The Comstock Lode, a huge vein of silver discovered in 1857 under Nevada’s Mount Davidson, was the greatest precious-metal discovery since gold was found in California in 1848. It became famous for the huge fortunes made there, as well as for the advances in technology necessary to meet the immense challenges imposed by digging mine shafts deep into the mountainside. One of these was the Sutro Tunnel, conceived by German engineer Adolph Sutro (1830-98) as a means of draining off the huge quantities of water infiltrating the ever-deeper shafts. Constructed under Sutro’s leadership between 1869 and 1878, the tunnel extended several miles from Mount Davidson to its exit on a piece of land granted to Sutro in the vicinity of Dayton.
Sutro was an astute businessman as well as technically brilliant. He sold his tunnel in 1879 at a huge profit, just as the Comstock Lode began to become less profitable. He took his wealth to San Francisco, where he became one of the city’s largest land owners and developers and served as mayor from 1894-96.
This composite image features a large map of the mining claims in the area of the Comstock Lode (oriented with West at the top), featuring the boundaries of hundreds of claims, the lines of the Virginia & Truckee and Silver City Branch Railroads, and of course the path of the tunnel from deep under Mount Davidson to its outlet several miles away on Sutro’s land. The map is surmounted by a fascinating perspective view showing the topography of the Virginia Range and the locations of major mining facilities, each represented by a vignette apparently drawn with some attempt at verisimilitude. The various “lodes” are visible below grade, as is the mouth of the tunnel at far right, which is also shown in an inset bird’s-eye view at the base of the lithograph.
Compiled & Drawn by W. Rose / Published by Payot, Upham & Co. 204 Sansome St. San Francisco / A. Waldstein, Lith. S.F.