The Colorado Silver Boom

Rare Coin InvestorThe Colorado Silver Boom started in 1879 following the discovery of silver in the town of Leadville near the headwaters of the Arkansas River by Horace Austin Warner Tabor and August Meyer in 1877. In total, more than $82 million of silver was mined, mostly as a consequence of The Bland-Allison Act of 1878 which authorized the U.S. Government to purchase at least $2 million in silver annually.

The first discoveries of silver in Colorado occurred in the early 1860’s, but because of the low price of silver and the larger demand for gold in the area few mines were profitable enough to operate. The Bland-Allison Act of 1878 changed the landscape entirely. Politicians, facing pressure from farmers in the Midwest and miners in the West, authorized the U.S. Government to buy silver as a way to raise inflation. As a result many of the previously unopened or unused mines started operating. The discovery of a large silver lode in nearby Leadville swelled the population of the area significantly with many miners in the same valleys that had produced the earlier gold rush. The silver boom brought along with it improved railroad lines, including lines from Denver to Leadville and Denver to Aspen, the latter of which saved the town from dying out.

The Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 more than doubled the amount of silver the government purchased and extended the silver boom in Colorado to even further heights; at one point there were serious discussions about moving the state capital from Denver to Leadville. However, when President Grover Cleveland called for the repeal of the Act in 1893, the silver market collapsed; by the end of the year many of the old mining camps were completely empty.

The increase in population and wealth that occurred during the silver boom in Colorado remained in the state, moving into other pursuits such as agriculture. In a very real sense the silver boom of the late 19th century helped build the state of Colorado into what it has becom


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