Below is an image of a real photo postcard I just purchased. A handwritten caption on the back identifies the people as a group of “Fort Collins Trap Shooters.” Unfortunately, that’s all the caption tells us.
Trap shooting, the sport of shooting at clay targets released from a spring trap, got a late start in Fort Collins but quickly became popular. It started in the United States in the 1830s, when live birds, released from under hats, were the targets. Glass balls, occasionally filled with feathers for realism, replaced live birds in the 1860s but by the time the sport came to Fort Collins, clay disks were the targets of choice.
A short article in the September 5, 1906, Fort Collins Weekly Courier reported, “One of the trap shooting machines, used at Denver last week during the great tournament was secured for Fort Collins and has been installed at Prospect Park.” About a month later, the Courier announced that a trap shooting tournament “with handsome prizes” would be held at Prospect Park on October 16 and 17, 1906. Trap shooting was underway in Fort Collins.
Fort Collins residents started competing in local, state, and even national contests. The August 27, 1920, Fort Collins Courier reported on the success of one of our residents, H. Kent Mitton. Mitton, a county tax assessor and agricultural inspector, competed in the 1920 U. S. Trapshooting Tournament. He broke 99 of 100 targets, tying with two other men, and then broke 25 of 25 targets in a shoot off to win the tournament. You can bet he came home a hero.
But what do we know about this image? First, we can approximate the date. Unused real photo postcards can be dated by the stamp box on the back of the card. This postcard was produced between 1905 and 1920. Because there are a few cars in the background, I’d guess it was toward the end of this period, maybe 1915, give or take a few years.
We can also reasonably guess that it was taken at a trap shooting tournament. There are a number of shooters and a photographer wouldn’t have made real photo postcards unless he expected a number of people to buy them.
It will probably never be known who is shown in this image, but there is a chance that someone out there might know where the picture was taken. As mentioned earlier, local trap shooting started at Prospect Park, which would eventually become part of City Park. By July 1909, Lindenmeier Lake was being mentioned as the site of trap shooting tournaments. Later articles mentioned tournaments “on club property,” with no mention of where that property was located.
If you have an idea of where this photograph was taken, please share the location with us by leaving a comment below.