Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The color purple, Leadville, and 1879 travel

The time rushes ever closer to the official release of Leaden Skies. I've received my box of author copies, and my gosh, the dustjacket has quite a lovely tint of lavender (... it's just about the color you see here to the left. Somehow, that tint doesn't come through when viewing the cover online). Looking beneath the dustjacket, the bookboards are the same, with Leaden Skies on the spine in gold script. (I wonder: Am I the only one who peels off the dustcover to check the "real deal" underneath? Anyhow...) All I can say is, Wow! (In a good way, of course.)

So, now, I'm thinking of things Leadvillian. You can check out my News page for a bit about the Lake County Public Library choosing the entire Silver Rush series as their "One Book, One Community" read this summer ... I'm so excited about this, I can't think of much else. But I will. So.

Let's get down to history.

Maybe it was the cover of Leaden Skies, but I was compelled to open up the (purple-covered) reprint I have of Tourist Guide to Colorado in 1879 by Frank Fossett. (I have the original 1879 book as well, but it's too fragile for casual reading. And it's not purple.) Leadville appears in the index more frequently than any other location, including Denver. One of the first mentions is on page 14, in a discussion of the railroads in Colorado, with Denver as the starting point:
To the southwest the Denver & South Park conveys the traveler to the weird beauties of Platte River CaƱon, and up through the mountains to where the tide of humanity on its way to Leadville halts to take a fresh start, by stage or footpath...

No foolin' about that tide of humanity. And the toss-away remark about "a fresh start by stage or footpath" provides no clue to the perils and inconveniences involved. The following description of stage travel, provided by Eugene Floyd Irey in his Ph.D. dissertation, A Social History of Leadville, Colorado, During the Boom Days, 1877-1881, pretty much sums it up:
At all seasons the narrow roads were crowded with teams and wagons moving in both directions In the midst of the confusion the traveler found himself in a coach carrying 12 passengers inside and eight outside, lurching either up or down a steep mountain grade. In the summer the entire road was buried in dust and in the winter the blasts from the surrounding mountains brought suffering to all and death to the unprepared.
"Death to the unprepared." Sounds like the title to a book. Or perhaps a short story. Hmmm.

Next time, we'll explore what one seasoned traveler in 1879 recommended as proper dress for a winter journey to Leadville ...


Patricia Stoltey said...

The Leadville history posts are intriguing. I think I need to start reading more historical fiction set in Colorado.

BTW, the photo of the lavender field is stunning. Did you take that?

Ann Parker said...

Hello Patricia!
Glad you like the historical stuff... I'm going to be focusing on it over the next month or so...
I love the photo too, but alas, did not take it. It is, however, the perfect shade of purple.