Archivists list treasure

CARSON CITY — They come in all shapes and sizes. They can be photos or handwritten records, promotional boxing posters or letters.

They can be important historical artifacts or bits of arcane memorabilia.

They are Nevada’s archival treasures, and they can be found in many places around the state, from the Walker African American Museum or the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas to the Lincoln County Historical Museum in Pioche.

People with an interest in the past, those doing genealogical research or government employees checking the historical record for an important bit of information all seek out the state’s archived documents and materials, many of which are managed and preserved by the Nevada State Library and Archives in the capital.

"Archives are the historical records that document our lives and serve as an accurate window to the history of our state, communities and families," state Archives Manager Jeff Kintop said.

In an effort to get the public interested in these records and as part of Nevada Archives Month, the agency has prepared an online "treasure map" to help Nevadans search out archives in their area.

"We put this treasure hunt together to see if people will go out and find something and send it back to us and let us know what they found," Kintop said. "It’s kind of a hook. We show them things to get them in so they can look for something else."

The oldest document held by the state archives office is First Records of Carson Valley, Utah Territory, dating to 1851, when people decided to winter over in Genoa in Northern Nevada. The document records land holdings by the settlers, among other information.

This "Publick Record," which has been posted online at the agency’s Web site, was used to record all legal transactions between Nov. 12, 1851, and March 5, 1855.

Kintop said the residents, including Absolam Woodward, who had the mail contract between Sacramento, Calif., and Salt Lake City, decided to write to the president seeking to become an independent territory. But Woodward never made it to Salt Lake City with the request, having been killed by American Indians on his way. It would be another decade before Nevada Territory was established by President Lincoln in 1861.

In a lighter vein, the agency has numerous pieces of correspondence between Gov. Edward Carville and Hollywood’s elite, along with other notables, regarding premiere of the film "Virginia City" in 1940.

The film premiered in Reno and Virginia City despite being filmed in Arizona, and numerous letters from those invited to attend were retained by the governor’s office.

"So the governor wrote to everybody who was anybody," Kintop said. "And whether they came or not, almost all of them wrote back."

There are letters with signatures from George Burns and Gracie Allen, who was running for president in 1940, William Powell, Jack Warner and Eleanor Roosevelt, among others.

The Allen presidential campaign, on behalf of the "Surprise Party," was some sort of publicity stunt.

The state archives office is also on a treasure hunt of its own, actually more of a long-term quest, to find one document that disappeared in 1964.

Kintop displayed a "true copy" of the original transcribed telegraph transmission to the state in 1864 announcing statehood. The copy was made from the original for the statehood centennial, which had been transcribed by some anonymous telegraph operator.

Copies were handed out for the 1964 event, but the original went missing.

"We had it, and it was in the Capitol building," he said. "The story goes that it was discovered by state Controller Keith Lee in 1964."

Lee’s personal political papers as controller were later donated to the Nevada Historical Society, but the original transcription was not found.

Kintop said that the document might turn up someday.

"It could just be misfiled," he said. "That happens a lot."

The original proclamation, with Lincoln’s signature, is in the National Archives, he said. The state office does not have a document with Lincoln’s signature, Kintop said.

If anyone questions the value of supporting an agency devoted to the preservation of Nevada’s historical documents, one event from 15 years ago should satisfy the skeptics.

In the early 1990s, Allen Wilson of Monticello in Elko County acquired a bond issued by the state of Nevada in 1865 with a 24 percent annual interest rate that he believed had never been redeemed.

Wilson sought to redeem it, which Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who was deputy treasurer at the time, said would have meant "turning the keys of the state" to a private citizen. At 24 percent interest, Krolicki said the bond theoretically would have been worth trillions of dollars, more than the assessed value of the state itself.

Thanks to research by officials with the state archives, it was shown that the bond had been redeemed shortly after being issued, he said.

The state Supreme Court ultimately ruled in the matter, finding in 1994 that the bond was now worthless.

"State archives was instrumental in that excellent adventure," Krolicki said. "The records of this state are important."

State Archivist Guy Rocha said the office found the "smoking gun" to show the bond was paid off.

"We saved the state a whole lot of money, and if we’re saving the state money, we’re saving the taxpayers money," he said.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at or (775) 687-3900.

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