The Nevada Mining Collection is comprised of records that document mining and mines in Nevada from 1842 to 1966. The majority of the collection includes records of various mines and mining companies located in the Esmeralda, Lincoln, Clark, White Pine, and Nye counties, dating from 1900 to 1928. The collection includes financial, administrative, and business related records; photographs of miners, mining camps, and towns; correspondence; maps; newspaper clippings, pamphlets, newsletters, and booklets.
Collection is open for research.
Materials in this collection may be protected by copyrights and other rights. See Reproductions and Use on the UNLV Special Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permissions to publish.
The Nevada Mining Collection is comprised of records that document mining and mines in Nevada from 1842 to 1966. The majority of the collection includes records of various mines and mining companies located in the Esmeralda, Lincoln, Clark, White Pine, and Nye counties dating from 1900 to 1928. The collection includes records: financial, administrative, and business related; photographs of miners, mining camps, and towns; correspondence; maps; and publications: newspaper clippings, pamphlets, newsletters, and booklets.
In 1859 a party of prospectors on their way to the California Gold Rush discovered a large deposit of silver ore near Virginia City, Nevada that was later named the Comstock Lode. This discovery spurred the "rush to Washoe" in 1860. The lode extended down the side of Mount Davidson and miners engineered a new way to remove the precious silver and gold from less valuable base metals. The miners in Northern Nevada developed the Washoe pan process which mechanically agitated the unrefined ore with wood, water, and machinery. This new technology required large sums of money and pushed out small-time miners, paving the way for financiers from California to establish mining corporations. From 1860 to 1861 the population of Nevada nearly tripled and this economic growth contributed to Nevada attaining statehood in 1864. This prosperous mining industry in Nevada lasted until roughly 1878 and helped shape the state, pushing the borders east and south. Discoveries of gold and silver in Belmont and Eureka in Nye County, Hamilton in White Pine County, and Pioche in Lincoln County initiated smaller mining rushes into eastern and central Nevada. However, a drop in silver prices, the boom and bust economy, skewed gender ratio, and fluidity of the immigrant population led to social instability and the mines began to steadily decline in the 1880s.
Mining in Nevada experienced a second precious metal boom just after the turn of the twentieth century when miners discovered silver and gold in Tonopah and Goldfield, and later in the Bullfrog District, in central Nevada. This second mining boom, lasting from 1900 until 1923, differed from the first in a few key ways. Rather than the chaos of hundreds of individual mining stakes, mines, and mining companies that characterized the earlier Comstock period, mining enterprises in Goldfield and Tonopah were consolidated into nationally financed corporate mining conglomerates such as Tonopah Mining Company and Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company which controlled mines, mills, and railroads. The invention of the automobile connected isolated mining sites, mining technology advanced, and a better functioning system of local and state governance helped control lawlessness. However, miners of this time period often suffered from silicosis, a type of lung disease triggered by the inhalation of silica or quartzite dust. For example, Nevadans referred to the Delamar gold mine, located in Lincoln County, as the "widow-maker" due to the prevalence of silicosis during the mine’s active years (1896 to 1902).
The most successful mining during this period was executed in central Nevada, in Nye and Esmeralda counties. Prospectors unearthed gold in Goldfield in 1902 and continued to excavate gold until approximately 1923. Violent incidents of labor unrest attributed to the Western Federation of Miners and the International Workers of the World (Wobblies), and the equally violent union busting by the mine owners, disrupted the mining activities in Goldfield to the point that President Theodore Roosevelt reluctantly sent Federal troops to Goldfield at the request of the Governor Denver S. Dickerson to assure public peace in 1907. Miners established smaller mining camps in Southern Nevada, in Searchlight for example, and miners discovered large deposits of copper in Northern Nevada in White Pine and Lyon counties. The second mining boom ended around 1923 when the Federal Government terminated the Pittman Act, a government subsidy that guaranteed the price of silver during the First World War.
Copper surpassed silver and gold as the top exported mineral in Nevada after the 1920s. The federal government's need for copper during World War I caused a growth in the copper mining industry in Northern Nevada. This demand for base metals like copper for industrial production marked another shift in the mining industry in Nevada. Similarly, the Federal Government required Nevada's great mineral wealth during World War II. One of Southern Nevada’s largest exports during World War II was magnesium, used in the production of aluminum alloy munitions casings and airplane parts. Basic Magnesium Incorporated established magnesium ore mining operations in Nye County, constructed a refining plant in Clark County, Nevada, and operated from 1941 to 1944.
During the post-war period, Nevada mining companies continued extracting base metals used in industrial production (like magnesium and copper) and expanded these operations, mining minerals like gypsum in Clark and Washoe counties; diatomite in Pershing and Storey counties; iron, tungsten, zinc, lead, barite, borax, scoria, limestone, silica, sand, perlite, and fluorspar. During the Korean War (1950-1953), war production again required these minerals and metals for use in weapons and machinery construction. After many successful years of production, the copper mining industry declined and eventually collapsed by the 1970s.
In the late 1970s, prospectors, with the help of geologists, discovered a large amount of gold, though microscopic and mixed with undesirable elements, in Ely, Nevada. The nature of the gold deposit required modern excavation machinery and refining technology to extract the gold from open-pit mines. This gold rush lasted from the 1980s through the 1990s. The mining industry continues steadily into present day, with mines across the state removing minerals, base metals, precious metals, and semi-precious gemstones from the Nevada landscape.
Driesner, Doug and Alan Coyner. Major Mines of Nevada 2009: Mineral Industries in Nevada's Economy. Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication P-21. 2010.
Elliott, Russell R. History of Nevada. Lincoln: University of Nevada, 1973.
Hulse, James W. The Silver State: Nevada's Heritage Reinterpreted. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2004.
Materials are arranged by format and alphabetically by mine or mining company, when possible.
UNLV University Libraries Collection on Nevada Mining, 1842-1966. MS-00011. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
This is an artificial collection. Materials were gathered or purchased by the Director of Special Collections starting in the late 1970s; accession numbers MS11, MS11A, MS11B, MS11C, MS11D, and MS11E. In 2021, materials were purchased from Vigilante Rare Documents; accession number 2021-037.
Material was processed by Kelli Luchs in 2008. Su Kim Chung revised the finding aid in 2012. In 2014, as part of a legacy finding aid conversion project, Hannah Robinson brought a number of small collections together and re-wrote the collection description in compliance with current professional standards. In 2016, Joyce Moore completed the collection and entered it into ArchivesSpace. In 2021, Tammi Kim accessioned the 2021 addition and updated the finding aid. In 2022, Sarah Jones reprocessed the collection and separated out a number of series into individual collections per Peter Michel. These collections are listed in the "Related Collections" note.