Although he was easily recognizable a century ago in Colorado, we have generally forgotten Henry Teller today. It reminds one of the words of Charles Kingsley that his contemporary, Horace Tabor, placed on the curtain of his grand opera house in Denver.
So fleet the works of men back to the earth again: Ancient and holy things fade like a dream.
Teller's career spanned Colorado's history from the pioneering days of the early 1860s to the threshold of World War I. He was the first Coloradan to gain national status, and no one from Colorado has served longer in the U.S. Senate. He was also the first Coloradan to serve in the president's cabinet. He provided and provides Coloradans with a “sense of a personal and possessed past, ” as Wallace Stegner wrote.
Henry Teller was a transitional leader who took Colorado from the nineteenth century into the twentieth, pointing the way into the future while trying to make the new generation aware of the problems it would have to confront. Water, the environment, Washington's role in the West, America's place on the world scene, and the “new” economy and politics ranked high among the issues that concerned him. Not simply a state or regional leader, Teller was among the first to worry about America's new role as a world power, particularly its involvement in Asia. Today, after World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, his warnings sound hauntingly familiar.