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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/136

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Scientific Literature.

SPECIAL BOOKS.

The first volume of the Story of the West Series dealt with a class that is becoming smaller and weaker, the second concerns one that is growing larger and stronger.[1] The miner, however, is changing his characteristics hardly less rapidly than the Indian, hence it is none too early to put his picturesque past on record. Mr. Shinn takes the development of the great Comstock Lode of Nevada as typical of all the various phases of mining, from the scratching of the prospector to the stupendous feats of the engineer—as typical also of the leap into bonanza and the sinking into borrasca. The Mormons made the first notable efforts to settle the region that is now Nevada, but the growth of the mineral interests soon took it out of their control. In describing the placer mining and the first quartz prospecting that preceded the discovery of the Comstock Lode, Mr. Shinn introduces some of the restless pioneers that gave the mining camps of the period their rough and picturesque character. After the great discovery was made in 1859, came the rush across the Sierras which brought other choice spirits who figure in the early times of Virginia City. There were the industrious and unfortunate Grosh brothers; the bombastic, scheming, and ineffective Comstock who gave his name to the great Lode; drunken "Old Virginia," who christened Virginia City with an accidentally broken bottle of whisky; the wily gamblers and their often hard-working but reckless victims; enterprising traders and energetic teamsters; while the nationalities represented included Irishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Canadians, Mexicans, Indians, and Jews. Mr. Shinn shows us the trails almost impassable with snow or mud along which a constant stream of pilgrims was toiling, the crowded public houses, the conglomeration of huts, tents, and dug-outs that made up a mining camp, and the abandoned pits and shafts which often entrapped straying animals and men. Passing from these primitive scenes, he shows us the various phases of the great industry which mining has become in our western country. He tells us how the crude methods of treating ores used by the early prospectors were succeeded by the arrastra, and this by the stamp mill; how some great mechanical problems were solved, such as timbering the wide Comstock Lode and bringing the water supply of Virgina City through a fourteen-mile flume and seven-mile siphon from Hobart Creek, and how the freighters, stage-drivers, and lumberers made money by letting the mines alone and devoting themselves to dependent industries. Mining litigation and stock speculation each have a chapter. We have an account of the days of the great bonanza, in which the operations of Mackay, Fair, Flood, O'Brien, and others are described. Perhaps the greatest engineering feat that figures in the story is the Sutro Tunnel—the "coyote hole." as contemptuous opposition termed it. In conclusion we are told what a present-day mine is like, both above and under ground, and what sort of men now make up its community. The volume is illustrated with many fittingly picturesque views.

 

  1. The story of the Mine By Charles Howard Shinn. Illustrated. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 272, limo. Price, $1.50.