One of Boulder's most colorful artists – photographer
Joseph Bevier Sturtevant, otherwise known as "Rocky
Mountain Joe" – started out his life in town as a
wallpaper hanger. Eventually, Sturtevant became Boulder's
most distinctive photographer, oil painter, sight-seeing
guide, and storyteller.
Sturtevant married Anna Lychman in 1876 and settled down
to family life [they had five children] in Boulder at
a house at 744 Marine Street which he built for $100.
Although Sturtevant had gained a reputation as an excellent
paper hanger and sign painter, he had a different goal
in mind. By 1884 he had collected enough camera equipment
from the East to go into the photography business. With
the help of his wife, he operated studios at several successive
locations downtown as well as The Woodbine, a studio on
the Chautauqua grounds where he became official photographer
around the turn of the century.
The scope of Sturtevant's photographic work was prodigious
and covered Boulder's coal mines on the plains to gold
and silver camps in the mountains and included town panoramas,
trains, wagons, schools, Boulder groups as well as summer
groups at Chautauqua.
Sturtevant and his camera almost always appeared to memorialize
special occasions. When a streetcar or trains derailed,
Sturtevant was there. After a heavy snow, Sturtevant took
advantage of unusual scenes. The only time he was caught
short was during the flood of 1894; he was on the opposite
side of Boulder Creek from his camera.
Sturtevant developed such a distinctive style that modern
researchers can usually spot a Sturtevant photograph,
signed or unsigned. His sense of the dramatic combined
with his feeling for good composition.
After his wife Anna died in 1904, Joe married a local
cook who, according to the Camera, was so violently jealous
is his attentions to the ladies he was forced to leave
her. The photographer's death was as mysterious as were
some details of his life. Coming home from Denver on the
Interurban train in 1910, after a visit with his son,
he found he had misplaced his ticket and got off the train,
intending to walk back to Boulder. He found at the bottom
of a ravine near the tracks, apparently having fallen
to his death.