The Wolftone Underground Banquet –Leadville Festivities in January 1911


“Leadville Celebrates Her Coming Back with Banquet One Thousand Feet

Underground in Magnificent Cavern, Dug Out of Rich Zinc Ore—

Several Hundred Citizens and Their Ladies, Guests of S. D. Nicholson,

At Wolftone Mine—Wit and Oratory in the Bonanza”


The above headlines are from the Herald Democrat, January 26, 1911.  They describe exciting times in Leadville.  Once again, the good fortune of its mineral wealth has caused a rejuvenation of BOOM DAYS!  Here follows a summary of the newspaper article.  Click here to read the full article.

The festivities started with “one of the most delightful banquets in the history of Leadville,” held underground at the Wolftone Mine.  At 10:30 am on January 25, 1911, about 235 guests of the mine manager, S. D. Nicholson, were conveyed to the Wolftone by sleigh from the Vendome Hotel.  As the sleighs reached the foot of Carbonate Hill, the Wolftone blew its whistle, as did the other mines in the area along with a Rio Grande engine.  At the shaft house, the guests were lowered from the surface to the banquet level in cages.  When they arrived at the 1,000-foot level station, they were greeted by bagpipes being played in honor of the 152nd anniversary of the birthday of Robert Burns.  The two pipers had played for King Edward with the same bagpipes and costumes some years before.

The banquet hall was 110 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 10 feet high; interspersed with timbers and hundreds of electric lightbulbs.  The ore that had been extracted from the chamber was said to have a zinc content of 40% with a value of $150,000 ($22 million in 2015 dollars).  American flags, a banner that read “Welcome. In Calamine We Trust” (calamine is a historic term for zinc ore), and a picture of Robert Burns provided decorations.  A seven-piece orchestra played as the guests were being seated and throughout the banquet.  The meal began with oatmeal Scottish scones, followed by cold meats, potatoes with gravy, celery, pickles, and olives.  Dessert consisted of hot scotch punch, cookies, sherbet, and pie.  As with any auspicious occasion, there were many flowery introductions and speeches delivered by numerous dignitaries which may have caused some of the guests to dose off.  But there was an amusing quip by Victor Alderson, President of the Colorado School of Mines.  At the end of the banquet, he proposed a toast to Mrs. Nicholson and concluded with “All honor, all love, all respect to our wives and sweethearts.  May they never meet.”

Later that day the new Masonic Hall was open to the public for the first time to showcase Leadville’s latest architectural adornment.  That evening there was another sumptuous feast at the Elks Hall where several hundred guests enjoyed a surprise announcement by the President of the Colorado School of Mines: the naming of a newly identified mineral.  It had been discovered at the Wolftone Mine—Nicholsonite, named in honor of S. D. Nicholson.

The day following the banquet, the Wolftone Mine was thrown open to the public from 8 am to 4 pm.  S. D. Nicholson wanted as many people as possible to have the opportunity to visit the marvelous banquet hall.    

As special as the Wolftone Banquet was, it was not the first underground banquet organized by S. D. Nicholson.  According to Griswold, he held underground banquets for the Shriners in the A.Y. and Minnie in 1894, the Caledonians and the Elks in the Yak in 1907, and the ’79ers in the Wolftone in 1909.

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