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Goldfield, NV

Goldfield was a boomtown in the first decade of the 20th century due to the discovery of gold between 1903 and 1940, Goldfield's mines produced more than $86 million. Much of the town was destroyed by a fire in 1923, although several buildings survived and remain today, notably the Goldfield Hotel, the Consolidated Mines Building (the communications center of the town until 1963), and the schoolhouse. Gold exploration still continues in and around the town today.

Gold was discovered at Goldfield in 1902, its year of inception. By 1904 the Goldfield district produced about 800 tons of ore, valued at $2,300,000, 30% of the state's production that year. This remarkable production caused Goldfield to grow rapidly, and it soon became the largest town in the state with about 20,000 people. In its heyday in 1907, Goldfield had 49 saloons, 27 restaurants, 22 hotels,  21 grocers, 17 laundries, 15 barber shops, 14 cigar stores and six bakeries. The professionals included 162 brokers, 84 attorneys, 54 assayers, 40 doctors and 10 undertakers.

One of the most colorful aspects of Goldfield’s gold mining trade was the shady practice known as high grading, a form of thievery by miners who worked in company mines. The methods ranged from concealed pockets in the tail of a miner’s shirt and oversized boots and trick lunch buckets to such devices as the one in which the company blacksmith went in cahoots with the highgrader in an ingenious scheme that worked fine until it was discovered. The blacksmith bored a hole in the miner’s pick handle. During the underground shift the cavity was filled with gold, corked, and a little mud smeared over the end of the handle. When the pick was sent to the blacksmith to be sharpened he took out the gold and later it was shared. Many assayers who set up shop did so to take advantage of the illegal trade. But they were shut down once the powerful mine owners caught on.

One prominent, or notorious, early Goldfield resident was George Graham Rice, a former check forger, newspaperman, and racetrack tipster, turned mining stock promoter. The collapse of his Sullivan Trust Company and its associated mining stocks caused the failure of the Goldfield State Bank in 1907. Rice quickly left Goldfield, but continued to promote mining shares for another quarter-century.

Another prominent resident from 1908 was George Wingfield, one of Nevada's entrepreneurs, in collaboration with his partner George S. Nixon (who was to become a US Senator in 1904), made huge fortunes in Goldfield by forming the Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company. By 1906 they were worth $30 million. Wingfield moved to Reno soon after realizing his great wealth could be spread across northern Nevada and northern California.

Virgil Earp came to Goldfield in 1904. Virgil was hired as a Goldfield deputy sheriff in January 1905. In April, he contracted pneumonia and, after six months of illness, he died on October 18, 1905.

Goldfield reached a peak population of about 20,000 people in 1906 and hosted a lightweight boxing championship match between Joe Gans and Oscar "Battling" Nelson.

In addition to the mines, Goldfield was home to large reduction works. The gold output in 1907 was over $8.4 million, the year in which the town became the county seat; in 1908, output was about $4,880,000. By the 1910 census, its population had declined to 4,838. By 1912, ore production had dropped to $5 million and the largest mining company left town in 1919. In 1923, a fire caused by a moonshine still explosion destroyed most of the town's flammable buildings. Some brick and stone buildings from before the fire remain, including the hotel and the high school. Labor relations during the boom years.

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Goldfield panorama

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Hillsides pock marked with old mines

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In 1908, the Goldfield Hotel, designed by Architect George E. Holesworth, opened amidst an array of fanfare. Built on the former site of the Nevada Hotel, which had burned down in a fire in 1905, the hotel was first owned by J. Franklin Douglas and several other investors. The four story building of stone and brick cost over $300,000 to build and included 154 rooms with telephones, electric lights and heated steam. The lobby was paneled with mahogany and furnished in black leather upholstery, beneath gold-leaf ceilings and crystal chandeliers.

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Right: Florence Goldfield Mining Co. Building built in 1908 by Thomas G Lockhart and A. D. Parker for the Florence Goldfield Mining Company’s offices. The only large producing mine that did not get absorbed. Left: Goldfield Hotel.

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Goldfield NV

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The old 1926 Elks Building.
Used as a movie set for the movie Desert Blue, about a fictitious CA town, filmed in Goldfield and Tonopah.

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Goldfield Consolidated Mines /Deep Mines Building was built in 1907 by Senator George Nixon and George Wingfield, who were the political and economic power houses of the time and controlled the main operating mines in Goldfield.

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George Lewis "Tex" Rickard House. Ran the Northern Saloon, and was a boxing promoter. The longest fight in history (42 rounds) on Labor Day, 1906, in Goldfield, Nevada, featuring Joe Gans and Oscar "Battling" Nelson were matched in the first Fight of the Century promoted by Tex Rickard, who would later achieve greater fame by promoting Jack Dempsey's million-dollar fights.  The Goldfield match under the blazing Nevada desert sun drew the largest gate in history at that time, with a purse of $30 thousand and attendance over 8,000.

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Esmeralda County Court House

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Goldfield High School opened in 1907

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The Santa Fe Saloon, built in 1905 by Hubert Maxgut. It is the oldest continually operating business in Goldfield. Maxgut was killed in a gunfight in 1912, but subsequent owners kept the saloon open. It was located outside of the Business District to be closer to the mines. Because of it's location, it survived the flash flood of 1916, and the great fire of 1923 that destroyed most of Goldfield. In 1976 the saloon was purchased by Jim Marsh.

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Dahlstromís Garage built by Henry Dahlstrom in 1930. He provided auto repair for decades, and was well known for his quality rebuilt engines.

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John S. Cook House built in 1906. Cook was a prominent banker in central Nevada, whose banking career started in Goldfield. The John S. Cook Bank was the only Goldfield bank to survive the National panic of 1907, and the John S. Cook banking system grew to become a powerful financial institution in Nevada, until its failure in 1932 as a result of the Great Depression.

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Stone arch entrance of Sideboard Saloon built in 1907
by saloon keeper Patrick Mullin.

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Grader

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