Saturday, June 1, 2019

Is Mining A Game Of Chance Akin To Betting On Stock?

Although this isn't The Comstock Club,
the structure is what the club's members
would have seen on C street in Virginia City.
Photo courtesy of the University of Nevada,
Reno. C Street is Virginia City's main street.
In today's post, The Comstock Club's gentlemen are considering whether or not to view mining as an honest industry or one filled with the skullduggery that surrounded them, which included stocks and an overabundance of lawyers and lawsuits.

"{Chance} is the corner-stone on which every fortune on the coast has been builded," Mr. Miller noted. "I mean every fortune in mining."

"That is so," Carlin agreed. "Mining is simply a grand lottery and is about as much of a game of chance as poker or faro."

"Oh, no, Carlin," Strong interjected. "You have picked up the idea that is popular, but there is nothing to it. I am not referring to mining on paper, that mining which is done on Pine and California streets {stocks}. That is not only gambling, but it is, nine times out of ten, pure stealing.

"But what I mean is where a man, or a few men, from the unsightly rock, by honest labor, wrest something, which all men, barbarous and civilized alike, hold as precious; something which was not before, but which when found, the whole world accepts as a measure of values, and the production of which makes an addition to the world's accumulated wealth, and not only injures none, but quickens the arteries of trade everywhere; that is not gambling.

"Of course there are mistakes, of course worlds of unnecessary work have been performed, of course hopes have been blasted and hearts broken through the business, but in this world men have to pay for their educations," Mr. Carlin continued. "Twenty years ago there was not a man in America who could work Comstock ores up to seventy-five per cent. of their money value; only a scholarly few knew anything about the formations in which ore veins are liable to be found; processes to work ores and economical methods to open and work mines had to be invented; so far as the West was concerned the business of mining and reducing ores had to be created. The results do not justify any man in calling mining a lottery."

Mr. Carlin further emphasized his view of the mining industry, saying:

"In my judgment, it is the most legitimate business in the world; the only one in which there can be no overproduction, and the one which, above all others, advances every other industry of the country.

"When the steam engine was first invented steam boilers blew up every day. This was no argument against the engine, but was a notice to men to build better boilers. For the same reason the sixty-pound steel rail has been substituted for the old wooden rail with an iron strap on top on railways, and the sixteen ton Pullman car for the old rattle trap that the slightest collision would smash. The Westinghouse air brake and the Miller platform are part of the same education. "By and by men will learn to know the rocks, and when their marks and signs are reduced to a perfect alphabet the crude work of mining as carried on now will take on the dignity of a science, and mining will become what it deserves to be, the most honored of industries."

(Editor's note: Excerpts from "The Comstock Club" are presented in original format, unless otherwise noted by ellipses (...) or brackets ({}).)

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