Colorado History

History Colorado's New Program Starts With a Bang: Alfred Packer's Gun

When the stunning History Colorado Center was unveiled three years ago, visitors marveled at the architecture, the atrium floor inlaid with a map of Colorado that told stories about the state. But history fans had one big question: Where's all the stuff?

History Colorado — which got its start as the Colorado Historical Society in 1879— had accumulated millions of items over the years, many of which were on display in the old museum. But then they went into storage when that facility closed in anticipation of the move to the new building in 2012 — but few were included in the new exhibits. But now some of the more interesting pieces are slowly coming out, in a new series called "Who Knew!? Everything Old is New Again."

The first object will be unveiled at 11:45 a.m. by Tom "Dr. Colorado" Noel. And the program is starting with a bang, because Noel will be showing off Alfred Packer's circa 1851 revolve r.

Alfred Packer is the country's most famous cannibal, who confessed to eating his companions when they were stranded in the winter of 1874, but insisted he did not murder them. And even if he did, it might not have been with this gun. Says History Colorado: "Our curators do not have concrete evidence to support that this gun was used in the murder of Packer’s companions or found at the murder site. However, the initials AP are carved behind the trigger loop, and the donor’s story supports the claim that the gun belonged to Packer."

Packer has been back in the news lately; William Anderson, a lawyer who (briefly) represented Packer in his bid for pardon, lived at the house at 2329 Elliot Street that did not rate historic preservation designation from Denver City Council this week, despite the infamous client of its one-time occupant.

As an added bonus to today's unveiling, the museum's Cafe Rendezvous will be offering a tasteful special: Rib Sandwich w/ BBQ Sauce and Slaw, served with Chips.

"Who Knew!? Everything Old Is New Again" will reveal a new object every week through January 8; after they're unveiled, they'll remain on display at the museum through January 24. History Colorado Center is located at 1200 Broadway; find more information at

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun