The Steelworks Center of the West recently won the silver medal for the Chieftain’s Best of Pueblo 2015 awards competition for Best Museum. We here at the Steelworks Center didn’t even realize we were in the running, so thank you to everyone who took the time to sign up and vote for us! This show of appreciation will motivate us to better serve the Pueblo community, so that maybe next year we can take the gold (though I hear that Sangre de Cristo Arts Center is pretty tough to beat). Thanks again everybody!
The Steelworks Center was recently invited to submit an item from its collections for public voting to be “Colorado’s Most Significant Artifact.” This is an annual campaign sponsored by Colorado Collection Connections, a program of the Auraria Library in Denver. Voting is a public process through the CCC website and will continue through November 30. Only one vote per email address per day is allowed. Last year, the Steelworks Center submitted Mine Rescue Car Number One and we placed in the top 10. We would really appreciate your votes again this year!
This Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) ledger begins with the firm’s original Articles of Incorporation on October 21, 1892, when William Jackson Palmer’s Colorado Coal and Iron Company merged with John Osgood’s Colorado Fuel Company. It continues with Board of Directors Meeting Minutes through October 29, 1903, just before the company was sold by President John Osgood to the Rockefeller family. It documents the purpose of the corporation, the rights and liabilities of the shareholders and directors, and subsequent Board activities. Measuring 14.25” wide x 17.75” long, the ledger contains 345 pages, handwritten in ink.
Why is this artifact significant? The merger of the Colorado Fuel Company with the Colorado Coal and Iron Company birthed the largest and most powerful steel and coal mining company west of the Mississippi River. The operations were originally established to produce steel rails for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad’s expanding narrow-gauge empire. But from 1892 to 1993 CF&I grew to become the largest private land owner, water user, tax payer and employer in the Rocky Mountain Region, a record not equaled during or since that time. The company was a driving force in Colorado’s economy throughout much of the 20th century.
How does this artifact relate to Colorado history? This ledger documents the establishment of CF&I as a Colorado business. In the following years CF&I became the leader in the industrialization of the American West. Throughout the next century, the company grew to become the first vertically integrated steel mill west of the Mississippi River and Colorado’s largest coal mining operation. In addition, the company operations had profound effects on changes in industrial technology and advancement, labor relations, company towns, corporate sponsored education and sociological practices, and industrial medical techniques that are still used today.
To vote in this year’s Colorado Collections Connections 2015 Colorado’s Most Significant Artifacts Campaign, go to collectioncare.auraria.edu/content/colorados-2015-most-significant-artifacts
The ledger with the Artifacts of Incorporation are available for viewing inside the Steelworks Museum, along with other museum exhibits, from 10:00-4:00 Monday through Saturday. Admission is $6 per adult, $4 per child. Members of the Steelworks Center are always admitted for free.
In the summer of 2000, Bessemer Historical Society, Inc (now the Steelworks Center of the West) was formed to provide continuing education to the public through the preservation of the archives, artifacts and historic office complex of the former Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. Over the next two years, the non-profit organization purchased the former CF&I office complex, medical dispensary and tunnel building from the (then) owner of the Pueblo steelworks, Oregon Steel.
Following the purchase, volunteers, board and staff members discovered thousands of feet of archival material including employee records, motion picture films, maps and drawings, production and mining documentation, company records, and hundreds of 3-dimensional artifacts left behind in the building complex and in a few support structures. Hundreds more historical objects have since been donated by the Pueblo community to further preserve and interpret the company’s rich history.
This exhibit highlights several of these historic items, both found and donated, many of which have never been viewed publically or seen since their original use decades ago.
This exhibit runs from September 4, 2015 through August 31, 2016