Denver history Western history

Happy Colorado Day

Routt Cover
The story of the Routts and Colorado's Statehood

Not so long ago, every August 1st, Colorado celebrated “Colorado Day” in a big way. In the late 70s and early 80s, we closed our typography and graphics business mid-morning to watch a long parade full of horses and pioneers along Nevada Avenue in Colorado Springs. Crowds and decorations abounded for the celebration. Why? This excerpt from “First Governor, First Lady” offers an explanation.

“Undaunted by heavy criticism from the East, people of Colorado voted by a margin of 11,000 to ratify the constitution on July 1, 1876. Governor Routt certified the results and notified President Grant of the outcome. Statehood for Colorado was nearly complete.

“On July 4, 1876, Routt acted as master of ceremonies at a grand Independence Day celebration in Denver that went on for two days. After a parade through the city, the celebratory gathering of city officials and exuberant citizens assembled in a grove on the banks of the Platte River near the Colfax viaduct. As he addressed the crowd, Routt was handed a telegram from Representative Stephen Decatur, who was attending the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Carefully adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses, Routt read the words, ‘Are we a state?’ from the telegram.

“‘We are!’ was John Routt’s immediate and emphatic, booming reply to the throng, who sent up a great, deafening cheer. He continued to read aloud his reply as sent to the Exposition. ‘The Centennial State and the twenty thousand here assembled send joyful greetings to the sister States of the American Union represented at Philadelphia on this glorious Fourth. (signed) John L. Routt.’ With that response, Colorado achieved the pride and dignity of statehood.

“While Colorado was celebrating its status as the country’s newest state in 1876, it was also celebrating the centennial birthday of the country. The coincidence inspired Colorado’s nickname — the ‘Centennial State.’ On August 1, 1876, President Grant issued his proclamation of statehood officially making Colorado the nation’s thirty-eighth state. That day is known as Colorado Day and is celebrated as the state’s official birthday.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, to the great state of Colorado, and all gathered therein!

Joyce B. Lohse