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June 6: Up on Cripple Creek

June 5, 2015

74694755136961e3802bda4e3c2b7d6fThe governor of Colorado (Davis H. Waite) dispatched the state militia on this date in 1894 to protect striking workers at the Cripple Creek gold mine — the only instance in American history in which soldiers were mobilized not as strikebreakers but to protect strikers against a private corporate militia. Cripple Creek was a thriving mining town, about twenty miles from Colorado Springs, with an active Jewish community (many of them shown in the 1895 photograph above). New York financier Bernard Baruch worked there a while as a mining “mucker” (shoveler) while gambling at night with such success that he was barred by the casino owners. Harry Harris served as Cripple Creek postmaster and later operated a coal company in Denver. Sam and Bertha Flax became the first couple to have a Jewish wedding in Cripple Creek, but Sam, refusing to work in the mines, brought his bride to Denver, where he became a successful restaurateur. As for their populist governor (not Jewish), he pardoned the few miners who were convicted of a variety of crimes — and was voted out of office the following November, which derailed the rise of populism in Colorado.

A hundred miles to the west and north, “Leadville, Colorado... attracted a large Jewish population made up primarily of merchants and professionals and their families. Twenty-three Jewish-owned clothing and dry goods stores graced Leadville’s streets in 1881. David May immigrated to Colorado from Bavaria and started his first clothing store in Leadville in 1877. The May Company evolved into one of the largest department store chains in the United States.” —University of Denver, “Pioneering Jewish Women”