Share 'Our Volunteers: Larry Newlin Digs Through the Archives, Finds Gold' on Facebook Share 'Our Volunteers: Larry Newlin Digs Through the Archives, Finds Gold' on Twitter

Our Volunteers: Larry Newlin Digs Through the Archives, Finds Gold

Posted on: April 26th, 2012 by Abbey Smith

The American Alpine Club has over 9,000 members worldwide and each of those members approaches climbing and time in the outdoors differently. For some it’s a career, for some a diversion, for others, an obsession. The Club’s membership spans boulderers, sport-climbers, hikers, skiers, trad-rats, scientists, big-wall aficionados, adventurers, ice-climbers, peak-baggers, explorers, and alpinists. It’s a big tent, but there are a lot of people in love with the mountains excited to fill that tent.

Telling the stories of our members is important to us because it helps the community understand who makes up that community.  Member and Library volunteer Larry Newlin has spent countless hours helping us catalog all of the cool stuff that we have in the archives…

For as long as I’ve been a volunteer at the American Alpine Club Library, the entire staff has been working on unpacking, organizing and compiling an inventory of donated books and periodicals. The collection is called the Central Asia Library, but there are books about the cultures and history of every part of the world. The 13,000 or so books range from large picture books to historical climbing guides, autobiographies and government publications. Many are rare; some are autographed. Most are in excellent condition, including the ones that are hundreds of years old. One book we have found was published in 1661. [View Library Collections]

I have a special interest in Colorado history, and since I live in downtown Denver I have an even greater interest in the history of Denver. Among the stacks of books I came across, my favorite contains the diaries of William H. Jackson, a prominent early outdoor photographer.  He kept excellent accounts of his travels through Colorado during two expeditions, one in 1873  followed by another in 1874.

These diaries are fascinating to those of us interested in the early years of Colorado. And they present an interesting challenge for the right person who might want to try to duplicate the route taken by Jackson. Even better, with these diaries, if that person were especially adventurous, an attempt could be made to use the same campsites, eat the same food, sleep in blankets and canvas tents, and pack all provisions and equipment on stubborn mules just like Jackson and the men with him did. The diaries are detailed enough to make it possible.

Among his many adventures, Jackson tells of running across William N. Byers at one point in 1873, sleeping over in the settlement of Oro (before it became present day Leadville), dining at the upscale Delmonico’s in Denver and sleeping over at the Ford House, climbing Mount Elbert, and relates a detailed account of how the party hiked in and discovered the best location to take his famous photo of Mount of the Holy Cross. One interesting feature of the diaries is that Jackson includes many of the prices charged for his various supplies and accommodations.  

Compared to this day and age of waterproof clothing, lightweight tents and GPS satellite navigation, the Jackson diaries tell a fascinating story of how things were done 140 years ago. I almost felt tired myself from simply reading the daily accomplishments. After one especially long day floundering through the forest with his assistants trying to get a picture of Long’s Peak, then making his way back to camp well after dark, one of his entries is my favorite. “We were a couple of the most fatigued mortals there ever was.”

—Library Volunteer Extraordinaire Larry Newlin

NOTE from Beth Heller, Library Director:  Larry Newlin and his wife Laura spent the summer biking along the Danube and are authors of a book about tandem biking across the US

Comments are closed.