The Lawyer Who Brought Nikola Tesla to Colorado

Tesla is now more synonymous with a line of electric cars, but there was a brief time when the man himself, Nikola Tesla, and not hundreds of Cybertrucks, resided in Colorado. 

125 years ago, Tesla made the decision to move to Colorado Springs to test a theory on whether the thin air in Colorado was more conductive. But the move to Colorado might not have happened if not for a legal connection of Tesla’s, Leonard Curtis. 

Curtis was a shareholder in the El Paso Electric Company, and, in an effort to convince the inventor to take up residence in Colorado, offered him a discounted property and free electricity. While Tesla’s involvement in Colorado was short-lived, arriving in 1899 and leaving in 1900, Curtis had much stronger roots and involvement in the state. 

Curtis was a powerhouse in his own right. In 1895, he was part of a legal team arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Bate Refrigerating Co. v. Sulzberger. The case only directly involved a small sum of money, according to a Weekly Register-Call article at the time, but had larger ramifications for Thomas Edison, General Electric and the American Bell Telephone Company. 

The case was of great import at the time, and the Weekly Register noted that “probably there has been no case argued before the supreme court since the [Civil War], in the outcome of which so many lawyers were interested.” 

The patents terminated included the carbon transmitter owned by the American Bell Telephone Company, “a considerable number of very broad patents owned by the General Electric Company” and Edison’s patents on the incandescent lamp and the socket for incandescent lamps. 

In Colorado, Curtis was involved in a mining deal in 1902. He was counsel for a Colorado group that struck a deal for 114 acres of mining land in Mexico. A few years later, Leonard Curtis, then living in Colorado Springs, was involved in the construction of two reservoirs in Blue River Valley. At the time, the reservoirs were estimated to cost $750,000 and span 200 feet in height, according to an article in the Aspen Daily Times. 

Curtis was involved in a number of industries, and by 1910 he had become a multimillionaire, according to an article from The Rocky Mountain News. 

But it was a controversy involving his son, also named Leonard Curtis, that generated significant press coverage later in his career. The younger Curtis found himself in hot water and the subject of a chase when he ran away and eloped with Nan Fraser of Colorado Springs. 

The young couple were “pursued from cover to cover,” by Mary Irene Fraser and Eric Swenson, the brother-in-law of Curtis. But the young couple succeeded in their elopement, even if it brought the elder Curtis “fast as steam [would] carry him,” back to Denver.

Previous articleCourt Opinions: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinions for May 21, 24, 29
Next articleCourt Opinions: US Supreme Court Opinions for June 6


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here