The Red Book.
History of Eagle County.
You’ve probably heard about it, might have checked it out at the library, or we’ve told you it’s a good source for local history.
But what is it? And why do we make such a big deal about it?
The Red Book is a primary source of the purest kind: it’s a scrapbook made by high school students in the 1940s—a multi-year project— that was left in the county building until ‘rescued’ by historical society members. It was written, typed, designed, built by students from beginning to end with a carved wood ‘cover’, real metal hinges, and pages tied together in what we would call “thongs” or real leather straps.
We say this about a lot of things: they just don't make 'em like this anymore, folks.
Typing the book would have been a special treat for students. Typewriters were heavy and expensive, not exactly something that the school was purchasing regularly. Moreover, it’s written by the students themselves, meaning the book has character: spelling errors, choppy sentences, almost as if you’re having a conversation with someone.
In many ways, the book is also a relic of the era.
Think about the time frame here: many of the original pioneers, if not their children, were alive and well. The photographs that you see in the scrapbook aren’t copies, they’re originals and had to have been given to the students for this purpose. The book states that the population in 1930 was just below 4,000 residents-- less than the population of Eagle alone today. Finally, the towns that are given a chapter describe more than anything what was important in the valley at the time: Red Cliff has the largest chapter, EPA Superfund-site Gilman is thriving, and Vail is nowhere to be found.
The Red Book was copied and bound for patrons to check out—we have three copies that look like textbooks available for you! The book hasn’t been on display in quite some time—but you can see the book on display at the Eagle library this summer. We are also scanning and adding pages to our Digital Archive, where you can flip through the pages as if it was a ‘real’ book in your hands.
A hand-drawn map is provided with the table of contents.
Look for new chapters on Avon, Gypsum, and Squaw Creek this summer!
And as always, contact our Local History Librarian for any questions or requests.