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Clothing

What do these photos tell you about the type of clothes they wore?

Miners Near Altman

This photo shows three people standing in front of a mining cabin in the mountains of Colorado. It was taken near the mining town of Altman, Colorado in 1889.

Miners Near Altman

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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The people in the photo are wearing everyday clothes of the period. The woman is wearing a print dress with sleeves puffed at the shoulders and a long white apron. Puffed sleeves were in style in the late 1800s. The men are wearing dark work shirts, pants, and leather boots. Men and women in the mining camps of Colorado mostly wore the kind of clothes they had worn back home. Women wore print dresses, aprons, and bonnets. Men wore work shirts and pants.

Two Miners In Their Cabin

The two men in this photo are sitting at a table in a mining cabin. They are dressed in ordinary work clothes with jackets.

Two Miners In Their Cabin

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

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Photographs of miners usually show them wearing jackets or coats, even photos taken inside. In poorly-heated cabins high in the mountains, men wore jackets to keep warm. It was the custom in the late 1800s for men to wear hats in the summer and winter.

Their Own Words

“Tuesday, July 17th, 1860. Was up early after a good sleep to find our blankets wet with frost and the air cold. The stones covered with ice and soon had breakfast and ready to start. . . . Our road was still ascending. . . . Leaving the team, I attempted to climb one of the mountains. The stones covered with ice and along the sides lay deposits of snow. . . .”

Source: Webster D. Anthony, “ Journal of a Trip from Denver to Oro City in 1860,” Colorado Magazine, 10 (November 1933): 235.

Three Miners In Their Cabin

The men in this miners cabin are wearing work clothes and leather work boots.

Three Miners In Their Cabin

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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Men in the Colorado mining camps found that they needed better shoes than they had worn back home. Climbing over rocks and wading in water quickly wore out the light work shoes worn by farmers or factory workers. Miners found that heavy, leather boots lasted much longer. Many wore hobnailed boots. These boots had short nails with thick heads to protect the soles. They wore dress boots only for special occasions.

Their Own Words

"Ted Durbin, one of the young men-- not a miner--is quite a dandy and very particular about his clothes. He has very small feet and tonight had on a pair of new boots. All the young men have their boots made to order, in fact, every man does unless he wears the hobnailed mining boots; and a pair of dress boots costs all the way from sixteen to twenty dollars--sometimes more. Of course, Ted wanted every one to notice his new boots, and to call attention to them he remarked that they were rather tight for comfort. Among the crowd was a miner called Dutch Henry, a small man not morethan five feet tall, but wearing a very large boot, a No. 10 or more. He finally asked Ted what he would take for the boots. Ted looked at Dutch Henry's feet a moment and then said: "Dutch, if you can wear these boots, they are yours." Henry sat down on a convenient box . . . took off his boots, and began unwinding round after round of old cloth and burlap sacking. When he finally reached his feet he pulled on the boots without effort and walked away"

Source: Emma S. Hill, A Dangerous Crossing and What Happened on the Other Side (Denver, 1924).

Telluride Miners' Family

This family from the mining town of Telluride, Colorado had their photo taken at a studio. They dressed up for the occasion. On the backside of this photo are written the names "Uncle Roy, Aunt Ruth, Maggie, Dan, and Minnie."

Telluride Miners Family

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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Photos taken in photographer's studios usually show people dressed up in their best clothes. In this photo, the mother is dressed in a long shirt with a blouse or jacket that has puffed sleeves. The father is wearing a dress suit with a vest. The girl standing next to him is wearing a pinafore with ruffles. The young boy, Dan, has on a suit with a large bow, short pants, and knee socks. People everywhere in the United States in the late 1800s wore clothes similar to these when the dressed up.

Their Own Words

“We lived in Breckenridge for a few months [in 1895-96]. . . . A bad fire broke out in the town; my cousins and I hastily grabbed some precious shoes to save them from the fire. They were black ones, painted white with silver or gold stars pasted on them—to be worn in some kind of entertainment—very beautiful in our eyes.”

 Source: Mattie Edwards Stuthman, “ High Altitude Memories,” Colorado Magazine, 24 (January 1952): 33.

Peyer Family Of Leadville

The couple in this photo are Mr. and Mrs. Peyer of Leadville. He is wearing a dress coat with a white shirt and tie. Mrs. Peyer is wearing a long dress with long, fitted sleeves, and is wearing her hair in braids gathered high on her head.

Peyer Family Of Leadville

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

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How well people dressed in Colorado mining towns depended on what they could afford to wear. The Leadville couple in this photo were wealthy people. They dressed like wealthy people in cities everywhere in the United States at that time.

Their Own Words

“Mr. Rollins is a tall, broad gentleman, with a pleasing face and manners, and iron grey hair. He looks like a son of toil [i.e., a working man]. He was dressed in ministerial black, and wore a white shirt, with common china buttons in place of studs. Mr. Rollins is pretty well off. He sold a gold mine once for $250,000 and has succeeded in keeping the money. . . .”

 Source: John Q. A. Rollins, Jr., “John Q. A. Rollins, Colorado Builder, Colorado Magazine, 16 (May 1939): 116.

Mine Manager's Family

This is the Samuel F. Rathron family standing in front of their log house in Bonanza, Colorado. Bonanza as a mining camp north of Alamosa in Saguache County. Mr. Rathron, a mining engineer, is wearing high-topped boots. His wife is dressed up in what probably is one of her best dresses. The girl also is dressed up and is wearing a hat with a silk band.

Mine Manager's Family

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

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Mining engineers were among the best-educated and best paid mine workers. They lived and dressed accordingly. Most mining engineers wore high-topped boots like those Mr. Rathron is wearing.