3 – Colorado State Penitentiary Prison Spurs

By Museum of Northwest Colorado

This set of Colorado State Penitentiary prison spurs are some of the best known and are nothing short of jaw dropping.
Before they became known for making license plates, prisoners in the early 20th century were frequently known for producing highly artistic cowboy paraphernalia. When it came to spurs, it was hard to find much finer than those produced at Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City.
The fact that these were made at the Canon City prison makes them museum worthy, but the quality of craftsmanship puts them in a league of their own. There is one prisoner in particular at Canon City that was known for this type of quality: John Cox.
John Cox arrived in the Colorado State Penitentiary for 1st degree murder in 1897. His sentence stemmed from an argument over a game of pool at a saloon in Altman, CO. During the argument Cox pulled his pistol on Robert Daily. Daily then opened up his coat and dared Cox to shoot him – Cox obliged.
In 1909 a new warden named Thomas Tynan arrived at Canon City. He was determined to put the prisoners to work at something that benefited both them and the state by making crafts that could be sold in the prison’s gift shop. John Cox, with his meticulously detailed spurs, quickly became the prison’s star spur maker. He died in 1940 and his spurs are now a highly coveted and rare find.
These were owned by Bob Fulton, a sheriff of Garfield and Rio Blanco Counties, and his brother-in-law, Whitey Eliason, who was famous as a cowboy for the K-T ranch.