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Manly gambles: the politics of risk on the Comstock lode, 1860-1880.

During his tour of the great silver mines of Virginia City, Nevada in 1876, journalist and geologist Eliot Lord was both impressed and horrified by the "cool" detachment of Cornish miners as they risked their lives underground in pursuit of hard currency. Lord was particularly fascinated by the daring of one Cornishman who fell into a shaft 1,300 feet deep only to emerge unscathed minutes later "by an astonishing combination of coolness, strength, and luck." As he climbed out of the pit, the Cornishman remarked matter-of-factly, "By the bloody 'ell. If I hadn't caught hold of the pumpbob nose, I'd a been scattered all abroad." Lord used such anecdotes to paint a portrait of the Cornish miner as a dispassionate gambler, who daily wagered his financial and bodily assets, whether in games of blackjack above ground or in earning wages underground. Wrote Lord, "The miners' fondness for gambling leads them to regard the possibility of death ... as a risk that every gamester must face, and they stake their lives on the cost because they consider the chances in favor of their preservation."(1) Like many middle-class professionals in the 19th century, Lord considered gambling to be immoral and blamed miners' high mortality rates and enduring financial insecurity upon their penchant for taking risks.(2) Determining which forms of risk were morally acceptable had become crucial to the middle class's ongoing project of self-definition in the 19th century.(3) In this respect, Lord's description of all wage-earning miners as gamblers tells us more about his own class's struggle to define legitimate gain than it does about working-class notions of risk-taking. Yet, Lord's was an ambivalent moralism, tinged as it was with admiration for the miner's potential heroism. From Lord's nostalgic perspective as a citified Eastern professional, the Cornish miner embodied admirable aspects of a heroic but vanishing manliness, long associated with the frontier, in which individual bravery and manly skill rather than market laws and machines governed the productive lives of men. If Lord condemned the manly gambles that miners took every day, he also venerated their risk-taking ethos which had, so the popular frontier myth went, conquered the wilderness and brought civilization to a savage desert.(4) But middle-class reformers such as Lord were hardly alone in struggling to create a moral economy of acceptable and above all rational risks.(5) Miners on the Comstock grappled with their own notions of acceptable risk, but they grounded their definitions of it in the daily challenges of wage work. While all classes of men and women in Virginia City and nearby Gold Hill took chances, the substance and meaning of risks varied tremendously along occupational, gender, and racial lines. The experience of risk and the cost of failure depended a great deal on what was at stake in the gamble--a day's wages, a person's reputation, the well-being of one's family, a percentage of company profits, an arm, or a life itself. While all miners on the Comstock may have appeared equally reckless to Eliot Lord, the experience and significance of their underground gambles differed significantly for single and married miners, and for Chinese and Irish miners. Rather than being characteristic of a timeless and classless "frontier" culture, risk-taking in Virginia City sparked debates about the changing nature of work, manhood, and citizenship on the rapidly industrializing frontier.(6) Historians of the mining west have devoted relatively little attention to the class-based experience and meaning of risk because of its associations with the celebrated individualism and upward mobility of Frederick J. Turner's frontier.(7) For many western historians, "class" and the "frontier" have been, almost by definition, oxymoronic terms, despite recent attempts by historian Carlos Schwantes to reconcile the two concepts in his provocative discussion of a "wageworkers' frontier."(8) Labor historians such as Melvyn Dubofsky have understandably rejected Turner's formulation of western development and argued that the West's labor history was singularly exploitative and class-ridden.(9) Yet, Dubofsky avoided tackling the thorny problem of class on the frontier by locating the "origins" of the western working class in the frontier's disappearance after 1890.(10) This conceptual hurdle continues to confront even the most recent and sophisticated literature of the "new" Western history. In their essay, "Becoming West: Toward a New Meaning for Western History," for example, William Cronon, Jay Gitlin, and George Miles recognize the existence of class relations in frontier economies, but argue that "self-shaping" identities such as class emerged most forcefully in the transition from frontier to region.(11) This essay seeks to examine the "problem" of class formation on the frontier by exploring the contested meanings of that quintessential frontier activity--risk-taking.(12) I argue that the popularity of risk-taking among miners did not reflect their individualism, conservatism, or some kind of false consciousness, but rather lay at the core of a gendered and racialized sense of working-class autonomy.(13) Examining the way miners defined and took risks during the "flush times" provides an important window into the origins and shape of class consciousness on the mining frontier. Although an analysis of the contested meanings of risk could encompass nearly all of Virginia City's social groups and illuminate the relational nature of class, race, and gender formation, my aims in this essay are more modest; I will focus upon the class-based geography of risk among white male residents of Virginia City and Gold Hill as a case study of how working-class consciousness on the frontier acquired meaning and definition through dialogue with middle-class reformers and capitalists.(14) The first section contrasts the experience of risk for working-class miners and middle-class professionals during the 1860s as a dramatic depression refigured the nature of financial and physical risk-taking on the Comstock Lode. The second section explores the contested meanings of risk by examining how two all-male organizations--the Gold Hill Miner's Union and the Improved Order of Red Men, Pi-Ute Tribe #1--rationalized its consequences. The final section considers how competing middle-class and working-class notions of acceptable risk shaped the patterns of dialogue and conflict between miners and capitalists on the Comstock. In Roughing It, Mark Twain vividly satirized the "speculative frenzy" that had transformed Virginia City from a barren desert into a bustling metropolis of 10,000 people between 1860 and 1865: Joy sat on every countenance, and there was a glad almost fierce intensity in every eye that told of the money-getting schemes that were seething in every brain and the high hope that held sway in every heart. Money was as plenty as dust; every individual considered himself wealthy.(15) Twain realized that miners' gilded hopes were rarely fulfilled and his comparison of money and dust anticipated the dramatic "bust" Virginia City experienced a year later when prices on the local stock exchange plummeted four-fold in just two months. Yet, Twain had only an inkling of the dramatic transformation in productive relations that Virginia City was experiencing during the early 1860s. The stock market crash of 1864 accelerated a profound re-organization and consolidation of property ownership on the Comstock in which a few large mining companies emerged as the principal producers of silver and gold. Expensive investment requirements, a shortage of outside capital, and low stock prices forced many mining companies out of business. Those that survived the crash, however, expanded production throughout the ensuing depression.(16) By 1865, the vast majority of miners on the Comstock Lode no longer worked above ground on their own claims, but instead toiled underground for wages in large, highly-capitalized mine operations.(17) A brief examination of the changing rates of occupational and residential mobility on the Comstock Lode during the 1860s clarifies the impact of the 1864 depression on the community's emerging class structure. The percentage of the work force who were miners remained relatively constant during the 1860s, averaging about 40% of all residents on the Comstock. Similarly, the percentage engaged in unskilled tasks, the skilled trades, and professional jobs remained roughly the same before and after the 1864 depression.(18) What changed and changed dramatically during the 1860s, was people's occupational and residential mobility. In 1862, residential persistence in Virginia City and Gold Hill was extremely low, particularly among miners; only one out of four miners remained on the Comstock a year later. In 1868, more than two out of three miners remained on the Comstock the next year.(19) In comparison to other American cities, residential turnover remained high in Virginia City and Gold Hill, but it was considerably lower than in the "flush times." Job mobility, both upward and downward, was likewise dramatically lower in 1868 than in 1862; in 1868 only one in twenty persisting residents of Gold Hill changed occupations, while in 1862 nearly two out of five changed jobs. These statistical patterns illustrate how rapidly economic categories hardened and opportunities decreased for men and women of all occupations with the development of industrial mining on the Comstock. Perhaps most indicative of the transformation of economic life was the increasing stratification of personal wealth and land ownership in Virginia City and Gold Hill. By 1870, a small middle class, representing one in seven residents and comprised primarily of clerks, professionals, and small proprietors, controlled over half of the community's personal wealth. Miners, by contrast, comprised 43% of all male occupation holders on the Lode, but owned just 12% of the total wealth listed in the 1870 census. This stratification was partially mirrored by the patterns of home ownership in Gold Hill and Virginia City; members of the middle class were 50% more likely to be married and own their own homes than were miners. Perhaps perhaps the most salient and significant "fact" about wealth and land ownership in 1870, however, was that only 18% of all male occupation holders owned any property on the Comstock. By 1870, very few "capitalists" in fact lived in Virginia City or Gold Hill; much of the community and most of its extracted wealth was in fact owned by the Bank of California and its superintendent, William Sharon, who lived in San Francisco. The growth of industrial mining not only transformed patterns of occupational mobility, personal wealth, and property ownership on the Comstock, but also dramatically altered the shape and meaning of risk-taking for all classes of fortune seekers in Virginia City. For miners, wage work changed, but did not eliminate, the financial insecurities of mining. Striking "paydirt" as a placer miner involved a considerable degree of chance and most claims did not supply steady forms of income. But wagework hardly gave miners a risk-free income, for although wages on the Comstock remained high--$4 a day throughout the 1860s and 1870s--steady employment was unusual, even for "skilled" white miners. Changes in the value of silver and gold, falling stock prices, and financial panics frequently left miners suddenly out of work. If wage work preserved miners' enduring financial insecurity, it also homogenized the nature of such risk. Never before had individual miners had less seeming control over the outcomes of their daily gambles. "Luck" for the frontier wage earner no longer meant striking a rich vein of one's own ore, but rather consisted of procuring steady work at steady wages and maintaining, above all else, steady health. Perhaps the most serious new risks that wage-earning miners took on were the occupational dangers of underground work. Fire, poisonous gas, explosions, cave-ins, and other hazards killed or injured more than 900 miners between 1863 and 1880, giving the Comstock Lode one of the worst industrial accident rates in the world during these decades.(20) The physical risks of placer mining--frostbite, starvation, bandits' guns--paled in comparison to the dangers of deep-lode mining. Given the fact that mining companies rarely if ever compensated workers and their families for lost wages or livelihoods, the financial consequences of these injuries were daunting indeed. All miners, no matter how "skilled," learned to expect the unexpected when working underground. Sometimes, even this maxim left miners ill-prepared for the fatal moment. In the winter of 1867, two men on their way to work underground in Gold Hill were killed when "a small dog accidentally happened to fall from the surface ... knocking them off the cage and precipitating them to the bottom of the shaft."(21) Unlike the Cornish miner who caught the pumpbob nose, these two men lost the daily gamble of underground wagework on the Comstock. Industrial mining also transformed the experience and meaning of risk for large mine-owners, but in ways that illustrate the class-based differences between financial and physical risk. Although mining accidents took a heavy financial toll on mine companies, no Comstock capitalists were ever killed by the daily gambles of mining and only rarely were white collar, middle-class employees affected by mining accidents.(22) When a fire raged out of control in the Yellow Jacket mine of Gold Hill for two weeks in the spring of 1869, killing 42 miners underground, the company experienced only a temporary halt in ore production, a financial setback that was soon calculated and rationalized in terms of temporarily reduced profits and higher stock assessments.(23) Nowhere was the transformation of risk along class lines more visible than in the development of Virginia City's frontier stock exchange. In 1860, just one year after silver had been discovered in Virginia City, money was itself a scarce commodity and most financial transactions were conducted by barter or with newly created stock certificates. Wrote Eliot Lord, "sales of claims for money were comparatively rare, but barters were incessant."(24) Placer miners and would-be capitalists alike traded stocks with one another in lieu of currency and more precise financial arrangements. With the creation of the Washoe Stock Exchange in 1862, however, the barter of mining stocks increasingly fell under the control of large stock-trading companies and banks with financial connections far beyond Virginia City. By 1863, the principal traders on the new exchange were not placer or wage-earning miners, but an expanding class of professional stock brokers with direct links to banking houses in San Francisco and New York. Of forty official stock exchange members in 1863, twenty-five were listed in the Virginia City directory as professional brokers with addresses in San Francisco and New York, while the remaining fifteen comprised a cross-section of Virginia City's professional community. Doctors, lawyers, notary publics, and most of the city's municipal officers, including the mayor, justice of the peace, county assessor, police and probate judges, and secretary of the school board, rounded out the stock exchange's membership.(25) Many miners continued to purchase stock after the depression of 1864, but the local exchange was increasingly an arena of professional risk-taking in which few if any miners ever made the "paper fortunes" celebrated by Mark Twain. Miners continued taking financial risks but more often did so within their own predominantly male, working-class communities.(26) They spent much of their leisure time placing bets in local saloons or in the streets whenever occasions arose.(27) Any physical contest, whether involving men, dogs, chickens, or even bears, quickly became the focus of intense discussion and wagering on the streets above the greatest silver strike in America.(28) When two small dogs got into a fight in downtown Gold Hill in January 1867, "a crowd of more than two hundred persons gathered, all eager and excited to see whose pup would come out ahead." When one of the "pups" finally got the better of the other, money flowed freely through the crowd. Losers quickly paid the victors, whether in coin or drinks at the nearby saloon, where many soon migrated.(29) Although these contests were intensely competitive and often violent, there were few enduring winners in such affairs; today's winners were tomorrow's losers, as most "earnings" remained within the same working-class community of single men. The mutualistic nature of these violent contests did not make contestants "primitive rebels," for the sensibilities that informed such behavior were often predicated on enduring gender hierarchies outside the work-place, in this case affordable access to Virginia City's community of prostitutes.(30) Prize fights and gambling contests nonetheless formed important elements of an alternative working-class culture in Virginia City, one that venerated chance and limited economic gains, rather than rational capital accumulation. Risks were shared rather than calculated in these spontaneous contests, as were their consequences.(31) The different experience and contested meanings of risk for working-class miners and middle-class stock-brokers and businessmen were perhaps best expressed in the ways their respective fraternal organizations celebrated and rationalized risk-taking. For members of the Gold Hill Miners' Union (GHMU), the mutualistic sensibilities of working-class gambling contests informed the design and administration of the union's health benefits program. Founded in January 1867 and constitutionally dedicated to resisting the "tyrannical, oppressive power of capital," the GHMU soon pledged itself to paying the medical bills and funeral costs of every member injured or killed on the job. All of the risks and gambles underground were to be shared equally above ground. The only restriction in receiving benefits was at least two months of union membership. The financial ledger of the union between 1867 and 1870 provides a glimpse of the union's benefit program in action. Throughout these years, the union devoted the bulk of its strained resources to providing sick benefits to injured members. Miners paid monthly assessments to the union's sick fund and contributed additional amounts from their pockets at union meetings, mostly in the form of one or two dollar donations. Assessments and miners' donations were not clustered around Christmas or other "charitable" occasions, but were spread evenly throughout the year, reflecting the constant and demanding needs of the union's injured members.(32) The mutualistic nature of the union's benefit program is brought into sharper relief when one considers the demographic character of Virginia City's working class. Like most miners in Virginia City and Gold Hill, members of the Comstock unions in 1870 were highly transient, only occasionally married, and usually propertyless.(33) The union's short residential requirement for membership and health benefits were ideally suited to its young, predominantly single, male membership. The bulk of the union's resources was in fact directed towards providing aid to its single members, rather than to married miners and their dependents. When the financial burden of paying its medical expenses threatened to bankrupt the unions in the fall of 1867, the unions resisted protecting the benefits of more permanent and settled members by lowering sick payments for all miners from ten to eight dollars a week. The benefits program was not a conservative institution, created to reward stable elements of the working class, as David Emmons found in the Butte Miners' Union, but rather one that protected the health and mobility of all miners on the Comstock.(34) The GHMU's connection to a working class that celebrated risk-taking and luck were reflected in the union's fund-raising efforts on behalf of its injured members. Like other fraternal organizations in Gold Hill, the GHMU's constitution stipulated that members had to be "men of good moral character," but only intoxication and profanity were deemed fineable offenses in the union's by-laws.(35) Prize-fighting and gambling, by contrast, were morally acceptable or at least compatible with the union's mutualistic sensibilities. Lotteries were in fact central features of many union fund raisers, as were shooting contests, card gambling, and cock fights. The birds and equipment for such activities were in all likelihood provided by James Orendorff, one of a half dozen honorary members of the union, and owner of the largest and best-attended cock and dog fighting pit in Gold Hill. By gambling together above ground, union members sought to overcome the unequal financial burdens faced by individual losers of the daily gamble underground. The union's adaptation of such popular forms of working-class leisure to its political project represented its own form of risk-rationalization, one that strengthened the mutualistic nature of risk-taking while also making its meaning potentially more oppositional.(36) If miners' notions of acceptable risk embodied aspects of their working-class identity, they also expressed their racialized identity as white men. Members of the Virginia City and Gold Hill Miners' Unions perceived Chinese laborers as a grave threat to their independence, despite their demonstrated capacity for risk-taking and collective action during the great Union-Pacific railroad strike of 1867, during which thousands of Chinese workers put down their tools and demanded higher pay, an eight-hour day, and an abolition of whipping.(37) When 1100 of the same Chinese laborers were hired to build a railroad to Virginia City in the summer of 1869 by William Sharon, however, the Comstock unions published the following indictment of Chinese workers: Capital has decreed that Chinese shall supplant and drive hence the present race of toilers.... Can we compete with a barbarous race, devoid of energy and careless of the State's weal? Sunk in their own debasement, having no voice in government, how long would it be ere ruin would swamp the capitalist and poor man together? ... We appeal to the working men to step to the front and hurl back the tide of barbarous invaders.(38) This somewhat contradictory indictment of Chinese workers as both "barbarous" and "devoid of energy" was both racialized and gendered, one in which Chinese workers, rather than wage labor itself, threatened miners' independence and the civic order.(39) Chinese workers were not merely job competitors, but also embodiments of an un-republican dependence caused by the evils of capitalism.(40) The Chinese could perform the "degraded" work of laundry service and railroad construction, but only white miners were men enough to take the "real" gambles of underground wage work. Risk had a sharply different shape and meaning for members of the Improved Order of Red Men, Paiute tribe #1, one of the most intriguing middle-class fraternal societies to appear in western Nevada. The Red Men were not in fact

Paiute Indians, but a motley collection of 50 stock brokers, clerks, proprietors, and skilled craftsmen, nearly all of them married.(41) The Red Men's appropriation of Indian culture distinguished them from other middle-class fraternal groups in Nevada, but what Red Men discovered in their mythic past was fundamentally similar. Like the Masons, the Red Men invoked an idealized past in which risk-taking and masculine hierarchies were secure and unquestioned. Some of these values were manifest in the tribe's internal structure. In order to become the Sachem or the Keeper of Wampum, a Red Man had first to acquire a hunter's degree, then a warrior's degree, and finally the chief's degree. Chiefs then became council members who elected the Sachem and wampum-keeper and voted on whether braves became hunters or warriors became chiefs.(42) If the Improved Order's internal hierarchy glorified a primitive and pristine world of male authority, as has been suggested by historian Mark Carnes, it simultaneously ritualized middle-class notions of risk and upward mobility. Promotion into the higher ranks of Red Men was something all deserving members could attain; the principal factors in a brave's promotion to hunter were prompt payment of all dues and promotional fees. Each new degree cost "five fathoms of wampum," or five dollars in gold specie.(43) Because the Red Men's cultural hierarchy was not built upon real economic competition, however, it guaranteed upward mobility to all participants willing to climb and metaphorically minimized the various risks of a capitalist economy. The Red Men's tribal structure thus preserved the cultural validity of risk while simultaneously eliminating some of the psychological consequences of failure. The logic behind the Red Men's benefit program likewise revealed their attachment to middle-class notions of risk and highlighted the class-based differences between fraternal orders on the Comstock. Rather than sharing the costs of all risks equally, the Red Men sought to minimize the financial costs of sickness by making benefits proportional to one's rank and investment in the order. Although all injured members received sick pay, the order created a hierarchy of benefits, contingent upon each member's financial investment. Initiates who were sick or "unable to follow the hunt," received but five dollars a week, while chiefs received ten.(44) The order also sought to exclude individuals likely to become a drain on the tribe's financial resources. A committee on "character and fitness" checked the financial references, age, occupation, medical history, and current health condition of each applicant for membership. Men over fifty years of age, men in poor health, and men "without reputable means of support," such as gamblers, were considered high risks and excluded from the order.(45) Rather than share the financial consequences of sickness and injury, the Red Men sought to calculate its precise cost in "fathoms of wampum." Attempts to rationalize risk in fathoms of wampum celebrated its own kind of irrationality, but the Red Men's approach to risk emblematized many of the ideological imperatives around which the middle class formed itself in the mid-nineteenth century. The Red Men's penchant for calculating the costs of benevolence was most clearly expressed by Virginia City's middle-class reformers. Conrad Wiegand, editor of The People's Tribune, led a crusade for the moral efficacy and efficiency of life insurance that crystallized his class's faith in the power of rational calculation.(46) To insure the life of one man would be a mere gambling speculation, but to insure 5 or 10 thousand lives, carefully selected, is perfectly safe ... the rate of interest being fixed, the annual premiums can be determined to a mathematical certainty.(47) Like the Red Men, Wiegand possessed an abiding aversion to gambling and gamblers, who at least implicitly celebrated chance and irrational risk-taking. Luck and chance, ideas which the Gold Hill Miners' Union incorporated into its fundraising activities, were anathema within an emerging system of industrial capitalism, whose market laws and spirit of rational capital accumulation made the spirit of gambling potentially subversive. Peter Lynch, editor of the Gold Hill Daily News exemplified this reasoning in an editorial entitled, "What is luck?" Lynch answered his own question succinctly: "'luck' and 'ill-luck' are really a person's folly, laziness, or willful misapplication of means."(48) Like editors Lynch and Wiegand, the Red Men preferred to construct fraternity out of precise calculations and risk-free applicants rather than lotteries and cock fights. If the health insurance programs of the GHMU and Improved Order of Red Men dramatized their respective class identities, they also revealed how racialized perceptions of risk were on the frontier. For the white men who were initiated into the Improved Order of Red Men, taking ritualized risks such as the initiation hunt were a racially transformative experience, in which "pale faces" became true Red Men. This process of racial crossing had its antecedents in other fraternal orders, but what is critical about the Red Men, as Phil Deloria has shown, is that they excluded Indians from these rituals of manly and racial transformation.(49) The right of racial "crossing" was reserved for white men only, as it had been for white blackface actors throughout much of the country during the nineteenth century. This element of cultural power was vividly present among the Red Men of Carson City who took their lodge name from the local Paiute Indians, defeated by white soldiers just a decade before the Irish Red Men founded their tribe.(50) What is indeed remarkable about the Red Men of Nevada is how closely connected, temporally and spatially, their appropriation and homogenization of Paiute culture was to the actual military conquest of the Paiute Indians. For the Irish clerks who became warriors and keepers of wampum when the council fire was lit, the image of the fearless, risk-taking Paiute Indian affirmed their ability to be honorable risk-takers on the "frontier," despite there being little danger in these hunts and no resemblance to the actual culture of Paiute Indians.(51) Although miners and middle-class Red Men rationalized risk in profoundly different ways, all classes of white men on the Comstock could, at celebrated moments, affirm a common identity as manly risk-takers. Paiute Indians played an important role in the construction of white manhood for both miners and middle-class professionals. This was perhaps best captured by their conspicuous role in Virginia City's Fourth of July parade of 1865. At the end of a long procession featuring several of Virginia City's fire companies and Irish ethnic societies came "a body of 27 Paiutes, mounted two by two, and led by young Winnemucca, the war chief himself, who rode barebacked with the left side of his face and clothing ... painted with stripes of Red Ochre."(52) Here indeed was the image of a brave and fearless "Red Man" acceptable to the entire crowd of frontier enthusiasts. In his right hand, Winnemucca carried another symbol of the new risk-taking polity for which he found himself the mascot, the Paiute flag. Consisting of a reconstructed American flag with "two white arrows and a tomahawk" in place of the union stars, the flag evoked many of the risks of hunting, battle, and war that the "pale faces" of Carson City would soon ritualize when they became Red Men a few years later.(53) Miners and middle-class professionals alike celebrated this noble icon of risk, Winnemucca, who just five years before had been a savage antagonist to all white men in their heroic and manly struggle to conquer the West. Yet, if images of risk provided opportunities for cross-class celebration and social harmony among white men, they also provoked dialogue between miners and capitalists over the true meaning of acceptable risk and, by extension, of proper industrial relations. The different experience and meaning of risk to miners and capitalists prompted both conflict and cooperation between classes on the Comstock. In the fall of 1869, members of the Comstock unions temporarily blocked William Sharon's attempt to complete a railroad to Virginia City on the grounds that Chinese workers represented an unacceptable threat to miners' manhood. Yet, just three weeks earlier, miners also pledged their financial support for the tunnel project of capitalist Adolph Sutro, whose enterprise would allegedly improve miners' safety underground. Whether the relationships between these charismatic capitalists and the Comstock unions were conflictual or cooperative, they revealed just how class-based the experience and meaning of risk-taking was for miners and capitalists on the industrial frontier. Miners' perception of the Chinese as an unacceptable threat to their independence sparked one of the sharpest confrontations between William Sharon and the Comstock Unions in Virginia City's history. When Chinese railroad workers neared completion of the railroad to Virginia City in July 1869, over three hundred members of the Comstock unions marched in military style to the edge of town and drove them from their camp. Miners refused to allow Chinese workers back to work until William Sharon signed an agreement which "barred him from employing Chinese within the limits of Virginia City and Gold Hill."(54) After signing the agreement, Sharon spoke to a crowd of 400 angry miners in Virginia City: We want miners and not Chinamen. They have no interest in the country, nor even in religion ... and we can only employ them at menial service, inferior occupations, railroad grading, and that sort of thing.(55) In mimicking miners' own republican criticism of the Chinese as citizenless threats to the civic order, Sharon reversed his outspoken defense of the merits of Chinese labor. In so doing, Sharon offered a concession to miners' racialized definition of acceptable risk, one that worked to his political advantage but also placed limits on his power as an employer on the Comstock. Sharon used his speech not merely to criticize Chinese labor, however, but also to trumpet the providential power of capital. "There is a wrong feeling of antagonism," asserted Sharon, between miners and their employers. The interests of capital and labor were, Sharon declared, inextricably linked: Can there be mines or mills without capital? Is it not this very capital that pays four dollars a day to you miners?.... Great God! Would you kill the goose that lays the golden egg?(56) Sharon heralded the benefits that the railroad would bring to workers in the form of reduced transportation costs, higher company profits, and higher wages. Like many nineteenth-century entrepreneurs, Sharon portrayed himself as an industrial hero, whose financial investments and gambles were beneficial to the entire community, while casting his financial rival, Adolph Sutro, as an anti-hero.(57) "That penniless adventurer," asserted Sharon, "who does not pay a cent in taxes, wishes to make use of you to make himself rich." According to Sharon, Sutro was a man whose self-serving investments threatened miners' financial security. Asked Sharon, "How many men would the running of that tunnel employ at $4 a day, and how good is the security of your pay? I think you would rather have our paper than his."(58) In highlighting the security of his capital over Sutro's, Sharon implicitly recognized how serious miners' financial risks were, but he sought to deflect such hostility towards his "penniless" rival. Whatever their misgivings about Sharon, Comstock miners applauded his denunciation of Sutro and gave him "three rousing cheers," according to editor Lynch, himself an outspoken supporter of Sharon and the railroad. The generous response of Comstock miners to William Sharon must be understood in a comparative context, however, for Adolph Sutro had also received thunderous applause from Comstock unionists just three weeks before Sharon's speech. Since 1864, Sutro had unsuccessfully lobbied the federal government and bankers in San Francisco, New York, and London for capital to begin construction on a four-mile long drainage and ventilation tunnel underneath the Comstock Lode that would "liberate streams of wealth" from the earth.(59) When a fire raced through Gold Hill's Yellow Jacket mine in July 1869, Sutro saw an opportunity to gain the financial and moral capital he so desperately needed. In September, Sutro addressed a crowd of 400 miners at Piper's Opera house in Virginia City and called on them to buy stock in his great "cooperative association," the Sutro Tunnel Company. To the surprise of his friends and foes alike, union members heeded his exhortations and pledged to purchase $50,000 worth of stock in the project. Construction began just ten days later amidst boisterous cheers, as Adolph Sutro himself took the first "swing of the pick," followed by James Phelan, president of the Virginia City Miners' Union.(60) While William Sharon made concessions to miners' racist fears of Chinese workers above ground, Adolph Sutro adapted his oration to miners' class-based fears of physical injury.(61) "The most perfect ventilation would be insured" by the tunnel, stated Sutro, a facility which would also afford numerous exits from the Comstock mines should another fire trap miners under the surface. The broadside advertising Sutro's speech highlighted this message by portraying a beehive cross section of two mines with workers dying in the lower levels of one for want of an appropriate exit while workers in the other escaped safely, with American flag in hand, through Sutro's tunnel.(62) Sutro described his project as the cornerstone of a "rational system of mining" that would not only improve miners' health, but also prolong the productive life of the mines themselves. Sutro's appeal to working-class notions of acceptable physical risk was as emotional as it was rational, however, particularly as he neared the conclusion of his three-hour oration. After discussing the scientific merits of his tunnel enterprise, Sutro condemned mine owners for their moral irresponsibility in the recent mine disaster: Let me explain to you why they make you work in a foul atmosphere which sends half of you to your graves in the prime of manhood; let me show you why they allowed 42 of your miners to be foully murdered in the fire of Gold Hill for want of an exit through the tunnel; and let me show them to you in true colors, and hold them up to the shame, contempt, and ignominy they so richly deserve.(63) Rather than blame the accident on miners' carelessness as local newspaper editors and mine owners had done, Sutro placed the accident's onus upon the Bank of California. The antagonist in Sutro's republican morality play was not the degraded Chinese worker, but William Sharon himself, whom he described as a "would-be-tyrant" and a "cancer on the body politic."(64) Implicit in Sutro's denunciation of Sharon was a distinction between the physical and financial risks that miners and mine owners assumed; although Sharon frequently took financial risks in the name of the community's general welfare, such actions frequently cost miners their lives. William Sharon was, above all, a calculating capitalist, for whom miners' lives were a matter of profit and loss and whose imprudent financial risks ruined miners' physical health and "manhood." Sutro also appealed to miners' sense of fair financial risk by attacking the Bank of California's manipulation of the Washoe Stock Exchange. Wagering miners' wages on the local stock market was a no-win proposition, according to Sutro, because the Bank of California made tremendous amounts of money through its infamous "stock-jobbing" operations, keeping stock prices artificially high or low by concealing information about the value of newly-discovered ore bodies. Stated Sutro: A few of you make a good strike once in a while by sheer accident; that keeps up the excitement, and so you keep all gambling in stocks, paying your assessments, and in the end you will all be eaten up like the poor mouse. There is no guess work. It is a sure thing.(65) In contrast to the Red Men and middle-class reformers, Sutro did not criticize the practice of gambling itself, but the fact that the Bank of California had changed the rules of the financial game. Sutro summed up this problem by asking miners a pointed question: "What show have you when the cards are stacked against you?"(66) Chance and luck were being destroyed by the Bank of California, whose machinations had eliminated fair financial risks to the great detriment of working men. Sutro's speech combined what seemed to be a defense of miners' traditional freedom to be risk-takers with a bold and potentially radical commitment to eliminating its negative physical and financial consequences. Sutro sought to make working-class notions of risk conform to the logic of his own middle-class vision of rational risk-taking: in short, to preserve the appearance of manly gambling, while minimizing its actual consequences. This combination produced a number of tensions within Sutro's speech; much of his rational system of mining, for example, incorporated the language of the speculative fever that had so recently "swept over Washoe county," as Mark Twain put it. Sutro boasted of the riches his tunnel would discover in terms that must have seemed familiar to miners accustomed to rumors of fabulous strikes: Were that tunnel completed today, a glorious reality, pouring out a silver stream of $40,000,000 or $50,000,000 per annum, these same capitalists who first want to eye the riches way down in the earth before they consent to invest, would be eager to enter similar undertakings and tunnelling would become the order of the day.(67) In contrast to those literal-minded and timid capitalists, Sutro, like Sharon, portrayed himself as a true risk-taker, a man that miners could respect and even emulate. Sutro cultivated this image by referring to himself as "an honest miner" in his speech, while on every piece of tunnel company stock he depicted himself in miners' clothing swinging a pick. Sutro's posture as a heroic, risk-taking miner hardly squared with his wealthy financial background or his premises to eliminate risk, but it resonated with Comstock miners who defined their manhood, at least partially, in terms of the gambles they took daily. If Sutro appropriated the same aspects of working-class manhood that Eliot Lord admired, he also framed his entrepreneurial ambitions in the language of labor radicalism during the Gilded Age.(68) Sutro portrayed his tunnel company as a unique answer to the vexing problems of dependence and insecurity that wage work had generated on the frontier. Unlike Sharon's mining companies, which assessed stockholders the costs of investment and thus, according to Sutro, exploited "honest" working men, his tunnel company possessed only non-assessable stock. Explained Sutro, "the shares are unassailable forever so as to protect the poor men; one share is as secure as a thousand.... In buying a share in the concern you absolutely own it; nobody can ever assess you one cent." Buying tunnel company stock would not only eliminate financial risk, but ultimately entitle miners to collective ownership and control of the Comstock Lode itself. All financial investments in the tunnel would, according to Sutro, "be expended directly again in labor among yourselves under your own direction and from dependents you will become masters." Investment in the tunnel company promised miners not only a safer work environment and financial security, but a radical victory over capital itself. "It will be the most glorious triumph of labor over capital," proclaimed Sutro, a scheme which "would ... realize the wildest dreams of the French Socialists, Proudhon, Le Blanc, and others." Capital would not be destroyed, but liberated and harnessed by working men, whose power would become, for the first time, "unlimited."(69) In attempting to harness working-class ideologies and energy to his tunnel project, Sutro misperceived the importance of risk to miners' gendered sense of independence and militancy. For Comstock union members, the consequences of their underground gambles could be shared among white miners, but the risks themselves could not and perhaps should not be eliminated. Union-organized lotteries celebrated not merely chance, but miners' ability to take risks and assume responsibility for the consequences. Sutro, by contrast, sought to eliminate risk altogether, much as the Red Men sought to minimize it with their "committee on character and fitness." Sutro's claim that mine owners alone bore responsibility for preserving miners' safety suggested that miners were dependent upon their employers for something more than their four dollar daily wage. Notions of employer liability, which had gained considerable popularity among anthracite coal miners in Pennsylvania by in 1870, remained nascent at best in Virginia City because such ideas challenged Comstock miners' control over the contours of miners' health and manhood.(70) How to rationalize the financial burdens of miners' injuries, and how to control who took the manly gambles of underground wage work, were questions of exclusive union purview, questions that had undergirded the unions' rise to power. Given the grandiose nature of Sutro's claims, it is difficult not to perceive a degree of opportunism in his speech. Rarely, after all, did Sutro mention the improved safety features of his tunnel project when seeking support from middle-class and professional audiences. Instead, he emphasized the tremendous wealth the tunnel would "liberate." Middle-class critics of Sutro's tunnel scheme, such as editor Lynch, certainly thought he was insincere, labelling his attempt to sell miners tunnel company stock "one of the most bare-faced swindles in history."(71) Yet, to infer from such evidence that Sutro had merely "duped" miners would distort the political and cultural context in which both Sutro and Sharon made their speeches to the Comstock unions. The seeming popularity of these risk-taking capitalists was not "delusional," as Anthony Wallace suggested in his study of the Pennsylvanian mining community of St. Clair.(72) Rather, Comstock miners exploited their own notions of acceptable financial and physical risks to their advantage as a class of skilled white men, playing Virginia City's capitalists off against one another whenever occasions arose. While miners applauded Sutro's denunciation of Sharon as a "cancer on the body politic," one week, they also loudly cheered Sharon's excoriation of Sutro as a "penniless adventurer" the next.(73) What Sharon and Sutro offered Comstock miners was not co-optation, but concessions to different aspects of miners' own racialized and class-based understanding of acceptable risk. At the conclusion of his study of the Comstock, Eliot Lord remarked that mining was "the only business pursuit ... where skill, energy, foresight, and industry, aided by ample capital, will not command a measure of success." The business of mining was a business of gambling, according to Lord, in which "ordinary economies of business management are often looked upon as petty details."(74) Lord's explanation for this "fact" was largely environmental; the geology of the Comstock Lode, with its scattered pockets of ore, made a truly "rational" or scientific system of mining next to impossible. The existence of a pervasive ethos of risk-taking in Virginia City was thus a by-product of the land itself. Over a decade before Frederick Jackson Turner published his famous essay, Lord believed the mining frontier had remade its inhabitants, turning one and all, miners and mine-owners, Irish and Chinese, men and women, into gamblers. Yet if Lord accurately assessed the impact of geology on the emergence of a "speculative character" in Virginia City, he fundamentally misperceived the ideological complexity of risk on the frontier. All residents of the Comstock may indeed have gambled, but the nature and meaning of their risks varied tremendously. This article has examined one part of that cultural history; how the experience of risk changed along class lines and helped define and constitute class consciousness in racialized and gendered ways. The emergence of a middle-class moral economy that condemned miners' penchant for risk-taking above and below ground was part of a process of class formation on the Comstock, a contest that was never fully complete nor won by the Improved Order of Red Men or capitalists such as William Sharon. The manly gambles that miners assumed, however "irrational" to middle-class observers, were crucial to the strength and political militancy of working-class manhood in Nevada; these risks fundamentally distinguished miners from their middle-class fraternal brothers. Working-class notions of acceptable risk, rooted in the very real insecurities of underground wage work and developed above ground in saloons and union-sponsored lotteries, could lead miners to exclude non-white workers from their ranks or to support the manly gamble of a charismatic capitalist. But such actions strengthened rather than weakened miners' commitment to a working-class moral economy that celebrated maleness, mutuality, whiteness, and the power of chance. Class formation was thus a critical part of the frontier's evolution, both as a physical place and an idea. Images of risk, such as the fearless Paiute Indian, were not crude vehicles of class struggle, nor were such images "owned" by any particular class of people on the Comstock. Such images often stimulated cross-class celebrations of the frontier in Virginia City and Gold Hill, but risk-taking remained an activity that fomented considerable discussion and disagreement over the boundaries and meaning of social class on the Comstock. If class relations shaped the frontier's development, the idea of the frontier--with its mythologies of white manhood, mobility, and risk--likewise exerted a powerful effect upon the ways people thought about class relations. For wage-earning miners, the impact of the frontier was not necessarily disillusioning, as Carlos Schwantes, Melvyn Dubofsky, and Richard Slotkin have variously suggested, but also potentially empowering.(75) Miners on the Comstock were remarkably successful in establishing a tradition of frontier labor militancy--a tradition, both radical and racist, that future generations of western workers would struggle to defend as the experience and meaning of acceptable risk underwent continual change and redefinition. Department of History New Haven, Connecticut 06520-7423 ENDNOTES I would like to thank David Waldstreicher, Jennifer Price, Faulkner Fox, Sylvie Murray, Susan Johnson, David Montgomery, Ann Fabian, and Howard Lamar for their helpful criticisms and suggestions. 1. Eliot Lord, Comstock Mining and Manners, U.S. Geological Survey, Volume 4, p. 405: (Washington, G.P.O., 1883). 2. For Lord's discussion of the accident rates on the Comstock lode and their causes, see pp. 385-86. 3. For an excellent discussion of the middle class's ambivalence toward risk-taking and gambling in the nineteenth century, see Ann Fabian's new book, Card Sharps, Dream Books, and Bucket Shops: Gambling in Nineteenth Century America, (Ithaca, 1990). 4. Much of Eliot Lord's middle-class veneration of working-class manliness was imbued with overtones of homoeroticism. Take, for example, Lord's description of miners' work conditions underground: "View their work! ... The men throw off their clothes at once. Only a light breech-cloth covers their hips, and thick-soled shoes protect their feet from the scorching rocks and steaming rills of water which trickle over the floor of the levels. Except for these coverings they toil naked, with heavy drops of sweat starting from every pore" (Lord, p. 389). For a fine discussion of the connections between homoeroticism and cross-class relations in the Gilded Age, see Michael Moon's provocative essay "'The Gentle Boy from the Dangerous Classes': Pederasty, Domesticity, and Capitalism in Horatio Alger," Representations 19 (Summer 1987): 87-110. 5. Fabian, p. 5. 6. I will use the term "frontier" throughout this essay to describe the earliest phase of Anglo-American colonization in the West during which whites, Indians, Mexicans, and African-Americans struggled to gain control of the land's resources. The frontier was both a process of conquest and the place where such political and economic struggles took place. I will also discuss the frontier as an idea, particularly when examining the ideologies that defined and legitimated white people's conquest of the West. My definition of the frontier owes much to Patricia Limerick's formulation of western history in The Legacy of Conquest (Norton, 1987), but preserves the usefulness of the term "frontier" and the important notion of process imbedded within it. I do not mean to suggest that Frederick Jackson Turner's progression from "savagery to civilization" was indeed correct. Rather, I mean to highlight the importance of historical processes--conquest and capitalism--in writing western social history. For an excellent discussion of Turner's potential use to western social historians, see William Cronon's essay, "Revisiting the Vanishing Frontier: The Legacy of Frederick Jackson Turner," Western Historical Quarterly 18 (April 1987): 157-176. 7. See Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," in the Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the year 1893, 1894. Mining historian Rodman Paul rejected the cultural components of Turner's vision of western development, emphasizing instead the various roles of technology, geology, and the market. In so doing, however, Paul reified the market and technology as objective historical "facts" that defined the contours of western mining, while neglecting the social relations embodied within these terms. We know, for example, little about how different perceptions of risk influenced the economic and technological development of western mining towns. Although the scattered geography of silver and gold ore in the Comstock Lode contributed to Virginia City's "speculative mania" and cross-cultural celebrations of risk, it by no means defined how different groups of people perceived risk and struggled to rationalize its varied consequences. See Rodman Paul's Mining Frontier's of the Far West, 1849-1880 (Berkeley, 1963). 8. See Carlos Schwantes, "The Concept of the Wage Workers' Frontier: An American-Canadian Perspective," in The Western Historical Quarterly, 18 (January 1987): 39-55. The most notable exception to this generality is Richard Slotkin's work, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1880 (New York, 1985), in which he argues that the frontier and capitalism have been inextricably bound together. Writes Slotkin, "the frontier myth and its ideology are founded on the desire to avoid recognition of the perilous consequences of capitalist development in the New World, and they represent a displacement or deflection of social conflict into the world of myth" (p. 47). 9. See Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World (New York, 1971). 10. See Dubofsky's essay, "The Origins of Western Working-Class Radicalism, 1890-1905," Labor History 7 (Spring 1966): 131-154. 11. See William Cronon, George Miles, and Jay Gitlin, "Becoming West: Toward a New Meaning for Western History," in Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America's Western Past (New York, 1992), pp. 20-21. Notwithstanding their problematic periodization of "self-shaping" identities, Cronon, Miles, and Gitlin go much farther in making material processes such as "market making" and class formation central to any conceptualization of western history. 12. Anthony Wallace's study of the mining community of St. Clair offers some constructive avenues for exploring the historical importance of risk-taking on the Comstock Lode. Wallace argued that mine-owners' penchant for taking risks led them to ignore safety measures that would have greatly increased the profitability and longevity of their coal mining enterprises. In so doing, he skillfully illuminated how mine owners' "risk-seeking" ideology shaped the context of technological innovation in ways that did not conform to presentist notions of rational choice theory, market "laws," and technological efficiency. See Wallace, St. Clair: A Nineteenth Century Coal Town's Experience with a Disaster-Prone Industry (New York, 1981). 13. See Anthony Wallace's discussion of the "delusional" nature of "risk-seeking" ideologies among coal miners in Pennsylvania in St. Clair, pp. 258-261. Western social historian Richard Slotkin reaches a similar conclusion about the "frontier myth" in The Fatal Environment, (p. 47), arguing that it was, by definition, "a deflection of social conflict," a "substitute" for real class formation. 14. Gender and race figured prominently in the process of working-class formation on the frontier, but this essay is not primarily a study of gender and race relations in Virginia City. For a fine study of prostitution in Virginia City that sheds light on the complexities of risk for frontier women, see Marion Goldman's book Gold-Diggers and Silver Miners: Prostitution and Social Life on the Comstock Lode (Ann Arbor, 1981). 15. Mark Twain, Roughing It (New York, 1984), Chapter XLIII, p. 751-52. 16. During the worst five months of the 1864 depression, for example, the size of the Savage Mining Company's work force nearly doubled from 115 to 213. The consolidation and expansion of silver production on the Comstock required expensive machinery and large work forces for constructing deep shaft mines and smelting plants (Records of the Savage Mining Company, Payroll Records, Beineck Library [BL], Yale University). 17. See Richard E. Lingenfelter, Hardrock Miners: A History of the Mining Labor Movement in the American West, 1863-1893 (Berkeley, 1974), pp. 30-32. 18. TABULAR DATA OMITTED 19. TABULAR DATA OMITTED 20. Eliot Lord provides a grim summary of the number of deaths and injuries on the Comstock between 1863 and 1880. Calculations from his figures indicate that 7.80 per thousand workers died underground annually in the Comstock mines. This remarkably high rate was nearly four times the fatality rate for coal miners in England and higher even than Pennsylvania's anthracite region, where 7.10 miners per thousand perished each year during the same period (Eliot Lord, pp. 385-386, and Wallace, pp. 250-251). 21. Gold Hill Daily News, 2/2/1867: p. 3. 22. Although mining accidents wee common occurrences on the Comstock, few companies went bankrupt because of them in contrast to Pennsylvania's anthracite region. See Wallace's chapter entitled "The Politics of Safety," especially, pp. 258-261. For insightful treatments of the consolidation and comparative stability of mine ownership on the Comstock see Rodman Paul's Mining Frontier's of the Far West and Lingenfelter's, Hardrock Miners. 23. Gold Hill Daily News, 4/12/69, pp. 2-3. 24. Lord, p. 73. 25. My analysis of the occupational makeup of the Washoe Stock Exchange was compiled by cross referencing the names of its traders with their stated occupation in the city directories of Virginia City and Gold Hill. Many of the stock brokers listed two residences in the directory, one on the Comstock and the other in San Francisco. See First Directory of the Nevada Territory, 1862, pp. 306ff., and Second Directory of the Nevada Territory, 1863, pp. 33-35: (Virginia City: Territorial Enterprise Printing Office, 1862 & 1863). For a better understanding of the professional and urban character of the local stock exchange, see its weekly publication The Washoe Stock Circular, which published detailed lists of all company stocks in San Francisco and Nevada as well as the amount and date of all assessments levied by mining companies in the region (The Washoe Stock Circular, 5/25/64, Volume 1, no. 3: Located in the Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California). 26. Women remained a small minority in Virginia City and Gold Hill throughout the 1860s and well into the 1870s, despite the increasing numbers of married couples in the community. In 1870, fully 84% of all adult residents in Virginia City and Gold Hill were male, and 82% of them were single (Ninth Census of the United States for the State of Nevada, Storey County). 27. Although gambling on the Comstock quickly became the stuff of western myth, descriptions of these folkloric contests were not entirely removed from the community's industrial transformation. Eliot Lord's description of gambling, for example, is flavored with references to industrial mining. "Little stacks of gold fringed the monte carlo tables and glittered beneath the swinging lamps. A ceaseless din of boisterous talk, oaths, and laughter spread from the open doors into the streets. The rattle of dice, coin, balls, and spinning markers, the flapping of greasy cards and the chorus of calls and interjections went on day and night." Gambling in Virginia City, much like the ore stamps under its streets, produced a "ceaseless din," "day and night," replete with its own "grease" and "rattling." 28. For a provocative, but somewhat romanticized discussion of the competitive and mutualistic nature of working-class male culture in the mid-nineteenth century, see Eliot Gorn's article "'Good-Bye Boys, I Died a True American': Homicide, Nativism, and Working-Class Culture in Antebellum New York City," Journal of American History 74 (September 1987): 388-410. See also Gorn's brief discussion of prize fighting in Virginia City in The Manly Art: A History of Bare-Knuckle Prize Fighting in America (Ithaca, 1985), p. 174. 29. Gold Hill Daily News, 2/2/67, p. 3. 30. For a fine discussion of working-class male violence and its connections to domestic abuse, see Pamela Haag's article "The 'Ill-Use of a Wife:' Working-Class Violence in Domestic and Public New York City, 1860-1880," Journal of Social History 25: 3 (Spring 1992): 447-478. 31. My distinction between "alternative" and "oppositional" working-class cultures rests on Roy Rosenzweig's discussion of the saloon and working-class mutualism in Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920, (Cambridge, 1985), p. 223. My analysis of the reciprocal nature of working-class gambling also owes much to the work of Ann Fabian, Card Sharps, pp. 3, 142-150. For a more theoretical discussion of reciprocal economies, see Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics (Chicago, 1972). 32. The unions' commitment to preserving miners' health was part of its original constitution and was subsequently adopted by the Virginia City Miners' Union when it was formed on July 4, 1867. See the Constitution, By-Laws, and Rules of Order of the Miners' Union of Gold Hill (Virginia City, 1867), p. 1. Evidence of the financial burdens of the GHMU's health program was gleaned from the union ledger book which lists all financial transactions and income of the union, including assessments levied and benefits paid. See the Ledger Book of the Gold Hill Miner's Union, 1867-1870: BL. 33. A comparison of the residential persistence rates of members of the Gold Hill Miner's Union with all miners in Gold Hill in 1870 reveals little difference. In contrast to Butte, Montana, where the local union was dominated by a "stable" portion of the working class, principally home-owning miners with families, the GHMU consisted primarily of single men whose persistence rates were virtually indistinguishable from the mining population at large in 1870. For a discussion of persistence and mobility among Butte miners, see David Emmons.
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Title Annotation:Virginia City, Nevada
Author:Peck, Gunther
Publication:Journal of Social History
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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