Local Column

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/August 27, 1863

YE BULLETIN CYPHERETH—The Bulletin folks have gone and swallowed an arithmetic; that arithmetic has worked them like a “wake up-Jake,” and they have spewed up a multitude of figures. We cypher up the importance of the Territory sometimes so recklessly that our self-respect lies torpid within us for weeks afterwards—but we see now that our most preposterous calculations have been as mild as boardinghouse milk; we perceive that we haven’t the nerve to do up this sort of thing with the Bulletin.

It estimates the annual yield of the precious metals at $730,000,000! Bully! They say figures don’t lie—but we doubt it. We are distanced—that must be confessed; yet, appalled as we are, we will venture upon the Bulletin’s “boundless waste” of figures, and take the chances. A Gould & Curry bar with $2,000 in it weighs nearly 100 pounds; $100,000 worth of their bullion would weigh between two and two and a half tons; it would take two of Wells Fargo’s stages to carry that $100,000 without discommoding the passengers; it would take 100 stages to carry $5,000,000, 2,000 stages to carry $100,000,000, and 14,600 stages to carry the Bulletin’s annual yield of $730,000,000!

Wells, Fargo & Co. transport all the bullion out of the Territory in their coaches, and to attend to this little job, they would have to send forty stages over the mountains daily throughout the year, Sundays not excepted, and make each of the forty carry considerably more than a ton of bullion!—yet they generally send only two stages, and the greatest number in one day, during the heaviest rush, was six coaches; they didn’t each carry a ton of bullion, though, old smarty from Hongkong.

The Bulletin also estimates the average yield of ore from our mines at $1,000 a ton! Bless your visionary soul, sixty dollars—where they get it “regular like”—is considered good enough in Gold Hill, and it is a matter of some trouble to pick out many tons that will pay $400. From sixty to two hundred is good rock in the Ophir, and when that company, or the Gould & Curry, or the Spanish, or any other of our big companies get into a chamber that pays over $500, they ship it to the Bay, my boy. But they don’t ship thousands of tons at a time, you know.

In Esmeralda and Humboldt, ordinary “rich rock” yields $100 to $200, and when better is found, it is shipped also. Reese River appears to be very rich, but you can’t make an “average” there yet awhile; let her mines be developed first. We place the average yield of the ore of our Territory at $100 a ton—that is high enough; we couldn’t starve, easily, on forty-dollar rock.

Lastly, the Bulletin puts the number of our mills at 150. That is another mistake; the number will not go over a hundred, and we would not be greatly amazed if it even fell one or two under that. While we are on the subject, though, we might as well estimate the “annual yield” of the precious metals, also; we did not intend to do it at first.

Mr. Valentine, Wells Fargo’s handsome and accomplished agent, has handled all the bullion shipped through the Virginia office for many a month. To his memory—which is 1 excellent—we are indebted for the following exhibit of the company’s business in the Virginia office since the first of January, 1862: From January 1st to April 1st, about $270,000 worth of bullion passed through that office; during the next quarter, $570,000; next quarter, $800,000; next quarter, $956,000; next quarter, $1,275,000; and for the quarter ending on the 30th of last June, about $1,600,000. Thus in a year and a half, the Virginia office only shipped $5,330,000 in bullion. During the year 1862 they shipped $2,615,000, so we perceive the average shipments have more than doubled in the last six months. This gives us room to promise for the Virginia office $500,000 a month for the year 1863, and now, perhaps, judging by the steady increase in the business, we too, like the Bulletin, are “underestimating,” somewhat. This gives us $6,000,000 for the year. Gold Hill and Silver City together can beat us—we will give them eight, no, to be liberal, $10,000,000. To Dayton, Empire City, Ophir and Carson City, we will allow an aggregate of $8,000,000, which is not over the mark, perhaps, and may possibly be a little under it. To Esmeralda we give $4,000,000. To Reese River and Humboldt $2,000,000, which is liberal now, but may not be before the year is out.

So we prognosticate that the yield of bullion this year will be about $30,000,000. Placing the number of mills in the Territory at 100, this gives to each the labor of $300,000 in bullion during the twelve months. Allowing them to run 300 days in the year (which none of them more than do) this makes their work average $1,000 a day—one ton of the Bulletin’s rock, or ten of ours. Say the mills average 20 tons of rock a day and this rock worth $50 as a general thing, and you have got the actual work of our 100 mills figured down just about to a spot—$1,000 a day each, and $30,000,000 a year in the aggregate.

Oh no!—we have never been to school—we don’t know how to cypher. Certainly not— we are probably a natural fool, but we don’t know it. Anyhow, we have mashed the Bulletin’s estimate all out of shape and cut the first left-hand figure off its $730,000,000 as neatly as a regular banker’s clerk could have done it.