Virginia City sprang up as a boomtown with the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, developing very quick, with the first major silver deposit discovery in the United States. The mines’ output declined after 1878, and the city itself declined as a result.
By 1876 Nevada produced over half of all the precious metals in the United States. Virginia City’s silver ore discoveries were not part of the California Gold Rush, which occurred 10 years before. At the time of the discovery of the Comstock Lode, silver was considered the monetary equal of gold, and all production was purchased by the federal government for use in coinage.
At its peak after the Big Bonanza of 1873 Virginia City had a population of over 25,000 residents and was called the richest city in America. Virginia City was heralded as the sophisticated interior partner of San Francisco. “San Francisco on the coast and Virginia City inland” became the mantra of west coast Victorian entrepreneurs. Mine owners who made a killing in the Comstock mines spent most of their wealth in San Francisco.
Between 1859 and 1875, Virginia City had numerous serious fires.
In ensuing months the city was rebuilt. However, the bonanza period was at an end by 1880
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