Denver’s historic Turnhalle theater at the Auraria Campus was transformed into a 1900s-era convention hall late last week, with red, white and blue bunting hanging from the walls and men and women milling around in black suits and lacy white dresses right out of an old-time Sears, Roebuck catalog.
A child wearing a newspaper boy’s outfit yelled "Paper! Paper! Read all about it! Democrats come to Denver!" as he hawked copies of the Colorado Prospector, a newspaper that reprints articles from Colorado’s early newspapers.
The Celebrate 1908 series, commemorating Denver’s 1908 Democratic National Convention with lectures, theatrical performances and a display of period artifacts, kicked off on Friday and continued through the weekend. Much of the event focused on the pomp — and hilarity — of 1908. In the artifact hall, which leads up to the Turnhalle theater in the historic Tivoli Student Union, a sign was on display: "Spitting onto the sidewalk prohibited. Penalty $5 to $100. Department of Health." An "’Ask Me’ How was I treated in Denver?" pin, a Regina music box playing tinny patriotic songs, and dozens of posters of William Jennings Bryan, the 1908 Democratic nominee were also on exhibit.
But the event wasn’t all lighthearted; several lectures dealt with sexism, racism and child labor, comparing conditions of a century ago to those of today.
"Making connections between the past and the present is the only way the past is relevant and the only way the present is comprehensible," said Bill Convery, state historian, at the series’ opening lecture.
The event was organized by cousins Gregorio Alcaro and Trini Gonzalez of Auraria Casa Mayan Heritage, a nonprofit group devoted to preserving the history of Auraria, which was one of the first settlements in the Denver area and which will serve as the site of the upcoming Democratic National Convention. Visit Celebrate 1908’s Web site for more.
Slideshow photos by Bob Spencer.