Miner working in the Comstock Lode
Comstock miners, 1880s. Caption on original:
"To Labor is to Pray."
The Comstock Lode was the first major U.S.
deposit of silver ore, discovered under what
is now Virginia City, Nevada on the eastern
slope of Mt. Davidson, a peak in the Virginia
range. After the discovery was made public
in 1859, prospectors rushed to the area and
scrambled to stake their claims. Mining
camps soon thrived in the vicinity, which be-
came bustling centers of fabulous wealth.
The excavations were carried to depths of
more than 3200 feet (1000 m). Between 1859
and 1878, it yielded about $400 million in sil-
ver and gold.
It is notable not just for the immense for-
tunes it generated and the large role those
fortunes had in the growth of Nevada and
San Francisco, but also for the advances in
mining technology that it spurred. The mines
declined after 1874.
The discovery of silver
The discovery of silver in Nevada (then west-
ern Utah Territory) in 1858 caused consider-
able excitement in California and throughout
the United States. The excitement was the
greatest since the discovery of gold in Cali-
fornia ten years earlier at Sutter’s Mill. Ac-
cording to Dan De Quille, a journalist of the
period, "the discovery of silver undoubtedly
deserves to rank in merit above the discovery
of the gold mines of California, as it gives
value to a much greater area of territory and
furnishes employment to a much larger num-
ber of people".
Gold was discovered in this region in the
spring of 1850. It was discovered in Gold
Canyon, by a company of Mormon emigrants
on their way to the California Gold Rush.
After arriving way too early to cross the Si-
erra, they camped on the Carson river in the
vicinity of Dayton, Nevada, to wait for the
mountain snow to melt. They soon found gold
along the gravel river banks by panning, but
left when the mountains were passable, as
they anticipated taking out more gold on
reaching California. Other emigrants fol-
lowed, camped on the canyon and went to
work at min