Mile-High Fever: Silver Mines, Boom Towns, and High Living on the Comstock Lode

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St. Martin's Press, Jul 7, 2009 - History - 304 pages
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In the rip-roaring, true saga of the Comstock Lode, Dennis Drabelle skillfully brings to life silver-mining in the late-nineteenth-century American West. The immense wealth extracted from the Lode spurred the growth of San Francisco, and Virginia City, the hell-raising town that sprang up above the mines, was the inspiration for the TV series “Bonanza.” Innovations in Comstock mining—the use of underground “cubes” to avoid cave-ins and of elevators to bring ore to the surface—was adapted to make possible the modern skyscraper. The boom also accentuated less positive themes in American history. The growth of Virginia City brought ruthless treatment of Native Americans. The risks and expenses of deep mining lent themselves to stock-market manipulations and fraud on a grand scale. To opportunists such as William M. Stewart, a mining lawyer and future U.S. Senator with a tenuous grasp of ethics, the Comstock experience meant that the West belonged to the crafty and the strong. Perhaps the boom’s most lasting legacy, however, was the education it gave to a great American writer: Mark Twain. In Virginia City, the young journalist learned the value of plain but salty Western speech and saw how he might use the vivid reality of the frontier in the great books of his future. Full of colorful characters and get-rich-quick schemes, Mile-High Fever brings to light one of the least-known but most pivotal episodes in American history.

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User Review  - knightlight777 - LibraryThing

Having lived near Virginia City and visiting often the site of such a lively history, this book attracted my attention always looking for more on the subject of The Big Bonanza. The book I found was ... Read full review

MILE-HIGH FEVER: Silver Mines, Boom Towns and High Living on the Comstock Lode

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

How a mammoth vein of silver ore—a "Babylon of the Great American Desert"—helped shape the West.Washington Post Book World contributing editor Drabelle begins in 1857 on a mountainside on the Nevada ... Read full review


Heavy Metal
The Nature of the Beast
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About the author (2009)

DENNIS DRABELLE has written for The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Film Comment, Civilization, and Smithsonian. He is a contributing editor for The Washington Post Book World and won the National Book Critics Circle's Award (1996) for excellence in reviewing. He lives in Washington, DC.

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