Banner added to Nevada Museum

It's the small details and unique pieces of history that make museums interesting.

Recently, the Nevada State Museum hung a piece that, while not vastly eye-catching, alludes to the rich history of this area.

An addition to the museum's section on early statehood, the white silk banner with gold-leaf lettering hangs in an area with low light.

The banner was once a symbol of the powerful Gold Hill Miner's Union, established Dec. 8, 1866. It is probably associated with the Yellow Jacket mine because the back of the banner is blue with yellow jackets on it, Nevada Curator of History Bob Nylen said.

Little is known of the banner's history, he said. It was donated to the museum in the 1950s and probably hung in the union hall at Gold Hill from the late 1860s at least through the 1920s, he said. With that amount of exposure, it's a wonder that it is in near-mint condition.

The 1860s brought miners from around the world to the Comstock. Miners first in Gold Hill and then in Virginia City were the first communities in the West to form miners' unions. The unions became models for other western unions, Nylen said.

The unions, led by the Gold Hill Miners Union, helped set a minimum wage for miners of $4 a day, a high wage at the time, wrote historian Russell Elliott.

"Mining played an important role in Nevada's development," Nylen said. "Here you have something we've protected all this time, a piece of history in such excellent condition. This piece relates to a miners' union that had an influence on history.

"Obviously, it was an important part of what the miners were. The image of one item shows their solidarity. It really brings (the era) to life. I can imagine the miners' union hall with this hanging in it or being used in a parade. It withstood a lot of time, and it's our job to protect it."


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