Nevada Mining Blog

Early Nevada Mining History 1859-1919: How an Industry Created a State

Mining began in Nevada on the heels of the California gold rush in 1849 before Nevada was even a state. The major discovery of silver, known as the Comstock Lode, happened a decade later in 1859 and brought great changes to the area as miners rushed into the region and boom towns including Virginia City, Aurora, Unionville and Austin were born. Over the next 20 years, almost $1 billion of gold and silver were produced by Nevada mines. The wealth of Nevada mines, the population surge they created and the ongoing American Civil War prompted Abraham Lincoln to declare Nevada the 36th state in the Union on Oct. 31, 1864.
By the 1890s, however, the production of gold and silver had slowed significantly and one in three Nevadans left the new state in search of jobs. This lull in the Nevada mining industry would prove to be short-lived, though. The turn of the twentieth century would see several new strikes throughout the state. Silver at Tonopah, gold at Goldfield and copper in White Pine County all contributed to an upswing in mining production.
In 1912, the Nevada Mining Association, then known as the Nevada Mine Operaters Association, was established as the collective body for the mining industry in the state. Mining’s importance to the state and nation continued into the 1910s with the fighting of World War I (1914-18), and Nevada’s mines sold millions of dollars worth of copper, silver and lead to make weapons.
Other notable developments in Nevada during this time include the construction of the transcontinental railroad in 1862, the founding of Las Vegas in 1905 and women’s suffrage in the state in 1914.
Obviously, much has changed since the origins of Nevada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The average price of gas in 1919 was $.25 a gallon, a loaf bread was $.10 and life expectancy for men hovered around 48 years of age. While many things have changed, one constant has remained in Nevada, and that constant is mining.

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