Sutro Tunnel Company Records
Scope and Contents
As noted in the book, Adolph Sutro, A Biography by Robert E. Stewart, Jr. and M.F. Stewart (Howell-North, 1962), Adolph Sutro saved everything connected with his business and personal life. The Stewarts note the locations of the larger collections of Sutro papers and mention the scattering of a great deal of other material. The collection of Sutro papers held by the Special Collections Department is one such scattering.
These records document in part, the organizing, publicizing, funding, and construction of the Sutro Tunnel. The earliest items in the collection are a deed (1861) for the Silver Lode mining claim which Sutro purchased from Stillman and Katherine Wilson, and a copy of the Nevada Legislature's 1865 act granting Sutro a franchise to construct a mining and drainage tunnel. Articles of agreement illustrate how Sutro funded construction of the project and negotiated with Comstock Lode mining companies for tunnel use fees. These documents form Series 1, Legal Documents.
Series 2 consists of correspondence, the bulk of which is from the secretary of the Sutro Tunnel Company to Adolph Sutro, reporting on progress of the tunnel and various business matters. There is also some miscellaneous correspondence and a letterpress copy book of requisitions.
Series 3, Reports, contains several significant documents, particularly a manuscript report on the cost of running branch tunnels [from the main Sutro Tunnel], 1866; and a draft report (perhaps in Sutro's hand) of the House Committee on Mines and Mining on the Sutro Tunnel, 1868. Two letterpress copy books offer a daily record of underground work between 1881-1883, and superintendent's reports from 1885-1886.
Many of the printed reports which remain with the manuscript collection illustrate Sutro's use of the print media to persuade Congress and the public to support his project. These and assorted clippings form Series 5, Printed Materials.
- Sutro Tunnel Company (Creator, Organization)
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.
The Sutro Tunnel Company was organized by Adolph Sutro for the purpose of constructing a drainage tunnel under the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, Nevada. Sutro's initial associates in this enterprise were William M. Stewart, D. E. Avery, Louis Janin, Jr., and H. K. Mitchell. On February 4, 1865 the Nevada legislature granted the company an exclusive franchise to construct a drainage tunnel beginning in the foothills of the Carson River Valley in Lyon County, and terminating in the Comstock Lode of Virginia City. The Sutro Tunnel Company was also given a charter to sink mining shafts along the line as long as they did not infringe upon the rights of miners with previous claims.
The U.S. Congress granted the Sutro Tunnel Company an exclusive charter on July 25, 1866. The charter gave Sutro the right to purchase public land at $1.25 per acre to use for construction of the tunnel, and $5.00 per acre for land within 2,000 feet of the tunnel which contained mineral veins and lodes. It also specified that all persons, companies or corporations owning claims benefitted by the tunnel would be required to contribute to the costs of its operation.
Sutro encountered considerable difficulty in raising the capital necessary for construction. The sale of stock in the Sutro Tunnel Company enabled construction to begin in 1869 but he was eventually forced to turn to England where, beginning in 1872, he obtained major financing from the banking house of McCalmont Brothers and Company. The tunnel connected with the Savage Mine in 1878. Contracts which helped pay for lateral tunnels were signed with twenty-four mining companies in April of the following year. Two months later the tunnel project was completed, and by 1880, Sutro had sold his stock in the company.
The tunnel was in use for fifty years and was a success as a means of draining hot water from the mines. Financially it was a loss, as stock became worthless with the decline of Comstock Lode. Portions of the tunnel are still intact today.
1.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes, 1 oversize folder)
Language of Materials
The Sutro Tunnel Company was organized by Adolph Sutro for the purpose of constructing a drainage tunnel under the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, Nevada. Records related to organizing, publicizing, funding and constructing the Sutro Tunnel.,Included are transcripts of a court case; correspondence, which consist of letters and construction reports from company secretary Pelham W. Ames to Sutro; deeds; superintendents' reports; speeches; prospectus; certificate of incorporation and by-laws; financial agreements with the McCalmont Brothers & Company of London; agreements with the Mexican Mining Company and others to pay assessments; clippings about Sutro, his daughter Dr. Emma Sutro Merritt, his library, and Ella Sterling Clark Mighels' poetry; and photographs and lithographs of tunnel scenes (1861-1935).
Arranged into the following series: 1) Legal Documents; 2) Correspondence; 3) Reports; 4) Financial Records; 5) Printed Materials and Miscellaneous; 6) Photographs and Lithographs
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Acquired over a period of years, beginning with a gift from Robert B. Griffith in 1964, and continuing with purchases from a number of book dealers and a Butterfield and Butterfield auction in June 1993.
Photograph and lithographs depiction the Sutro Tunnel and its construction have been transferred to the Special Collections Photo Archive as collection number UNRS-P1988-30.
A considerable number of printed reports have been previously placed in the book stacks of the Special Collections Department. They are listed under the related materials note.
- Ames, Pelham W. (Pelham Warren), 1839- (Creator)
- Central Pacific Railroad Company
- Comstock Lode (Nev.)
- Libraries -- Nevada
- McCalmont Brothers & Co
- Merritt, Emma Sutro
- Mexican Mining Company
- Mighels, Ella Sterling, 1853-1934 (Creator)
- Mine drainage
- Mining engineering -- Nevada -- Virginia City
- Sutro Tunnel (Nev.)
- Sutro Tunnel Company
- Sutro, Adolph, 1830-1898
- Virginia City (Nev.)
- Guide to the Sutro Tunnel Company Records
- Susan Searcy
- October 1993
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description