Welcome to Western Mining History

Mining Regions of the Western United States

The image above illustrates the incredible scale of the mining regions of the western United States. Yellow dots are gold mines, black dots are non-gold mines. Map icons show the distribution of historic mining towns. An interactive version of this map is available here.

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WMH Premium Image Collection

Detailed View of Main Street - Deadwood, Dakota Territory 1877

The WMH Premium Image Collection showcases the best photos of western mining scenes. The photos in this collection are available as high-resolution digital copies for purchase

Death Valley’s Harmony Borax Works

Death Valley's Harmony Borax Works operated during the 1880s. The borax operations of Death Valley made the "20 Mule Teams", the wagon trains that hauled the finished borax across the desert, famous in American culture.  Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Jerome, Arizona

Featured Mining Town: Jerome, Arizona

Jerome, Arizona was a major copper mining city located on an improbably steep location on the side of a mountain. This billion-dollar camp was once the fourth largest city in Arizona. Today, Jerome is a popular tourist destination.  Continue Reading

The Western Miner: A Photo Collection

While many romantic tales have been told of the prospectors that discovered the quartz leads that would become great mines, and of the mine owners and entrepreneurs that built empires of industry in what was a vast wilderness, it was the miner that ultimately did the difficult and dangerous work that extracted the great wealth of the West.  Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Telluride, Colorado

Featured Mining Town: Telluride, Colorado

Telluride was the hub of one of Colorado's premier mining regions. This historic mining town is located in a magnificent box canyon and today has become a popular resort area.  Continue Reading

A Fortune in Gold: Ingots of the S.S. Central America

A vast fortune in gold ingots were lost to the sea in 1857 with the sinking of the S.S. Central America. Much of the gold has now been salvaged from the wreck, and in addition to the value of the bullion, the ingots serve as an important historical record of the private assayers that operated in California during the 1850s. "A Fortune in Gold: Ingots of the S.S. Central America" examines some of the stunning gold ingots that have sold at auction in recent years.  Continue Reading

Lost Mines of Arizona

From The Mineralogical Record, Volume 14, No. 5, September-October, 1983: "The mountains and plains of Arizona are vast, complex, well mineralized and largely uninhabited even today. No one would dare to suggest that Arizona has given up all its secrets, and that no deposits or mineral occurrences remain to be found..."  Continue Reading

Wyatt Earp: A Mining Town Odyssey

Wyatt Earp spent most of his adult life moving between numerous gold rushes and mining excitements. In 1905 a newspaper described his wanderlust: "wherever was a new gold camp, a new oil field, a new place in which money was plentiful, there could be found Wyatt Earp, quiet, careful, but deadly in his own defense."   Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Candelaria, Nevada

Featured Mining Town: Candelaria, Nevada

Candelaria, Nevada was the site of rich silver mines, but water was so difficult to obtain here that in the earliest days a bath cost two dollars, and liquor sellers found it unprofitable to "water their stock."  Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Volcano, California

Featured Mining Town: Volcano, California

Established in 1849 in an area rich with placer gold, the business section of Volcano included seventeen hotels, eleven shops, three bakeries, a couple of saloons, a theater, and even a community library. Tens of millions of dollars in gold were eventually mined here.  Continue Reading

Native Gold From the Jamestown Mine

From The Mineralogical Record, volume 25, January-February, 1994: "On December 26, 1992, owners of the Jamestown mine in Tuolumne County, California, received an unexpected Christmas present. Excavation in the company's Crystalline pit revealed a 'pocket' of crystalline leaf gold. Approximately 1,568 ounces of specimen gold were collected in all. The largest piece, weighing in at 25.79 kg (69 troy pounds), ranks as one of the largest specimens of gold ever found in California, or the nation."  Continue Reading