Historical Research & Writing


I have been writing for the Boulder Daily Camera since 1977, starting with historical features, as well as a food column. From 1984 to 1988, I wrote historical features for the Longmont Times-Call. From 1996-1998, I wrote a history column for the Boulder Planet. During this time, I also contributed to the Coloradan (the University of Colorado's alumni magazine) and have freelanced for a number of national and international publications from the California Mining Journal and Evidence Technology Magazine to the British magazine Cornish World.

In 1998, I returned to the Camera as history columnist. Compilations of some of my history columns are in my books Only in Boulder: The County’s Colorful Characters and Boulder: A Sense of Time and Place Revisited (see Books page). I still write a history column for the Camera, sharing the position with long-time friend and colleague Carol Taylor.

Below are links to a couple of my recent history columns.

CU professor Mary Rippon had to completely separate her personal and professional lives in order to keep her job. (Carnegie Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)

CU’s Mary Rippon defied convention with love affair

Camera, September 23, 2018

Mary Rippon arrived in Boulder in January 1878 as the third instructor (and first woman) to teach at the University of Colorado. She also was the first woman to teach at a state university anywhere in the country. Back then, no guidelines pertaining to teacher-student relationships had been put in place.

A decade later, when Rippon was a 37-year-old professor, 25-year-old Boulder resident Will Housel enrolled in one of her German literature classes. During a semester-long study of Faust, the teacher and student consummated a romantic relationship.. ..… Read more

Rippon Love Affair

A crowd is shown leaving the "tabernacle" built in 1909 for Rev. Billy Sunday's revival meetings in Boulder. (Carnegie Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)

The Rev. Billy Sunday’s rhetoric polarized Boulder

Camera, April 8, 2018
In 1909, evangelist Billy Sunday came to Boulder and led five weeks of revival meetings. Focused on sin and evil, he called Boulder "a sinkhole of iniquity, crying for redemption," even though city residents already had out-lawed liquor (one of his chief complaints)

People in Boulder were polarized. Many praised the itinerant preacher, while others weren't so complimentary. One newspaper reporter who did try to remain neutral found Sunday's sermons on hellfire and damnation "wholly lacking in wishy-washy qualities.”Read more

Rev. Billy Sunday

Boulder High School alum Vivian Carlson (with dog Rebel) holds her wedding photo while reflecting on her high school years in the 1940s.

Reunion plans recall memories for Boulder High School alum

Camera, July 29, 2018

In 1945, when Vivian Hodgson, now Carlson, walked down the aisle of the Boulder High School auditorium with her graduating class, she left behind a period of her life that she remembers with affection.

Now, as a member of the Boulder High Alumni/Vintage Panthers, Vivian goes back to the school, at 1604 Arapahoe Avenue, at least once a year to help select scholarship recipients -- open to any BHS graduate — and to plan the school's annual reunion...… Read more

Boulder High School Reunion

The circa-1898 dress is decorated with hand-painted landscape and railroad scenes, as well as the railway company's logo. (Carnegie Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)

Switzerland Trail dress remains a mystery

Camera, July 1, 2018
In 1898, when the Colorado & Northwestern Railway began an ambitious advertising campaign and asked the public's help with a name (or brand) for its new narrow-gauge railroad into the mountains west of Boulder, J. E. Snook came up with "The Switzerland Trail."

The C&NW added "of America." Promotional literature promised flatlanders (limited at the time by horse-drawn vehicles) a chance to experience unsurpassed mountain scenery only a few hours from home.

The company's brochures and photographs still exist today and are well-known collectors' items. But one obscure artifact -- a dress -- has railroad fans baffled. Read more

Switzerland Trail Dress

In the mid-1920s, CU President George Norlin refused state funds in defiance of orders from the Ku Klux Klan. (Courtesy Carnegie Library).
KKK's intimidation, bigotry didn't sit well with Boulder

Camera, August 26, 2018

In 1922, when more than 200 hooded and robed members of the Ku Klux Klan, in 63 automobiles, slowly drove down Pearl Street, a Camera reporter called them “a mysterious shrouded mass.” Even the license plates on their cars were blacked out.

That same year, the Klan held its first initiation in Boulder. But the secret society’s presence in the city was short-lived, as its intimidation and bigotry didn’t sit well with the local residents... Read more

Ku Klux Klan in Bouder

This photo from the 1894 flood in Boulder was taken from the top of a flour mill at 11th and Walnut streets. The large building on the far side of Boulder Creek is the still-standing Highland School. (Carnegie Branch Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)

Flooding in the city has long been the norm

Camera, June 3, 2018

In 1908, while the flood of 1894 was still in recent memory, members of the Boulder City Improvement Association invited Harvard-educated landscape architect and planner Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to Boulder, then a city of 9,000 residents. In his report, "The Improvement of Boulder, Colorado," he included recommendations on flood management..…. Read more

Flooding has long been the norm

Edward Baker’s grave has finally has been recognized, as documented in the Buffalo Soldier story. Below, in the first row, are a few photos from October 11, 2016 when members of the Buffalo Soldier Organization assisted Jack Box in setting the stone.

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Long-term missing persons
Unidentified remains
Cold case homicides
Boulder County, Colorado, history