Nevada fiscal history 1863 1873


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Advertisement for a philatelic exhibit demonstrating the geographic progression of revenue stamp usage in Nevada during its classic period of fiscal history: from the arrival of U.S. Civil War revenues in Nevada Territory in March 1863; through the imposition of state stamp taxes in 1865; until the expiration of virtually all of those taxes in February 1873.
Why Nevada? Why a Geographic Analysis?
A "perfect storm" of factors combine to make Nevada uniquely suited to a such an analysis. It is "only" a state, and this is only one decade; but what a state, what a decade!

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Nevada fiscal history 1863 1873

  1. 1. Nevada Fiscal History 1863–1873 This exhibit demonstrates the geographic progression of revenue stamp usage in Nevada during its classic period of fiscal history: from the arrival of U.S. Civil War revenues in Nevada Territory in March 1863; through the imposition of state stamp taxes in 1865; until the expiration of virtually all of those taxes in February 1873. Why Nevada? Why a Geographic Analysis? A “perfect storm” of factors combine to make Nevada uniquely suited to a such an analysis. It is “only” a state, and this is only one decade; but what a state, what a decade! Consider first the philatelic factors. 4¢ imperforate 10¢ roulette 10 1. Nevada issued its own stamps. This was not a common occurrence; only four other states of the 45 did so during the 19th century. This was a robust issue, with ten denominations and a complex variety of separation methods. 2. Nevada taxed everything. Only Nevada enacted a broad slate of stamp taxes, mimicking the federal schedule. For the next seven years, nearly every document was required to bear 2¢ roulette 15x18 25¢ roulette 15x10 both U.S. and state stamps. In this Nevada stands alone. The other classic state stamps of the 1850s–1870s were usually affixed to only a single class of documents (Alabama tax on seals, Louisiana Lottery stamps, Oregon Insurance stamps); even California’s 5¢ roulette 10x15 2¢ roulette 18 celebrated “Gold Rush revenues,” with the exception of the ultra-rare Attorney stamps, were affixed only to commercial documents, the great majority used in San Francisco. In 1871 deed to the Mexican Mill, Carson River, amount $130,000, bearing $130 in U.S and state revenues, including the rare Nevada $10 and $20 (x6)
  2. 2. Chronology of Settlement Pages 1. Comstock Region 2–10 Rich strikes of silver and gold in 1859 on the Comstock Lode in western Utah Territory led to formation of Nevada Territory in 1861. The commercial center of the Lode, Virginia City, perched on a remote, barren mountainside and complemented by nearby Gold Hill, quickly became the second leading city of the West, eclipsed only by San Francisco. American City had an eyeblink-brief existence circa 1864. 7. Hum Disc triggere up at U Oreana Route” the nort with Su Galena 2. Comstock Adjacent 11–16 1867 receipt made at remote Summit Virginia City was accessed from the south via Gold Springs, in northwestern Humboldt County. Canyon. Dayton, at its mouth, became an important supply point. Silver City, about halfway up, was also a key transit point, and the center of modestly successful mining. 11, 14 The taxed deeds or mortgages, for which the particular, no other state famed Sutro Tunnel drained the deep levels of the Lode to its mouth an astounding 3.8 miles southeast on the big-ticket items of Nevada are the most spectacular federal-state Carson River plain. 12 dual stampings extant. Palmyra Mining District radiated southeast of The Dayton, with ephemeral camps at Palmyra, Como and 3. Its stamps were ubiquitous. Georgetown. 13 Milling of Comstock everyday transactions— Nevada’s stamps were required on ore was powered chiefly by the Carson River, site of the Eureka and Mexican Mills and checks (provided many others. a bank!), receipts, promissory notes, there was 15 certificates, deeds and the like—and thus on the used in every farAdjoining the Comstock were west and north was flung corner of theWashoe making geographicalfarm products and other state, County, where lumber, analysis natural and supplies were transported to the Lode via Washoe by as in inviting. When surviving stamped documents are arranged City and the new railroad town of Reno. 16 8 9. Nye C Pros District motivat but the was mo emptied 11 4 6 9 17–18 In alone of the Comstock, yet standing apart as of These first three factorsthe orbit raise the “philatelic importance”the Territorial capital. Nevada’s fiscal history almost immeasurably. 4. Douglas County 13 5 the present exhibit, the entire panorama of settlement is revealed 3. Carson City 12 7 1 8. Reese Rich Overlan followin soon ecl includin miles no 10 19 4. Nevada Territory stock certificates, a unique classsupplied Sparsely populated; farms, ranches, lumbering of the Comstock; traversed by key trans-Sierra routes. Locations collectibles Young’s Bridge, Genoa, Vansickles. Even so, the importance of revenue usage in Nevada stems not 5. Churchill County 20 merely from the eight year span when its documentary stamps were Virtually empty, on overland routes, few waystations and in use, 1865–1873,ranches, the entire county hadTerritorial only 192 as1870! but from its preceding population period in well, when the U.S. documentary taxes were in force. This brief period 6. Esmeralda County 20–22 produced one of the most visually appealing and compelling classes Esmeralda District, with Aurora as commercial center, was all of philately, the Nevada Territory stock of stamped articles inthe second Nevada region to experience a major mining “rush,” beginning in late 1860. Both California and Nevada certificates. claimed this rich region; Aurora was declared the county seat of both Mono County, Lode had fully imbued By 1862 the richness of Nevada’s ComstockCalifornia and Esmeralda County, Nevada Territory! In September public consciousness in the West, most notably in San1863 a boundary Francisco and survey placed Aurora within Nevada. 2 3 1 2 Nevada’s county map was essentially finalized after creation of Eureka County in 1873. 10. Linc Ab of Linc fabulou county, only to 11. Whi In la discove level in furious county Hamilto northeas 12. Elko With Elko, on Nevada 13. Eur Eure respons included
  3. 3. Left, stock certificate issued at Santa Clara, Humboldt County, Nevada Territory, the only recorded certificate from this short-lived camp. The central vignette reproduces the great seal of the Territory. Right, stock certificate issued at Aurora, Esmeralda County, Nevada Territory. Note the printed dateline “Aurora, Mono Co., Cal.” Aurora and the adjacent Esmeralda Mining District were claimed by both Esmeralda County and Mono County, California, until a boundary survey showed they were indeed in Nevada! environs, and there commenced a riotous period of “silver fever,” wonderfully summarized in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine of August 1865: There was no good reason why these same veins [of the Comstock] should not be discovered for miles north and south of their present points of boundary. There was no good reason why a hundred other “Comstocks” might not be found, or why every quartz ledge might not be of equal richness. The busy era of adventure, enterprise and toil was followed by the era of “wild cat.” From October, 1862, until March, 1864, speculation ran riot, and the Territory of Nevada was converted into one vast swindling stock exchange. The rich developments upon this famed Comstock Ledge, the growing exports of bullion from the Esmeralda region, discovered in 1861, the glittering promise from quartz ledges discovered in Humboldt County, and the rich assays of “chloride” rock from the Reese River country, whose mineral wealth was discovered in the autumn of 1862, all exaggerated tenfold, frenzied the public mind upon the subject of silver mining, and a feverish gambling excitement usurped the places formerly occupied by legitimate and prudent adventure. Hundreds of companies with capitals—on paper—of from $500,000 to $5,000,000 each, were formed every month in California and Nevada. Every merchant and merchant’s clerk, every mechanic, every laborer, every servant girl, in every city and village on the Pacific coast, was in possession of a pocketful of stock not inappropriately designated as “wild-cat.” A grocery importer in San Francisco complained that he could not get his business properly attended to, because his book-keeper and assistant were President and Secretary, and his salesmen and porters Trustees of a flourishing mining company, and the necessities of the stock market deranged the due delivery of sugars and teas. Montgomery Street, in San Francisco, and C Street in Virginia—which had now become a city of 20,000 inhabitants—were thronged from morning until night with crowds buying and selling stock, chaffing each other, and exhibiting specimens of quartz. Three stock boards, with rooms magnificently furnished, were in full operation in San Francisco. Sacramento, Marysville, and Stockton, each had their stock board. In Virginia City there were four, and transactions to the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars were often made in an hour. A report of a “rich strike,” a report of a
  4. 4. Below, stock certificate issued at Austin, Nevada Territory, printed in red, blue and black with pink underprint. Above, stock certificate issued at Virginia [City], Nevada Territory. Companies used colorful shares to lure investors. mine being “salted,” an alleged discovery of the Comstock, a rumor that the Supreme Court would grant an injunction, a rumor that the Supreme Court would raise an injunction—any or all of such would affect the value of prominent stocks from 20 to 100 per cent. in a day. ... Of every hundred who invested in mining stock ninety-nine never saw, or intended to see, or designed to work the mine. To sell out, to speculate, to gamble was the object of all. What wonder that when the bubble burst, it did late in the spring of 1864, the distrust and disgust was as wide-spread as the disaster it brought. The Nevada Territory stock certificates are among the most visible and enjoyable reminders of this riotous episode. They are rare—only a few hundreds have survived, usually in ones and twos from family archives—sometimes lithographed but most often quaintly typeset, often printed in color and usually illustrated, utterly charming in their variety of fanciful names. To see them is to admire and desire them. Certainly they are among the most visually appealing items ever to bear stamps. To be sure, there were many other Western mining certificates issued in the 1860s, most notably for California ventures, but nothing remotely comparable to the veritable explosion of those for Nevada. Moreover, essentially all certificates for ventures elsewhere were issued either in San Francisco or the East: there are no recorded stamped Territorial mining certificates of the 1860s issued in the other mining Territories like Colorado, Montana, Arizona or New Mexico, and just one from Idaho. For Nevada some 375 certificates have been recorded, for 274 companies, issued in 23 different towns! Of these 23 origins, nine are represented by a single example, and five more by just two or three recorded examples. Certificates from all but one of these origins are included in this exhibit. 25¢ “Blaze of Glory” in the West As an added philatelic bonus, these certificates can be found bearing all eight U.S. 25¢ First Issue titles: Bond, Certificate, Entry of Goods, Insurance, Life Insurance, Power of Attorney, Protest and Warehouse Receipt, nearly all imperforate or part perforate. The U.S. Civil War stamp taxes took effect
  5. 5. October 1, 1862, but no stamps reached agencies in the West until February 28, 1863, when $750,000 in stamps arrived in San Francisco on the Pacific Mail steamer Golden Age (exhibitor’s research). Included were imperforate and part perforate stamps in a dazzling variety and quantity, the detritus of a failed experiment—the requirement for matching usage of documentary stamps (Agreement stamps on agreements, Bank Check stamps on bank checks, etc.), which had been rescinded December 25, 1862. Elsewhere in the country, the stock of imperforates and part perforates appears to have been virtually exhausted by mid-1863. In the West, though, their use continued for years; if not always the rule, it was certainly not the exception. The use of 25¢ stamps in the West, though, is a special case. During the speculative mania of 1862–4, mining stocks were issued in such prodigious numbers, each taxed at 25¢, that virtually the entire supply of 25¢ stamps sent West was consumed in a figurative blaze of glory that was over by late 1863! Eastern certificates of the same period show nothing remotely approaching this variety. A Brief Digression: General Historical Importance “Philatelic importance” has often been completely uncorrelated to general historical importance. The stamps of Mauritius are arguably the most philatelically important extant despite the fact that Mauritius itself, as a player on the world stage, probably ranks, say, 2 or 3 on a scale of 10. Political correctness, and strict interpretation of codified judging criteria, reinforce this notion: “a country is a country is a country.” I prefer to believe, with apologies to George Orwell, that “all countries are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” When choosing between areas of fiscal history, whose stamped documents generally give far more detail than postal covers about the persons and events involved, it seems obviously preferable to pick the area for which those persons, places and events have greater historical significance. By this criterion, the classic fiscal history of Nevada ranks near the top. 5. Temporal congruence between fiscal history and underlying general history. In Nevada, as in precious few other places, documents from its classic period of revenue stamp usage closely reflect its early history. That philatelically classic era begins with the arrival of U.S. Civil War revenues in Nevada Territory in March 1863, and extends through the expiration of virtually all state stamp taxes in February 1873. This corresponds closely with the chronology of settlement: Nevada was created in 1861, and the county map was essentially finalized in 1873. Surviving revenue-stamped documents thus provide a “ground floor view” of these early days, comparable to, say, New York documents from the time of Henry Hudson or Peter Minuet! Because Nevada’s early years were its most historically important, documents generated then are far more likely to involve historically significant persons, places or events than those from the long-settled parts of the country. Virginia City in 1875, perched precariously on the steep slopes of Mt. Davison (National Archives)
  6. 6. 6. Nevada’s early history was remarkable. The early history of Nevada, so closely mirrored in its early stamped documents, occupies an exalted place in national and world history of the 1860s-1870s. Its history during these decades was dominated by—but certainly not restricted to—that of the celebrated Comstock Lode, a narrow expanse on a remote mountain roughly two miles in length concealing in its depths a veritable treasure trove of silver and gold. Consider: During the 1860s and ’70s the Comstock produced a whopping $300 million in silver and gold (at the then-current prices of $1.29 and $20.67 per ounce for silver and gold; at current prices the equivalent of several billions). Virginia City, its commercial center, quickly became the second leading city of the West, eclipsed only by San Francisco. John Mackay, the unassuming former mineworker who had a two-fifths interest in the richest mines, became the richest man in the world. Comstock silver and gold was instrumental in financing the Union’s Civil War effort. When the Comstock was discovered in 1859, the California Gold Rush had largely run its course; production was still relatively high, but no new sources were being uncovered. As the first major mining discovery outside California, the Comstock provided a much-needed impetus to Western mining, stimulating exploration throughout the region. The discovery of this immense amount of silver shook the international financial community to its core. Just as the great flow of gold from California beginning in 1849 had caused many European bankers and governments to divest themselves of the gold in favor of silver, now the outpouring of silver from the Comstock had the opposite effect; the U.S. government’s demonetization of silver in February 1873 (“the Crime of ’73”) was undoubtedly influenced by the Comstock’s Crown Point-Belcher bonanza of 1871, which ultimately yielded some $65 million. Comstock mining produced engineering marvels. The gigantic pumps unwatering its deep mines were most powerful machines anywhere in the world. Three remarkable feats were pronounced impossible until accomplished: the Sutro Tunnel, drilled more than three miles through mountains, from the Carson River plain to the deep reaches of the Lode; the competing Virginia and Truckee Railroad, descending 1600 feet in ten mountainous miles from the Lode to the Carson River mills; and the Virginia and Gold Hill Water Co. pipeline, from the Sierra Nevada to Virginia City, under pressure more than double that of any other line in the world. Documents pertaining to all three are featured in this exhibit. 1869 stock certificate of the Virginia & Truckee Rail Road Co., signed as president by William Sharon, tightly held by company insiders, one of five recorded.
  7. 7. 7. Documents involving the prime players have survived. Nevada is extraordinary in the extent to which documents have survived involving its major events and famous figures, of a sort that normally never reach collectors’ hands. The “Newlands Find” yielded deeds to the Brunswick, Eureka, Mexican, Pioneer, and Santiago Mills, involving Comstock titans like William Sharon, Agent of the Bank of California in Virginia City and “cock of the walk” on the Comstock during 1865–1872, five-time Senator John P. Jones, Bank of California President D. O. Mills, and Alvinza Hayward (namesake of Hayward, California). Equally extraordinary survivors include the 1870 Central Pacific Railroad deed to Adolph Sutro for the land encompassing the mouth of the celebrated Sutro Tunnel and the surrounding town of Sutro, signed by Leland Stanford and Mark Hopkins; and the 1871 deed to the famed Raymond and Ely Mine in booming Lincoln County, Nevada’s richest mine outside the Comstock. There is no counterpart to this elsewhere in the West, or indeed anywhere in the country. 8. Nevada’s early towns were ephemeral. Even Nevada’s tiny camps and towns were distinctive; there were none of the nondescript villages common in the East and Midwest. Nearly all resulted from mining “rushes,” excitedly erected to accommodate hoped-for bonanzas. Others sprang up at transportation hubs, or at advantageous points along the transcontinental Central Pacific railroad. Not surprisingly, the mining settlements usually proved ephemeral, many with only an eyeblink-brief existence; often their precious early paper relics are all that remain, the towns having vanished leaving little or no trace. Surviving documents from this region, in comparison with those from the rest of the country (or the world!), are thus exponentially more likely to be rare and historical simply by virtue of their places of origin, so many of which existed only very briefly. 1871 deed to Eureka Mill, ex-“Newlands Find” History, geography and philately are as closely intertwined here as for any other place or time.