Nevada Ghost Towns

This week we have a special post from our colleague, Erich Purpur, down in DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library. Enjoy!

DeLaMare's Google Earth InterfaceThe W.M. Keck Museum and DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library are housed in the historic Mackay Mines building on South Campus. Historically, the library and museum existed as supplementary resources to the Mackay School of Mines’ teaching and learning mission. Today, the two serve not only mining and geology related disciplines but the entire science & engineering community on campus. Nevada would not be what it is today without its long history of mining and this tradition is kept alive in the Keck museum. In fact, the mining industry is so integral to the state’s history it is written in the University of Nevada’s constitution that it must have a School of Mines. When museum director Garrett Barmore voiced a desire to usher in more interactive tools to complement the rich mining history exemplified in the museum, we at the DeLaMare Library took this opportunity to join forces. The idea was to use an existing large display environment at DeLaMare and through Google Earth to leverage and show off university resources related to the history of mining in Nevada. The Nevada Ghost town project was born. Due to the volatile nature of mining boom/busts from the mid 1800s through early 1900s, Nevada is littered with remnants of once thriving mining towns. Montello, NevadaDriven by potential fortunes to be made by mining gold, silver, copper, etc. towns literally popped up over night. Some struck it big while many others went bust and residents moved onto the next location. Many of these towns were quite rowdy and featured many saloons and brothels and the environment truly was that of the Wild West. Many stories came to light such as the meteoric rise and fall of Goldfield and Pioche being crowned “Boldest Town in the West” over other notorious frontier outposts such as Tombstone, AZ and Dodge City, KS. The display allows users to click on one of 37 significant towns to learn more about Nevada’s history. While many locations truly are ghost towns (population: 0), also featured are places whose population is much diminished from its heyday (ex: Virginia City) as well as Reno and Las Vegas. On a personal note, the project was very educational for me. As I am not a native Nevadan I know infinitely more about the state’s history than before. Also, a big thank you goes to UNR’s Special Collections department who has archived significant historic photo collection and by allowing us to publish the images made for a much richer experience. All images used are from Special Collections & University Archives. The Nevada Ghost Towns project is now being shown off daily in the DeLaMare Library’s atrium for your viewing and learning pleasure.

For more information on this project, please contact the DeLaMare Library.

Getting the Word Out About Our Political Collections

Jacque poses with 2 of the 3 panels.

Jacque poses with 2 of the 3 panels.

Through lobbyist and friend of Special Collections, Keith Lee, we heard last month that space might be available in the Legislative Building in Carson City to hang a display of some of our politically related materials. We had been wanting to find a way to tell people about the materials we collect and have for use by students and other researchers, and to also see about receiving additional donations of materials from former politicians or others who worked with political issues.

We had never thought about presenting an exhibit on our materials outside of the Special Collections Department. Usually we create exhibits on themes or special subjects for display in our department and/or around the Knowledge Center building here on campus.

Mr. Lee cautioned me that these spaces were spoken for quite early and we could be too late. But since the Legislature was in session, we had hopes. I traveled to Carson City and he introduced me to Robin Bates, the Assembly Sergeant at Arms, who oversaw the use of the wall space in the Legislative Building for displays and exhibits. Mr. Bates heard my thoughts behind our potential exhibit, and took me to the third floor where he showed me a corridor opposite a large meeting room. The meeting room was used by both Senators and Assembly members as well as a number of outside groups and individuals. And to my amazement he said we could use the entire wall–about 25 linear feet–for our exhibit!

Townsend Campaign Brochure

To paraphrase the line from the movie the Godfather: This was an offer I couldn’t refuse!

Back at work, I quickly went through a much expanded idea I had for what we might reproduce for this length of space. Where I had first thought we might have maybe three feet of wall space to hang a panel, I decided on three panels. Two of the panels would be as long as I could make them, about five feet each, and about three feet high and hang to the left of an elevator where the most blank wall space was. The smaller wall space was to the right of the elevator and would need to be about three feet long and about as high. In this way, anyone waiting for the elevator, or lingering in the corridor, could read the panels.

For quite a few weeks I reviewed all sorts of items in our manuscript and photograph collections.  The panels needed to be “just right,” to have not only have good content but also have a good design.  Our student workers assisted me with scanning the many pieces I choose and then I passed along to our designer Kristi Anderson.  We worked on my ideas, edited, thank goodness, by her professional eye.

Lingenfelter (Corky) Campaign Brochure

I’m happy to say that the three panels are now a reality in the Legislative Building’s third floor corridor, opposite room 3100. The panels each have a theme. Of the two larger panels, one is about campaigning for office. It displays an interesting collage of bumper stickers, lawn signs, advertisements for candidates, letters about raising money, photographs of candidates and their staff, as well as a rare voter’s 1864 Union Ticket with Abraham Lincoln’s name on it.

The second large panel is about the work that comes after someone is elected. It highlights the connections that politicians have with their constituents and with other politicians. It displays state budget information from 1935 and 1986 and letters from former governors. As well it highlights some of the people who gained higher offices at the federal level, many who rose from the ranks of local and state office holding.

The last panel shows a short history of women in Nevada’s politics.  Suffragette Anne Martin was the first woman to run from Nevada for the U. S. Senate in 1920, followed by Maya Miller in 1974. Neither were successful in gaining that office, but other women were and a few are included in this smaller panel.

I hope that if any of you are in Carson City during this legislative session, you’ll stop by and take a short trip to the third floor to take a look at our panels on the “Politics of Our Past.”  And if you have materials which might be donated to us, or know of others who do, please contact us!

Science History in Archives

Mention archives and often people think about the humanities and social sciences. Given its land-grant roots, however, it should be no surprise that University Archives preserves material about the University’s involvement in agriculture, astronomy, and other scientific endeavors.

Lake Tahoe Region Tree-Ring Borings

Lake Tahoe Region Tree-Ring Borings

Among Archives’ artifacts is a set of tree borings obtained from the Lake Tahoe region documenting that the current drought in the region is hardly a new concern. Back in the 1930s, George Hardman and Orvis Reil of the University of Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station conducted a multi-year study of precipitation via tree ring analysis in the Lake Tahoe area. Field workers for the project were obtained through the Nevada Emergency Relief Administration during the Great Depression. Tree borings were harvested at sites in the Charleston Mountains, Clear Creek Road, Franktown, Juniper Flat, Kingsbury Grade, and Washoe Grade. This project caught the attention of Henry A. Wallace, Director of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (1933-1940), who was interested in cyclical changes in climatic conditions. The Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation in Denver and the U. S. Forest Service, California Region, also wrote to the University to obtain a copy of the report: The Relation of Tree Growth to Stream Run Off in the Truckee River Basin. Archival records include the borings, correspondence, and raw data sheets.

1939 4-H Camp Attendees

1939 4-H Camp attendees during a tree identification session

University Archives also has many records from the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station, which was established in 1887. Its collection AC 0288, for example, includes several boxes of county farm maps providing crop inventories for the decade before World War II, including the names of farm owners and/or operators. Elsewhere in the same collection are reports on Nevada’s wartime agriculture and post-war production reports.

The history of Nevada’s 4-H Camp at Lake Tahoe is included among the many archival records for the Nevada Cooperative Extension Service. Scrapbooks and photographs capture the programming and recreational activities enjoyed by generations of young Nevadans from the 1930s to the present day. Projects such as insect study and tree identification were interspersed with summertime fun first at the Farm Bureau Camp in south Reno and later up at Lake Tahoe, where a permanent 4-H campsite was acquired in 1938. The photograph of children during a tree identification session is from a 1939 4-H Camp scrapbook (AC 0043).

On Orbit Nov 04 Cover

Representing the other end of the scientific spectrum, Archives holds material about the history of the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center, along with a run of its publication OnOrbit. Records include an inventory of a time capsule to be opened in 2061.

These are just a few of the archival resources helping document the history of scientific pursuits at the University.

Project Archivist, Edan Strekal, Hired in March

Project Archivist Edan Strekal reviews manuscript collection with supervisor Jacque Sundstrand

Project Archivist Edan Strekal reviews manuscript collection with supervisor Jacque Sundstrand

We welcome another staff member to Special Collections this month. Edan Strekal recently was hired as Project Archivist to fill a new, temporary full-time position for 3-years, subject to funding.

As Project Archivist, Strekal will work under the supervision of Jacque Sundstrand, the Manuscripts & Archives Librarian, and be responsible for working on unprocessed manuscript collections for which we have received outside funding either through support from donors or from grants. For each collection, Strekal will determine its organization, process the contents, and create the intellectual access needed for discovery by users via our online catalog or through our website and the internet.

Previously, Strekal was working in Special Collections in a similar but part-time archival position. Due to the generosity of many who have given money to assist in the preparation of their donated collections as well as others supporting the work of the department, and successful grant applications, we have been able to create the Project Archivist position to assist us with making more collections available in a timely manner for our users.

Did Someone Hear a Wolf Howl?

UNR Baseball Media Guide Cover, 2001

UNR Baseball Media Guide Cover, 2001

2014 proved to be a banner year for University Archives in terms of acquiring Wolf Pack sports memorabilia. A blog about the unique Jake Lawlor Scrapbook was posted here in August 2014. Its call number is AC 0572, and it is now available for viewing in Archives.

Wolf Pack Homecoming, 1995

In the fall of 2014, Archives received a large transfer of material from Athletics Media Services with items about Wolf Pack sports from 1923-2014. The Nevada Athletics Media Services Records have the call number AC 0575. There is some administrative material, including plans for Legacy Hall and an interview of University President Joe Crowley about his service as National Collegiate Athletic Association President in 1993. Most of the collection, however, consists of game programs, media guides, and campus athletics publications such as Frontcourt Magazine.

The collection also includes 65 videocassettes, mostly of football games, from 1940-1997. Among them is the 1950 Nevada vs. Loyola game featuring Pat Brady’s NCAA record-setting 99-yard punt. While there is interest in having these videotapes digitized, the cost of digitizing videotapes is daunting. If you are interested in providing financial support for such a project, please let us hear from you!.

UNR Women's Tennis Team, 1980

UNR Women’s Tennis Team, 1980

Accompanying the print records was a large collection of vintage Wolf Pack sports photographs and slides. These include participants in over 15 sports, from baseball to wrestling. Here is an image the 1980 women’s tennis team.

Late in the year, Archives acquired a collection of thirteen original University of Nevada men’s basketball score books from Reno resident Harry Pykor. The score books are for varsity team games from 1919 through 1939.

Varsity Score books, 1920 and 1938-39

Varsity Score books, 1920 and 1938-39

While researchers can use the NewspaperArchive database or microfilm reels of Nevada newspapers to see coverage of men’s basketball games in the early twentieth century, flipping through the pages of these score books brings an added dimension to Nevada games played less than 30 years after the first basketball game in 1891 (Springfield, Massachusetts). The game sheets include the names of referees, timekeepers, and scorers, helping preserve the history of many who volunteered their time to support men’s basketball in Nevada.

The score books were discovered in a desk at an auction, so we are particularly happy that these original documents found their way to a permanent home in University Archives. It is a reminder for everyone to be on the lookout for historic items about the University and to consider placing them in Archives for use by future generations.

Canadian Filmmaker Hot on the Trail of Will James

Will James

Portrait of Will James

Sometimes you simply don’t know who may be wanting to use our manuscript collections, and it is a surprise when it turns out to be an international user. In October I was contacted by Canadian filmmaker Claude Gagnon who is working on additional research concerning cowboy writer and illustrator Will James, author of the book Smokey, the Cowhorse (1926), and other titles.

Will James was born Joseph-Ernest Dufault on June 6, 1892, at St. Nazaire de Acton in Quebec, Canada. His parents, Jean and Josephine Dufault were French. The family moved to Montreal where James spent his childhood. In 1907, at age fifteen, James left home for the Canadian west, later coming to the American west.  At one point he lived in the Washoe Valley after marrying Alice Conradt of Reno.

Will and Alice James

Will and Alice James in their cabin in Washoe Valley

Claude Gagnon, a respected filmmaker, is researching the earlier years of James’ life before he left Canada and is hoping to make a move about these years.  Gagnon is basically pursuing if the commonly held belief is true that Will James hid his earlier identity and was not in communication with his Canadian family. In order to continue his research he drove an RV from Montreal to the United States and has stopped to talk with people living in places where James lived as well as speaking with Will James authorities.  In November he arrived in Reno on our doorstep to review our Will James manuscript collections.  We have a great collection of research pulled together by Anthony Amaral for his biography done on James entitled Will James, the Gilt Edged Cowboy (Los Angeles, Westernlore Press, 1967), and from Alice Conradt James.

As part of his research and with the idea of a future documentary film in mind, Gagnon has kept up a blog about his travels and has also put together a series of short videos with a few highlights of his trips and talks.  One of the video highlights was about working here in Special Collections with our Will James materials.  At the end of his days of research he asked me to say a few words about our department for his next video blog, which I was happy to do so.  If you would like to see his short videos, you may view them in both English or French via this link (look for the one Claude did with me with “University of Nevada, Reno” in the title):

Claude Gagnon also has his Facebook blog “Sur les Traces de Will James – On The Will James Trail” if you wish to follow him there:

We are looking forward to that happy day that Claude Gagnon is able to return with his film crew and make the movie that will tell an additional story about young Will James’ life that needs to be told.

Robert Wernick’s Reno

wernick_portrait_2005Many who have searched the Web for aspects of Reno history have encountered an entertaining essay by journalist Robert Wernick entitled “Reno: Sin City Revisited,” a light-hearted “outsider” remembrance of Reno during the Divorce Era, which begins:

“In those days there were no Interstates, and you could stop by the side of the road almost anywhere to get a refreshing milk-shake. I was paying for such a milk-shake at the cash register of a clean well-lighted place in Nebraska and chatting pleasantly with the owner.
‘Where you headin’?’ she asked me.
I replied: ‘Reno.’
Her blue eyes turned a slightly more steely blue. ‘Young man,’ she said, ‘the American people proved once and for all last November that we will never tolerate a divorced man in the White House.'”

The author obtained at least one divorce in Reno — from Rolande Wernick, during  1954, when he collected most of the material for his well-known piece. Smithsonian Magazine published a version of the essay as “Where You Went if You Really Had to Get Unhitched” in June, 1996.

On June 17, 1965 the Saturday Evening Post published another of Wernick’s articles, “Last of the Divorce Ranches,” with a focus on the Donner Trail Ranch in Verdi, operated by Joan and Harry Drackert.  That article caused a local stir among several other slighted divorce ranch owners who declared in a Nevada State Journal article on July 8, 1965 that their business, hosting divorce seekers, was still alive and well. However, Wernick had correctly observed a significant decline in the industry.

Wernick wrote for popular magazines such as Life (where he was the Movie Editor for several years), the Saturday Evening PostVanity Fair, Reader’s Digest … and was a frequent contributor to Smithsonian Magazine. He also wrote several books, including some in Time-Life series: Blitzkrieg, The Vikings, The Family, Monument Builders, and a novel, The Freebooters. He led an interesting life until his death in August, 2014, at age 96. His website, Robert Wernick: Notes of a Sciolist on Things Past and Passing and to Come, continues to provide a view of his fascinating life and his lively mind.


Wernick in his Montparnasse studio

The Web has taken little notice of Robert Wernick’s passing, but there is one exception — a tribute in Richmond Magazine,  Appreciation, Robert Wernick by one of his friends, Harry Kollatz, Jr. Rest in Peace, Robert Wernick, a talented writer who outlived so many of his admirers. His observations of Reno divorce seekers have enriched our cultural heritage.


Robert Wernick and Amie Oliver, Jardin des Plantes, Paris, 2006. Photo by Goxwa Borg.









Exciting New Manuscript Collection from Western Shoshone Tribe

Carrie and Mary Dann

Carrie and Mary Dann at their ranch in eastern Nevada

The Special Collections Department has received an extensive collection of records, the first from a Western Shoshone Tribal organization, and a grant from the National Historical Records & Publications Commission of more than $77,000 to organize, preserve and make the records available to the public. The department was one of only 15 organizations nationwide to receive an NHRPC grant for a project that has national significance.

The 120 linear-foot collection includes records from the Western Shoshone Defense Project as well as Western Shoshone ranchers and activists Carrie Dann and her sister Mary Dann, now deceased. The Dann sisters were involved in a legal battle with the U.S. government for nearly 50 years to maintain ownership and control over ancestral lands in northeastern Nevada. Their case was eventually argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Dann sisters’ struggle with the federal government over questions of grazing rights, water rights and rights of the Western Shoshones began before the non-profit organization, the Western Shoshone Defense Project, was formed. The collection includes documents from the mid-1960s to 2010.

“With the addition of this collection, we will expand the information and sources related to the Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe, the three Great Basin tribes in our area. We have collections from anthropologists and ethnographers who worked with Paiute and Washoe tribal members and materials from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, but this is a significant contribution entrusted to us from the Western Shoshone,” said Jacquelyn Sundstrand, Manuscripts and Archives Librarian. Work on the collection has just begun.

For further information, please contact Jacquelyn Sundstrand via email ( or phone (775/682-5667).

“Hurrah for the New State of Nevada”

newstatecolorAfter trying his luck at mining and ranching, Alfred Doten moved to Virginia City in October 1864 to take a job as a local reporter for the Virginia Daily Union newspaper. He was 35 years old, single, and full of life. Every evening, from the day he left Plymouth Massachusetts in 1849 on a ship bound for California until the day before he died in Carson City in 1903, he wrote about the day’s events in his diary. As we can see, October 31, 1864 was a busy news day for Alf — the telegram from Washington proclaiming Nevada’s statehood was only one of the big events he noted.

For those who prefer not to decipher Alf’s handwriting, a transcription follows. We empathize with the scribe who, on this momentous day, after waking at sunrise and writing steadily all evening for his paper until midnight, was faithful to his diary, perhaps while having a habitual drink or two, by candle or lantern or oil lamp light, in temporary quarters that were perhaps not heated. These circumstances interfere with perfect penmanship.

New State of Nevada.
Monday, Oct. 31st —
Clear & pleasant — at sunrise this
morning I was awakened by the
bells and steam whistles telling
us there was a fire — I out &
ran to it — near the Divide —
Golden Eagle Hotel & other
buildings — fine day for items —
gave me all I could do — got
through at 12 oclock at night —
wrote steadily all evening —
We got the telegram this
morning, announcing that the
President has issued proclamation
making us a State. Hurrah
for the new State of Nevada —
At the fire I met Dan De Quille,
who introduced me to Farrington,
the Local of the Gold Hill News, so
there were the three Locals of the 3
leading papers of the Territory together.

Alf Doten’s diaries are full of the details of daily Comstock life, with brief accounts of the many stories he covered as a local reporter along with intimate, sometimes surprising glimpses into his social life and personal affairs. Through a string of fortunate events, the original and complete 79 volumes are held in Special Collections. The diaries, along with 16 boxes of related manuscript materials and 297 photographs, were purchased in 1961 with funds from the Max C. Fleischman Foundation and the Nevada State Legislature. Over a ten-year period, Walter Van Tilburg Clark edited the diaries, resulting in a 3-volume abridged publication by the University of Nevada Press in 1973, after Clark’s death. Special Collections aspires to embark on an ambitious project to offer page images and transcriptions of the unabridged diaries online, beginning in Phase 1 with book #30, documenting Doten’s heady days on the Comstock.

UNRA-P3239-1Dignitaries at the purchasing ceremony for the Doten collection, April 5, 1961: Warren Howell of the John Howell Bookstore in San Francisco, Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer, University of Nevada President Charles Armstrong, Julius Bergen of the University Foundation, Dr. Effie Mona Mack, who was instrumental in acquiring the collection, and Ken Robbins, Director of Publications at the University of Nevada Press

Walter Van Tilburg Clark editing The Journals of Alfred Doten, 1849-1903 in Getchell Library, 1962

Nevada Writers Hall of Fame

2014 Writer's Hall of Fame and Silver Pen Award Reciptients

Shaun T. Griffin, Ronald M. James and Alicia M. Barber

The 27th Annual Nevada Writers Hall of Fame program will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 13, 2014, in the Milt Glick Ballroom in the Joe Crowley Student Union. Shaun T. Griffin and Ronald M. James are being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Alicia M. Barber is receiving the Silver Pen award.

While Special Collections and the Knowledge Center’s circulating collection have copies of many of the publications of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame and Silver Pen authors, University Archives provides access to other relevant resources. The Archives’ Sound Recordings Collection (AC 0062) includes sound disks of Dr. James Hulse’s 1973 interview with University President Minard Stout. Other disks in the collection are of KUNR’s Western Writers Series, with readings by Bill Douglass, Shaun Griffin, Teresa Jordan, Steven Nightingale, nila northSun, Gailmarie Pahmeier, Kirk Robertson, Bernie Schopen, Emma Sepulveda, Gary Short, and Sally Zanjani. The manuscript collection NUB 16 provides a transcript of a 1960 campus lecture by Robert Laxalt.

The Friends of the University Libraries manuscript collection, AC 0446, includes DVDs of the “Voices: Great Moments in Literature” program from February 1993, with readings by Emma Sepulveda, Shaun Griffin, Rollan Melton, Robert Laxalt, and Clay Jenkinson. A DVD from October 2001 records Rollan Melton’s acceptance speech on the occasion of his induction into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. Another DVD set makes available the 2002 award ceremony, with readings by Carolyn Duferrena, Gregory Martin, and Tom Meschery. That year Neal Ferguson was master of ceremonies, and Bob Blesse presented the awards.

For detailed information about all of the award recipients, visit the new online guide:

For more information or to make reservations, contact Breanne Standingwater at or (775) 682-6022.

27th Annual Writer's Hall of Fame