Historic Colorado photos: Lloyd Rule’s commercial images show Denver’s lighthearted side

Denver’s preeminent commercial photographer revealed Denver’s color in the mid-twentieth century.

Finally, a little color.

Women in two piece bathing suits pose on or in a jacuzzi type mineral bath in the club house of the Green Mountain Townhouses in Lakewood (Jefferson County), Colorado. Circa 1965. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11822) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
Women in two-piece bathing suits pose on or in a jacuzzi-type mineral bath in the club house of the Green Mountain Townhouses in Lakewood. Circa 1965. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11822)

In fact, Denver photographer Lloyd Rule revolutionized the process to develop color film. And though his work dipped in and out of the chromatic realm, he has been remembered for much more than his chemical contribution to the medium.

A girl dressed as a pixie holds an oversized toothbrush for an advertising campaign for the Colorado Dental Association, probably in Denver, Colorado. Between 1965 and 1970. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11876) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
A girl dressed as a pixie holds an oversized toothbrush for an advertising campaign for the Colorado Dental Association, probably in Denver, Colorado. Between 1965 and 1970. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11876)
PREVIOUSLY IN THE HISTORIC COLORADO PHOTO SERIES: Donald Kemp | Sandra Dallas | Burnis McCloud | Charles Lillybridge | Harry Mellon Rhoads | Louis Charles McClure

According to Denver Public Library researcher Randel Metz, Rule was a born photographer, and picked up a camera at the tender age of 7. “Allowing a 7-year-old boy [in the 1930’s] to handle such a treasure was remarkable in itself,” says Metz, “but the fact that he was mastering the entire photographic process by the 8th grade is frankly amazing.”

Lloyd Rule makes a photograph of himself with a camera on a tripod in (probably) Denver, Colorado. Between 1945 and 1955. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10268) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
Lloyd Rule makes a photograph of himself with a camera on a tripod in (probably) Denver, Colorado. Between 1945 and 1955. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10268)

He went on to become a major commercial photographer in Denver, but not before serving in the Korean War. It was in this theater that, lacking the proper tools, Rule discovered a novel way to process color film. His photographs of his time in the Pacific are among the enormous 75,000-image collection housed by the Denver Public Library.

Three men sit on the log frame of a roof and strap bamboo cross bars to the frame as they prepare to thatch the roof in South Korea. Between 1952 and 1953. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11838) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
Three men sit on the log frame of a roof and strap bamboo cross bars to the frame as they prepare to thatch the roof in South Korea. Between 1952 and 1953. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11838)

After his military service, Rule returned to Denver to set up shop, working for such well-known clientele as King Soopers and the March of Dimes. He also became the staff photographer for the Denver Museum of Art, which gave him access to art world magnates like Vance Kirkland.

Vance Kirkland, a well known artist, administrator and teacher, poses beside one of his paintings at the Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado. 1973. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11856) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
Vance Kirkland, a well known artist, administrator and teacher, poses beside one of his paintings at the Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado. 1973. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11856)

His oft-goofy work shows a lighter side of Denverites, a perhaps necessarily idealized version of the world meant to sell apartments and toothpaste. Nonetheless, it seems like Rule’s subjects probably enjoyed their time with him in the studio.

Be sure to check out Randel Metz’ entire collection of Acclaimed Western Photographers.

A man in a woodchuck costume poses with a taxidermy mounted groundhog in Denver, Colorado for a Cancer Society fundraiser. Between 1948 and 1960. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History CollectionZ-10333) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
A man in a woodchuck costume poses with a taxidermy mounted groundhog in Denver, Colorado for a Cancer Society fundraiser. Between 1948 and 1960. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History CollectionZ-10333)
A man with a crutch twirls a lariat around himself and a boy in Denver, Colorado. Between 1945 and 1955. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10198) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
A man with a crutch twirls a lariat around himself and a boy in Denver, Colorado. Between 1945 and 1955. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10198)
View of the clubhouse and swimming pool at the Green Mountain Townhouses in Lakewood, Colorado. Circa 1965. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11829) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
View of the clubhouse and swimming pool at the Green Mountain Townhouses in Lakewood. Circa 1965. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11829)
Pat Boone, a singer and actor, poses with an unidentified man, probably in Denver, Colorado. Between 1955 and 1960. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11816) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
Pat Boone, a singer and actor, poses with an unidentified man, probably in Denver. Between 1955 and 1960. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11816)
Four girls sit on toilets and laugh and chat in a bathroom in probably Denver, Colorado. Between 1960 and 1970. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10096) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
Four girls sit on toilets and laugh and chat in a bathroom probably in Denver. Between 1960 and 1970. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10096)
A model poses by a Denver Tramway streetcar in Denver, Colorado. 1951. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10142) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
A model poses by a Denver Tramway streetcar in Denver. 1951. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10142)
View of an assembly line with dressed turkeys in Colorado. Shows the carcasses on a conveyor belt and hanging from hooks. Between 1960 and 1970. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10105) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
View of an assembly line with dressed turkeys in Colorado. Shows the carcasses on a conveyor belt and hanging from hooks. Between 1960 and 1970. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/ Z-10105)
Three men look at a model of a proposed building in Denver, Colorado. The model encompasses several blocks of downtown Denver, one of the men has his hand on the top of the proposed building. Between 1970 and 1975. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11880) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
Three men look at a model of a proposed building in Denver. The model encompasses several blocks of downtown Denver. Between 1970 and 1975. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11880)
A salesman demonstrates a record player to a man and a woman in Denver, Colorado. Between 1945 and 1960. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10229) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
A salesman demonstrates a record player to a man and a woman in Denver. Between 1945 and 1960. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10229)
Two men, who include painter and sculptor Bob Ragland (left), stand and chat at an art show at the Denver Art Museum in Denver, Colorado. 1973. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11855) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
Painter and sculptor Bob Ragland, left, chats with another man at an art show at the Denver Art Museum in Denver. 1973. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11855)
A man operates a John Deere combine in Golden (Jefferson County), Colorado; a truck with lettering: "Adolph Coors Co. Golden, Colorado, Moravian Malting Barley" is nearby. 1950. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10316) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
A man operates a John Deere combine in Golden; a truck with lettering: “Adolph Coors Co. Golden, Colorado, Moravian Malting Barley” is nearby. 1950. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10316)
Soldiers (some African American) stand around a woman seated at a piano, in (probably) Denver, Colorado. Between 1952 and 1956. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10336) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
Soldiers stand around a woman seated at a piano, in (probably) Denver. Between 1952 and 1956. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10336)
James Cagney and Denver City Librarian John Eastlick, admire a plaque for the American Motors Conservation Award presented to the Conservation Library Center at the Denver Public Library in Denver, Colorado. 1968. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11863) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
James Cagney and Denver City Librarian John Eastlick, admire a plaque for the American Motors Conservation Award presented to the Conservation Library Center at the Denver Public Library. 1968. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11863)
A man rides a "John Deere" tracklayer tractor in a Colorado field. Between 1940 and 1950. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10211) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
A man rides a “John Deere” tracklayer tractor in a Colorado field. Between 1940 and 1950. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10211)
A man, woman and a young boy stand near a large, abstract, plywood sculpture by Anthony Mygar in Burns Park near the intersection of East Alameda Avenue and South Colorado Boulevard, in the Hilltop neighborhood, Denver, Colorado. Between 1968 and 1970. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11801) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
A man, woman and a young boy stand near a large, abstract, plywood sculpture by Anthony Mygar in Burns Park near the intersection of East Alameda Avenue and South Colorado Boulevard, in the Hilltop neighborhood, Denver. Between 1968 and 1970. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11801)
Aerial view of Lincoln Avenue in Denver, Colorado. Between 1950 and 1955. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11804) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
Aerial view of Lincoln Avenue in Denver. Between 1950 and 1955. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-11804)
Pigs stand in a pen at the National Western Stock Show at the Denver Stock Yards in Denver, Colorado. Between 1948 and 1955. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10240) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
Pigs stand in a pen at the National Western Stock Show at the Denver Stock Yards in Denver. Between 1948 and 1955. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10240)
A man, probably Montana artist Jim Poor, poses by one of his paintings in a gallery at the Denver Art Museum in Denver, Colorado. He wears a name tag that reads: "Artist Poor Montana. Between 1970 and 1980. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10109) history colorado; historic; denver public library; dpl; archive; archival; denverite
A man, probably Montana artist Jim Poor, poses by one of his paintings in a gallery at the Denver Art Museum in Denver. He wears a name tag that reads: “Artist Poor Montana.” Between 1970 and 1980. (Lloyd Rule/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Z-10109)
PREVIOUSLY IN THE HISTORIC COLORADO PHOTO SERIES: Donald Kemp | Sandra Dallas | Burnis McCloud | Charles Lillybridge | Harry Mellon Rhoads | Louis Charles McClure

Kevin Beaty

Author: Kevin Beaty

Kevin Beaty is a media producer with experience in a variety of settings spanning Hollywood film sets to international backpack journalism expeditions. He is on a never-ending quest to meld artful imagery, functional design and intimate storytelling. His biggest struggle in any given moment is whether to shoot stills or video.