Published: May 24, 2018

Eben G. Fine was born on a farm near Hamilton, Missouri, in 1865, one of twelve children. His father died shortly after his birth, followed by his mother in 1879, when he was fourteen. For the next three years Fine boarded with various families while continuing his education in Hamilton. One of his close friends during this period was J.C. Penney, founder of the successful department stores of that name.

In 1882 Fine quit school and apprenticed himself in the drug business. He briefly attended Holden College, a local girl’s school, as a special student to improve his knowledge of chemistry and mathematics. In 1885, he moved to Boulder, Colorado, to work for Fonda’s Pharmacy at the salary of $50.00 per month. In 1889 he married the sister of his employer, Mrs. Mary Coulson. Mrs. Coulson had one son Hal S. Coulson by a previous marriage, who later became a prominent Boulder photographer. In 1906, Fine quit the job at Fonda’s Pharmacy to serve as a second secretary for the Boulder Commercial Association. The following year he purchased the Temple Drug Co. and went into business for himself.

After arriving in Boulder, Fine quickly became an avid mountain climber and photographer, traveling extensively in Colorado and neighboring states, recording his experiences on photographic glass plates. He was the first to discover the glacial nature of the Arapaho snowfield while on a solitary hike in July, 1900. In 1905 he took a trip through Mexico, and it was on his return from that trip that he made his first venture into public speaking. His wife planned a slide show for a few friends, but the party grew so rapidly that Fine had to rent a hall to show his slides to over 200 people. A short time after this the Burlington Railroad approached Fine on the possibility of making a lecture tour for them: he agreed on the condition that he would not be required to do any promotional work for the railroad. Fine continued to travel around the country for many years giving these lectures.

For ten years, from 1927 to 1936, Fine was secretary of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He was an active member of the Rocky Mountain Climbers Club, the Colorado Mountain Club, the New Mexico Archeological Society and the Boulder chapter of the Colorado Archeological Society. He was active for over twenty-five years on the City Planning and Parks Commission, and was instrumental in obtaining over five-thousand acres of mountain land for the city’s park system. For forty-five years Eben G. Fine was a director of the Chautauqua Association. In 1946 he was honored by the University of Colorado with their Recognition Medal for his services to the community. The Eben G. Fine collection contains many of his slides.

A case containing glass photographic slides from the Eben G. Fine collection. One of the cases containing the slides, opened. One of the glass photographic slides,

The seal of the CU Archives 100 Stories for 100 Years

The University of Colorado Boulder Libraries will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Archives on June 6, 2018. This is story #86 in our series: 100 Stories for 100 Years from the Archives!