The problem with Dr. Corwin

Dr. Corwin is looked at from two different points of view, one that is thankful for all the good that he did for Southern Colorado, and the other is his association with Eugenics. In this report I try to explain how so many Intellectuals of his time got caught up in the Hubris of a perfect society that so easily discounted those that may not have been perfect. It is not an excuse, but an acknowledgement that man is prone to foolish attempts at Utopia.


Dr. Richard Corwin was born May 24th 1852 in Binghamton New York, and received his Medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1878. In 1881 after interning at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago he was offered a position as chief surgeon at Colorado Coal and Iron, later to become Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I). His contributions to Pueblo, and in fact all of southern Colorado over the next forty five years were immeasurable.

When he first came to Pueblo Colorado Coal and Iron ran a small nineteen bed hospital converted from a single house. In 1882 when a typhoid epidemic filled that small hospital beyond capacity he convinced the company to build a newer hospital that he helped design that had eighty beds and would be constantly expanding. That would become Minnequa hospital and would service all of the CF&I employees and their families in the Pueblo area. Seeing a need for health services in the other communities that were related to CF&I, he had a doctor or nurse and an infirmary in all the mining towns that serviced CF&I. Realizing the importance of health of not only employees, but also their families to the overall benefit of the company, he felt a responsibility to the all those that worked for the company. In 1902 under the leadership of DR. Corwin, CF&I started their Sociological Department that supported kindergartens and eventually schools in all the mining towns. Dr. Corwin intrinsically understood that good health was important not only for employees, but also their families, and that good living conditions was in fact good for the community.

In Pueblo itself Dr. Corwin was on the school board for almost forty years and was a big proponent of education for all children. CF&I sponsored the YMCA in Pueblo and built smaller versions in the mining towns, as Corwin thought that physical activity was a way to insure good health in the community. He encouraged the benefit of local teams to give youth a sense of community and keep them active in productive activity. These were often run out of the YMCA, but often CF&I would sponsor teams.

Dr. Corwin was always researching and learning about the latest medical breakthroughs and often authored articles about the observations and new medicine that was being discovered. During World War I he went to see the latest medicine being practiced on the front. He was keenly aware of the relationship and similarities between industrial accidents and war related injuries. When he came back he shared these observations with the staff at Minnequa hospital, making Minnequa hospital one of the most advanced in the state.

Dr. Corwin did have a dark side, especially looking back with our twenty first century values and moralities. That dark side was enthusiasm and interest in eugenics. Eugenics was a byproduct of Charles Darwin’s book On The Origin Of Species, published in 1859, which gained a large following in the gilded era amongst the intellectuals of the time. The word eugenics was coined by Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton in 1883 derived from the Greek word eugenes, meaning well born, or of noble race. Defined by Anglo Saxon culture as “the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable or undesirable traits. Corwin was not alone in this thinking as many of the brightest minds in the world at this time believed in it also, including Teddy Roosevelt, H. G. Wells, Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., family planning pioneer Marie Stopes, and even Helen Keller. All of them thought that they could improve society by limiting the diseased and disabled and under class of poverty if they controlled the reproduction systems of those that they saw as undesirables; it was an elitist attitude spawned from Darwin’s theory of evolution. It definitely had a racial element to it, as many thought that it would be a way to control all races that were not of northern European descent. Corwin was not the only scientist who endorsed eugenics, as Linus Pauling, a two time Nobel Prize winning Chemist, also endorsed this philosophy, and Francis Crick, the Nobel Prize winning discoverer of DNA.

This was a dangerous solution to poverty and disease that would be presented in all its brutality to the world by Adolph Hitler and the Holocaust in the late 1930s and early 1940s. This would change many peoples thinking drastically, as they came to terms with what eugenics looked like in its most cruel form. As historians look back and tell the story of eugenics they must be careful to not insert twenty first century ideals into the early 1900s. The explosion of eugenics thoughts had to go through its own evolution and ethical search for its legitimacy. Ironically some of Dr. Corwin’s solutions that he proposed here in southern Colorado, early education and good medical care for all were the solution to many of the problems of the poor and the underclass. There is no doubt that eugenics and the elitist attitude that came with it was in direct conflict with all that he did well. Eugenics is a testament to the hubris of educated man and new science that allows for man to imagine utopian ideas. Sometimes our imagination over reaches and we have to think through the unintended consequences.




Postal Encyclopedia

Have spent a few days going through the Postal Encyclopedia. At first look it mostly shows all the postal stamps that have been generated by post offices throughout Colorado. As you might imagine there have been hundreds of different post offices in this state, and each has had several stamps attributed to each one. Upon further review it gives a history of each town or neighborhood in the state, and the names of each postmaster . It also gives latitude and longitude positions of each one. This can be very interesting in a state like Colorado that has had many towns come and go over the years starting during the mining days . Often those towns might only last a year or so, until the minerals dry up. Sometimes the towns would not disappear but would move , maybe just a mile or so away, and for some reason would come back to life. If you are looking for histories on these towns it is a great way to get fundamental information, and often names that may be a good head start on genealogy.

When I first started working on this I wasn’t paying much attention as all I was seeing were those postmarks, but then I slowed down a little bit and started reading the ways and reasons that those towns came into existence, I found it very interesting and it put a story behind them. Often the story explained a lot. I have been to several ghost towns here in Colorado, the type that only leave behind a cemetery and an old broken down structure or two. After reading this I started to understand how these towns came to be where they are and you start to imagine the people that inhabited them. If you put the histories together in a string you can see how whole counties or areas were interrelated. Really gives you a sense of the state and the people that passed through at one time or another.



Dr. Corwin

Dr. Richard Corwin, a transplant from New York, came to Pueblo when hired by Colorado Coal and Iron,in 1881. Colorado Coal and Iron would become Colorado Fuel and Iron several years after Corwin came here and his role as Cheif Surgeon and doctor would be expanded to the new Socialogical Department, where he would have a huge role in Southern Colorado. I was asked to write a piece for the library on DR. Corwin. In it I explained how important he was not only to the medical community and facilities here, but also how he worked hard to assimilate the diverse immagrant community and also stressed the importance of early education. I also discussed the darker side of Dr. Corwin, his belief in Eugenics and how it would improve society with its use. While Dr. Corwin was like many of the intellectuals of the time in the belief in its benefits, our twenty first century sensibilities can very easily see how this was in fact negative to the welfare of mankind.

I went back to where the idea of eugenics was a natural by product of Darwins “Origins of Species”. I tried to show that through mans hubris he could take these ideas and imagine a Utopian society, without seeing the arrogance of that. I notice that it was an intellectual and elitist pursuit, favored by many that could not empathize with the poor or the disabled or diseased. It would take an Adolph Hitler to show how this in fact was a form of genocide.

It was not my intent to defend Corwin, who in most respects was a good and decent man, but more to show how new science has to go through an evolution of thought to get past the unintended evil that can result from seeing the possibilities of science, without looking at the moral dilemma that it exposes.


Pueblo Library Archives

this last four weeks I have been working in the Pueblo Library Archives. It is amazing what a library in a relatively small city accumulates, papers and records donated over a century and a half. Much of it pertaining to the largest employer over that one hundred and fifty year history. That employer being CF&I, and all the related industry that was associated with it. The other thing that seems to contribute to the archives is government records. Much of what I have seen are related to the depression era when government was the last relief for most communities throughout the country, and Pueblo county was no exception. I went through stacks and stacks of relief receipts to individuals in Pueblo, many just a few dollars at a time , as little as two or three, but most larger , but still small pieces to hold families together and keep them fed. Within those records you can see remnants of dignity holding on in the worst of times.One that I found had a note saying that the woman that they had contacted refused help because she inventoried her pantry and thought she had enough to last another week without assistance. Reminiscent of a time when you may need help but your pride kept you from taking it till you absolutely needed it and you realized that others may need it more.

I worked for about three days filing four to five thousand photographs from the Myron Wood. Myron Wood was a photographer from Colorado Springs who for many years in the 1960s and 1970s traveled all over Colorado taking photos of everyday life and scenes. The files are broken down by the towns and areas of Colorado and New Mexico. Many of them showing people working and worshiping or enjoying the Colorado mountains. He took hundreds of ariel photos showing the landscapes of the mountains and plains.

Next work is studying Dr. Richard Corwin, The doctor that was hired by CF&I and had so much to do with the infrastructure of Pueblo’s health care system.

Pueblo’s Mill

For the last four months I have been interning at the Steelworkers Archives, and have learned how fragile the existence of non profits can be. I started out working with Blake Hatton, but two weeks into my internship budget cuts ended his time with the Steelworkers Archives. One month later, the Executive Directors hours, Chris Schreck, hours were cut in half, leaving a void, although Chris still gave extra hours to the Archives. This is how non-profits sometimes have to function, despite the fact that there is so much work to do.The shame of it is that the city of Pueblo, and all of southern Colorado needs what the Steelworkers Archives have to offer. Rarely is a city or region so closely related to one company so much.

Pueblo was here before the steel mill, but from 1872 when General Palmer first started building his railroad and all the vertical companies that circulated around it Pueblo has grown along with it. At its height the mill employed 10,000 funding the economy, not only in Pueblo, but other cities that had mines that were directly linked to the mill.The diversity of cultures that still exist in Pueblo was created as the mill drew workers from all over the world, the Italians, Slovenians, Belgium s, Greeks and, Hispanics that were native to southern Colorado and New Mexico. Each coming here and establishing neighborhoods and lives here. Those neighborhoods started their own unique bakeries grocery stores, barber shops and any other businesses that help build a community. When you go over old oral histories you realize that there was great pride in the people that worked for CF&I. Those oral histories show that it was both management and labor that shared that pride. Even the longest strike of 1959, which lasted 113 days, there was little tension between labor and management. The strike was called nationally, and although they honored it, it wasn’t due to friction here. In the 1980s when the Steel Industry nation wide was starting to fall apart there were mass layoffs, and CF&I was no exception. By the 1990’s when Oregon Steel had taken over after the bankruptcy the employees that were left noticed that the plant was not being maintained. Most employees from that time grew bitter towards Oregon Steel, and longed for the old days of CF&I.

Oral History, Saints and Sinners

Over the last two weeks I have been working on oral histories, listening to the individual histories as told by workers who worked in the mill over time. Not of those that are important, or where leaders, but those that went to work each day with a lunch bucket, and worked their shifts in anonymity. The first thing you realize is that they all have a story to tell, collectively the fabric of the mill, and in fact the city of Pueblo. Most were either immigrants themselves or second generation United States citizens, with part of their culture still within memory. Pueblo is a city that was built by immigrants, wave after wave from different parts of mostly Europe, and those European roots still prevalent throughout Pueblo neighborhoods.

I met through an oral history Matt Puelen, a dutch immigrant who came to Pueblo after World War II, under a program that the United States offered to three hundred Dutch families who had helped rebuild Europe during the Marshall Plan. Matt took advantage of that and found himself in Pueblo in 1957, and was given a job at CF&I where he worked for 29 years. Where in 1986 the steel mill was winding down after the Steel collapse in America. Even though he was just an hourly worker he managed to find himself in the negotiations as the Mill was being sold to Oregon Steel and he got a seventy million dollar commitment for the steelworkers retirement plan. He would later become a Pueblo county Commissioner. I also met his wife, Margaret Hernandez Puelen, who worked at the mill from 1944 to 1952. She worked during the war years when women took on the jobs vacated by the men that were serving in the Pacific and the European front. She spent her days handling nine and sixteen inch brick. She noted that the toughest jobs were assigned to Hispanic and black women in the plant. Allthough the work was hard she liked the work and especially the group that she worked with. She would meet Matt years after she left CF&I, while going to ethnic or western dances in the local clubs.

It seems that most of the people that worked at the mill were very proud of being a part of CF&I, and also very proud of their association with the unions. Several talked about how it seemed that the company and the unions worked so well together, and even when there were strikes or layoffs there was very little friction between the two. The biggest strike was in 1959 and lasted one hundred and thirteen days, but was a national strike not a local strike. All were glad to see it end, and went back to work without lingering friction. While there were some accidents , some being fatal most commented on the safety efforts that were followed throughout the plant. Most accepted that many jobs were very dangerous, but felt that they were prepared for the danger.

Saturday the 21st of October I participated in a program called “Saints and Sinners”. This was an annual program that invited people to see how the different ethnicities settled in Pueblo, with churches and bars being the center point. There was tours of four churches that were certainly ethnic in there establishment, and the tours of six bars that were the haunts of different ethnic groups.  Through these tours you discovered that neighborhoods were established and churches built in those neighborhoods that catered to each nationality. After getting off of work there were bars that also catered to each neighborhood. I spent my time hosting and learning about the Greek Orthodox traditions at St. John The Baptist Greek Orthodox church.  Discovered a great deal about the Greeks that came to Pueblo.

The Steelworkers Museum does not get many visitors, all though it is one of the most important museums in Pueblo, forever tieing the links of our cities past, from the biggest employer  to the immigrants that came to work in the mill, to the very unique neighborhoods that were settled by those immigrants creating the fabric of not only Pueblo but all of southern Colorado.



Community service at the Steelworkers Archives

The Steelworkers archives are a rich resource form the people of this community, although that seems to be an unrecognized source of the history of the Pueblo and southern Colorado communities. A few recent examples have come through recently that I was privileged to help with. Most come in simple requests from local people asking for simple information about relatives that once worked for CF&I or one of the mines that were associated with CF&I. Usually. the people that contact us just want to fill in information about dates or want to find out what their relatives may have done while working there, or maybe may be wondering if their relatives name happened to be in one of the weekly newspapers that the company put out. Our archives go back to at least 1910, and have detailed employment records, so we will look them up and give them at a nominal cost any information we might be able to find. Sometimes they will remember an article or photo that was in the paper , “The Blast”, and may just ask us to retrieve it for them. Usually in an attempt to fill in gaps while putting together a geneology record of their family. Many ties it is about the plant or one of the mines. I have looked up a few of these and gathered the information for those requesting it.

The Steelworkers Archives also have collected alot of information and photos from other local sources, that can be retrieved and passed on upon request. One of the more interesting requests that we received was from a woman looking for the Blueprints to a church at Quincy and Adams in Pueblo South. fortunately we had recently received from the city of Pueblo hundreds of blueprints to all kinds of buildings in Pueblo, most of them dating back to the first half of the twentieth century, and sure enough there was an original set from that church. We scanned all fifteen that were in the set, transferred them onto a USB drive and within a day she picked them up. This was an interesting process that I thoroughly enjoyed, as I asked myself what she might do with them. I never saw her when she picked them up to ask her, but I am sure that if she plans to remodel these will certainly come in handy.

We also recently got a collection of photos and newspaper stories from St. Mary Corwin Hospital. I took one large box of these and digitized them. It is a log process that starts by trying to identify what each photo or article is, filing it in a storage bin while scanning each piece so that it can be retrieved on the computer. These were very random pieces that dated back to 1887 to the early 2000’s. Most of them pertaining to the Hospital and its predecessor, Minnequa Hospital and the nursing school., and also annual reports dating back to 1904. These annual reports were full of old photographs and of course financial records. The most interesting one was from 1929 and had a three page memorial to Doctor Richard Corwin, who had dedicated his life to the care of CF&I employees.

Steelworkers Archives

The first few weeks at the Steelworkers Archives have been enlightening and interesting. Enlightening because quickly you realize the vast amount of archives that are scattered around a large building that has room after room of boxes of records and photos, most starting around 1910, many of them not entered into the archives. It is obvious that if there were twenty interns they would have many hours ahead of them to categorize records that are still being added to the collection. Through all the years there are very detailed records that need to go through, and there is very little staff. CF&I was very diligent about taking photos and film of all the companies sites, the mill itself and the individual mines and mining towns that were established to make things more efficient. CF&I in an effort to keep unions out of the company, tried to install benefits that would help the employees, Called at first corporate welfare, starting about 1903 under Charles Osgood, These included schools in all the mining towns and Healthcare outside the mill. This background that I learned in the first few days would be a great deal of help as I culled through some of the Archives. After Ludlow in 1914 the company started their own in house union, again to avoid the United Mine Workers Union, which continued the practice of Corporate welfare. Of course this was not purely altruistic, as it did work for keeping the unions out, and after several years the mine workers would realize that an in house union had some restrictions that did not always benefit them.

After a few days of looking through the archives I started transferring photos, at first negatives, into the digital records. Have to admit this is a long process starting with scanning the photo and then placing it in three different files, Master, Service, and Access files. The next few days were spent scanning photos into the same files, the first ones from the mill itself, and then several from the Morley Mine down by Raton Pass. These were very interesting and through the process you learn all about the mines and the towns that supported the mines. This was very helpful in understanding the lives and work of the miners and their families, besides the photos I had an opportunity to look at maps that detailed the layout of the mines and start to understand the work that was done in them. The following few days I took those same photos and installed them in the Past Perfect files.

Unfortunately the funds were cut and Blake Hatton’s position was elimanated, because of funding , since then I have been directly working with Chris the Executive Director. He has been very helpful and patient with me, and I greatly appreciate that.

Neurasthenic nation

How was the diagnosis of Neurasthenia tied to the advent of Industrialization?

The Author through the introduction and the first two chapters describes what a country that had been used to an agrarian lifestyle that moved at a pace that only can be described as natural power and speed might feel if they suddenly felt everything changing as far as pace and communication,  and the speed that it is dispatched. The agriculture base that they had long lived under was changing towards an urban life that was represented by monotonous factories and offices that were restricted to being indoors. Certainly the pace had quickened and the pressures of modernity and industrialization influenced the sense of anxiety that came with these sudden changes. Certainly that anxiety would show in the way that people saw their lives change, and they may be overwhelmed  at times. There also was a sense that this new lifestyle was usurping control from the individual. The author shows that there was a wish to describe this loss and confusion that showed up in the people’s everyday life. When the diagnosis was explained with its broad parameters of symptoms the people recognized themselves in the diagnosis. There was a lot of stress related to this new speed, and pressure to keep up. While in many ways they welcomed  new technologies at the same time there was evidence that it was not all good, as between the 1870s and the 1890s there were several depressions that affected many and those that were new urbanites did not have the security of the farm. The author in these first few chapters shows how the medical community and the pharmaceuticals of the day started putting everybody in this class and were perfectly willing to make as much off of it as they could.

As he goes into the rest of the book he seems to buy into neurasthenia as a real diagnosis, but at the same time realizes that it was perhaps a catchall for anything that might be going on. He describes several case studies that seem to be a direct effect of the new modernization, but at the same time he discusses how in a sense this was a check on the new modernity. Something that caused a way to look at the price of a new industrial world. I think the author does not completely buy into neurasthenia he does see that over this time day-to-day life changed and this was a way to learn how to adapt to it.

Did neurasthenia affect men and women differently?

It certainly did according to the evidence that this author got out of it, although from what I could sense for the women it was something that had been below the surface for much longer. Women’s problems had been there for much longer and may have been coaxed to the surface by the suffrage movement allowing them to speak up. It seems that the women were affected by the fact that they saw their role as homemakers being without intellectual stimulation, and in fact they were caught in a position of day after day working nonstop in keeping up the home and taking care of children. The monotony of their day-to-day existence caused them to ask what more is there that they were not getting out of life.It seems to me that the suffrage movement brought this to the surface much more. Even wealthy women were somewhat caught in this cycle of taking care of the home, without something to challenge them more. In a sense there is still some of this with us.

With men it was a c completely different thing but also part of the roles that men were expected to play in society. That role of being the provider and protector of their families. With the new Industrialization often they had to deal with the new limits of industrialization, where they often had no control over their lives. There jobs often were dependant on a new structure that was out of their control. With the many depressions came layoffs and cutbacks that they had no say in. This frustration caused many men to struggle with their role as defined by gender as the provider of their families

What is the legacy of neurasthenia in today’s world?

This in the end really made me think about how we look at all mental diseases that crop up in today’s world. Prior to the wide-ranging diagnosis of neurasthenia we ignored the fact that the mind could have such impact on our day-to-day life. If things were not going well for you , you had to just deal with it on your own. After neurasthenia , and especially after doctors worked through the quackery of early treatment they came up with treatments that really did work. At first it started with rest and diets that seemed to address the issue as a nutritional issue, they came to start letting in the new sciences of Freud and others working in the issue of psychiatric treatment and the new ways to use this new science. As this has evolved it has been used for many things today that back then would be under the umbrella of neurasthenia. Although I am not sure how successful this science was back then , we use psychological therapy often now to great success, or at least as a great crutch. It is ironic that it was some of the this actually started through some  that were not among the mainstream churches of the day that led to the idea of looking within rather than looking for help through the medicine of the day. As much as I hate to credit churches with doing anything positive, it seemed that this guidance was the turning point on getting a handle on neurasthenia. I also think that the next step, or a simultaneous step of leading a strenuous life also stays with us today, that working hard is its own therapy for regaining control of outside influences that seem to encourage lethargy.

River of Shadows

  1. This book is a biography of Muybridge, but it’s also something more. Describe the something more.
    1. This book is about the conversion of power that is natural, to a power that exceeds natural power, and how that expansion of speed condensed time and space. It is about modernity as it moved west with the trains The trains condensed time and space and technology exploded in ways never imagined with one thought leading to the next forever leaving behind the image of man being limited by the speed of what he could control without science. Muybridge started out to find an answer to a simple question, that would seem to have little consequence other than to the man who was curious about what his eye could not distinguish alone. Once the question was answered it planted seeds of curiosity in first Muybridge and eventually many others. The inquisitive thoughts about motion expanded beyond Muybridge and touched many other worlds, science, art, even labor with Frederick Jackson Taylor’s studies on labor efficiency. The point of the book was using Muybridge  and where he went with this new technology, but the same could be said for many other innovations at the same time. In the background others are experimenting with technologies , some to move things forward , others like the native Americans attempting to hang onto a way of life that is suddenly being taken from them. While Muybridge is preserving an image of man to be played back after he dies, the Modoc are trying to bring back all that have died in the past to help fight the overwhelming technologies of the whites through the Ghost Dance. This new world that found a way to annihilate time and distance, that found ways to flatten the landscape and allow man to ignore natural limits. The author uses Stanford’s curiosity that had little importance to others as a starting point that would lead to other questions and other technologies and whole industries.
  2. What does this book tell us about the history of the American west and the history of California in particular?     It tells us that  when the railroads connected the east to the west that San Francisco became a center for modernization and that new ideas had found a place to continue the industrialization and innovation of the east. But in the west it seemed like there were few constraints and everything was wide open and open to make a name for yourself. As Solnit explains “Something entirely new had been invented, something that would change the world, a kind of headstrong rootless sense of heroic possibilities and glamour still summed up by the word California”. (P 123) Although California was the furthest west of the west it was the center of the west. It was were the west drew like a magnate the innovators, the railroad tycoons , The new beginnings and fresh starts. It was almost a mythological place with its divergent natural resources and possibilities. It became a culture open to new ideas backed by great wealth. That wealth allowed for experimentation and ideas to grow into implementation. Experimentation like a very wealthy man wondering whether a horses hooves are simultaneously off the ground at the same time, and then what may seem frivolous or even decadent to prove it grew into a succession of improvements on technology that created a whole industry, and along the way pushed science and labor and art to new un-imagined understandings. The west was untamed when we got there, as was nature, the migrants that moved there tamed it to a certain degree, sometimes for the good and sometimes , often by unintended consequences for the bad.
  3.  Why should we care whether all four legs of a horse ever get off the ground at the same time when its trotting?     We shouldn’t really care, but it is a testament to mans curiosity that what comes out of a question that has no real use grows. The question needed an answer for just Stanford and his study of horses, but once Muybridge found a way to reach an answer,  that led to many more questions, first in Muybridges wonder and study of motion to what led to the motion picture industry and all the things in between. It was with that first examination of the horses hooves that Muybridge realized that the eye alone does not catch everything.That is why he decided to do so many strips of people naked, it was to reveal what was hidden by the shadows within a motion. He realized that clothes themselves hid the motion of the body.He wanted to expose everything once he realized how much was hidden from  the naked eye.