This week in Colorado history: Smallpox and subscriptions

September 5, 1900
The “Boys in the State Industrial School at Golden” learned further that crime never pays in September of 1900. As if having been sent to reform school was not enough punishment in itself, twelve students were affected by a mild outbreak of smallpox, reported The Colorado Transcript. The school itself issued a letter that explained two students were already cured, four more were expected to be released within the week, and the rest were “up and about the hospital, dressed and in usual health, with the exception of the eruption.” As for the cause, “To the best of our [the administration’s] belief and information this disease was brought here by a 12-year-old boy from the Arapahoe county jail.”

School physician Dr. W.W. Branson quarantined the outbreak to the satisfaction of the state board of health official Dr. G.E. Tyler and local health officer Dr. J. P. Kelly. The letter was published in order to alert the friends and families of the students that correspondence from the school was currently prohibited, but that if any students became seriously ill their family would be notified.

Hopefully, the boy responsible for the smallpox outbreak could avoid a life of further crime and thus save himself from the fate of Spencer Dicks. Dicks allegedly murdered Orville Miner in Castle Rock Saturday, September 1, 1900. He was so wracked with guilt, however, that by the next Tuesday, he had driven to Rocky Ford and sent a telegram confessing to the murder. He then “registered at the St. James hotel under his own name and went to bed,” according to The Transcript.

For those seeking to avoid a life of crime via education, The Transcript offered a contest for the entire fall of 1900. The paper offered “a scholarship in the Modern School of Business, Denver, to the person sending the largest number of new subscribers between the present time and December 31st, 1900.” Whatever reader was able to recruit the most new subscribers willing to pay for a full year of subscription above the minimum of twenty names would receive six months of education in “penmanship, commercial arithmetic, stenography, book-keeping, etc.” Cash value of the prize was $36.00.

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