Mining and miners left an enduring legacy in the history and landscape of the American West (Smith 1987; Robbins 1994; Hine and Faragher 2000; Paul 2001; Isenberg 2006). Indigenous peoples mined minerals such as salt and turquoise in the region before the arrival of Europeans in the 1500s. Spanish explorers and settlers searched for the mythical El Dorado and opened mineral and metal mines in what is now the Southwest and Southern California. They introduced mining technologies and methods developed earlier in medieval Europe and other parts of New Spain. The discovery of gold in California in 1849 led to the first global mining rush in the American West (Holliday 1999). More mining rushes followed with gold strikes on the Fraser River in British Columbia and on Pikes Peak in Colorado in the late 1850s (Fetherling 1997). The discovery of the famous Comstock Lode in Nevada in 1859 spurred the industrialization of mining and revolutionized mining technology, society, and culture throughout the world (James 1998). Subsequent mining rushes took place during the next few decades in the Cariboo region of British Columbia; on Nevada’s Reese River and Treasure Hill; in the Black Hills of South Dakota; at Bannack and Alder Gulch in Montana; at Leadville and Cripple Creek in Colorado; and at Idaho’s Clearwater River, Boise Basin, and Owyhee Mountains, among other places. The end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth heralded the last of the famous global mining rushes in the American West: the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska (Morse 2003) and the gold strikes at Tonopah, Nevada, in 1900 and at nearby Goldfield, Nevada, in 1902 (Elliott 1966; Zanjani 1992, 2002). Mining for base metals and minerals such as copper and iron played an equally prominent role in the history of the American West in the twentieth century (Hyde 1998).
Nevada’s mining frontier is a microcosm of the western mining experience and is the focus of this book. Sporadic and small-scale mining took place in what is now Nevada before the expansion of the American state. In the late 18th century, Spanish Franciscan monks traveling on