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Denver Mint Robbery and Small Bad Jim

Denver Mint Robbery - Carolyn Daughters

Small Bad Jim was the mastermind behind the first Denver Mint robbery. The gold bars he stole were so heavy he dropped most of them.

The year was 1864, the month, February. Global warming presumably hadn’t kicked in yet, so it was probably super cold. A guy named James D. Clark decided a Denver Mint robbery was in order, what with his working there and all. His nickname was Small Bad Jim, which was pretty accurate. As it turns out, Small Stupid Jim would have worked just as well.

Now on the day he chose for the Denver Mint robbery, Small Bad Jim left work with $37,000 in gold and treasury notes stuffed in his pockets. His goal was to make his way down south past Old Colorado City, which is now part of Colorado Springs. Or it’s possible he was headed to Colorado City, which is even further south past Pueblo. Where he was headed isn’t clear. What is clear is that the gold bars were so heavy that he began dropping them in what’s now Cheesman Park. Two miles into his escape, his Fitbit registered a mere 4,000 steps and encouraged him to keep moving.

“Keep moving? I’m lugging gold bricks, you stupid piece of future technology,” Small Bad Jim reportedly said.

Somewhere east of Denver Small Bad Jim got lost. (Heads up: Colorado City is south of Denver. A map really would have come in handy.) Somewhere or other he also lost his horse. According to the plaque, his horse deserted him, leaving him in tears. As it would any of us. When your horse is all, dude, I’m done, you may as well just turn yourself in. Feel free to reference this handy advice if you’re every fleeing on horseback after you’ve robbed the Denver Mint.

The plaque says that six days later Small Bad Jim was captured 25 miles south of Colorado City, which means he actually figured out which direction was south. He covered somewhere between 95 and 165 miles, which would equate to an impressive bazillion steps a day, except that Small Bad Jim was probably on horseback for much of the journey. You know, until his horse deserted him and left him bawling. No one seems to know when the horse abandoned him or whether he had dropped every single gold bar by then.

Who knows? Be the first to follow the mapless route of Small Bad Jim, and you just might find a gold brick or two as your reward.

This has been your Denver history lesson of the day. These posts are nothing if not educational. You’re welcome.

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