William C. Miller Papers

Identifier: 87-06

Scope and Contents

The collection is divided into six series based on Miller's special interests: University of Nevada, Reno; Professional; Personal; Historical Materials (collected by Miller); Theater; and Photographs. Two series, Series 2: Professional, and Series 5: Theater, contain the bulk of the collection. Series 2 reflects Miller's activities apart from UNR and the theater, such as his membership on the Board of Review and the State Parks Commission; his editorship of the National Historical Society Quarterly; and his writings on Nevada theater and Mark Twain. In particular there are many manuscripts and typescripts of early Nevada accounts; articles on particular aspects of the Virginia City theater such as "Shakespeare in the Comstock;" Orion Clemens' letters as Secretary of the Territory of Nevada; Miller's master’s thesis "A Critical Analysis of Woodrow Wilson as a Public Speaker, 1910-1921;" and his dissertation, "An Historical Study of Theatrical Entertainment in Virginia City, Nevada or Bonanza and Borasca, Theaters on the Comstock (1860-1875)." The bulk and the condition of the collection when received by Special Collections was such that parts of some manuscripts are intermingled with others; only when pages could be collated with certainty was an attempt made to do so by the staff. Also present are hundreds of pages of copies of California and Nevada newspapers used by Miller in his research. These have been left unarranged.

The "Theater" series (Series 5) contains much material documenting twentieth century time period theater in Reno. Copies of many plays produced by the Reno Dramatic Club and its successor, the Reno Little Theater are present, along with clippings, a scrapbook, sheet music, and playbills and programs. Of special note is the presence of the earliest known Nevada imprint, a poster printed on pink silk for Topliffe's Theatre in Virginia City, 1862; item is restricted and has been placed in the Special Collections vault.

Series 4: Historical Materials, represents miscellaneous items collected by Miller. Most are of minor importance with the exception of a minute book/account of stockholders of the Silver Star Mining District, 1860-1863. The early history of this district, part of the eastern portion of the Comstock Lode, is well detailed in this book.


  • 1860-1976
  • 1860-1976


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.

Biographical Note

William Charles Miller was born in Detroit, Michigan on January 3, 1908. He received his B. S. in 1931, his M. A. in 1932, and his Ph. D. in 1947, all in speech from the University of Southern California.

William C. Miller’s teaching career at the University of Nevada, Reno began in 1932 when he became a Fellow in the English Department. He received an appointment as instructor in 1934 and became an assistant professor from 1937-1947. Between the years 1939-1940 and again in 1944-1945, he was a visiting instructor and director of dramatics at University of Southern California. He also served as Chairman of Speech in the Department of English at Auburn University in Alabama from 1947-1948. Miller returned to the University of Nevada, Reno in 1949 as an associate professor, first in English, then after 1955 in the Department of Speech. He became a full professor in 1957, retiring as professor emeritus in 1973.

Miller's career in speech extended to an interest in the theater, both historical and contemporary. His Ph.D. dissertation centered on the history of the Comstock era theater in Virginia City, and he lectured extensively and published many articles on this theme. He was a founding member of the Reno Little Theater, acting in and producing many of their dramatic presentations. He also staged many theatrical presentations at the University of Nevada, Reno for Mackay Days and other special events.

While researching Nevada's early theaters, Miller became especially interested in Mark Twain's residency in Nevada Territory. Twain's brother Orion Clemens served as Secretary of the Territory from 1861-1864; he too interested Miller. It was while searching through manuscript repositories for items authored by Mark Twain in the Territorial Enterprise that Miller happened on the 1861 "Letters from Nevada Territory" by Robert J. Marsh, accounts of the early Nevada legislatures not extant in any other form. Miller, along with Russell W. McDonald and Ann Rollins, served as editor for the published version of these accounts (Letters From Nevada Territory, 1861-1862 [1971], and Reports of the 1863 Constitutional Convention of the Territory of Nevada [1972]).

Miller served as the first editor of the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, from 1957-1961, an assignment which suited his special interests well. He also wrote articles for other publications featuring Mark Twain and Nevada's early theater; in 1966 he co-authored an English textbook, Fundamentals of English.

In addition to these activities Miller was a member of the Board of Review of the Nevada Employment Security Department (circa 1956-1959); member and secretary of the Nevada State Parks Commission (circa 1953-1956); and was a member of the Freemasons of Reno. He was married to Frances M. Campbell Miller; they had one daughter, Roxanna Miller Koenig.

William C. Miller died in Reno, Nevada on March 8, 1987.


5 Linear Feet (10 boxes)

Language of Materials



Includes material related to Miller's career and interests, particularly the history of Nevada Territory and the theater. Included are correspondence, Miller's thesis and dissertation, scripts of plays performed by the Reno Little Theater and Reno Dramatic Club, sheet music, a minute book/account ledger of stock holders of the Silver Star Mining District (Comstock Lode), and a poster for Topliffe's Theatre (earliest known Nevada imprint, 1862). Material between 1860-1976.


Arranged into the following series: 1) University of Nevada, Reno; 2) Professional; 3) Personal; 4) Historical Materials; 5) Theater; 6) Photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Miller's executor Leslie B. Gray, and by Miller's daughter and son-in-law, Roxanna and Mark Koenig in August 1987.

Separated Materials

All of the photographs in Series 6 were transferred to the Special Collections photo archives as photo collection UNRS-P1987-27; books that arrived with the collection were placed in either the Special Collections or general Library stacks.



Guide to the William C. Miller Records
Susan Searcy
September 1987
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)