On this day in 1864, anxious to have support of the Republican-dominated Nevada Territory for President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection, the U.S. Congress quickly admits Nevada as the 36th state in the Union.
In 1864, Nevada had only 40,000 inhabitants, considerably short of the 60,000 normally required for statehood. But the 1859 discovery of the incredibly large and rich silver deposits at Virginia City had rapidly made the region one of the most important and wealthy in the West. The inexpert miners who initially developed the placer gold deposits at Virginia City had complained for some time about the blue-gray gunk that kept clogging up their gold sluices. Eventually several of the more experienced miners realized that the gunk the gold miners had been tossing aside was actually rich silver ore, and soon after, they discovered the massive underground silver deposit called the Comstock Lode. Unlike the easily developed placer deposits that had inspired the initial gold rushes to California and Nevada, the Comstock Lode ore demanded a wide array of expensive new technologies for profitable development. For the first time, western mining began to attract investments from large eastern capitalists, and these powerful men began to push for Nevada statehood.
The decisive factor in easing the path to Nevada’s statehood was President Lincoln’s proposed 13th Amendment banning slavery. Throughout his administration Lincoln had appointed territorial officials in Nevada who were strong Republicans, and he knew he could count on the congressmen and citizens of a new state of Nevada to support him in the coming presidential election and to vote for his proposed amendment. Since time was so short, the Nevada constitutional delegation sent the longest telegram on record up to that time to Washington, D.C., containing the entire text of the proposed state constitution and costing the then astronomical sum of $3,416.77.
Their speedy actions paid off with quick congressional approval of statehood and the new state of Nevada did indeed provide strong support for Lincoln. On January 31, 1865, Congress approved the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning slavery.