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Historical calendars: Big jobs, but big sellers

John Seelmeyer

Gary Smyres used to joke that he would oversee publication of Nevada Historic Mining Calendars for 28 years the length of time it takes for a calendar to complete one cycle and begin repeating itself.

He’s made it 25 years, digging through troves of historic photos and working with the authors who’ve researched the early days of mining in Nevada.

The calendar that Smyres produces for the Northern Nevada Society for Mining Metallurgy and Exploration and the W.M. Keck Museum at the Mackay School of Mines is an annual hit with about 100 mining-related companies that order copies, imprint them with their own names and logos and distribute them to clients and friends.

An even bigger calendar production rolls off the presses at Nevada Magazine, a division of the Nevada Commission on Tourism.

About 18,000 copies of that calendar, now well into its fourth decade, will find themselves onto walls of office, kitchens and shops throughout the world.

“I’ve never seen anything as popular as this,” says Janet Geary, publisher of Nevada Magazine, as she takes a break from answering 17 voicemail messages about the calendar that accumulated during a two-day mini-vacation. “I don’t think any other state puts as much emphasis on history as we do.”

The historic mining calendars, Smyres says, often focus on an individual mining town the Mineral County ghost town of Aurora in 2010, Searchlight in 2011 and often rely on the research of published authors.

Sen. Harry Reid, by far the most famous resident of Searchlight, provided much of the historical background for the 2011 edition that features photos of his hometown.

Photos, Smyres says, come from special collections at the University of Nevada, Reno, the Nevada Historical Society and private collections.

“It’s a lot of work,” says Smyres, who’s been involved with the project since it was launched with a 1986 edition.

Geary, meanwhile, says the Nevada Magazine calendar represents a managerial juggling act as the publication seeks to represent all areas of the state and often cuts across decades of Nevada’s history.

The cover for the 2011 features the Northern Nevada Railway near Elko, but Geary says there’s no shortage of candidates every year.

“We’ve got photos lined up for eons,” she says.

And the photos often end up behind frames once they’ve done their duty in the calendar. In fact, Geary says at least one fan has lined the walls of his garage with historical photos saved from the calendar.

Proceeds from the sale of the mining history magazine support scholarships and scholastic functions at UNR’s Mackay School of Mines.

Nevada Magazine, meanwhile, relies on the calendar proceeds as one of the elements that keep it self-supporting.

“We make good money off them,” says Geary, estimating annual profits have run about $40,000 in recent years.