TAMMEN FAMILY PAPERS
Scope and Contents
The bulk of the material in this collection was donated by the family of Agnes Reid Tammen, her grandniece Helen Crabbs Rippey, husband Arthur Rippey and their children.
This series contains personal and professional items about both Harry H. Tammen and his second wife Agnes Reid Tammen, though few of the items were created by the Tammens themselves. Catalogs of the H.H. Tammen Curio Co. are intriguing in the scope and breadth of items offered. Several items related to the Sells-Floto Circus are included. The detailed receipts and descriptions of the furnishings of their home at 1061 Humboldt Street provides a rare glimpse into one of the most spectacular homes in Denver when it was built in 1908. Itemized lists of possessions following each of their deaths gives an understanding of their involvement in business, cultural and philanthropic institutions in Denver and Colorado.
A memory book traces Agnes Reid Tammen's trip with friends to Europe and the Middle East with postcards and photographs. Many newspaper pages relating to Harry Tammen's death are included, too, along with other promotional items of the Denver Post and stories of the Sells-Floto Circus. A series of drawings by architect Burnham Hoyt for a "tea house" that was never built are a part of this series.
Loose photographic prints, most of which are identified are part of this series. Three photo albums include one simply marked 1922-24, with no identification (though some locations are very recognizable); a second photo album has many types of photographs including tin types, carte de visite, and cabinet cards. All are in the album pages without identification. A third album is similar to the second in the types of photos, with few (sometimes uncertain) identifications.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research.
All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.
Biographical / Historical
Heye Heinrich (Harry) Tammen was born March 6, 1856, in Baltimore, Maryland. His father, Henry Heye Tammen, died about 1873, leaving his wife and Harry's mother, Caroline, with several children. Though it is unclear when Harry left home, he first worked in a printing business in Philadelphia before making his way to the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, in 1880, where he tended bar . By this time, he was married to Elizabeth Evans, daughter of Henry Evans of Baltimore. Whether he got married in Chicago, Philadelphia, or Maryland is unclear.
Tammen came to Denver late in 1880 and tended bar at the newly opened Windsor Hotel where he came into contact with William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Senator Edward Oliver Wolcott, Lord Dunraven, and many other celebrities of the day. Tammen started his own business when he observed how fascinated people were with colorful mineral specimens, regardless of their value. The 1883 Colorado Business Directory identified Tammen and Co. Curiosities, in the Windsor Block. In 1885, H.H. Tammen, bird and mineral curiosities was at 454 Larimer Street. In 1887, he listed himself as Proprietor of the Rocky Mountain Museum at 935 16th Street, and at 1624 Larimer Street the following year.
Tammen began a publishing venture called The Great Divide in the spring of 1889, to boost the sales of his curios using mail orders to supplement his walk-in customers. The monthly publication romanticized the West, featuring stories and photos of Indians, cowboys, Colorado towns, stories of mines and miners, plants, artists, and a lot of poetry. His wife, Elizabeth Tammen, was one of the incorporators, but she died the following year soon after Harry had built a new home for them at 2731 Arapahoe St. The mail order business stabilized his operation and Tammen moved his curio store much less frequently. In 1896, he moved to 16th Street - listed first at 819, then 817, and finally 815, where he was listed as H.H. Tammen Curio Company until 1906. The Great Divide, edited by Stanley Wood, continued until 1896 and moved with the curio operation from place to place until 1894, when it was published in Chicago with a different editor. It is not clear whether Tammen sold his interest in The Great Divide or retained it until it ceased publication in July 1896.
Tammen's lavishly illustrated catalogs showcased an array of artifacts, including bonnets, arrowheads, and other "Indian" items of negligible authenticity. In 1907, the H.H. Tammen Curio Company moved to 1524 Arapahoe Street, where it remained until 1921. Tammen's curio business was largely run by Carl Litzenberger, listed in their catalog as secretary. During the last few years of Tammen's life, his curio store was on the corner of 17th and Larimer Street, and it remained in business until the 1960s.
On March 24, 1892, Tammen married Agnes Reid in Denver. Agnes was born in Virginia September 19, 1865, to William and Josie Reid, both of whom were born in Scotland. They had moved to Denver before the 1880 census was enumerated. William was listed as a grocer and Agnes a 14-year-old student. Miss Agnes Reid was listed a few times in the Denver City Directories first as clerk for A.L. Welch & Co. in 1885, then as clerk for A. Z. Salomon & Co. in 1887, with 2512 Lawrence Street as her residence, and finally as a stenographer in the Thomas & Patterson block in 1891.
The Panic of 1893 played a large part in the demise of The Great Divide and overlapped with Tammen's purchase, with Frederick G. Bonfils, of a struggling Denver daily newspaper called The Evening Post. There is wide speculation, but little evidence, of how Tammen and Bonfils met and became partners. They operated with only a handshake for three decades with no contract between them. They purchased the publication October 30, 1895 and moved to a new location, 1019 16th Street, on November 4, 1895. Tammen was listed as President and Secretary with Bonfils as Vice-President and Treasurer. Tammen's longtime curio business associate, Carl Litzenberger, was one of the incorporators of the firm and was a director of the Post Printing and Publishing Company. The day they moved into their new place of business, they changed the name of the paper to the Denver Evening Post. In 1901, "Evening" was dropped and the Denver Post came into being.
Tammen and Bonfils were "devoted partners and friends," according to a biography of Tammen sponsored by Arthur Rippey and written by Mort Stern in 1989. They revived the paper and remade it into the most powerful newspaper in Denver and Colorado. They let their personal likes and dislikes of people and businesses not only color their coverage, but often determine whether the individual or business was even mentioned in their paper. Whether a business advertised in the Post was often a factor in determining if it would be mentioned in the news columns.
When the Sells Brothers Circus was foreclosed on in 1903, Tammen saw an opportunity. A Post sports writer, Otto Floto, had a dog and pony show which Tammen decided to combine with the bankrupt circus. He named the project the Sells-Floto Circus. Bonfils was not enamored with the idea of co-owning a circus, but did not interfere with Tammen's fun. Although the circus was not a money maker, with a daily loss of $265.85, it was an affordable sidelight for Tammen, who particularly liked elephants. They retained the circus until 1919, even adding "Buffalo Bill" Cody to their performances during the 1914-1915 season.
After more than a decade, the Denver Post was turning a handsome profit and Tammen and Bonfils began to draw a salary of $1,000 a week. Tammen and Agnes, his wife of more than 15 years, moved from 939 Corona Street into a new home at 1061 Humboldt Street. She lavishly furnished the three-story, ten room, five bedroom Edwardian style house. On visits to Denver years apart, both Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft spoke from the balcony overlooking the central hall of the house, just off Cheesman Park.
Tammen and Bonfils became part owners of the Kansas City Post in October 1909, with meat and railroad magnate J. Ogden Armour as a silent partner. They sold the Kansas City paper in 1922.
Harry and Agnes Tammen were childless, but were substantial benefactors of Denver's Children's Hospital. Harry gave Agnes $50,000 with which to buy a string of pearls. She asked if it would be okay with him if instead of buying the pearls she could give the money to friends of hers who were trying to raise $100,000 to add a wing to Children's Hospital. Harry liked the idea so much they gave the entire $100,000, and the wing was named for Agnes Reid Tammen, and opened in February 1924. Tammen's support of children did not end when he died. Forty percent of his estate was left as a perpetual trust for the hospital. Harry Tammen died of stomach cancer at home with his wife at his side, on July 24, 1924. She died of a heart ailment July 1, 1942. Both are interred at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver.
Language of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Some of the materials were donated by Cynthia Rippey Kendrick, A. Gordon Rippey, and Bruce R. Rippey. This was formerly a collection of the Harry H. Tammen and Arthur G. Rippey Families. The Rippey items have been incorporated in the Arthur Rippey Family Papers (WH939).
PROCESSED AND ENCODED BY:
Roger L. Dudley, 2014.
- Ephemera. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Family papers. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Newspaper publishing -- Colorado -- Denver. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Philanthropists -- Colorado -- Denver. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Photographs. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Tammen family -- Archives.
- Tammen, Agnes Reid, -- 1865-1942 -- Archives.
- Tammen, Harry Heye, -- 1856-1927 -- Archives.
- TAMMEN FAMILY PAPERS
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository
10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States