Nevada Day: An Annual Reflection

We celebrated Nevada day on October 26, which celebrates the Silver State’s founding on October 31, 1864. For many, this holiday is a welcome day off work or school. On the occasional year that it is celebrated on October 31, children relish the opportunity to indulge in a full day of Halloween festivities without the distraction of six hours of school time. (Perhaps even more popular is the October 30 observation, which allows school-age children to stay up later than usual!) However, while Nevada Day is contemporaneous with other charming fall celebrations, it has nothing to do with ghosts, pumpkin patches, hay rides, or the fall harvest. Nevada Day is meant as a commemoration of statehood and a day to reflect upon Nevada’s history and future.

On Nevada Day, we remember one of the most important mining discoveries in Nevada history. The Comstock Lode, unearthed beginning in 1859, was the first major silver discovery in the United States. It fueled the imaginations – and the bank accounts – of those who were hardy enough to weather the winter east of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This motherlode funneled much of the waning enthusiasm from the California gold rush away from San Francisco and toward Virginia City. Henry Comstock’s discovery and the claims of others started the “Rush to Washoe,” and it remains an important event in Nevada history. [1]

The Comstock Lode is remembered for more than the population boom it brought to the region in the form of miners and their families. Following the increase in the local population, the Nevada Territory was created in 1861, followed just three years later by statehood in 1864. By 1870, the mines had produced $230 million worth of ore. This wealth helped finance the Northern cause during the Civil War by bolstering the value of Union dollars. A little silver from way out west in Nevada had helped bring an end to the deadliest conflict in American military history. [2]

Prior to the discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859, the population of Nevada totaled only 6,857. By 1870, less than ten years after statehood was established, the population had increased to over 42,000 residents. [3] This equals an increase of over 500% in roughly a decade. Mining continued to play an important part in the state’s economy for the next century.

In recent decades Nevada experienced a second population boom. The population of Nevada in 2000 was just under two million residents. [4] Today, that figure is closer to three million, and steadily rising. The boom is fueled not by gold or silver, but by other economic factors. First it was a construction boom, and in recent years post-recession it has been a recovering economy, low startup costs for employers like tech company Tesla, and a low cost of living. Housing in Nevada is relatively affordable, and taxes are low, compared with our “golden” neighbor to the west…

(For data, see [5].)With a greater population comes higher traffic rates. As one might suspect, more cars on the road equals more car crashes as well as more traffic-related injuries and deaths. In 2017, there were 22,285 injury crashes in the state of Nevada. 290 of these crashes resulted in a fatality. Most of these crashes were centered around Las Vegas and Reno, the two major population centers.  [6] This is up from 18,675 injury crashes in 2010, with 235 fatalities. [7] During this decade, Nevada experienced roughly a twenty percent increase in both injury crashes and auto fatalities.




[4] Ibid.




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