Before Nevada Magazine there was THE Nevada Magazine
A few months ago while searching for information on Nevada journalism in “The Journals Of Alfred Doten,” something caught my eye that I thought might be a typo. On page 2,225 in Volume Three of the Journals begins an in-depth article entitled: “Early Journalism of Nevada.” Right after the title there is a sentence that reads: “Reprinted from Doten’s articles in The Nevada Magazine for September, October and November of 1899.” I knew Nevada Magazine had been around awhile, but more than 100 years? No way!
I was half right for there are two Nevada Magazines. The one that came to life in August 1899 was called The Nevada Magazine and lasted only six months. Its format was history and contemporary stories along with a sprinkling of poetry. It published its last issue in January 1900. Thirty-six years passed before the birth of the magazine we know today as Nevada Magazine. Its first issue was in January 1936. Today’s Nevada Magazine is published by the state of Nevada along with the Nevada Commission on Tourism and has a readership of more than 400,000. If The Nevada Magazine had had a fraction of the circulation of today’s Nevada Magazine, who knows, it might still be around.
The Nevada Magazine was the brainchild of Clarence Dunn Van Duzer, a Nevada politician and part-time publisher living in Winnemucca. In June 1899 he sent a letter to Doten in Carson City, asking if he would write a historical piece on the early journalism of Nevada for the new magazine. Doten had had a remarkable career in journalism and had worked and socialized with some of the biggest names that ever came out of the Silver State. Twain, De Quille, Goodman, McCarthy, Daggett and Drury were but a few. He had been the owner and publisher of the Gold Hill Daily News for seven years in the 1870s, but lost it because of bad investments and a taste for alcohol. After losing the Gold Hill Daily News Doten went to Austin for a couple of years, but returned to Northern Nevada in 1884. Ever the vagabond, Doten spent his last years in Carson City.
When Doten received that letter from Van Duzer that June day in 1899 he was a month shy of his 70th birthday. He had been scratching out a living by free-lance writing and receiving small amounts of money through the generosity of family and friends. The letter was like a new lease on life for him for he fully intended to become a major contributor to the new magazine. Doten had two of his stories published in the September issue. One was “Carson, the Capitol City of Nevada” and the other was the first part of his “Early Journalism Of Nevada.” The journalism story was a detailed history about Nevada’s early newspapers, publishers and editors. Parts two and three ran in the October and November issues of the magazine. By November Doten’s name also began appearing on the cover as a subscription agent for the magazine in Ormsby and Storey counties.
Besides Doten, other prominent writers were contributing stories, like Rollin Daggett and Sam Davis. Davis was certainly no stranger to journalism, having spent two decades at the helm of the Nevada Appeal. The Nevada Magazine was informative and well written and at 15 cents a copy it looked like it had a bright future. But the new babe in the world of journalism was about to become a fatality at the age of six months.
The first sign of trouble was when the February 1900 issue failed to be published. On March 10 Doten received a letter from Van Duzer, asking for help in getting the magazine published. On the March 12, Doten went to see Horace Dunn, who was part owner of the Carson City News. Dunn quoted him a price of $114 for an 800-copypress run of the magazine of 60 pages. Doten forwarded the information to Van Duzer.
On March 25 Doten received a reply from Van Duzer stating he was going to start a plant in Lovelock and publish a weekly newspaper in conjunction with The Nevada Magazine. It never happened. By now it was becoming painfully obvious the magazine was not a financial success even though the yearly subscription rate jumped from $1.25 to $1.50 beginning with the October issue.
The final blow came on April 19, 1900, when Doten received a letter from Van Duzer, saying he was not able to continue with the magazine. Doten also notes that subscription money was to be returned to the subscribers if they asked for it. How much money was returned is not known.
On July 10, 1900, Doten wrote Van Duzer a two-page letter, part of which was a financial statement claiming Van Duzer still owed him $12.30 for work he had submitted to the magazine. In September Doten fired off another letter to Van Duzer asking to return a manuscript he had sent the magazine.
Whether any of this was resolved is not mentioned by Doten, even though he saw Van Duzer several times afterward. Van Duzer went on to publish the Nevada Miner in Golconda in 1902. He later moved to Reno and in March 1903 changed the name of the Nevada Miner to the Mining and Industrial Review. It did little good as the publication went belly-up shortly afterward. After a short career as a Nevada politician he moved to New Jersey and again was involved with a newspaper career. He died in Passaic, N. J., on Sept. 28, 1947, at age 81.
In ill health and nearly destitute, Doten kept writing until the end of his life. The small amount of money he received came in dribs and drabs and he was always behind in his rent and other bills. He penned the last entry in his journal on November 11, 1903, and died the following day at the Alta House in Carson City. He was 74.
The Nevada Magazine story is only one of many interesting stories found in the “Journals Of Alfred Doten.” The three-volume set covers not only 54 years in the life of Doten, but also captures the social and economic climate of the time as Doten had seen it, from borrasca to bonanza and back to borrasca. The journals contain a considerable amount of history that wouldn’t have been recorded had Doten not wrote it, and for that we should be grateful.