By Patty Cafferata
On Oct. 31, 1864, Nevada joined the Union, and the 36th star was added to the American flag to represent the new state. As part of Nevada’s 150-year celebration of statehood, the Nevada Museum of Art has assembled a major show with the clever title of “The 36th Star: Nevada’s Journey from Territory to State.” The show includes exhibits borrowed from the National Archives, the Nevada State Library and Archives, State Museum and State Parks.
This historic showcase of Nevada’s beginning history is underwritten by the E. L. Wiegand Foundation.
Some of the earliest documents on display include Territorial Gov.
James Nye’s letter describing the promise of Nevada. Among other attributes, Nye stated that cities were springing up like “gourds in the night,” a reference to gourds that bloom only at night. He mentioned the state’s valuable assets of mining, agriculture and lack of debt. President Abraham Lincoln needed a copy of the state’s constitution before he could proclaim Nevada was a state. Fittingly, four of the 44 pages of the original state constitution are on exhibit. Two copies of the complete document were sent to Washington, but neither copy arrived in time for the presidential election to be held on Nov. 8, 1864. Lincoln believed he needed the votes from a new state to be reelected. Since neither copy arrived, the state telegraphed the document to Lincoln. The thick 175-page telegram is displayed in its own showcase, and Nevada’s records for transmitting the telegraph also are in the case. Once the telegram was received, Lincoln signed the Proclamation of Statehood on Oct. 31, 1864, and this document is in the exhibit. While a replica of the Emancipation Proclamation that abolished slavery, signed by Lincoln, is in the exhibit, the original five-page document will be at the museum from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 and on display for a limited number of hours over the four-day period. Related to the proclamation is Gov. Henry Blasdel’s letter dated Feb. 16, 1865, to Lincoln, notifying him that Nevada had ratified the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. The show includes photographs from one of the three most famous Civil War photographers. Two sets of certain Timothy O’Sullivan’s photos are on display. In the first group are pictures of the Civil War, and the second group contains some of the earliest photographs of Nevada between 1867 and 1872.
Various artifacts in the show include three 36-star flags; a map of the boundary between California and the Nevada territory in 1863; a photo and sword of the Commander of Fort Churchill Joseph Stewart; the Muster Rolls of the 1,200 men who volunteered during the Civil War and served in Nevada; a navy blue soldier’s coat of a Nevada volunteer; and Blasdel’s photograph, engraved cane and pocket watch. In a place of honor in the show and on loan from the Nevada Historical Society is the Gridley flour sack auctioned off to raise more than $275,000 for the wounded Civil War soldiers.
© Reno Gazette-Journal, Sept. 23, 2014