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Interiors

What do these photos tell you about how store interiors looked like?

General Store In Gillett

This is the interior of Woodruff’s general store in the town of Gillett, Colorado. The photo shows brooms standing in a wooden box, canned food on the shelves, and boxes of cigars in a glass display case. The white bags stacked in the back of the store may contain flour.

General Store In Gillett

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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General stores provided one-stop shopping for the early settlers of Colorado. These stories sold a wide variety of goods. People shopped there for groceries, hardware, cloth, thread, lamps, and other household items.

Their Own Words

"Usually we found other farm teams with their wagons or buggies already tied to the [hitching] bars [in front of the store]…. Our parents scanned these horses and cried out to each other, if they recognized the team of someone known to them, and their faces lighted up at the thought of seeing some friend again, for a shopping trip was a true social occasion and was always leisurely and deliberate . . . . When we entered the store, the storekeeper. . . would greet us all cordially . . . and ask if we were good children and did well in school--if we said yes, as was usually true, he would give us each a bit of candy. . . ."             

"Now began our slow inspection of everything in the store. . . . there was jelly in its wooden pail with the wire handle. . . . The great stalk of bananas, suspended from the ceiling. . . . Sometimes shoes were tried on. . . . If it was late summer, some of this splendid yard goods would be measured off on the counter's edge, yard by yard, for our school dresses. . . . On the way home [father] would entertain us with an account of all the news he had gleaned [from the other farmers], of the birth of a new baby or of the birth of an especially lively colt, of a family moving away or a new one moving in. . . ."

Source: Clara Hilderman Ehrlich, "My Childhood on the Prairie,"  The Colorado Magazine, 51 (Spring 1974): 137-139.

General Store In Walden

This photo shows the interior of a general store in Walden, Colorado. The woman standing at the left is Mrs. C. E. Mosman, who owned the store.

General Store In Walden

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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General stores also sold canned goods, gloves, and clothing. The store in this photo also sold long poles. The poles probably were used as buggy whips.

Their Own Words

"Now it’s Saturday afternoon and time to take the cream and eggs to Richard’s [store]. After visiting with other neighbors, you would buy what few staple groceries your family would need for the next week. That could be any or all of the following: soda, salt, baking powder, bucket of syrup, either white or dark, depending on how much the cream or eggs brought. . . . A spool of #50 black thread, a package of needles. Perhaps some dried fruit, of peaches, apricots, raisins, or prunes. Sometimes we would need a 50 lb. sack of flour, a 100 lb. sack of sugar or a sack of potatoes."

Source: Ike Osteen, A Place Called Baca (Chicago: Adams Press, 1980): 141.

Hardware Store In Greeley

This photo shows the interior of a hardware store in Greeley, Colorado.

Hardware Store In Greeley

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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Larger towns had specialty stores, including hardware stores. The store in this photo sold iron stoves, kerosene lanterns and lamps, and cans of paint. Other specialty stores included harness and saddle stores, lumber stores, and farm machinery stores.

Their Own Words

"When I was a small lad, every little town had its harness maker. He was important. The farmer depended on him. Henry Wiskow was the harness maker in Hugo…. Most important, he knew how to fit a collar to a horse. That’s the most important part of a harness: the collar."

Source: Keith A. Cook, “A Whiskey Train and a Doughnut Day: Coming of Age on the Eastern Colorado Plains,” Colorado Heritage (Spring 1998): 11.

Greeley Post Office

This is a photo of the interior of the Post Office in Greeley, Colorado. The man at the right is placing mail into mail slots or boxes. Customers open the boxes from the other side to get their mail. The window with a grill above the counter on the left is where customers stand to buy stamps or have packages mailed.

Greeley Post Office

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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Every town had a post office. Large towns had a separate office where several people worked. In smaller towns the post office often was located in the general store. The owner of the store served both as storekeeper and as the town's postmaster.

Their Own Words

“When I first went to Cripple Creek I carried Special Delivery letters. Business was so brisk in town and goods were moving so rapidly that merchants wanted their mail by Special Delivery. As the post office building had burned in the fires [of 1896], its affairs were conducted in a small building back of Johnny Nolan’s saloon and gambling parlors, at the corner of Third and Bennett.”   

“There were no postmen or letter carriers, and people had to come to the post office to get the mail at the General Delivery window or from a box. The number of boxes was limited, so people would form a long line several times a day when the mail came in. This would require standing in line quite some time. They often paid boys to do this for them. Eight or ten of us boys had the privilege of carrying Special Delivery letters.” 

Source: William W. Wardell, “Cripple Creek Memories,”  Colorado Magazine, 37 (January 1960): 31.