“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Virginia City in Storey County, Nevada — The American Mountains (Southwest)

Engineering Marvels on the Comstock

Engineering Marvels on the Comstock Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jerry Klinger, circa May 15, 2010
1. Engineering Marvels on the Comstock Marker
Inscription. From the first recorded ore discoveries in 1859, the Comstock area was part of a global community. Arriving from places as diverse as the Germanies, Poland, Russia, and North America, Jewish immigrants with engineering backgrounds, entrepreneurial spirit, and creativity, they were foremost in developing innovative technological marvels. The Comstock Lode became the "richest place on earth" largely thanks to their remarkable contribution.

As the miners followed the Comstock Lode deeper into the ground, traditional methods of supporting the underground tunnels did not work. In 1860, the Ophir Mining Company hired Philipp Deidesheimer(1832-1916), a young German Jewish mining engineer working in the California gold mines, to solve the problem of the large, deep and unstable underground diggings. He invented a system of "cubes" (similar to a honeycomb structure) using heavy timbers or square set timbering, that enabled skilled miners to open three-dimensional underground cavities of any size. Deidesheimer never secured a patent on his significant and world acclaimed, widely used mining innovation. He was employed as a mine superintendent and invested in mines in Virginia City and California with varied success.

Although square set timbering allowed miners to go deeper underground, they encountered another problem - water.
Close-Up of Marker Text image. Click for full size.
By Jerry Klinger, May 15, 2010
2. Close-Up of Marker Text
Water, mostly at scalding temperatures and not potable, seeped from underground sources and flooded the shafts. Huge steam driven pumps (Cornish pumps) and short-term drainage tunnels were used to rid the mines of the water, but these were only temporary solutions. Adolph Sutro (1830-1898) proposed a massive drainage tunnel that could also be used to transport ore and miners. He created the Sutro Tunnel Company in 1865 with a legislative charter and secured financing for a 3.88 mile long adit from the Carson River valley to the Comstock. In 1869, Sutro swing the first pick for construction of the tunnel, a town, and a mill at the opening of the adit. Tunnel construction was stalled politically for several years but finally completed in 1878 to drain at the 1,640 foot level. Although collapsed, the Sutro Tunnel still drains some water from the mines.

Meanwhile above ground, the growing population was struggling to find safe drinking water. In 1871, the Virginia and Gold Hill Water Company devised plans to bring water from the Sierra Nevada range, thirty miles to the west with elevation differences of 2,000 feet at both ends. The Water Company's directors hired Herman Schussler (1842-1919), a civil engineer who had completed a smaller but similar system in California. Schussler designed an engineering feat of flumes, tunnels,tanks, and reservoirs in the Sierra to feed
Close-Up of Marker Text image. Click for full size.
By Jerry Klinger, May 15, 2010
3. Close-Up of Marker Text
a pipeline that dropped into the Washoe Valley and rose back to the Virginia Range above the Comstock. The system required the development of an inverted siphon to carry the water uphill without pumps and a heavy gauge pipe to withstand the pressure. The system completed in 1873 still supplies water to the the Comstock.
Erected 2010 by Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Fourth Ward School Foundation, The Comstock Historic District Commission, Ron James Storey Count.
Location. 39° 18.186′ N, 119° 39.117′ W. Marker is in Virginia City, Nevada, in Storey County. Marker is on 537 South "C" Street, on the right when traveling north. Click for map. Marker is located at the parking lot next to Fourth Ward School. Marker is in this post office area: Virginia City NV 89440, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Chollar – Potosi Mining Co. (here, next to this marker); Fourth Ward School (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named The Fourth Ward School (within shouting distance of this marker); Mackay Mansion (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker
Entrance to the Sutro Tunnel image. Click for full size.
Wikipedia, circa 1880s
4. Entrance to the Sutro Tunnel
also named Mackay Mansion (about 300 feet away); Gould & Curry Offices (about 300 feet away); C. J. Prescott House (about 300 feet away); Combination Shaft (about 400 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Virginia City.
Also see . . .
1. Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation. The official website of the organization responsible for the placing and dedication of the marker. (Submitted on February 24, 2011, by Jerry Klinger of Derwood, Maryland.) 

2. The Sutro Tunnel. From The History of Nevada published in 1912. Chapter XV. (Submitted on February 25, 2011.) 
Additional keywords. Jewish American History Mining Engineering
Categories. Industry & Commerce
Entrance to the Sutro Tunnel image. Click for full size.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
5. Entrance to the Sutro Tunnel
Historic American Buildings Survey
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Jerry Klinger of Derwood, Maryland. This page has been viewed 848 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Jerry Klinger of Derwood, Maryland.   4, 5. submitted on . • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Wide area view of the marker and its surroundings. • Can you help?
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