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June 12: King of the Comstock Lode

June 12, 2014
CuQ_00200_S_350_SutroThe Comstock Lode, the first major silver lode found in the U.S., was discovered in Nevada on this date in 1859. Among the miners, engineers and financiers who rushed there were Adoph Sutro, who would eventually become the first Jewish mayor of San Francisco (1895-97). Sutro was a Prussian-born engineer who developed an ore extraction technique that involved de-watering, de-gassing, and ventilating mine shafts through the construction of a tunnel, the Sutro Tunnel. The Comstock Lode declined after 1874, but not before speeding the growth of San Francisco and Nevada and making Sutro a very wealthy man. His real estate holdings in San Francisco were extensive, and included many public entertainments, including the Sutro Baths, which boasted six indoor pools, a skating rink, and other pleasure grounds, and Woodward’s Gardens, which included a zoo, amusement park, aquarium and art gallery. “Sutro set off blasts of dynamite... leading the way for tunnel diggers. He fought avalanches, mud slides and poisonous gases. He dug air shafts to relieve the danger; the shafts filled with water, one of them to the depth of nine hundred feet. He fought cave-ins and solid rock. Through the grueling months, day after day and month after month, he marched ahead of his men, stripped to the waist, laboring with them, sweating with them, facing death with them, and in the end, winning through with them to victory.” —Samuel Dickson, Tales of San Francisco