Carson City’s oldest business turns 137 this week
It’s hard to say when the idea for the Carson Daily Appeal first took shape. What we do know is the first edition hit the streets 137 years ago this week.
On May 16, 1865, four pages of hand-set type, or about 24 typewritten pages, hit the streets of Carson City.
The city’s population was about 1,200 or about half as many students as now roam the halls of Carson High School each day.
The reach of Carson City spanned just blocks from where the Capitol is now. Though the Capitol would not be built for another five years, the 10-acre plaza had been set aside by Abraham Curry for the seat of government.
People like city founders John Jacob Musser, Benjamin Franklin Green and Francis Marion Proctor, Curry, the Olcovich brothers and Carson Brewery Co. owner Jacob Klein likely read the sheet.
Throughout the past 137 years the Carson Daily Appeal has undergone a myriad, and I do mean, thousands, of changes. We proudly claim the titles of longest continually running newspaper in the state and the longest continually operating business in Carson City.
We’ve grown in size, we now publish seven days a week, color photographs appear on our pages and our name has changed at least six times.
The four pages of the inaugural edition sustained the operation for decades. Today a Sunday edition spans some 48 pages.
The operation that likely began with a handful of gentlemen now has about 130 in its employ, more than half of whom are women.
Though the sheet likely began as an all-male enterprise, it wasn’t long before a woman led the way.
The Daily Appeal was started by E.F. McElwain, J. Barrett and Marshall Robinson and edited by Henry Rust Mighels.
Mighels and Robinson bought the paper in November 1865 and ran it until December 1870, when it was sold and became the Daily State Register.
In September 1872, Mighels began the New Daily Appeal with help from John P. Jones, then a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Robinson and Mighels joined forces after the November election and “bought and killed” the State Register a month later.
Mighels dropped the “New” from the name in 1873. In May 1877, the Daily Appeal became the Morning Appeal, switching back to the Daily Appeal in May 1906 — a name it retained until 1947, when it changed to the Nevada Appeal.
Mighels became sole owner of the paper Jan. 1, 1878. He died in 1879 of stomach cancer, passing the business to his wife, Nellie Verill Mighels.
In his book “Nevada Newspaper Days,” Jake Highton, University of Nevada, Reno journalism professor, wrote Mighels “had absorbed newspapering by osmosis, and by taking lessons in the craft from her husband. She had become a journalist in her own right, covering sessions of the Legislature in 1877 and 1879 for the Carson Appeal.”
Nellie Mighels ran the Appeal until she married Appeal editor Sam Davis on July 4, 1880.
Comstock historian Chic Di Francia, a printer by trade, said in a recent story “Nellie must have been one hell of a woman, for when she wasn’t taking care of the house, the children or Sam, she could often be found standing at the compositors’ case sticking type for the Appeal.”
Probably my favorite story of Nellie is her account of the famed Corbett-Fitzsimmons boxing match March 17, 1897. Her coverage of the fight was likely to create quite a stir. Such a stir, in fact, that the local newswoman used an alias.
“I signed a fictitious name to the article, as I was afraid some of my friends in the East would be disgraced by (my) being present at the fight.
“I was ashamed for years that I had seen that terrible display. Only Fitzsimmons’s wife and two girls from the red light district and myself represented the feminine element in the audience…
“My heart jumped out of my mouth as the fight started. In the fourth round Corbett gave Fitzsimmons a bloody nose, and in the encounter, Fitzsimmons rubbed the blood down Corbett’s back and then turned and grinned at the audience.
“In the sixth and seventh rounds it looked as if Corbett would win. Then Fitzsimmons began dealing out the heavy blows. We were all standing on chairs, and the fighters were near the ropes beside us. In the fourteenth round Fitzsimmons struck Corbett and he slid down gently to the floor ….”
Can you imagine the scandal if Nellie had requested a locker room pass?
Through all the name and ownership changes the paper existed in a stone building at the corner of Carson and Second streets — a place it would call home until Oct. 19, 1948 when it would move to a new “modern building” at 110 W. Telegraph St.
From there it would find a home July 9, 1951, in the Carson Brewery Co. building, where it stayed until its move Nov. 18, 1974, to 200 Bath St. On March 8, 2002, the historic Carson operation found its new home at 580 Mallory Way — a place that when the paper first came to light in 1865 was nothing more than a field of sage.
Kelli Du Fresne is the Nevada Appeal’s features editor.