I recently returned to Virginia City, the site of the richest gold and silver mines in the World and the most colorful Victorian—Era/Old West town (with working steam locomotives) you will ever photograph. After a day of photographing the hills around Virginia City, Nevada, with my nephew, we ended the day at the Palace Saloon on C Street in Virginia City, one of the best preserved of the Victoria—era gold and silver mine communities. California is called the golden state, Nevada is called the silver state. The boom of California’s gold rush of 1849 slowed as the easy—to—find placer gold was picked from the banks of streams in the Sierra Nevada Range. Many of those who did not strike it rich in California, but had the funds to move on to richer diggings, headed to Alaska. Others headed east when reports of greater riches came out of mountains to the east in the territory of Nevada. Prospectors discovered a dry land where few streams flowed and where placer mining was not possible. In the area south of Reno, a minor stagecoach stop in those days, gold and silver ore was discovered on June 8, 1859 in great quantities, starting near the surface in a canyon to the east of Virginia City. Soon, deeper and deeper mines were necessary to follow veins that extended for thousands of feet into solid rock. Machinery that could dig that deep was expensive. Itinerate prospectors, with a pan and a mule, were forced to become employees of rich investors. Miners soon formed unions that grew strong enough to demand wages that reached as high as four dollars a day—a fabulous wage in those days, probably enough for a miner to dine at the Palace Saloon.
Notes and images from Bob Hitchman.