Monday, February 4, 2013

Around the track in Leadville, 1880

--> All is quiet on the hometown streets today (Sunday), with most folks (I’m assuming) hunkered down in front of their big screens, watching the Superbowl. Well, there sure wasn’t any football in Leadville during the Silver Rush, so what kind of spectator sports did folks enjoy?

I turned to my copy of Eugene Floyd Irey’s dissertation, A Social History of Leadville, Colorado, During the Boom Days, 1877–1881, for some insight. There was horseracing, apparently, for in the dissertation, he quotes the Leadville Democrat (July 27, 1880)  “… on the race course sporting is rife …”). Yes, I’ll bet it was.

Irey has a section talking about sports, in which he says the most popular varieties were closely allied with contests that offered the opportunity for gambling. Thus, “sporting activity tended rather heavily toward such spectator sports as wrestling, boxing, billiards, shuffle board, walking and horse racing.”

Horse racing seems to have been a big favorite. In 1879, Leadville had constructed a race trace on the edge of town. By the beginning of 1880, the Leadville Trotting and Running Club was holding regular meets, with typical purses for a three-day meet running as high as $6,000.

Now, according to the website, $6,000 in 1880 equates to about $136,000 today. Wowee!! I can see why there would be so much interest in racing...

 ... One wonders how much money is changing hands this evening, at the conclusion of the Superbowl ...


Liz said...

Wonder what prizes were going in pack burro racing:

Unknown said...

Hi Liz! What a fun Wikipedia entry! I've seen the burro races at Leadville... those little burros can really move (when they want to ;-) ).
I'd love to know the story/legend regarding the drunken miners at a bar in Leadville. Hmmm. Most mysterious.