The most powerful impulse to mining operations, and the immediate cause of a somewhat lengthy period of wild excitement and speculation, was the discovery and successful opening of the Comstock lode in 1859, in the western part of what is now Nevada, but was then part of Utah.
After this last year the output of the Comstock mines declined on account of the exhaustion of the ore supply, the increased expense of mining at great depths, and the decrease in the price of silver.
James Lick (1796-1876), a cold man with few friends, who gave a great fortune to noble ends; and Adolph Sutro (1830-1898), famous for executing the Sutro Tunnel of the Comstock mines of Virginia City, Nevada, and the donor of various gifts to the city.
The United States came into prominence in about 1860, and the discovery of the famous Comstock lode in Nevada led to an enormous increase in the production.
With the working out of the deposits in the Comstock region, the mining industry declined, and between 1877 and 1900 there was a period of great depression, in which Nevada fell from first to sixth place among the silver-producing states and Territories.
This Comstock fever belongs to Californian rather than to Nevadan history, and is one of the most extraordinary in mining annals.
In connexion with the operation of the Comstock mines was built (in 1869-1879) the Sutro Tunnel, named in honour of its engineer, Adolph Sutro (1830-1898), piercing the mountain horizontally far below the mouth of the mines, and at a distance of nearly 4 m.
In 1859 the discovery of the famous Comstock Lode in Western Nevada led to the building of Virginia City, a prosperous community on the side of a mountain where human beings under ordinary conditions would not have lived, and eventually brought a new state into existence.