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The C. & C. Shaft House

Photograph of Comstock Lode

1870s
Photograph
The Bancroft Library

The C. & C. Shaft House; Hearst Mining Collection of Views by C. E. Watkins, 1871-1876; The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley

This photograph of the Comstock Lode, taken shortly after the Civil War, demonstrates the pace and scale of industrialization and resource extraction in the rural American West. The Comstock Lode was the largest silver strike in the history of the United States. It was discovered in northwestern Nevada in 1859 and contributed to the rapid growth of San Francisco, where a new stock exchange opened to sell shares in the many mining companies extracting silver and gold on the Comstock Lode. The jobs created by large-scale industrialization that occurred in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and on the Comstock Lode during and after the war encouraged the immigration of thousands of workers to the United States. Like most immigrants, these people were mostly young, single men who sought to improve their economic condition. The Comstock’s workforce was composed overwhelmingly of European immigrants, making Nevada the state with the highest proportion of foreign-born residents in the nation. Not all immigrants were treated equally on the Comstock Lode. Although they supplied most of the labor for railroads and logging crews, Chinese immigrants were not allowed to work in the mines. How does this image of the Comstock Lode and information it provides help answer the question, How did the country change after the Civil War?

This photograph of the Comstock Lode demonstrates the pace and scale of industrialization and resource extraction in the rural American West. The Comstock Lode was the largest silver strike in the history of the United States. It was discovered in northwestern Nevada in 1859 and contributed to the rapid growth of San Francisco, where a new stock exchange opened to sell shares in the many mining companies extracting silver and gold on the Comstock Lode. The jobs created by large-scale industrialization that occurred in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and on the Comstock Lode during and after the war encouraged the immigration of thousands of workers to the United States. Like most immigrants, these people were mostly young, single men who sought to improve their economic condition. The Comstock’s workforce was composed overwhelmingly of European immigrants, making Nevada the state with the highest proportion of foreign-born residents in the nation. Not all immigrants were treated equally on the Comstock Lode. Although they supplied most of the labor for railroads and logging crews, Chinese immigrants were not allowed to work in the mines. The following questions can help guide your students in a discussion of transformations that the country experienced in the years immediately following the Civil War: What does this image reveal about the scale of mining on the Comstock Lode? What kinds of resources and machines would these companies need to operate? What do you think it was like to work hundreds or even thousands of feet underground? Was it dangerous work? How much money do you think a Comstock miner made? Where did the miners come from? What do you think it was like to live on the Comstock Lode? Why would railroads be important in stimulating economic growth on the Comstock Lode? How did railroads influence the movement of immigrants in pursuit of jobs? Do you think the Pacific Railroad Acts had an economic impact on the Comstock Lode? How?

1098 The C. and C. Shaft House Watkins, Photographer, San Francisco