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The History of the Washoe Club

Within a month members of the Club entered into a contract with prominent Virginia City landscape artist, C.B. McClellan, to render a series to paintings with which to decorate the Club’s new quarters. A spokesmen for the Club noted, “It has been unanimously determined to have the well-known artist C.B. McClellan take some views of Virginia and the scenery east and south. The selection is an excellent one. In fact, besides the scenery and the city, there are so many peculiarities along the Comstock which are fast changing and disappearing and which are to be found nowhere else in the world, that as works of art and representatives of nature, the pictures will be worth a place in the archives of the nation.”

The contract with McClellan was published in the Territorial Enterprise on Oct. 1, 1876:

THE CONTRACT

With the artist calls for four pictures, each to be thirty-six by fifty-six inches in the clear. They are to represent Virginia City from end to end, and are to be so faithfully executed that every place can be pointed out and recognized. This panoramic view of Virginia is to constitute the foreground of the pictures – the scenery in the distance the background. The characteristics of the place, the heavy wood and quartz teams, the miners with their buckets, and even the Chinamen with their pack-mules loaded with wood, are all left to be filled in truthfully, according to the taste and skill of the artist.

The paintings were executed and a complete descriptions of them , as gleaned from art critics of the day, may be read in The Works of C.B. McClellan, compiled by Dave Basso and published in 1987 by Falcon Hill Press, Sparks, Nevada.

By the time the Washoe Club was back to its renewed glory, the production of the miners had fallen drastically. Bonanza dividends for the first three months of 1876 averaged $10 per share and then skidded to $2 per share by year’s end. By the end of the decade, dividends on the Comstock were down to 50 cents per share. A disastrous underground fire, in 1881, wreaked further havoc on the production of mines and on the ability of the Washoe Club members to continue to indulge in luxury. Membership continued to drop off and monthly dues were reduced to $2.50! By 1897, the Washoe Club ceased to exist and the Territorial Enterprise, of September 9, 1897, said, “The Washoe Club is no more.”

“The closing of the Washoe Club marks an era in the history of Nevada, as did its opening,” the paper concluded.