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History walks benefit Friends of Nevada State Museum

CARSON CITY, Nevada – A walking tour highlighting the homes of former Nevada governors is being offered on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month by the Friends of the Nevada State Museum.

The Governor’s Mansion on Mountain Street in Carson City is one of the homes shown on a walking tour of governors’ residences in the capital city. Guy Clifton/Travel Nevada

The 9 a.m. tour, which is open to individuals and groups, is scheduled for Tuesday, July 25, Aug. 8, Aug. 22, Sept. 12 and Sept. 26.

Local history buffs Ron Roberts and Debbie Lane alternate as the tour guide. Much of the tour follows Carson City’s “Blue Line Trail,” a path through the historic district designated by a painted blue line and bronze medallions along the route.

The tour will include a look at the Governor’s Mansion on Mountain Street, where Brian Sandoval, the state’s 29th governor, and his family reside. Former Gov. Denver Dickerson (1909-1911) and his family were the first to live in the Governor’s Mansion.

The Stewart-Nye house on Minnesota Street was once owned by territorial Gov. James Nye (1861-64).  Another home on Robinson Street once belonged to Gov. John Jones (1895-1896). Other governors’ homes that will be viewed include those of John Sparks, Roswell Colcord and Reinhold Sadler.

The tour is free although tips are accepted and go to the Friends of the Nevada State Museum. Participants should meet in front of the Nevada State Museum, 400 Carson St. Reservations are requested for large groups.

For details, contact Debbie Lane at 410-790-0410.

Historic coin press returning to operation at Nevada State Museum

CARSON CITY, Nevada – In February of 1870, the sparkling new steam-powered coin press inside the United States Mint in Carson City struck its first coin, a Seated Liberty silver dollar with a crisp CC mint mark.

A crane delivers Coin Press No. 1 to the front door of the Nevada State Museum in Carson City in February 1958. It had minted coins at the Carson City Mint from 1870 to 1893. In 1958. it was at the San Francisco Mint, but was scheduled to be scrapped when the state of Nevada bought it for $225. Photo courtesy of Nevada State Museum

One hundred and forty seven years, millions of dollars, a couple of road trips and a healthy dose of serendipity later, Press No. 1 is still pressing metal into medallions in the same building in which it started.

“It’s still in operation, still doing what it was intended to do,” said Myron Freedman, director of the Nevada State Museum, which occupies the former U.S. Mint building. “We are pretty proud to be able to use it for its historically intended purpose.”

After being down for several months for repairs, the press is expected to be back in operation in September, pressing medallions for the public’s view and purchase – but with a variation. The medallions the press will produce will be smaller, 30 millimeters, than the silver dollar-size of past years.

The change is being made at the urging of a coin press consultant (structural engineers) from the Oakland, Calif.-based company that repaired the 12,000-pound press, from a restoration specialist at the Nevada State Railroad Museum and from independent analysts.

They say the striking pressure required to imprint designs onto the blank coins – between 150 and 170 tons – is more than the venerable press can handle. Switching to smaller medals, about half dollar sized, can be done with less strike pressure (a maximum of 110 tons) and therefore, less stress on the machine. Decreasing the tonnage will aid in the preservation of the press.

Finding replacement parts for the machine is difficult to impossible and in many cases the parts, and often the tools to remove and replace them, have to be fabricated from scratch. It also creates a dilemma for historians.

“Our number one priority as a museum is to protect the artifact,” Freedman said. “We love being able to produce these medallions and to share that process with the public, but we also must recognize this is an important artifact in Nevada’s history.”

Freedman said historical research has shown the press, which was built in 1868 by Morgan & Orr in Philadelphia, was designed to press at a much-lower tonnage than the 200 tons it operated at in its early years.

In 1878, it suffered a catastrophic failure, a cracked arch, which put it out of commission for a time. Machinists at the local shop of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad repaired it, and proud of their handiwork, replaced the original brass plate bearing the name Morgan & Orr with their own.

Between 1870 and 1893, the Carson City Mint produced nearly $50 million (face value) of gold and silver coins, including gold double eagles ($20) and eagles ($10), half eagles ($5), silver dollars, half dollars, quarters, dimes and 20-cent pieces.

Today, coins with the CC Mint mark are highly prized by collectors and among the most valuable in the collecting world. An 1873 Carson City dime with no arrows – the only one of its kind known to still exist – sold at auction for $1.8 million in 2012.

“Over the last 45 years, the Carson City coins have just skyrocketed in popularity in the numismatic community,” said Rusty Goe, a prominent coin dealer, collector and author of the 2003 book, “The Mint on Carson Street.”

“You can’t have any more special relic than the coin press that made these coins,” Goe said.

The historic dime was certainly pressed in Coin Press 1, which was the only press at the mint until 1875. Eventually, three coin presses operated there as demand for the coins grew.

The Carson City Mint ceased coin production in 1893 and the presses were removed in 1899. Press No. 1 was moved to the Philadelphia Mint, where it was remodeled in 1930 to operate with electric power. In 1945, it was transferred to the San Francisco Mint and renumbered “5” to correspond with its place in the coining department there.

In 1955, when all coin production was temporarily halted at the San Francisco Mint, the old press was targeted to be scrapped. If not for an eagle-eyed Oakland newspaperman who was also an avid Carson City Mint coin collector by the name of Frederick Monteagle, the press might have ended up on the scrap heap of history.

“He’s the guy in 1958 who sent word to Nevada that they were scrapping the press,” Goe said. “We owe him a big debt of gratitude.”

Judge Clark J. Guild, founder of the Nevada State Museum, points to the V&T Railroad brass plate on Coin Press No. 1 when it was returned to the Nevada State Museum in 1958. It had been in use at the San Francisco Mint and renumbered to No. 5, but was scheduled to be scrapped. The state of Nevada bought it for $225 from the federal government. Photo courtesy of Nevada State Museum

With Monteagle acting as the middleman, Nevada State Museum founder Clark J. Guild and the museum board of trustees were able to buy the press for the state for $225 and it returned to its original home inside the Nevada State Museum.

For the next six years it was a popular artifact in the museum, but in 1964, U.S. Mint director Eva Adams, herself a native Nevadan, was faced with a severe coin shortage and requested the loan of the press. It was trucked to the Denver Mint and operated for the next three years, striking more than 188 million coins during that time.

In 1967, Press No. 1 returned to the Nevada State Museum for good and converted to a slower electric drive. Through the years, it has produced dozens of memorable – and collectible – medallions.

In 1975-76, it produced a coin commemorating the country’s bicentennial.

“That was a very important beginning,” said Bob Nylen, curator of history at the Nevada State Museum. “Over the years, we’ve done medallions for state agencies and the public and private sector. It’s been quite a lot of projects.”

Projects for the Pony Express, V&T Railroad Reconstruction, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial, and Nevada’s sesquicentennial and, most recently, a coin commemorating the Nevada State Museum’s 75th birthday, have all been completed on Press No. 1.

One of the most memorable days for Nylen and longtime volunteer and coiner Ken Hopple, was in 2006, when commemorative coins were minted to coincide with the release of the Nevada state quarter.

A huge crowd assembled at the museum on that cold January day to acquire one of the newly minted “Spirit of the West” medallions, purchasing them as soon as they left the press.

Being able to see the historic press in action is something unique for visitors to the museum, Freedman said, and something the museum wants to continue.

“Thousands of visitors have been delighted to see the press in operation during demonstrations given by volunteer and local favorite Ken Hopple, and to purchase medallions in the museum gift shop,” Freedman said.

The Nevada State Museum is located at 400 N. Carson St., in Carson City. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Admissions is $8 for adults; free for children 17 and younger.

Historical Society hosts ‘Vigilantes of Boomtown’ film

CARSON CITY, Nevada – A Red Ryder western film from 1947 that uses one of Carson City’s most historic events as a backdrop will be shown at the Nevada Historical Society Thursday, July 20, at noon.

“Vigilantes of Boomtown,” which stars Allan Lane as Red Ryder, is set in Carson City in 1897 and the plot revolves around the world championship boxing match between champion Gentleman Jim Corbett and challenger Bob Fitzsimmons.

The film is being shown as the monthly program of “High Noon: Shootout with Neal Cobb.” Admission is $5, with children 17 and younger admitted for free.

In the film, the ranch owned by Red Ryder and his aunt, the Duchess, is being used as the training site for Corbett.

Molly McVey, the daughter of a U.S. Senator, is leading a crusade against prize fighting. She complicates matters after hatching a plan to have Corbett kidnapped in order to force a cancellation of the fight.

Meanwhile, a gang of bandits descends on Carson City with the intent of robbing the bank flush with cash from the fight activities.

The film is 56 minutes and Cobb will take questions after the showing.

The Nevada Historical Society is located at 1650 N. Virginia St., in Reno.

Battle Mountain is topic of July museum lecture

CARSON CITY, Nevada – Ken Beaton likes to say if you think there’s nothing to do in your home town, “check into a Battle Mountain hotel for three weeks one Tuesday evening.”

A sign depicting the Battle Mountain High School mascot, the Longhorn, welcomes drivers in Lander County. Photo provided by Ken Beaton

Beaton, a Carson City resident who was a business teacher at Battle Mountain High School from 1972 to 1975, is a big fan of the Lander County seat, which is located along Interstate 80 between Winnemucca and Elko.

Beaton will be mixing history and humor about Battle Mountain in the monthly Frances Humphrey Lecture Series at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City. The lecture, titled “Battle Mountain is the Place for Me,” is Thursday, July 27 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., in the museum’s South Gallery.

The cost is $8 for adults; free for museum members and children 17 and younger.

Battle Mountain has had a rich, colorful and quirky history – mountain men trapping along the Humboldt River, a deadly incident involving the Donner Party, copper mining, gold mining and a few rites of passage carried out by the students at Battle Mountain High School.

“It will be a mix of history and some funny vignettes of things that happened there,” he said.

Beaton was born in Lynn, Mass., and earned his bachelor’s degree from Salem State University in Massachusetts before earning a Master’s in Education at Utah State.

After his teaching stint at Battle Mountain High, Beaton taught at Carson High School from 1975 until 1994. An author and essayist, he has written a memoir titled “The Bulldog Brigade: Every Day Red and Gray,” along with pieces for the Nevada Appeal, Nevada in the West magazine and numerous other publications.

The Frances Humphrey Lecture Series is held the fourth Thursday of each month at the Nevada State Museum.

Writers’ Wednesday: The basics of getting published

If writing a book or magazine article is on your bucket list, but you’re not sure how to get started, you can find the answers at this month’s Writers’ Wednesday at the Nevada Historical Society.

Author and publisher Stan Paher is the guest lecturer for July and he will give tips in his presentation, “Breaking into Publishing: How to research and write an article.”

The event is Wednesday, July 12 from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m.

Paher is the author of several books, including “Nevada Ghost Towns & Mining Camps,” his first, published in 1970. He earned the Award of Merit from the American Association of State and Local History.

He has published more than 75 books for other authors and operates Nevada Publications, a publishing and book distribution service.

The Writers’ Wednesday Lecture Series, held the second Wednesday of each month, features a different author takes part in a book signing, a presentation and a question-and-answer session with the audience.

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.

Admission to Writers’ Wednesday is $5 for adults; free for members and children 17 and younger. Seating is limited and attendees are encouraged to arrive early to get their seats. For more information, call (775) 688-1190.

Lost City exhibit honors designer of iconic Las Vegas sign

OVERTON, Nevada – The Lost City Museum and Neon Museum in Las Vegas are collaborating on an exhibit honoring the late renowned sign designer Betty Willis, whose creations include the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign..

Willis was born and raised in Overton, home of the Lost City Museum. She died there at age 91 in 2015.

Welcome to Las Vegas sign on the Las Vegas Strip. 11/13/09

She spent much of her professional career designing neon signs at Western Neon in Las Vegas, including the “Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, which she completed in 1959. She never trademarked the sign and often said it was her gift to the city. Among her other designs were signs for the Moulin Rouge Hotel and the Blue Angel Motel.

The Lost City exhibit features images of signs in the Neon Museum collection and a limited-edition lithograph of the Welcome sign autographed by Betty Willis and photographer William Hannapple.

The Lost City Museum actively engages people in understanding and celebrating Nevada’s natural and cultural heritage. One of seven museums managed by the Nevada Division of Museums and History, an agency of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, it is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily at 721 S. Moapa Valley Blvd., Overton.

Admission is $5, children 17 and younger and members enter free. Take Interstate 15 north to exit 93. Access is also available from Lake Mead National Recreation Area or the Valley of Fire State Park. For more information, call the museum at (702) 397-2193.

Celebrate the Fourth at Nevada State Railroad Museum

CARSON CITY, Nevada – On a star-spangled Fourth of July weekend, the Nevada State Railroad Museum will be showcasing an all-star lineup of its rolling stock – and giving visitors discounted rates for unlimited train rides.

The wood-burning steam locomotives Glenbrook, left, and Inyo, will be running at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City over the Fourth of July weekend. Guy Clifton/Travel Nevada

The museum, which is generally closed on Tuesdays, will be in full operation this Tuesday, the Fourth of July. Festivities actually begin on Saturday. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day.

“We’ll have all of our running gear out on the loop,” Museum Director Dan Thielen said. “We’ll have the Parade of Trains every morning.”

The Parade of Trains includes the pride of the museum’s collection – its two 1875 wood-burning steam locomotives, the Inyo and the Glenbrook; and the McKeen Motor Car. The No. 25 locomotive will be pulling passengers every day.

Visitors to the museum during the holiday weekend have the opportunity to purchase an all-inclusive wristband each day. It includes admission to the museum and unlimited train rides for the day of purchase. The price is $15 for adults, $5 for children 4 to 17 and free to children 3 and younger. Museum members can purchase a wristband for $10 each day.

The McKeen Motor Car and No. 25 will be alternating runs every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., allowing visitors to ride both trains. Both the Inyo and the Glenbrook will be making demonstration runs each day, but do not take passengers.

Please note: the wristband is good for one day and a separate wristband must be purchased each day of the event. Normal museum admission prices and train fares are available, as well.
Contact the museum at (775) 687-6953 x224 for more information.

USS Nevada commander, crewmen tour state museums

CARSON CITY, Nevada – Sailors from the USS Nevada nuclear submarine were in Carson City on Sunday for tours of the Nevada State Museum and Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Crewmen and family members from the submarine USS Nevada take a seat in the historic McKeen Motor Car at the Nevada State Railroad Museum on Sunday, June 25, 2017. Pictured from left to right are: Chief of Boat Adrian Watkins; Renee Watkins; Missile Technician Anthony Sasnett; Craig Williams, Reno Council Navy League; CDR Gene Severtson; Stacey Severtson; Machinist Mate Alexander Lund; and Ed Legier, Reno Council Navy League. Photo provided by Craig Williams/Reno Council Navy League

The group included Commanding Officer Gene Severtsen and Chief of Boat Adrian Watkins, the ship’s senior enlisted man, as well as other crewmen and their families. The Reno Council of the Navy League sponsored the “Namesake Visit” to Nevada, something it does every two years, said Craig Williams of the Reno Council.

The Nevada State Museum is the caretaker of scores of artifacts from the battleship USS Nevada, BB-36, which distinguished itself in World War II, and memorabilia from the submarine, which is completing its 30th year in service.

The submarine itself, which is based in Bangor, Wash., also holds photos and memorabilia from the battleship.

Peter Barton, administrator of the Division of Museums and History and Myron Freedman, Nevada State Museum director, led the submariners on the tour.

“They were extremely enthusiastic to see the phenomenal silver service set from the USS Nevada battleship, along with many other USS Nevada artifacts preserved in the museum’s collection,” Freedman said. “The silver service set is one of the museum’s prized possessions, created from silver and gold from Nevada mines, and used on the ship after its commission in 1916.”

At the railroad museum, the crewmen and their families were treated to a tour by curator of history Wendell Huffman. The museum features the restored steam locomotives Glenbrook and Inyo, both built in 1875, and the McKeen Motor Car.

Both the Nevada State Museum and the Nevada State Railroad Museum are participants in the national Blue Star Museums program, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and museums across America. The program allows free admission to active-duty military members and their families from Memorial Day and Labor Day each year.

In addition to visiting the museums, the Nevada sailors and their families also toured the Tesla gigafactory being built east of Sparks and the Thunderbird Lodge at Lake Tahoe. Severtsen threw out the first pitch at the Reno Aces baseball game on Saturday.

Boulder City Railroad Museum suspends one of four daily rides

BOULDER CITY, Nevada – With hot summer temperatures gripping Southern Nevada, the Nevada State Railroad Museum Boulder City is suspending its mid-afternoon train ride.

As summer heat has taken hold in Southern nevada, the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City is suspending its final trrain ride of each day through the end of August. Photo illustration provided by Travel Nevada

“While our train is air-conditioned, the locomotives are not,” said Museum Director Randall Hees. “In the interest of crew and public safety we are suspending our 2:30 pm train from mid-June through August. We may suspend train operations completely if the temperature exceeds 115 degrees.

Unless otherwise noticed, train rides will continue to be offered at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The museum’s train ride is a scenic 45-minute round trip of 7 miles, which follows a portion of the old Boulder Branch Line, built in 1931 during the construction of Hoover Dam.

The museum is located at 600 Yucca St., in Boulder City.

To check on train operations, please call our ticket office or gift shop at (702) 486-5933, or check its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NSRMBoulderCity/

New video promotes Nevada’s state museums

CARSON CITY, Nevada – A video promoting Nevada’s seven state museums is being shown at Department of Motor Vehicles offices around the state.

The one-minute video, produced in-house by the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, includes an introduction by Gov. Brian Sandoval, made during a visit to the Nevada State Museum in Carson City in May.

“Nevada’s museums celebrate the cultural, natural and industrial resources that make Nevada so extraordinary,” Claudia Vecchio, director of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, said. “We join Governor Sandoval in inviting all who see the videos to visit Nevada’s museums and explore the state’s rich historic legacies.”

The state’s museums tell Nevada’s story from prehistory to modern day and focus on themes that set the Silver State apart, including Native American culture, railroading, mining, gaming, entertainment, and natural history.

Educational opportunities abound for everyone, from school children to historic researchers and membership at one museum allows free access to all the others.

“Nevada museums serve as the State’s heritage asset managers and storytellers, creating engaging places for civic engagement and conversations about our rich and diverse heritage and how knowledge of the past shape’s today and provides a roadmap for tomorrow,” Peter Barton, administrator for the Division of Museums and History, said. “I often say that our museums both stimulate and incubate memories – memories that truly last a lifetime. And not everything about our past is necessarily a good story but we interpret the past with authenticity and honesty, always.”

The video is running at DMV offices in Carson City, Elko, Fallon, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite, Pahrump, Reno, Winnemucca and North Las Vegas.

The video can be seen at www.nevadaculture.org/museums.