James E. Fell, Jr. is a native of Fall River, Massachusetts.
He graduated with a B.A. in chemistry from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, in 1966, then worked for a time as a chemist for Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York. While there, he retreaded as an historian in night school and subsequently earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. He held a nonteaching faculty appointment at The University of Arizona from 1976 to 1977. Returning to Colorado, he worked in both historic preservation and exhibits at the Colorado Historical Society. From 1981 to 1983, he was the Harvard-Newcomen Fellow in Business History at the Harvard Business School and managing editor of the Business History Review.
For the remainder of the 1980s, he served as manager of communications for United Banks of Colorado until it was acquired by what is now Wells Fargo & Co. Since 1990, he has taught at the University of Colorado Denver and other colleges and universities, including CCCOnline since 2000. In the 1992/1993 academic year he was visiting associate professor at Colby College.
He is the author of Ores to Metals: The Rocky Mountain Smelting Industry (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1980); co-author with Stanley Dempsey of Mining the Summit: Colorado’s Ten Mile District, 1860 – 1960 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986); and collaborator with Jay E. Niebur on Arthur Redman Wilfley: Miner, Inventor, and Entrepreneur (Denver: Colorado Historical Society, 1983), and has served as co-author or co-editor on other book projects. He is also the author of various articles and many reviews in professional journals, and has presented papers at various professional academic conferences.
He is the current treasurer and a former director of the Mining History Association, which awarded him its Rodman Wilson Paul Award for distinction in mining history. And in 2012 and 2013 he was one of about 25 scholars involved in the World of Copper project, sponsored by the University of Glamorgan in Wales, a project which held conferences in Wales, Australia, and Chile to study the development and global dissemination of the Welsh process of copper smelting.
He has been a member of various public boards in Boulder County and served for many years on Colorado’s Inactive Mines Advisory Board for the Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety. He is a hiker in the summer and a skier in the winter and served two terms on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Mountain Club, which he continues to serve as member of its publication committee. He is currently engaged in several research and writing projects on Colorado history, other mining history, and the life of the famous detective author and screenwriter Raymond Chandler.