COBWEB CORNERS: A golden opportunity
By Mel McFarland
Back in 1903 there was a big exposition in St. Louis. The World's Fair is remembered for a lot of things, but one of the exhibits came from the Cripple Creek District. One of the ideas was to build a miniature of the Capitol Building in Denver using gold bars. As the plan further developed, a miniature of a gold mine was proposed. As things took shape, a plan was circulated to find $1 million in gold bricks for whatever the exhibit would be.
Now, even back then, gold bricks did not just sit in bank vaults. Once a mill produced one, it was promptly sent off to a variety of places, like the Denver mint or Washington, D.C. Colorado Commissioner of Mines E. Lyman White sent word to the various mining companies to see if such a display could be put together. It was a big request, but two operators in Victor sent replies that, indeed, they could fill the bill.
The folks with the World's Fair were quite excited over the possibility, but they really wanted to put on a show. They asked if $2 million was possible. I guess they thought if two mines could come up with one, surely some others could double it. A million dollars in gold today is quite a chunk. I think a gold brick runs about 65 pounds. So by today's value, it would only take three of them. Back in 1903, gold was valued at about $15 an ounce, as compared to about $400 now. That would 26 or so bricks. Twice that if they went for the two million!
As I understand it, they got the two and sent it to St. Louis, along with members of the Colorado National Guard to keep an eye on it. I have not heard where the second million came from, but at least the first one came from Victor. Many politicians up in Denver were against the plan, considering the possible loss.
Years ago, some of my uncles worked in the Golden Cycle Mill off 21st Street, and when they turned out a brick, the process of getting to the railroad station for shipment was never routine. Sometimes it went in a welder's truck, a borrowed car or truck, or even in a taxi! But never in anything that one might expect to see it in. Once a brick was on the train, on its way, everyone relaxed, until the next one.