Eye of the Archive: One Cool Collection
Last week I awoke from a splendid summer afternoon nap to discover that a very interesting donation had just been made to Aspen Historical Society (really to me, the AHS Archive, aren’t I lucky?!) The donation came from Chris Cooper, a descendant of the family who owned and operated the Cooper Book and Stationary Store for the first half of the 20th century. The Cooper Family Collection includes a whole lot of original negatives and prints showing the life and times in Aspen during the Quiet Years. I’m pretty excited about this donation in particular…because I’ve got the camera that took many of these photos! A camera that belonged to the Cooper family was donated to the AHS Collection in 2015, how cool is that?
Having something in my Vault that this family held in their own hands really spiked my curiosity, so I dug into myself for some details about them and their business. Here’s some background to back up my ebullience… The Cooper family came to Aspen in the early 1890s. They started the Cooper Bookstore/Cooper Book and Stationery Company, and rented cabins out near Difficult up Independence Pass from the 1920s-1950s. They took many photographs and added captions to sell as postcards in their bookstore. (AHS has received many of these postcards in various donations over the years, but thanks to the recent donation, the Cooper Family Collection now includes original negatives!) Based on newspaper records, the Cooper Book and Stationery Co. had opened by January of 1900. Housed in several locations throughout Aspen, the Cooper family operated it at least through 1942, and the store was still in business in 1953 but it’s unclear if the family had sold by that point.
Fred and Frances Cooper ran the store and raised two sons, Ed Cooper (born circa 1881) and Ted Cooper (born circa 1883). Ed married Fleeta Lamb (daughter of prominent Aspen druggist Al Lamb) and had three children, Albert, Patricia and Peggy. Ted married Lillian Stirling and their sons, Ted Jr. and Stirling “Buzz” Cooper later ran the cabins up by Difficult through the 1950s. The cabins went by several names throughout the years: Cooper’s Cabins, the Rocky Mountain Lodge, and the Aspen Park Cabins. This family knew how to diversify their enterprises!
And now their descendants have had the foresight to preserve this extensive and beautiful record of life around here over 100 years ago by donating it to the AHS Collection…gosh I love history! Below are some images from the Collection, which AHS will preserve and share in perpetuity. And then ta-ta for now, I’m back to browsing this incredible donation.
The “Eye of the Archive” blog post series, authored by A.B. (personified AHS Archive Building), offers an insider’s glimpse into the goings-on at Aspen Historical Society. Tune in for posts about the Collection, restoration projects, exhibit tid-bits, news around town, and more.
Cooper Book & Stationary Store on Hyman Ave in 1936