Ophir Silver Mining Company Records

Identifier: NC56

Scope and Contents

The Ophir Silver Mining Company Records consist of thirty-three volumes dating from 1860-1935. The bulk of the collection dates from 1877-1900. This is not a complete collection of Ophir Mining Company records. (Most of the earlier pre-1875 records are not represented here.) Its strength lies in the reports and operations series which supply good documentation of mining activities for the period 1877 to 1920, including statistical data, assay reports, information on mine workings, and figures on profits and taxes. A somewhat amusing note to those of us removed from the historical picture, but a grim reminder of the dangers of the mining industry, are the occasional notes in the assays reports from the Selby Company, begging the Ophir superintendent to make sure that sticks of powder - dynamite- were removed from the ore shipments before they were shipped.

Another series of interest is the legal series (Series 4), which includes an abstract of title to Ophir lands and two manuscript maps of the Ophir claims, compiled by 1880. The abstract gives a complete copy of each official document by which land was conveyed to the Ophir and contains an index by name of grantee. Other useful records in that series include deeds, agreements, and claims.


  • 1860-1935
  • Majority of material found within 1877-1900


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.

Administrative History

The first discovery of precious minerals in the Comstock Mining District, Virginia City, Nevada, was made on what was to become the Ophir Silver Mining claim. Peter O'Riley and Patrick McLaughlin located gold at the Ophir claim in June 1859, and in August of that same year discovered the rich silver vein which was to spark the "Washoe Rush." The Ophir was a 675 foot long claim which yielded about $20 million before it was exhausted.

The Ophir claimed other "firsts" besides that of the first claim of the Comstock Lode. The mining methods of the day were not suitable for mining such a wide body of soft ore. That inspired the Ophir's engineer, Philip Deidsheimer, to develop the square set method of timbering which would support the extensive system of deep-level tunnels characteristic of the Comstock Lode. When the company discovered a large flow of water at the 50 foot level while digging the first mine shaft, a fifteen-horsepower steam engine was brought from San Francisco, the first steam engine to arrive on the Comstock Lode. In 1860, the Ophir, along with the Mexican, Central, and California mining companies, was among the first to excavate a drainage tunnel, known as the Union Tunnel, to disperse the large quantities of underground water which impeded mining operations. Also in that year, the Ophir was the first mining company to raise ore from the mine with steam power.

By 1923, the Ophir had proved to be the seventh best paying company in terms of stock holder dividends, but like other Comstock Lode companies had exhausted its mineral resources. The Ophir, part of the "North End Mines," merged with other North End mines under the superintendency of Zeb Kendall. Very small productions (under 800 tons per year) were made after that.


10 Linear Feet (24 boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



The first discovery of precious minerals in the Comstock Mining District, Virginia City, Nevada, was made on what was to become the Ophir Silver Mining claim. Collection contains daily, weekly, and annual reports, 1879-1920; letters, 1874-1913; payroll, 1879-1884; cash books, 1882-1911 abstract of title of the company's real estate and miscellaneous other business records, 1878-1906.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Reports; 2) Operations; 3) Accounting; 4) Legal; 5) Miscellaneous

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred by the Mackay School of Mines in 1962. Previously, the records were donated to the School of Mines by either Zeb Kendall or his son, Robert E. Kendall.

Guide to the Ophir Silver Mining Company Records
Susan Searcy
September 1991
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)