Boomtown Saloons: Archaeology and History in Virginia City

Article excerpt

Boomtown Saloons: Archaeology and History in Virginia City Kelly J. Dixon. Reno/Las Vegas, NV: University of Nevada Press, 2005.

This volume is one in a series on Nevada history, and as such is aimed at a history audience that may not be very familiar with the tenets of archaeological investigations. Those wishing a "hard core" archaeological excavation and site report will be disappointed, but this "archaeology lite" approach has enough scientific rigor to please the rest and perhaps bring popular and historic archeology some new transdiscipline converts.

Author Dixon seeks to demonstrate the power of archaeology as a research tool for social historians and succeeds admirably. Dixon assumes the reader has virtually no familiarity with the methods and goals of archaeological investigations and explains them in general, nonjargon language throughout the book. This makes the book palatable for the nonarchaeologist and the beginning but serious archaeology student alike.

The study compares four saloons from Virginia City's boomtown "wild west" days, demonstrating the ethnic, gender, and class diversity of their clientele. Dixon also seeks to disabuse the reader of the popular culture mythos surrounding the wild west saloon as typified by, for example, the "Longbranch Saloon," made famous by the radio and television series Gunsmoke. …