Silver was discovered at Aspen in 1879 by prospectors from the Leadville area. The town was originally named Ute City after the Ute Indians that used the valley as summer hunting grounds. In 1880 the town is renamed Aspen.
The silver mines of Aspen were very rich, and by 1891 were exceeding the production of Leadville, making Aspen the worlds leading silver producer at the time. In 1893 the population of Aspen reached an estimated 10,000 to 16,000 people. That year the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act sent Aspen's economy into a tailspin. Mining never recovered in the area and one by one mines, railroads, and related businesses and industries began to fold. By World War I, Aspen was primarily surviving as a ranching and farming center.