride were among the women willing to name themselves as prostitutes in the United States Census in 1900. That year 29 women in town listed prostitution as their profession, but it is thought that there were 100 plus women working in town at any given time. These women ranged in age from their late teens to mid forties, and came from all over the world to work in turn of the century Telluride. They came from places like Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and more than a dozen states to live and work in a town where there was 1 woman for every 4 men.

These women were an integral part of Telluride's economy in the early days. Until the temperance movement targeted prostitution, residents of Telluride did not pay any local taxes. Each madam was simply charged $150 at the beginning of each week. This money kept the town running (profitably!). The women worked out of "Female Boarding Houses" and/or "Cribs," which were mostly found on the south side of town. Some of the larger homes, like the Senate, also contained bars.

"Popcorn Alley Cribs"
Prostitution as an enterprise, started it's decline in Telluride on April 4 1902, when the town government restricted the areas where houses for prostitution could be. The legal zone was defined as the area south of the alley between Pacific and Colorado avenues, and from Alder street on the east to the western limits of town. Prostitution was still legal, but the restrictions marked the beginning of the end.

The end of legal prostitution came from Denver in 1915, when Senate Bill 88 was passed. This bill made it possible for houses that prostitutes work in to be seized and closed for a year and eventually sold by the state. The bill passed the state senate on a vote of 26-7 and was signed into law by Governor George A. Carlson in April 1915. Several things happened as a result of this decision. The first was that city attorney, D.C. Stemen, made the point that the city council could no longer collect from madams without condoning illegal activity and having to bring a case against each one. In April 1916, a local, Al Boynton, became the first in Telluride to bring action against using Senate Bill 88.  He presented evidence that George and Lena Rock were operating 6 houses of prostitution in town. Mrs. Rock turned on her competitors and gave evidence against Lena Taifni, Pete Silva, T.B. McMahon, B. Perino, and Matt Mattivi. Their establishments were closed under state law. The town council's attitude shifted towards the business with their inability to gain usable revenue from it. The prostitution that continued in the town was underground and untaxed from 1916 until the district disappeared.

See and hear more about Telluride's Red Light District in the new Telluride at Leisure exhibit, opening December 3rd.

Tierney Dickinson
Summer Intern
Telluride Historical Museum

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Electrifying Truth

Would you know how to create electricity using something like this? Honestly, when I first arrived at the museum, I thought it was a modern art piece. This armature core (about 93" x 48") sits behind the museum as a part of our outdoor mining exhibit, but I have heard countless visitors return inside just to ask how this giant actually works.

The principle for the armature was first developed by English scientist, Michael Faraday, when he made the discovery that if a loop of wire is moved up and down between the two poles of a magnet, a current of electricity moves through the wire. His discovery was improved upon to create something that would produce electric currents. The early AC transformer in the museum's outdoor exhibit works on a modified version of this early discovery. These types of generators produced a large amount of amperage (how quickly the electricity is moving) at a relatively low voltage (how much potential electricity there is).

An armature is made up of a coil of copper wire wound around an iron or steel core. The core is what remains outside the museum. This entire piece is placed in a magnetic field, which is produced by one or more permanent magnets. The armature is then rotated in the field by an outside force, which causes the coil to cut the lines of the magnetic field, just like in Faraday's early experiment. This action creates an alternating current of electricity within the coil.

The next step in this process is finding a way to harness the electricity generated from this process. Wire cannot be directly attached to the coil, because the constant spinning would cause them to wear and break. The solution was the addition of metal brushes, which are placed at the top and bottom of the armature so that the coil spins between them. The diagram below shows how electricity exits through the top brush to light the bulb that is wired to it, and the circuit is completed with the second wire and the bottom brush. Through this brush system, the electricity is harnessed, and ready to use!

Diagram of an AC generator.
Gibson page 195. 

These types of electricity generating devices are most often used in large scale industrial operations, because they are able to produce a large amount of electricity. This type of generator utilizes the armature as a movable core, which maintains an unvarying voltage and prevents electricity from surging and lights from flickering.

Now, when I walk past the core, I not only know that it is not a piece of modern art, but I am more aware of how it works to produce electricity. I hope that this research is useful to our visitors, who want to know a little bit more about this artifact and how it works.

Tierney Dickinson
Summer Intern
Telluride Historical Museum
Charles R. Gibson, The Romance of Modern Electricity: Describing in non-Technical Language What is Known About Electricity and Many of its Interesting Applications, (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company , 1906 ) Romance of Modern Electricity&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Cvr_UfnFOpKCyAGHo4HIBg&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAA

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dynamic Dyes of Telluride

This cave is near the original cave the Turner's stumbled upon.

It was an average day in 1896 for Mel Turner and his nephew Ed. As they herded stray cattle, meandering through the mesas of Southern Colorado, something on a nearby hill caught their eye. As they grew closer they spied a large cave and the two eagerly scrambled up the hillside to investigate.

Partially buried in the floor of the cave the Turner’s discovered an earthen vessel containing beads, a bone awl, a 16 foot long string of glass beads, and a square textile in nearly perfect condition. Little did Mel and Ed realize that they had stumbled upon what would become one of Colorado’s most prized and priceless artifacts: the Telluride Blanket.

The blanket was woven on a loom with what is called a twill weave. Twill weaves are used today to create denim, and seeing as it is a sophisticated and difficult weave to master, the Anasazi weaver was likely an expert at his craft. The blanket was probably made by a man, as ancient Puebloans traditionally delegated weaving to their men, and it likely served as a “wearing blanket,” or a multi-purpose blanket that provided warmth, helped with heavy loads, cushioned seating, or swaddled infants.

Dated at over 800 years old, the Telluride Blanket has surpassed the typical lifespan of similar textiles by nearly 700 years. According to textile expert Kate Peck Kent, “No other complete specimen exists. There are only two other patterned prehistoric blankets that match this when it comes to its undamaged state.”

Many mysteries still surround the blanket and its history. Where was the blanket made? What was the story of its maker? Where was the cotton harvested for its delicate threads? And what dyes were used to create its vibrant pattern?

The Telluride Historical Museum is excited to host a new program, Cool Colors with Dynamic Dyes on Tuesday, March 5 at 3:30pm. Delve deeper into the history of the blanket, its wild journey to the Museum, and how it has been preserved over time. We will unravel possible sources for the blanket’s rich color and then try our hand at dying our own textile. While all are welcome, this program is best suited for children grades 1-4. Hope to see you there!

Anne Gerhard
Programs and Interpretation Coordinator
Telluride Historical Museum