Brent Brown

Tonopah! Goldfield! Bullfrog! Rawhide! These Nevada mining camps created near hysteria with word of a new strike. Thousands rushed to cash in on each new boom, creating towns or tent cities in a matter of months. “The
discovery of high-grade ore in a new area resulted in a flux of prospectors, promoters (honest and otherwise), newspapers, stores, gambling halls, men looking for work, and the general riff-raff looking for an easy dollar”, according to Hugh Shamburger in “Rawhide”. Saloons and red light districts sprang up overnight. These hard rock miners worked hard and they played hard
too. In a sense, these Nevada boomtowns were the last vestiges of the old West.

Although Nevada is known as the Silver state, it was the gold and silver discovery at Tonopah in 1900 that brought about a resurgence in Nevada.  When Jim Butler discovered the Mizpah Ledge it became famous world-wide. This accidental discovery was no flash in the pan as the Tonopah district produced $146 million of ore between 1900 and 1940, according to the Nevada
State Bureau of Mines.

Goldfield was next with the Sandstorm mine, located in 1903. The camp was such a huge success that in four short years it became Nevada’s largest city with a population of 20,000. The city boasted beautiful homes as well as world class hotels. According to Bessie Beatty in “Who’s Who In Nevada” written in 1907, “During at least three of these four years the attention of the entire world has been focused on this camp. The names of her mines have become common words on the Atlantic and Pacific coast…Everywhere men talk Goldfield. Many who have never seen a mine are familiar with “high grade”. “In Goldfield it
is the only thing that counts.” The mines of Goldfield produced over $86 million by 1940.

 In 1904, gold was found at Bullfrog. Shorty Harris and Ed Cross staked their claim and rushed to Goldfield to have their ore assayed. The first rock broken off by Shorty Harris showed $665 per ton in gold, and other samples reached $3,000 (Lingenfelter, Death Valley and the Amargosa). Miners rushed to Bullfrog from Tonopah and Goldfield.  In 1905, the Montgomery Shoshone Mine was yielding ore as high as $16,000 per ton! Lingenfelter called this mine “the new boss of Bullfrog”.

New mining camps sprang up in the vicinity including Rhyolite, the closest one to the Montgomery Shoshone. The Bullfrog hype then went into overdrive with George Graham Rice’s shrewd promotion. Telephone lines, electricity and railroad service came soon thereafter. With the opening of the Rhyolite Stock Exchange in 1907, seventy-four Bullfrog companies were listed and
traded. But, paraphrasing Lingenfelter, stock certificates, not bullion bars, were the chief product of most Bullfrog mines. The Bullfrog district produced little more than $3 million.

Rawhide, Nevada Street Scene RP Postcard, 1908

 Rawhide, Nevada ghost town pictured in 1908.

On Christmas Day, 1906, Jim Swanson located the Poor Boy claim just north of Grutt Hill at Rawhide. “The life of Rawhide was short, snappy, and complete. In the span of three years, it grew from two tents to a town of 10,000 people, was destroyed by fire, partially rebuilt, and then almost overnight practically deserted (Article by Joe McDonald reprinted in Rawhide by Hugh A. Shamberger). Most Nevada mining camps lasted between a decade and twenty five years, but Rawhide was different. The boom lasted only 3 years. Most of the Rawhide population had no money and at the beginning the town was mostly a tent
city. Many of the workers in town were working without salary with 2,500 fortune seekers digging in the hills around town.

But Rawhide attracted some notables such as Nat C. Goodwin, the comedian-actor who financed the Nat C. Goodwin Brokerage firm, run by the notorious George Graham Rice. In addition, Tex Rickard, owner of the Northern Saloons in Goldfield and in Rawhide, was a famous boxing promoter who had promoted the Gans-Nelson championship fight in Goldfield.

 The town of Rawhide became famous nationwide in September, 1908 when a spectacular fire erupted which nearly destroyed the entire camp. Although there were rebuilding attempts, the fire doomed the town. By January 1909, only 2,000 remained in Rawhide. A year later, it was only 500.

Collectors today can visit many of the old mining camps in Nevada. You can drive through Tonopah and Goldfield on the route from Reno to Las Vegas. There is a terrific mining park in Tonopah that tours the original grounds where Jim Butler made his discovery. A great trip to Death Valley can be made even more memorable with a trip to Rhyolite and the Bullfrog district. Some ruins of the bank building and the train depot are still evident. But a trip to Rawhide doesn’t yield much. A personal visit about ten years ago showed almost nothing to mark the existence of this great mining camp. Scavengers and bottle diggers had left little behind.

The above mining camps all had a colorful history. A certificate collector can focus on one or all of them to put together a great
and varied collection. A fun collecting angle might be to assemble a group of mining certificates from ghost towns.

The Nevada mining boom of this era was very reminiscent of the Internet bubble in 2000. Investors couldn’t get enough of these mining stocks even though most proved to be worthless.  Many of the mining companies were truly “holes in the ground” or
promotional schemes. But there were just enough true successes to make the believers “believe”.

 Pictured below are two examples of Nevada ghost town certificates:

Fairview Galena King Mining Co. Stock, Fairview, NV 1906

Fairview Galena King MC issued in 1906.

 A true ghost town, production in Fairview, Nevada ceased around 1917. Fairview is now closed off to visitors by the U.S. Government.

Proskey- Rawhide Mining & Leasing Co. Stock, Rawhide, NV 1908

Proskey- Rawhide Mining & Leasing Co.issued in 1908.

The Rawhide, Nevada boom lasted from 1908-1910. Nothing remains of the town or buildings. Today, there is an open pit gold mine at Rawhide.

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