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

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

Gold Nuggets at Auction: Stunning Specimens 10k and Above

Historically, very few large nuggets were saved for their value as collectibles. In modern times, large gold nuggets are exceedingly rare and are highly valued. The following examples are gold nuggets that have been sold at Heritage Auctions and have sales prices over $10,000.  Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Bodie, California

Featured Mining Town: Bodie, California

Bodie, California is famous as being the site of the largest and best preserved ghost town in the West. This popular tourist destination was not always a thriving mining camp. Settled in 1861, it took over 15 years for the town to become prosperous after valuable new ore discoveries in 1877  Continue Reading

The Leadville Ice Palace

In the 1890s, Leadville, Colorado was experiencing an economic depression. To boost the local economy, and the mood of the citizenry, in 1895 a plan was conceived to have a winter carnival, with the main attraction being a grand palace constructed almost entirely of ice.  Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Belmont, Nevada

Featured Mining Town: Belmont, Nevada

Belmont was established after silver discoveries in 1865 in what was known as the Silver Bend or Philadelphia district. News of high-grade surface ores with values up to $3,000 a ton started a rush to Belmont in 1866, drawing many miners away from Austin and other early Nevada mining camps.   Continue Reading