Short History of Carson City Cover

I picked up “A Short History of Carson City” by Richard Moreno at the Nevada State History Museum when I was in Carson City. As I mentioned in my previous review about the history of Sacramento, one of the best ways to really learn about a city is to study its history. Moreno is the former publisher of Nevada Magazine and currently works as the director of student publishing at Western Illinois University.

I know what you are thinking. Reading about the history of one of the smallest state capitals is a surefire way to fall asleep quickly. Moreno comes to the rescue with his colorful prose and succinct descriptions that take the reader on a journey through over a hundred and fifty years of history.

The little trading post in an eastern Sierra valley that had been named after a dead bird, birthed by a transplanted New Yorker turned land speculator, and given substance by the overachieving family of a Basque sheepherder, had thrived for a century and a half.

The area around Carson City was originally a Mormon trading post. Most of the Mormons in the area left to Salt Lake City at the request of Brigham Young to prepare for the Utah War. The void in the area was filled with other settlers and eventually the state of Nevada was carved out from the western Utah Territory. The discovery of Silver in nearby Virgina City led to rapid development and growth.

One fascinating thing that I learned about the early history of Nevada was that the entire Nevada constitution was sent via telegraph to Washington D.C at a cost of $3,416.77. This was the longest and most expensive telegraph sent to date and would cost roughly $52,565.69 today after adjusting for inflation[1]. I had never really considered the “cost” of sending a telegraph. All this time I thought that AWS bandwidth costs were pricey, but it is hard to beat $546/kB.

I was surprised to learn that Mark Twain spent quite a bit of time in Western Nevada and even wrote a lesser known book called “Roughing It” where he described his time in the area. In addition, I was equally as surprised to learn that George Ferris, the inventor of the Ferris wheel, spent some time in the Carson Valley during his youth.

The original Ferris Wheel at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
The original Ferris Wheel at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago

The most interesting thing that I read about was the Corbett-Fitzsimmons prize fight which was recorded and made into a documentary in 1897 in Carson City. A small part of this film is shown below:

The Corbett Fitzsimmons Fight from Lev Lazinskiy on Vimeo.

I am not necessarily a boxing fan, but it was absolutely amazing to see a film that is this old. In fact, I believe that this was the oldest film that I have ever seen.

I really enjoyed reading this short book and learning more about some of the people, places, and things that I encountered when I was in Carson City.

Sources used in this text
[1] Inflation calculation courtesy of Dave Manuel’s inflation calculator.

Images used in this text
The original Ferris Wheel at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago; By Not given [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons