Nevada has a rich history that runs deeper than the railroads and mines that helped create it. The UNLV Libraries chronicles much of that history in its Special Collections department, which houses 12,000 linear feet of manuscript in archival material in more than 600 discreet collections; more than 120,000 photographs, 1,500 maps and 40,000 volumes.
A recent addition to Special Collections is the Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company archives, which includes everything from invoices, receipts and canceled checks to memos, insurance policies and mining engineer reports of the once influential company which operated in the early 1900s.
“If you went to the corporate office filing cabinets, this is what you’d find. It’s a nice snapshot of one of the most important companies operating in Nevada at the time,” said Peter Michel, director of Special Collections. “If you’re looking at why Las Vegas is here, it’s because of the gold and silver boom in Goldfield and Tonopah. It’s one of those areas where we try to collect whatever we can.”
The Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company, owned by George Wingfield, was one of the largest corporations of the early 20th Century and roughly the size of Basic Magnesium, Inc. in Henderson in the 1940s. Goldfield, located about 240 miles east of Carson City, had a population of 268 in the 2010 census, but a century ago, it was the center of a financial empire. Although the hard working miners are often the first people thought of in a mining company, the business was driven by the white collar executives who sold stock to raise money to increase the company’s breadth. In 1907, the bubble burst, leaving Goldfield a virtual ghost town.
The boom and bust of Goldfield helped shape the economy of Southern Nevada and create Las Vegas, which was founded in 1905.
“Goldfield was the last big bonanza gold rush in the United States. It affected the entire nation,” Michel added. “It attracted a lot of people, and when the mines started to close down, they trickled down to Las Vegas, which, because of the railroads, was more stable.”
The archives show there was more to mining than locating and processing ore. The collection shows Nevada played a big part in the history of the American West, and the way business would be practiced across the country. Many of the corporate standards developed during that time are still used today.
“It shows and demonstrates Nevada wasn’t out in the middle of nowhere with miners down in holes, but it was significant to the business of the United States,” Michel said. “This is modern times. This is the American West of the 20th Century, not the 19th Century. This is the American West of corporate business. It’s more than the local history of Goldfield.”
Although Special Collections implies an elite status, the department is open to all residents. After a brief registration, the Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company archives, along with all the other items in the department, are open to all interested parties.
“It’s exactly why we’re here, so you can come and see and touch,” Michel said. “We feel like these collections belong to the people of Nevada.”
For more information about the Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company and other collections available at UNLV Special Collections, visit www.library.unlv.edu/speccol