City: Secrets of a Western Past (Historical Archaeology of the American West)

Virginia City: Secrets of a Western Past (Historical Archaeology of the American West)


Spent cartridges. The pieces of an original Tabasco Pepper Sauce bottle. Shards of a ceramic pot, stained red. For archaeologists each of the thousands of artifacts uncovered at a site tells a story. For noted Comstock authority Ronald M. James, it is a story resulting from decades of research and excavation at one of the largest National Historic Landmarks in America, the Nevada town that, with the discovery of the Comstock Lode, became a boomtown microcosm of the American West.Drawing on th… more about book…

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Thanks for /u/Searocksandtress for summoning me. The link (edit: along with the link provided by /u/theislander1066) provided offers some answers; if you have additional questions, please let me know.

Your question about never asking “for a price and there never is a pricelist” brings to mind a story told by William Wright (aka Dan DeQuille) in his “The Big Bonanza” (1876). Wright (a close friend of Mark Twain) describes a patron who walked into a bar for a whiskey, drank it, and then put down a “short bit” – that is, a dime. The bartender said something along the line of “Hey mister, this is a two-bit saloon. What are you thinking paying me a single-bit for that whiskey.”

The man replied, “Well it was my understanding that this was a two-bit establishment, but after drinking your awful whiskey, I concluded I was wrong and so I only paid one bit.” In short, the expected price to be paid was well known in a community and made clear by the appearance of the saloon.

edit: a lot of the questions in this thread are discussed in the following two sources: See Kelly Dixon’s book, Boomtown Saloons and my book, Virginia City. I was the historian and administrator of the granting agency for four saloon excavations from 1993 to 2000 (Kelly Dixon excavated two of the saloons). Insights provided throughout the thread draw on that experience and encapsulated in these two sources.


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Ronald M. James

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Bison Books

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Virginia City: Secrets of a Western Past (Historical Archaeology of the American West)

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