Things You Might Not Know About Aspen

The source of a famous chunk of precious metal, the temporary home of a notorious criminal, and the object of a great Jim Carrey reference
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Aspen in 2013 and the early 1900s. Emma Green/The Atlantic and Wikimedia commons

As The Atlantic mines interesting insights from the Aspen Ideas Festival over the next week, the deep history of the place is worth keeping in mind. This Colorado town lived a typical wild-west story until industrialist Walter Paepcke and his wife Elizabeth changed its course with big investments in the Aspen Skiing Company and Aspen Institute in the mid-to-late 1940s.

A few historical bullet points:

* Home to the Ute People. Before miners arrived in Aspen in 1879, the area had been home to the Ute for more than 800 years, according to the Aspen Historical Society.

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Chief Ouray & Chipeta of the Ute Tribe. Public domain/Library of Congress.

* Site where the world's largest silver nugget was discovered. During the 1880s and early '90s, Smuggler Mine, shown above, yielded approximately sixteen percent of the nation's silver and approximately six percent of the silver in the world. After President Grover Cleveland repealed the Silver Sherman Purchase Act in 1893, the town fell into long period of decline.

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Smuggler Mine in Aspen, CO circa 1900. Public domain/wikimedia commons.

* A temporary prison for Ted Bundy. In 1977, after being captured and convicted of kidnapping and assault in Utah, Bundy was transferred to Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen to stand trial for murder. Only two days after arriving, he staged an escape, during which he spent six days at large on Aspen Mountain.

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Ted Bundy on the FBI most-wanted list in 1978. Via Wikimedia Commons.

A quotable in Dumb and Dumber. Via Jim Carrey's Lloyd Christmas:

I'll tell ya where we'll go. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I'm talkin' 'bout a little place called ... [whispering] As-pen.

Presented by

Emma Green is the assistant managing editor of TheAtlantic.com, where she also writes about religion and culture.

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