In search of gold, Horace Tabor and his first wife, Augusta, settled in Denver in 1859. After a number of years in Oro City (an early mining town near Leadville, now abandoned), the couple moved to Leadville in 1877. A year later, Horace struck it rich—in silver, not gold. With his new wealth, he established newspapers, a bank and the Tabor Opera House in Leadville and the Tabor Grand Opera House and Tabor Block in Denver. He also bought the Matchless mine in Leadville (1879), earning for a time $2,000 a day from its high-quality silver.
Amidst great scandal, Horace left his wife in 1882 and on March 1, 1883 he married Elizabeth “Baby Doe” McCourt. As a wedding gift for his new bride (and to show off his newfound wealth), Horace bought a bed and dresser. Delivered to Denver shortly after the couple’s marriage, the set is attributed to Daniel Pabst (1826–1910), a German-born Philadelphia cabinetmaker. The Tabor bed and dresser are one-of-a-kind, custom pieces, made entirely by hand. Mostly walnut with metal accents, each piece is a work of art with hidden compartments, elegant lines, implied architecture, ornate carvings depicting animals (including owls and bats as night creatures), flowers and plants, and design motifs influenced by the art of Japan.
Ten years after they married, Horace and Baby Doe found themselves nearly broke. The repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and the Panic of 1893 resulted in the loss of a great fortune, the sale of many of their assets and Horace, the former Silver King, working as the Denver postmaster. By then they were living at the Windsor Hotel—room 302—where Horace died in 1899.
After Horace’s death, William Randolph Hearst acquired the bed and dresser from Baby Doe. The set then traveled to California, where it remained for some 60 years. In the 1990s it returned to Colorado and, in 2013, History Colorado acquired the set.
Baby Doe's wedding dress is one of the most asked-after collections pieces at History Colorado. Visit Kathryn Klein's blog post to learn more about this artifact.
A bit more about the maker:
Born in Germany in 1826, Daniel Pabst emigrated to the United States and settled in Philadelphia in 1849. At that time he was one of about 725 German furniture makers in Philadelphia. After working as an apprentice, he opened his own business in 1854. Wealthy and prominent buyers sought his pieces for the beauty of his designs and the quality of his craftsmanship; in addition to Horace Tabor, his customers included the Wyeth and Roosevelt families. Daniel Pabst remained in business in Philadelphia until his retirement in 1896.