There are more than just a few colorful characters in Denver history and Frank Bonfils is most certainly one of them! Born in Missouri in 1860, Frank Gilmer Bonfils claimed to be of Corsican descent. In fact, Frank Bonfils' father, "Americanized" the family name from Buonfiglio to Bonfils.
Frank Bonfils briefly attended West Point before dropping out. He then earned a handsome living in land speculation throughout the southwest. Frank Bonfils moved to Denver in the 1893 with over $800,000.
In 1895, Frank Bonfils, along with Harry Tammen bought the failing Denver Post Newspaper for a mere $12,500 and built it into one of the largest, most successful newspapers in the entire country earning Frank Bonfils the nickname the "Desperate Desmond" of western journalism. It was not uncommon for the social parties of Frank Bonfils to be front page news. Frank Bonfils would also put his daughter Helen's picture on the front page of the society section of the Denver Post stating:
"Vivacious, Sagacious, Describe a Publisher's Daughter, True blue and gracious, Oh, bless the Gods who Wrought Her!".
It was Frank Bonfils newspaper after all! Frank Bonfils' daugher, was Helen Bonfils of the Wood-Morris-Bonfils House. Bonfils was married to Belle Bonfils for whom his daughter Helen founded the Belle Bonfils Memorial Blood Bank in Denver in 1943.
Frank Bonfils was a handsome man, known for his gambling, flamboyance, boldness and sometimes unscrupulous behavior. In 1899, Frank Bonfils and Harry Tammen were both badly beaten and shot by Denver attorney W. W. Anderson for what Anderson believed was biased press regarding his affiliation with notorious Colorado Cannibal Alfred Packer (that story is for another upcoming blog). Both Frank Bonfils and Harry Tammen survived despite each being shot several times. It seems, that Anderson was not the only person who disliked Frank Bonfils' and Harry Tammen's style of journalism. In 1900, both Frank Bonfils and Harry Tammen were horsewhipped again by another individual who felt that he was not treated fairly in the Denver Post. Supposedly, Frank Bonfils was also hospitalized at one time by a beating given to him by an allegedly jealous husband.
In 1933, Frank Bonfils left his office at the Denver Post complaining of an ear ache. Doctors and nurses were called to his mansion on 10th Ave, but one week later, Frank Bonfils died at his home at the age of 72. Encephalitis due to the ear infection was the cause of death. Encephalitis is a swelling of the brain. Frank Bonfils is interred at Fairmount Cemetery.
Whether it be from the Blood Bank that bares the name, or the theater at DCPA courtesy of daughter Helen, Bonfils, of Frank Bonfils fame is a Denver philanthropic institution.