Politics and Government

Nevada State Government: An Overview

On March 2, 1861, United States President James Buchanan signed into law a bill passed earlier by Congress to establish the Territory of Nevada from a portion of the Utah Territory. Carson City was selected to be the seat of government of the new territory and has served as Nevada's state capital ever since.

Nevada was rushed into statehood earlier than other states because of issues involving the Civil War and the commitment of President Abraham Lincoln to preserve the union. On October 31, 1864, Lincoln signed the act to make Nevada the thirty-sixth state.

Nevada State Capitol Building

Construction on the Nevada State Capitol in Carson City began on April 21, 1870. Joseph Gosling, formerly a carpenter working in Virginia City, submitted the plans from his new home in San Francisco. Irish-born Peter Cavanaugh served as general contractor, supervising the work of prisoners who quarried the sandstone and Scottish masons who worked on site. The building cost was nearly double the original bid of $84,000. Furnishings added $20,000.

National Mining Act of 1872

The 1872 National Mining Act emerged from decades of debate about mining and public lands. The British Crown, followed by American state and federal governments, experimented with the management of mineral resources. Their approaches ranged from reserving mineral wealth for the government to the leasing or sale of land.

National Influence of Nevada

Nevada has almost always ranked near the bottom in state population, yet its leaders in Washington often have been among the nation's most powerful.

That might seem contradictory. But the key reason has been the United States Senate. Like most legislative bodies, it long has operated on the seniority system: the longer a senator serves, the likelier he or she will chair a committee, especially a powerful one like Appropriations, which doles out federal funds, or Judiciary, which considers some of the president's most important appointments.

Morley Griswold

Morley Griswold was born in Elko on October 10, 1890. He earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Michigan and served in World War I. A leading attorney for corporations operating in Nevada, he formed a noted law firm that evolved into the Las Vegas firm of Jones Vargas. When Griswold entered politics, his business contacts became an issue and he faced conflict of interest allegations, particularly when he had clients tied to the collapse of George Wingfield's banks in 1934.

Miners' Unions: A Comstock Case Study

Conflict between western hardrock miners and management has its roots in the Comstock. In May 1863, Comstock miners initiated efforts to form an association. The following year, the Storey County Miners' League became the first sustained attempt at unionization of miners in the American West. Organized during a local depression, the League called for a $4 minimum daily wage for underground work and demanded "closed shops," insisting companies hire only union members.

Mineral County Courthouse

Hawthorne has the only courthouse in Nevada to serve two counties. The state legislature created Mineral County in 1911, and designated Hawthorne as its county seat, but the courthouse first served as Esmeralda County's seat of government until 1907, after which the county moved its offices to Goldfield.

Milton Badt

Milton Benjamin Badt (1884-1966) considered himself a Nevadan although he was born in San Francisco and received most of his formal education in California. He established a law practice in Elko and became District Judge before his appointment to the Nevada Supreme Court in 1947. Paul Leonard, editor of the Elko Daily Free Press and the Nevada State Journal, characterized Badt "as brilliant a man as there'd ever been in the state of Nevada."

Maude Frazier

Maude Frazier, educator and legislator, worked to improve the state's education system, from the frontline as a teacher and from the state capitol as a lawmaker. She developed the Las Vegas school district during the 1930s and 1940s, brought higher education to Southern Nevada, and improved all of the state's school districts through her legislative work.

Lyon County Courthouse

Created in 1861, Lyon County established its first seat of government in the mining town of Dayton. The economic success of nearby Virginia City prompted officials to invest early in public architecture. Dayton's courthouse was one of the first built in the state.

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