Photographs: ca. 1920s. 102 loose gelatin silver photos, including eighty-one larger ones (including eleven duplicates), ca. 12,5x18 cm (5x7 in), and twenty-one smaller ones (including two duplicates), ca. 7x11,5 cm (2 ¾ x 4 ½ in). Fifteen photos with ink stamps “Printed and Guaranteed by Walkers Electric Studio, Ely, Nevada,” two photos – with ink stamps “Copyrighted Dave F. Miles, Ely, Nevada” on verso. About a dozen photos with pencil or ink captions on verso. The smaller photos are housed in a later envelope, inscribed “White River Narrows” and “E. of Ely.” Several photos with remnants of old mounts on verso, minor tears or creases on extremities, a couple of photos mildly faded, but overall a very good collection of strong interesting photos.
Manuscript: ca. 1940s-1950s. Eight loose leaves, ca. 27,5x21,5 cm (10 ¾ x 8 ½ in). Blue pencil on creamy wove paper, with several corrections in text. Paper with mild creases, the first leaf with several tears on extremities, but overall a very good manuscript.
Historically significant extensive collection of original photos and a detailed manuscript account documenting early amateur archaeological research and discoveries in Nevada. The collection originates from the estate of civil engineer David Francis Miles, who lived in several cities across Nevada (Carson City, Ely, Reno) and worked for the U.S. Bureau of Roads ([Obituaries]// Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), 4 Jan. 1977, p. 9). In 1925, Miles became one of the founders of the “National Cosmographic Society” in Ely, which was dedicated to “scientific research and study” and had “an especial interest in exploring natural caves, the sites of old Indian villages and Indian pictographs” of Nevada (Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), 6 Jun. 1925, p. 6). Among the other members were Reno attorney Talmage L. Smith, pioneer Nevada miner and amateur photographer John Wood Walker (1864-1933), local ranchers John Whipple (Ely), Francis Riordan (Sunny Side), and Ely resident Fred Lee Howard. According to contemporary newspaper reports, the society was mostly active in the 1920s and explored Nevada’s Valley of Fire; an ancient city “which may have been of Chinese origin” near White Horse Springs; discovered a large cave in the Eagan Range and named it Whipple Cave after the society member; and also found ancient reservoirs near Ely (see the links to the articles below).
The larger photos show Nevada mountains, canyons and deserts, archaeological excavation sites and artifacts. There are also over thirty excellent views of petroglyphs. Several captions identify Mount Wheeler and Stella Lake (both in the Great Basin National Park) and Robinson Canyon near Ely. There are also great portraits of the survey party members - digging, resting next to their cabin and car or posing with the petroglyphs. The pencil caption on one of the photos identifies David Miles. Fifteen photos bear ink stamps of the amateur photography studio of the “Cosmographic Society’s” member John Walker, and two images have the printed copyright of David Miles.
As follows from the inscription on the envelope they are housed in, the smaller photos show the White River Narrows canyon (Lincoln Co.), now a part of the Basin and Range National Monument (created in 2015). The images include numerous views of the petroglyphs, portraits of the research party members and a picture of their car. One of the portraits identifies the person as “Cyril Miles, Cosmological Soc.” This was David Miles’ younger brother Cyril D. Miles (1905-1999), who also worked for the Nevada Department of Highways ([Obituaries]. Cyril D. Miles// Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), 18 May 1999, p. 15).
The photos are accompanied by an eight-page manuscript, most likely written by David Miles and dating from the late 1940s – early 1950s. This is a draft of a letter (with numerous corrections and additions) addressed to American archaeologist and anthropologist, Frank H.H. Roberts (1897-1966), who worked largely in the American West (Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas &c.). Roberts graduated from the University of Denver and earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He worked as an archaeologist with the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of Ethnology from 1926 until his retirement in 1964, serving as its Associate Director in 1947-1958. The letter is undated but titles Roberts as an “associate director” and therefore dates from the abovementioned period. In the letter, the author describes his latest archaeological discoveries in the canyon within the “survey area” of “a 10.25 mile location of a new highway.” Most likely, this was Nevada’s State Route 16 (modern-day SR 160), which ran around the northern slopes of Mount Potosi southwest of Las Vegas. This conclusion stems from the author’s remark: “South-West of here is what is known as the “Old Spanish” or Potosi mine, worked by the Spaniards in the early days and as legend has it by the Indians before them for silver and zink.” Most likely, he talked about the Potosi Mine located on the southwestern slope of the mountain. Among interesting finds from the nearby caves, the author lists “pictographs,” “a petrified tree,” “metates,” “manos,” “a small obsidian point,” “numerous circles of rock,” &c. Overall an extensive content-rich collection of original photos and a manuscript giving a first-hand account of early archaeological research in Nevada.
Captions on verso of the photos: “Road work – 1925, Robinson Canyon, Ely, Dave Miles” (two different views); “David Miles”; “D.M.” (several photos); “Distance about […?] miles”; “Mt. Wheeler from place, D.M. (Dave Miles)”; “Mt. Wheeler. Taken by Dave Miles (Ely) from our plane “Pride of the [Yukon?]””; “Stella or Theresa Lake”; “Remington?, c. 1850-70”; “Cyril Miles, Cosmological Soc.”
Excerpts from the manuscript:
“Attention: Mr. Frank H.H. Roberts jr.; Associate Director.
Received your letter of August 30 today, the books arrived several days ago. I wish to thank you very much for these and your letter. I believe they will be of considerable help to me. <…> The project I am working is a 10.25 mile location of a new highway and the entire length of it and the adjacent areas that I have covered in making my surveys are rich in indications of old Indian habitation. The alignment begins at the summit and at a Mescal pit of about 10’ diameter. At the top it is well proportioned and circular in shape about 4’ in depth at the center, built with a center cone perfectly shaped of sharp rocks 3” to 4” in diameter, making a cone of about 14” in diameter and depth. This is at an elevation of about 5510.’ <…> The first caves are about one mile down the canyon from here, these caves are small, some being little more than a ledge of overhanging rock. The largest part of this has been dug apparently with a pick long ago from all appearances. South-West of here is what is known as the “Old Spanish” or Potosi mine, worked by the Spaniards in the early days and as legend has it by the Indians before them for silver and zink.
At the mouth of the canyon three miles from the summit and the beginning of survey and at an elevation of about 4500’ are the pectographs [sic!] and some indication of possible camp sights and signs that several large boulders were used to live under at least for short periods of time. Also of other interest at this point is a petrified tree of about 20” in diameter and of unknown length projecting from a sandstone formation that outcrops from under a limestone mountain.
About 2 miles below here and in the drainage of the same canyon that we follow from the summit and about ½ mile north of the alignment is a group of small caves. The largest of these may be of considerable interest to excavate, at least for a tyro. It is about 15/ across the front and of similar depth and probably about eight ft in height at the entrance, tapering down to sides and back. Scattered over the floor of this cave are at least six metates and other broken pieces showing considerable occupation, I also picked up two manos of about 3”x4”3” thick, well used, both having been shaped, one by pecking the other by breaking or chipping the edges. Also in this cave I picked up the only piece of pottery I have seen here, a fragment about 1”x2” by about 3/8” thick. <…>
The next 1 ½ miles show other indications of habitation in scattered caves to the north of the alignment. In the lower one of these, about eight miles from our starting point is a fairly large but shallow cave, from a small ledge in this I took a metate and found the only implements other than those mentioned previously. These being a small obsidian point, probably a knife or scraper 2.6” long by 1.3” wide at its greatest width, rounded at one end and brought to a dull point at the other, nearly straight on one edge and curved on the other in a parabolic curve from its round end to its point. The other was a stick about 10” long and 3/8” in diameter and broken at one end, but the other end shows that it was used a lot in water, probably as a stirring stick and to a depth of about 2.” This stick is a hard wood branch, very straight and apparently not of wood native to this immediate vicinity (this is about 3500 elev.). <…>
Starting here and to the south and east of the alignment are for the next mile and a half to be the biggest question in the project. There are numerous circles of rock, the circles ranging from 3’ in diameter to approximately 12’, mostly 6’ to 8’ circles, a few of these are of oval or rectangular shape <…> These circles are only on very smooth rock and some of them are very close together, on the same exposed area, they form no pattern. In three of these sticks, not native to vicinity which is very barren, about ½” to ¾’ in diameter and about 2 ½ ‘ long were laying. In one of these there were along one edge a great number of stones of one size, ragged stones of about 1” & 1 ½” in diameter. <…> This entire drainage is dry now but it indicates that at one time there could have been considerable water here in the way of springs and even running streams. <…>”
See more about the Cosmographic Society:
Chinese city is found in Nevada// Logansport Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, Indiana), 28 May 1925, p. 5.
Buried city in Nevada brings rare treasure// Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California), 3 June 1925, p. 19.
Reservoirs of long gone age found near Ely// The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California), 27 June 1925, p. 11.
Sheerin, C.H. Cavern wonderland in Nevada wastes unveiled. Scenic marvels of Whipple Cave stir scientists// Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California), 28 June 1925, p. 20.
Price: $3,750.00 USD