Item #7755 [Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]. Thomas. C. Miller, photogs James W. Nutt.
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]
[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]

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Miller, Thomas. C.; James W. Nutt, photogs.

[Five stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes, along with an ambrotype of one of the miners.]

Park County, Colorado, ca. 1885; [Maine, ca. 1860]. 5 Stereoviews, 3.625” x 5.875” to 4” x 6.25” on larger mounts. CONDITION: Good+, light to moderate wear and toning to edges, light to moderate spotting and foxing; one with damstains to verso, a few with faint vertical creases at center of mounts. [With] sixth plate (2.75” x 3.25”) ambrotype, hand tinting, in a hinged case (3.5” x 4.5”), blind-stamped pebbled maroon calf, decorative gilt at inner edges, brass clasp, velvet lining, brass mat. CONDITION: Very good, sharp, with excellent tonality.

A set of five evocative stereoviews of Colorado mining scenes in the mid-1880s, with contemporary annotations by miner William Springer of Maine—evidently a participant in many of the scenes—together with a captivating earlier ambrotype of him.

In addition to one taken by Denver-based photographer James W. Nutt, four of the five stereoviews offered here are by Thomas C. Miller, with whom Nutt partnered in 1885, and who was active as a photographer in Alma, Colorado in the early and mid 1880s. Each view is sharp and well composed, retains very rich tonality, and has great depth of field. All are captioned in manuscript on the backs of the mounts, evidently by the man shown in the ambrotype, who, according to the Maine family from whom this collection came, is William Springer (1830–1909) of Litchfield Corners. The portrait shows him wearing a roughly textured coat, a hat, and smoking a cigar. A subtle red tint adds glow to his cheeks and the lit cigar tip. Springer spent some twelve years—between 1881 and 1893—in Colorado, and appears in the 1885 Colorado census as a carpenter in Park County, just east of Leadville. His wife Sarah evidently did not accompany him, and he likely sent these stereoviews, which document the mining scene of which he was a part, back home to her in Maine. One of them bears her ownership inscription on the verso, and several captions suggest his close involvement in the scenes pictured. On the back of “Placer Mining at Alma,” for instance, Springer’s note reads: “As it looks now June 12th where I have been at work this spring,” while the scene with the pack mules is explained: “Moveing day in Colo. Freighting into the mountains[.] Hoosier pass in the left hand corner in the distance.” 

The first stereoview pictures a group of miners—with a man who looks like Springer, older than in the ambrotype, closest to the camera, on the far right—as well as several women and children. The caption reads: “Group of Workman at Nestor Mine.” The Park County Bulletin reported in April of 1885 that “The Nestor mining company in Mosquito are now working a force of twelve men on their mine, eight on the day and four on the night shift, and taking out sufficient ore to run through the mill about eighteen tons every twenty-four hours…Business is picking up considerably around Park and…it will undoubtedly share the general prosperity of the coming season.”

The second stereoview, taken from an elevated vantage point, shows a hydraulic mining scene. Several figures stand in the middle distance in front of two spewing pipes, with snow-covered hills rising in the background. The captions read: “Placer Mining at Alma 1885” (in ink), and “As it looks now June 12th where I have been at work this spring” (in pencil).

The third view, with snowy, rough-cleared land in the foreground, shows the Alma smelting operation, with numerous figures visible on the roof and in front of the main building. The caption on the verso identifies the view as “Alma Smelter.”

The fourth stereoview shows, according to the caption, “Montgomery as it was in the spring of 1885[.] The mill shown is an old stamp mill.” About eleven men stand around what looks like a creekbed, with several buildings at the foot of the hills in the distance. A second, pencil caption from the same period on the back of the mat reads: “Mrs Wm Springer Litchfield Corner, Maine.”

The fifth view features two laden donkeys, hitched together with a long board and accompanied by three men. The caption on the back reads: “Moveing day in Colo. Freighting into the mountains[.] Hoosier Pass in left hand corner in the distance.”

Significant silver deposits were discovered near Alma in 1879 and 1880, and by the middle of the decade the town and camp were the smelting center of the region, with the Park County Bulletin reporting that “Alma is now making larger shipments of ore than any other camp in the state of its size.”

An informative collection of personally annotated stereoviews of Park County’s silver mining boom, with an earlier ambrotype portrait of the miner whose experience they reflect.

REFERENCES: “Litchfield,” Lewiston Evening Journal, February 16, 1893, p. 3; “Litchfield,” Lewiston Evening Journal, March 2, 1893, p. 3; Mautz, Biographies of Western Photographers (2018), pp. 204, 204; Park County Bulletin, April 25, 1885, p. 4.

Item #7755

Price: $3,500.00

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