Piper's Opera House Playbills and Tickets

Identifier: 91-33

Scope and Contents

This collection of playbills and tickets for Piper's Opera House consists of both microfilm and actual posters and tickets.


  • 1884-1903; undated


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Permission to reproduce microfilm must be obtained from the director of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Administrative History

Piper's Opera House was not the first theater established in Virginia City, Nevada, but it was the most enduring. Piper's began as Maguire's Opera House which opened in the summer of 1863 and was located on D Street. It was a leader among theaters in Virginia City; all the major stars and companies played exclusively in this house. John and Henry Piper took over Maguire's on October 9, 1867 with financial support from John W. Mackay; they changed the name to Piper's Opera House. John Piper was formerly a German saloon keeper with no theatrical management experience but he was very successful in his new profession. Under his direction the popular entertainment venue offered melodramas, burlesque, light comedies, variety and minstrel shows, and classical dramas. Nationally known actors, actresses, and theater companies made their appearances, as well as regional and local talent.

Piper's first years of success were ended by the great fire of October 26, 1875 which destroyed more than 2,000 buildings in Virginia City's business district. Piper's was one of the first buildings destroyed and it represented a heavy financial loss to Piper. It was not until January 29, 1878 that John Piper opened his second opera house at a cost of $40,000 but soon it was considered the home of drama in Virginia City. This second structure was also destroyed by fire, on March 13, 1883. Piper rented Cooper's Hall and reopened several nights later. Thanks to popular performances, he was able to build his third opera house, which opened May 4, 1885. Classical tragedies, popular comedies, melodramas, musical comedies, and light operas proved popular with audiences and dominated the venue.

Piper leased the newly built McKissick's Opera House in 1888, as well as the Carson Opera House, and established a chain of theaters around which touring house companies could be sent. He managed all of these enterprises until his death in 1897, after which his son Edward Piper continued the business. Edward and other family members managed the theater until 1924 when the theater closed. Today, the building is being renovated with a plan to begin theatrical performances once again.


0.4 Linear Feet (26 posters and tickets)

1 Reels (1 microfilm reel)

Language of Materials



Includes a selection of playbills and programs advertising plays and performances at the Opera House, and tickets for admission. The collection contains material from 1884-1903 created by Piper's Opera House (Virginia City, Nev.).


Arranged by type.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The microfilm consists of images of theater posters held by the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. The other materials in the collection were donated to the University of Nevada, Reno, Special Collections Department by the Bancroft and are items that either duplicated Bancroft's holdings or were outside the scope of their collections.

Existence and Location of Originals

Original held by: Bancroft Library,,University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720.

Guide to the Playbills and Tickets of Piper's Opera House
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)