CARSON CITY, Nevada – The Nevada State Railroad Museum is back to full operations just in time for the Memorial Day Weekend and the busy summer season.
Construction crews this week completed removal of more than 110,000 square feet of debris and repairs to the tracks on the museum grounds that were damaged by flooding in January.
“We are in full operation and will open the annex as well,” Museum director Dan Thielen said.
Heavy rains in January led to a deluge of water onto the grounds of the railroad museum, undercut a portion of the track circling the museum grounds, left a thick layer of silt and other debris and flooded into the shop, annex and main museum building.
The property was closed to the public for two months as museum crews and volunteers cleaned the buildings. The main museum building reopened in March, but the annex and shop remained closed to the public for safety concerns until the cleanup could be completed.
Mountain States Contracting led the cleanup effort along with State Public Works and State Risk Management and many museum volunteers.
“They were able to remove all the silt, put in all new ballast, put a new crossing in and repair the track,” Thielen said. “They absolutely did a first-class job, a beautiful job.”
Peter Barton, administrator for the Division of Museums and History, said the effort to have the museum operating at full capacity for Memorial Day was a monumental one, reached through a combination of a supportive community, volunteers and agencies working together.
“The Division and the railroad museum are grateful to the community for their outpouring of support that helped propel recovery from the devastating January flooding,” Barton said. “Many state and federal agencies came together and cooperated to get the museum ready for our peak season. Thank you to everyone who helped.”
The museum plans to have the No. 25 steam locomotive pulling passenger cars. In addition, the historic Glenbrook locomotive will be rolled out and on display for the weekend.
The Warren Engine Company will be selling refreshments on the grounds for the weekend and the museum’s store will be open as well.
The Nevada State Railroad Museum is open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, free for children 17 and younger.
CARSON CITY, Nevada – Repairs to the flood-damaged grounds of the Nevada State Railroad Museum kicked into high gear this week with construction crews working to remove thousands of pounds of sediment, and replace ballast and tracks displaced by January floods.
“We’ve got two companies out there working it right now,” said Dan Thielen, museum director, “one that is removing sediment and the other one that is fixing the railroad.”
Heavy rains in January forced Carson City crews to divert water coming from Rhodes Street in an effort to prevent flooding on Carson Street, one of the city’s main north-south thoroughfares. The diversion led to a deluge of water onto the grounds of the railroad museum, damaging the track and flooding into buildings.
The property was closed to the public for two months as museum crews and volunteers cleaned the buildings. The main museum building reopened in March, but the museum’s annex and shop have remained closed to the public for safety concerns.
Thielen said the work should be completed in time for the Memorial Day weekend at the end of May and that trains will be running with passengers on the loop around the museum grounds. “We are going to run full-scale operations for Memorial Day,” he said. “We’ve been assured they can meet that deadline.”
The Nevada State Railroad Museum is open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, free for children 17 and younger.
CARSON CITY, Nevada – Legends on the Comstock Lode have a way of coming back to life and that’s exactly what happened in the mid-1970s when the Gold Hill News was resurrected after a 92-year slumber.
In 1974, Virginia City newsman David Toll, whose family history in Gold Hill dates back to 1867, put together a talented and energetic staff and began publishing the Gold Hill News, which quickly established itself as the paper of record in Storey County.
The original Gold Hill Daily News had published from 1863 to 1882, with Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame journalists Alf Doten and Wells Drury reporting on daily life on the Comstock. But like many a newspaper in the boom-and-bust cycle of mining camps, the News faded with the silver boom.
Like its historic predecessor, Toll’s Gold Hill News was a bright flash in the journalistic pan of Nevada history. It’s a story he will share as part of the Frances Humphrey Lecture Series on Thursday, May 25 at the Nevada State Museum. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program starts at 6:30.
Toll’s Gold Hill News operated from June 1974 until October 1978 and the staff took great pride in the slogans “Mark Twain Never Worked for This Newspaper!” (Twain worked at the nearby Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City) and “None Just As Good!” Printed weekly, the News was an award-winner and boasted an impressive circulation.
However, like the original Gold Hill News, financial woes set in. The News published a farewell edition on Nevada Day in 1978 with the words, “Hooray for our friends, to hell with our enemies, and we’ll see you in 92 years.”
Toll is a noted Nevada author and publisher. His books include “The Complete Nevada Traveler” and a biography of notorious Mustang Ranch owner Joe Conforte. He and his wife, Robin, operate nevadatravel.net, an online resource for visitors and travelers in the state.
The cost of the lecture is $8 for adults; free for museum members and children 17 and younger.
CARSON CITY, Nevada – Sports historians often call the 1960 Winter Olympics held at Squaw Valley “the last great games.”
In an intimate, unspoiled setting, the best winter athletes from around the globe converged on the previously unheralded ski resort for 11 days. Television cameras (and Walter Cronkite) were there and Walt Disney choreographed the opening and closing ceremonies.
There was suspense and drama on and off the slopes and ice rinks. The underdog USA men’s hockey team beat a powerful Russian team in the first “Miracle on Ice.”
Just how Squaw Valley was selected to host the Olympics is a story in itself, and one notably told by author David Antonucci in his book, “Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games.”
Antonucci will share stories from the book and his research in this month’s Writers’ Wednesday Lecture hosted by the Nevada Historical Society in Reno on Wednesday, May 10. The event includes a book signing from 5 to 5:30 p.m. and lecture starting at 5:30.
It is quite a story. The Squaw Valley Ski Resort was born from a partnership between Alex Cushing and Wayne Poulson, a Reno High grad who had helped do snow surveys in the valley in the 1930s. They formed the Squaw Valley Development Corporation, broke ground on the resort in 1948 and it opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1949.
Eventually, Cushing took over operations of the ski area, while Poulsen maintained ownership of most of the land in the valley.
1n 1954, Cushing saw a small article in his morning paper that said Reno was planning to place a bid to host the 1960 Olympic Games. He saw it as an opportunity to get publicity for Squaw Valley, which at the time had one lift and two tow ropes to accommodate skiers, by making a bid for the Games himself.
“I had no more interest in getting the Games than the man in the moon,” he later told Time magazine. “It was just a way of getting some newspaper space.”
His pursuit turned serious when the U.S. Olympic Committee selected Squaw Valley over Reno; Anchorage, Alaska; Sun Valley, Idaho; Colorado Springs-Aspen, Colo., and Lake Placid, N.Y., to be its recommendation to the International Olympic Committee.
To say it was a longshot bid would be a huge understatement, but ultimately, Squaw Valley won out over
such finalists as Innsbruck, Austria; St. Moritz, Switzerland; and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, all of which had previously hosted Olympics.
Antonucci will discuss how the 665 athletes from 30 countries gathered to compete in 27 events, including alpine skiing, Nordic combined, cross-country skiing, biathlon, figure skating, speed skating, ice hockey and ski jumping.
Through his thorough research, he offers you-are-there accounts of all competition events and ties it to many historical photos of the games.
The Writers’ Wednesday Lecture Series is held the second Wednesday of each month. The intent of the program is to highlight writers that specifically focus on Nevada, the Great Basin or the West in general. The authors talk about the content of their books, but also share details about the creative process.
The program is $5 for adults and free for Historical Society members and children 17 and younger.
CARSON CITY, Nevada – The story Reno, Nevada played in the life and times of Levi Strauss – the man and the company who made blue jeans famous – is both rich and riveting – literally.
The Bavaria-born Strauss was already an established and successful dry goods merchant in San Francisco when Reno tailor Jacob Davis, one of his customers, wrote him a letter that disclosed the unique way he made pants for his customers, using brass rivets at the stress points to help the pants last longer. Davis wanted to patent his new idea but needed a business partner. Levi Strauss agreed and on May 20, 1873, the patent was granted and blue jeans were born.
While Reno was key to Strauss’ life, it isn’t clear if he ever set foot in the city.
“Unfortunately, because the company lost all its records in the 1906 earthquake and fire, we don’t know if Levi ever visited Reno,” said Lynn Downey, author of the book “Levi Strauss: The Man Who Gave Blue Jeans to the World.” “Once he and Jacob Davis began corresponding, I think they did everything by letter.”
The relationship between Strauss and Davis is just one of the historical tidbits Downey plans to discuss during a pair of appearances in Northern Nevada this month.
Downey is the featured author in the Nevada Historical Society’s monthly Writers’ Wednesday program on April 26 and she will at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City the following night, April 27, as the featured speaker in the Frances Humphrey Lecture Series.
Few, if any, know the story of Levi Strauss better than Downey, who spent 24 years as the first in-house historian at Levi Strauss & Co., in San Francisco.
Strauss was born in Buttenheim, Bavaria on Feb. 26, 1829 to Hirsch and Rebecca Haas Strauss. He had three older brothers and three older sisters. Two years after his father succumbed to tuberculosis in 1846, Levi and his sisters immigrated to New York, where they were met by his two older brothers who owned a New York City-based wholesale dry goods business called “J. Strauss Brother & Co.” Levi soon began to learn the trade himself.
When news of the California Gold Rush made its way east, Levi journeyed to San Francisco in 1853 to make his fortune, though he wouldn’t make it panning gold. He established a wholesale dry goods business under his own name and served as the West Coast representative of the family’s New York firm. Levi eventually renamed his company “Levi Strauss & Co.”
Around 1872, Levi received a letter from Davis, the Reno tailor. In his letter, Davis disclosed the unique way he made pants for his customers, through the use of rivets at points of strain to make them last longer. Davis wanted to patent this new idea, but needed a business partner to get the idea off the ground. Levi was enthusiastic about the idea. The patent was granted to Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss & Company on May 20, 1873; and blue jeans were born.
Downey’s Reno lecture for “Writers’ Wednesdays” starts at 5:30 p.m., on April 26 at the Nevada Historical Society, 1650 N. Virginia St. Admission is $5 for adults; free to NHS members. Seating is limited.
The Carson City lecture starts at 6:30 p.m. on April 27 at the South Gallery inside the Nevada State Museum, 600 N. Carson Street. Admission is $8, free to members and children 17 and younger.
CARSON CITY, Nevada – When the United States entered World War I – 100 years ago this month – it had more soldiers than guns.
A shortage of rifles, machine guns and howitzers forced the American soldiers arriving in Europe in 1917 to use French and English weapons. A photo taken by the Photographic Section of the French Army documents an American machine gun team training with a French Hotchkiss M1914 light machine gun.
The photo is one of more than 400 World War I images in the collection of the Nevada State Museum and it is part of a new exhibit at the museum in remembrance of the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I.
“Remembering the Great War: One Hundred Years Later,” will be unveiled Tuesday, April 18 in the museum’s South Gallery and will feature artifacts ranging from patriotic posters to a U.S. Army captain’s uniform from the balloon corps to helmets to a silent film of American troops in France.
The centerpiece is the photographs, which are both a treasure and a bit of a mystery.
Museum curators know who took the photos, where they were taken and information about each image. Curators also know how the photos ended up in the museum’s collection – they were part of a larger collection acquired from Carson City history buff and collector Daun Bohall, who had purchased them years earlier at a yard sale. How the photos went from France to a Carson City yard sale is the mystery.
“We’ve had these in these binders all these years and they are really a treasure,” said Bob Nylen, curator of history at the Nevada State Museum. “It was really a difficult task to go through over 400 photographs and try to select the ones to be used for this exhibit. There are so many great photos that are in the collection.”
The photographs were all taken by the Photographic Section of the French Army. It was created in 1915 to counter German action against neutral countries while supporting the services of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The photographic section of the army hired photographers to go out and document the war.
Many of the photos also came with information on the back, but that, too, offered a challenge as the writing was in French. Museum officials were able to find a volunteer who translated it to help with writing the captions for each image.
The uniform, helmets and other memorabilia will be in display cases inside the gallery. Even as the exhibit was coming together, a staff member of the state museum brought in a photograph of her grandfather, who served in World War I.
“We think when people see this exhibit or learn about it, they might have their own memorabilia they might want to share, so some of these display cases might be changed or added to during the course of the exhibition,” Nylen said.
Thousands of Nevadans volunteered or were drafted into military service during World War I, many of them serving in the Army’s 91st Division, also known as the “Wild West Division.”
There were 116,798 Americans who died in the war, including 197 from Nevada.
The state’s namesake and storied battleship – the USS Nevada – was launched during World War I, and while it did not see battle, it was part of the fleet that escorted President Woodrow Wilson to France for the signing of the treaty that ended the war. Museum visitors can also see the USS Nevada collection.
Museum hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults and free for children 17 and younger.
RENO, Nevada – Nevada authors and dedicated volunteers David Lowndes and Carol Coleman were recognized with the Marjorie Fordham Award at the Nevada Historical Society Docent Council’s awards luncheon on Wednesday, April 4.
Lowndes has volunteered with the photography department, manuscripts and the library in addition to pitching in wherever needed. In the past three years, he dedicated nearly 4,000 hours of volunteer time to NHS. He also authored the book, “Images of America: Reno’s Heyday, 1931-1991,” the proceeds from which go back to NHS.
Coleman is also a longtime volunteer with more than 3,500 hours of volunteer time to her credit and is a past president of the Docent Council. She authored the book, “Images of America: Early Reno,” the proceeds of which go to NHS.
The Marjorie Fordham Award is the Docent Council’s highest honor. Fordham was an active volunteer from 1984 to 1988 who became known for her knowledge of Nevada history, her dedication and enthusiasm for the programs and operation at NHS. She died in 1998.
Two docents – Art Di Salvo and Linda Burke – were recognized for 20 of service with the Docent Council.
A number of docents were also recognized for their volunteer hours, being awarded accessories to their ID badges, called danglers, to recognize their milestones. They included:
- 250 hours: Laura Chenet-Leonard, Gloria Hanson, Irene Ko, Gayle Calhoun, Annette Cate and Monique Kimball.
- 500 hours: Bob Harmon, Russell Umbraco, Kitty Umbraco and Lorraine Petersen.
- 750 hours: Joyce Cox and Annie Bickley.
- 1500 hours: Elda Elias
- 3,000 hours: John Gomes
- 3,500 hours: Carol Coleman and Frank Wheeler
- 5,500 hours: David Lowndes
- 6,500 hours: Arline Laferry
The Docent Council is an educational organization that supports the mission and activities of the Nevada Historical Society. Members do everything from working in the NHS store to conducting tours of the museum galleries to aiding researchers in the library to helping NHS staff on numerous projects. They also host a monthly historical lecture.
In 2016, docents volunteered 8,931 hours to the Nevada Historical Society.
“We simply couldn’t operate without them,” said NHS Director Catherine Magee. “They have so much knowledge, so much enthusiasm about Nevada history, it’s inspiring to be around them.”
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer with the Docent Council, there are training classes in the spring and fall of each year. The spring event is May 19 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and the fall event is Sept. 12 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
For more information, contact the Nevada Historical Society at 775-688-1190.
CARSON CITY, Nevada – Why is there an artificial mud pit on the second floor of the Nevada State Museum? How did a stuffed beaver get the name Gus? What is the oldest historic Native American basket in the museum’s collection?
Every museum has its secrets – locked doors, untold stories, wrinkles and quirks that tickle the visitors’ curiosity.
The Nevada State Museum is no exception.
Now in its 76th year in the building that once served as a United States Mint, the venerable museum has accumulated thousands of artifacts and specimens and an equal number of stories behind them. Stories run the gamut from the priceless (American Indian basketry) to the aquatic (ichthyosaur) to the peculiar (artificial bear poop).
And they are stories that often come out during guided behind-the-scenes tours available to small groups every month. The tours are offered by the museum’s Natural History and Anthropology departments for small groups – up to six in Natural History and up to 10 in Anthropology.
The natural history tour, led by curator George Baumgardner, PhD., Curator of Natural History, takes the group through the existing natural history displays and includes discussions of museum’s plans for their redevelopment and expansion.
The displays range from the skeleton of a Columbian mammoth unearthed in the Black Rock Desert to that of a prehistoric ichthyosaur (large aquatic reptile) to taxidermy mounts of animals, including many not on public display.
Baumgardner not only talks about the creatures, but about how they were obtained, preserved and made available for exhibits and education.
The anthropology tour takes visitors into the museum’s Native American basketry storage vault, where many of the museum’s more than 2,000 historic baskets are kept in a climate-controlled environment.
Led by Eugene Hattori, Ph.D., Curator of Anthropology, the tour focuses on local basketry crafted by women of the Washoe Tribe and collected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A highlight of the tour is the museum’s extensive collection of “degikup” baskets woven in Carson City and Lake Tahoe between 1896 and 1925 by famed Washoe weaver Dat-so-la-lee.
Baskets from other Nevada and California tribes are also featured during the presentation.
The behind-the-scene tours are held the last Friday of each month, except when state holidays or other considerations conflict. There is no additional cost for the tour beyond regular museum admission of $8 for adults. Two tours in both natural history and anthropology are held, the first at 10 a.m. and the second at 1:30 p.m.
Reservations are required and tour group size is restricted. To confirm tour dates and make reservations, call Holly Payson in the education program at 775-687-4810, extension 222.
Private tours can be arranged through the Natural History Department by calling George Baumgardner at 775-687-4810, extension 236.
Private tours and basketry identifications through the Anthropology Department are available by calling Eugene Hattori at 775-687-4810, extension 230.
AT A GLANCE
What: Nevada State Museum Behind-the-Scenes Tours in Natural History and Anthropology.
When: The last Friday of each month, except when state holidays and other considerations conflict.
Tour size: Six or fewer for the Natural History tour; 10 or fewer for the Anthropology tour.
Cost: Regular admission fees to the museum apply ($8 for adults; free for children 17 and younger). No additional charge for the tours.
Reservations: To confirm tour dates and make reservations, call Holly Payson in the education program at 775-687-4810, extension 222.