Monday, October 26, 2009

Globeville: the Melting Pot

The arrival of so many immigrants to Globeville was the product of perfect timing. The rapid growth of industry in Colorado during the 1870s and 80s motivated employers to recruit people who would work for less than American-born workers even as economic, religious and political unrest in eastern Europe and Russia led hundreds of thousands to emigrate. Agents from the railroads and the Gilpin County Cheap Labor Bureau distributed fliers that promised lucrative jobs on the railroads and in the mines; smelters welcomed those who would endure the gritty, dangerous work near furnaces. These factors led to an explosion in the number of immigrants arriving during the 1880s, and by the mid 1890s, one in four people in Denver was foreign-born.* Then the bottom fell out.
The nation’s economy collapsed in 1893, which hit Colorado’s mining-based economy particularly hard. Late arrivals found themselves competing with American-born workers, as well as with earlier groups, for fewer jobs. The newcomers were resented because they would work for lower wages, and therefore did not assimilate as easily as the earlier immigrants had done. They settled near their countrymen, creating ethnic enclaves within a larger neighborhood. This was a defining characteristic of Globeville, which became known as the “melting pot” because of the variety of people who lived there.
Each ethnic group tried to maintain its own language, religion and cultural traditions. These groups include:
  • The German-speaking group, who came not from Germany, but from a region of Russia along the Volga River.
  • The Poles, who began to migrate to the United States following partitions of Poland among Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary that began in 1772. More political unrest in the 1870s and 1880s brought large numbers to Globeville.
  • Southern Slavs, including Slovenians, Croatians, Macedonians, and Serbs, who came from an area that had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  • There were also Russian, Slovak, Czech and “Carpatho-Russian” families, whose countries had been annexed by Austria-Hungary or Russia.
  • Hispanic settlers, some who can trace their family's presence in America to the 16th century, began to settle in Globeville after World War II.
*Leonard, Stephen J. “Denver’s Foreign Born Immigrants, 1859-1900,” Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Claremont Graduate School, 1971
A printed advertisement from the turn of the century announces, “The Slovenian Singing Club will sing Slovenian folk songs in the City’s Fourth of July program.” The women are left, Carrie Grugan, and right, Mollie Zalar. Photo courtesy of Betty Zalar Paprocki

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shorty Maynard, Circus Clown, 1882 - 1950

He was born to strict Catholic parents in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1882 and was expected, at age 13, work in a shoe factory for 10 cents a day. At that point, Rudolf E. Pigeon did what most people only dream of doing: he ran away and joined the circus.
Pigeon began as a member of the Menard troupe of acrobats, traveling the East Coast with the Haggenback Wallace Circus. In 1906, he moved out West and joined the Sells-Floto Circus, owned by Frederick Bonfils and Harry H. Tammen, co-owners of the Denver Post. Known professionally as Shorty Maynard, Pigeon frequently worked with animals, riding atop a mule’s head and also hanging on to its tail to be dragged around the sawdust ring several times. Another audience favorite was Bill, the Trained Goose who performed tricks with Shorty for 14 seasons. Other acts featured trained roosters and acrobatic stunts.
By 1922, Pigeon had married. When he and wife Ada started a family, the travel and hardships of circus life proved exhausting, so Pigeon retired in 1923 after nearly 30 years in the big top. He first moved his family to Sterling to operate John’s Pool Hall, which became a casualty of the farm recession after World War I. Pigeon then moved his wife and daughter Carol to Globeville and sought out his old friend Harry Tammen, who arranged a position with Swift & Company, where Pigeon worked for more than twenty years.
Daughter Carol Christenson recalls, “I remember my dad walking across that bridge at 46th Avenue every morning at 5 a.m. to go to work in the packinghouse. He didn’t make much money, but we always paid our bills on time.”
The man who had traveled the country making people laugh lived quietly with his wife, daughters, Carol and Florence, and son Charles at 4801 Grant St. He died in August 1950 of heart failure and is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Denver.
Rudolf E. Pigeon in his garden in Globeville. Pigeon is buried at Riverside Cemetery in block 13, about 18 paces north of the Archer monument. The small dark gray marker features a picture of a clown.
Photo courtesy of Carol Christenson