|David Ketchum staked the first Wood River mining claim here in 1879, but the town’s name did not reflect his significance until later. Leadville was the first name applied to the growing settlement, but when the post office arrived in 1880, it rejected the name and honored the first settler instead. The town’s population boomed when the area became the smelting center for the Warm Springs mining district. Once mining activity in the area declined, the area turned to agriculture and sheep ranching for its economic livelihood. From 1895 to 1930, Ketchum served as the American West’s largest sheep-shipping center.
Ketchum’s rural agricultural atmosphere changed drastically in the mid 1930s when W. Averell Harriman bought the 4,300 acre Ketchum Brass Ranch and built a 220-room luxury lodge and the world-famous Sun Valley Ski Resort. His intentions were to build a first-class ski resort community, and he quickly succeeded. Clark Gable and Errol Flynn visited the resort shortly after its opening in December of 1936. Soon after, the world’s first chairlift was constructed on Dollar Mountain, and Ketchum’s legacy as a first-class recreational destination began.