After 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.
Dignitaries 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