Making a big deal out of Nevada Day
October 22, 2002
Monday I went on a search of the old newspapers to find something about Nevada Day I didn’t already know.
What I found surprised me. The newspapers of the day on the first anniversary of our statehood marked the occasion not at all.
There is the litany of election fodder, party tickets, lists of voters and official notices of election, but I found no mention, not one congratulations.
I find it remarkable that in 1865 and 1866 I can find no celebration of statehood of any sort.
I can find births, marriages and deaths in the Territorial Enterprise, the mining reports and a notice that Mark Twain was to appear Oct. 31, 1866, at Maguire’s Opera House to give his famed lecture on the Sandwich Islands.
From the Carson Daily Appeal I learned that Judge Samuel H. Wright and his wife celebrated the birth of twin boys 10 days before our state reached the ripe old age of 2. The Appeal reported Oct. 20, 1866, it had survived a second attempt at arson, and there was $12,968 in the state treasury, the paper reported on Oct. 31, 1866.
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The Oct. 28, 1871 edition of the Nevada State Journal reported that the Odd Fellows of Washoe City were hosting a ball on Nevada Day in 1872, though no mention was made in the notice that appeared in the Journal that it had anything to do with an admission celebration.
The notice said: “Politics and balls are all the rage at present. The Odd Fellows of Washoe City will give a grand ball at that place next Thursday evening. We hope they will have a very pleasant time.”
Because I’ve gone crosseyed looking at the old papers I jumped ahead to 1938, the first year of the celebration in Carson City. Carson has hosted the Admission Day festivities each year since taking time off during World War II.
The Oct. 18 edition of the Appeal included an article to help ladies of the 1930s who may have been having trouble creating their costume for Admission Day.
The article claims a gown can be made in a day and a poke bonnet in half a day, gives specific instructions on building a hoop, plaiting the waist and on the showing of shoulders, trim and wraps.
The article is available on microfilm or I can make you a copy for those who still need help in 2002.
The next day’s edition reported on the meeting of the Nevada Day Committee in which “costume chairman” Clara Crisler reported that “Five miles of wire had been sold by Meyers (Hardware) store for the making of hoop skirts and that Gregg Harris should receive a vote of thanks for welding all the wires gratis.”
Prayers for good weather were requested and a time set for the next meeting.
The event was to be marked by a parade, a ball and a pageant on the Capitol grounds.
The article announcing the event said “Prominent personages of the past will return to live for a day among the sage-clad hills of Nevada on Monday, October 31, when historic times will be depicted in Carson City during the observance of the state’s admission into the Union in 1864.”
The “Bonanza Kings,” Mackay, Fair, Flood and O’Brien, were to be joined by frontier scouts Kit Carson and John Fremont among other prominent figures in Nevada history at the pageant.
The day following the 74th birthday celebration the paper reported an estimate by W. T. Holcomb of the Highway Department that 9,830 automobiles were on the roads leading to and from Carson on Admission Day along
with an estimate that 15,475 people attended the celebration — 730 arriving as passengers on the special V&T train from Reno.
Prizes were offered for best band, best float and $5 was given for the most luxuriant beard.
Bertha Rafetto, writer of the state song “Home Means Nevada,” offered two more of her songs to mark the occasion — “V & T Song” and ” The Comstock Waltz.”
The 38 floats, women in hoops, beard-bearing men in swallow tails, a waltz and a lot of work by the committee combined to mark the 1938 Admission Day. “Nevada’s largest and best Admission Day celebration in the history of the state was held in Carson City yesterday,” according to the Carson Daily Appeal Nov. 1, 1938
As the 138th birthday of Nevada fast approaches remember to thank those behind the scenes for taking the time to remember. It appears our founding fathers were too busy stumping for the Union ticket to mark the anniversary.
Kelli Du Fresne, features editor for the Nevada Appeal, is a native Nevadan who has froze through too many Nevada Day celebrations to remember. She asks all to pray for good weather.