Leach Started the 1908 Project Which involved Blair

For a few years in the central Nevada Desert community of Blair, bookkeeper Clarence Leach spent many of his days on a project writing, sending and receiving post cards from around the world.  This is his story.

Blair and Silver Peak Nevada were neighboring communities in central Nevada for nearly a decade.

Blair has all but disappeared, while Silver Peak has survived the ups and busts of the mining business.

Not far from Tonopah, Blair is/was located about 18 miles south of U.S. highway 95 on state route 47.  Three miles further south is Silver Peak.

The life span of Blair covered a ten year period starting in 1906.

In 1905 reports began to circulate in Tonopah eastern financiers had purchased significant mining operations in the area.

At this point speculators began to move into nearby Silver Peak.  When it was confirmed in the spring of 1906 that the Pittsburg Silver Peak Gold Mining Company had bought the mines the Silver Peak boom was on.

This boom was short lived.

Expecting a housing and business boom in their town, the people of Silver Peak were “surprised when it dawned on them that the company was building a new town only three miles to the north.”[1]

A Goldfield, Nevada newspaper reported at the time, “the reason for this move on the part of the company is that the owners of property in the old town became too exorbitant in their demands.” [2]

The town was named after John Insley Blair, who at the time had owned mining property in the area for nearly forty years.

Within a few months the population had reached 500 people. By 1908 in doubled in size but then began a slow decline. The population in 1913 was reported to be about 100 people.[3]

As it became more costly to work the low grade ore, the mill was closed in October of 1915 and moved to California.

In 1916 the town was abandoned.

By 1997 the buildings had disappeared and the desert has reclaimed the land.  Only the dim remains of a few streets can be seen from the air.

From 1907 to 1909, William Clarence Leach kept the small post office of Blair, Nevada busy.

Leach arrived in Blair in April of 1907 and quickly began a time filling project of trading post cards with other collectors around the world.

On one postcard, dated June 20th, 1907, sent to his father, he wrote; “Hello Papa.  How are you?  Come out to see me.  Am feeling fine.  This is the way the marsh looks after a rain.  We had quite a wind storm this evening.  Don’t work too hard, and let me hear from you some time.  Love to all.  Clarence.”

The post card was addressed to “Mr. A. J. Leach 432 S. McArthur St., Macomb, and Ill.”

“W. Clarence Leach” or “WCL” as he was known to his collecting friends around the world, was an avid post card collector.

It is likely that Leach was a post card collector before he arrived in Nevada.   He wrote a fellow collector in Columbus, Ohio, on January 17, 1908; “Pardon delay.  Have been unable to get postal cards, so had some made.  Hope this will please you.  Have been here nine months.  Am from good old Illinois.”

Leach had two color post cards produced showing the exterior and interior of the mining operation where he worked.

 

 

Leach wrote on many of the mining company cards he mailed, “I work for this company in the office.”

Leach used  the short-lived printing firm of “Doolittle & Kulling” in Philadelphia to print his post cards.  According to the February 11, 1907 issue of Walden’s Stationer and Printer” Doolittle and Kulling were incorporated in early 1907 to “do a general printing, publishing, bookbinding and novelty manufacturing business.  The incorporators are W. H. Doolittle, Albert H. Kulling and John T. Tuttle.”  Less than three years later the company went though an involuntary bankruptcy.

Based on the price, it is likely Leach had Doolittle & Kulling print one-thousand of each of the views of the Pittsburgh mining company.

In addition to the post cards he published most of the known post cards that Leach sent from Nevada are ones he acquired from well known photographer P. E. Larson.

Larson left Tonopah about the time that Leach arrived.  It is very likely he purchased several boxes of Larson’s post cards.   Using his own photographs, the Newman Post Card Company of Los Angeles had Larson’s post cards printed in German.

On many of the post cards he sent out, Leach initialed the face.

Leach, in trading post cards, said he preferred post cards showing a “Christian church or local views.”

On March 15, 1908, Leach wrote a fellow collector, Max Pierce of Bushnell, Illinois, “My home is in Macomb and would like to hear from our sister city.”

On March 27, 1908, he wrote Max Pierce that he was glad to hear from you.  Do you know Florence Leach of Macomb?  She is my sister. Hope this will please you.  Old Macomb looks good to me, so come again.”  March 27, 1908.

On May 13, 1908, he sent Fadinelli Guilio, in Este, Prov. Di Padoue, Italy, a series of at least five cards Nevada, including one of Tonopah, with Mount Butler in the background.

He simply wrote, “Magdalena Katinka,” on one of the post cards.  The other cards have not yet been uncovered, and are hopefully in another collection.

On March 17, 1908 he wrote Miss Minne Hoelzen in Burlington, Iowa thanking her for the cards.  “The Cascade Bridge is a beauty.  I remember gong over it.  I have quite a collection also.  I belong to a (U or V rcion?)   And get them from everywhere.   Would you like to join?  It was 80 degrees in shade yesterday here.  Real summer.  Best regards to all.  I like views.  Send me one of Christian church or West Side if you can.  Clarence, Blair, Nev.”

On May 26, 1908 Leach wrote to Mr. C.W. Sachs in Columbus, Ohio, “Thanks, We are having very severe winds now.  Do you get many foreign cards through the international postcard exchange?  Would you advice me to join it? Come again.   W. Clarence Leach, Blair, Nevada 5/26/08”

On May 26, 1908 Leach wrote “Miss A. M. Wheeler” in Portland, Oregon, “Cong. Church”  “Your name was handed me by Miss Kjellberg of Chicago, and I would like to exchange some cards with you.  I would like Christian Church and colored local views.  Hoping to hear from you soon.  W. Clarence Leach Blair, Nev. 5/26/08.”  Postmarked Blair on May 27, 1908.  Leach used one of the cards he published showing the exterior of the stamp mill.  On the front he wrote, “One of the most complete mills in the U.S. W.C.L.”

On May 28, 1908 he wrote again to his friend Max Pierce in Illinois.  “Thanks.  How do you like this one.  Tonopah is 37 miles N. E. of Blair.  Great mining camp.  Come again, Bushnell or Macomb views.  W. Clarence Leach 5/22/08, Blair, Nevada.

On June 16, 1908 Leach wrote Pierce in Illinois, thanking him for the cards, but adding “Come again, but hope you can send local views, as I prefer them.  Hope you like this one.  W. Clarence Leach, 6/16/1908, Blair Nev.”

On July 9, 1908 and again on July 20 he wrote Stella Burr of Springfield, Vermont.

Leach wrote Miss Burr, “Mr. Max Pierce of Bushnell, Ill. tells me you would like to exchange post cards with me.  I will be only to glad to exchange.  Hope to hear from you soon.

On one of the post cards he published that shows the interior of the stamp mill, he wrote Miss Burr, “The gold is collected on these plates,”

On the other cards he told her “I have quite a collection, but none from your state,” Vermont.

Leach had a specific way he wanted each card to be sent.  He told Miss Burr, “I believe I prefer one card at a time, but if you prefer more, it will be all right.” “Please put name and address on each card.” “Hope to hear from you soon.”

On September 12, 1908, Leach wrote Miss Burr in Vermont, “I hope you had a fine time on your vacation.  I never received “Electric R.R.” card.  What new club did you join.  I belong to a dandy also, the C.C.C. It is fine.  I enjoy your cards immensely. Come again soon. Are you a graduate of the High school?  We are having fine weather, also a will soon feel fine.  Best wishes.  W. Clarence Leach, Blair, Nevada.

On October 2, 1908, he wrote A.S. Leid, in Adamstown, Pennsylvania.  He answered Leid’s questions about railroad.  Leach wrote, “Yes, there are several railroads though here now.  The T. & G from Mina to Goldfield, the Tonopah-Bullfrog to Beatty, the T. & T. to Ludlow, Sou. Pacific to Mina.  The Silver Peak (17 ½ miles) from Blair to Blair Junction on the T and G.  Come again, Pardon delay, very busy.  W. Clarence Leach, Blair, Nev.”

On October 4, 1908 he wrote Miss Martha Kjellberg in Chicago, Illinois, “your several cards received and I now you must have had a fine trip.  No doubt you are back in the harness by this time.  We are having very windy and chilly weather now.  Kind regards. W. Clarence Leach, 10.4/08 Blair, Nev.”

On October 19, 1908 he wrote Miss Burr in Springfield again, “your river is beautiful.  How I would love to see some autumn trees.  We had a blizzard yesterday.  The mountains all around us are covered with snow, the first of the season.  Come again soon, with best regards, sincerely, W. Clearance Leach, 10.18/08 Blair, Nev.

Again, another card to Miss Burr, in Vermont. November 2, 1908 Post marked Goldfield, Nevada.  He signed his initials on the front “W. C.L.”

On a handwritten note, dated November 1, 1908, Leach wrote “Miss Stella M. Burr” of Springfield, Vermont, “Just a little souvenir of the great mining camp.  Am spending the day in Goldfield, and it is fine. Best Wishes W. Clarence Leach, Blair, Nev.”

On December 5, 1908 he wrote Miss Burr in Springfield again, “ Pardon delay, as I have been swamped, but I enjoyed the “Marble Quarry” immensely.  It is fine.  Come again soon.  It is fine here, only a little chilly.  Best wishes.  W. Clarence Leach, 12/4/08 Blair, Nevada.’

On December 20, 1908 Leach wrote A. S. Leid in Adamstown, Pennsylvania, “Pardon delay as I had an accident to one of my eyes and have been unable to s\use them.  Many thanks for the photo and I will reciprocate at the earliest possible moment.  The cards were also fine. Wishing you the compliments of the season, sincerely W. Clarence Leach, Blair Nev. 12/20/1908”

The card was post marked Blair, Nevada December 21, 1908

In January of 1909, Leach again communicated with Giudio in Italy.   No message, other than a rubber stamp of his name and location, and handwritten his post card exchange club number “CCC 5683.”   He also crossed out the words “POST CARD” and wrote “Printed Matter.”  Leach did the same on a post cards sent on August 21, 1909 to Giudio.

On August 19, 1909, he wrote R. J. Urbanus, in Chicago, Illinois, “hope these views will please you as much as yours did me.  With best regards, sincerely w. Clarence Leach, 8/19/1909/”

On August 21, 1909, another post card was sent to Miss Burr in Springfield.

Leach wrote, “We have no oxen here, not even cows and we use canned milk altogether.  All the vegetables we get and not many, are shipped in.  Horse and buggies are used almost exclusively.  Automobiles are used a great deal for  ? Unreadable.   “With best wishes, W. Clarence Leach, 8/21/08 Blair, Nevada.”

In an undated card, likely 1909, Leach wrote, Miss Burr, “I am almost ashamed to trouble you again after such a long silence.  But, I have simply been swamped with work, and the extreme, hot weather (100 degrees to 110 degrees  last two months) does not help.  I hope you will be able” to send more cards.   “W.C.L.”

1910

According to the United States Census, on April 28, 1910, Leach not married and was still in Blair working as a “stenographer,” in “R.R. Offices.”

On July 3, 1910, Leach sent Harry D. Esdew or Edew or Ecdew, in Reno, “Dear Harry Received your two cards and hoe you had a fine time in Frisco, but no doubt you are home by this time.  How are Billie’s eyes.  I am glad you secured the balls as I need them badly.  Mac Intyres left this morning and you will no doubt see them in Reno as well as the rest of the of Blair.  Everything is quiet here.  With best wishes as ever  W.C.L. 7/3/10. Better send your (unreadable).”   Leach then added, what looks like a message on the back in the upper left hand corner.  It is in code, possibly stenography, as Leach was employed as a stenographer at the mine.

1913

On a passport application, Leach said he was still working in Blair, “where I following the occupation of book keeper.”

Leach said he was five feet 10 and a half inches tall, with a “straight” nose, blue eyes, a “slightly drooping mouth,” a “round chin” “light hair,” and “light complexion.”

He said he had an “oval smooth shaven face” with a “receding forehead,” and that he wore glasses.

Born June 23, 1877, in Macomb, Illinois.

Once leaving Nevada and heading further west, by 1918, Leach was married and lived in Plumas, California.

He worked as a “stenographer,” for the Engels Copper Mining Company in Plumas.

In his world war one draft registration form he said he was “tall,” with blue eyes, and a “stout build.”

The form listed his wife as Jean Amelia Leach.”

By the 1920 census, Leach and his wife had a four year old son and they were still living in Plumas..

He listed his occupation on January 26,1920 as a “bookkeeper” in a “mine office.”

Ten years later, Leach and his family were still living in Plumas.  He listed his occupation as “office cashier,” at the “mine.”

It is not known at this point whether Leach also produced post cards showing off his new place of employment in California.

But, it is known that it is likely Leach’s post card messages are found in many collections, and together they will form an almost daily diary of life in the short-lived Nevada mining community of Blair.

Other notes  Rubber Stamps

Leach also had a series of rubber stamps made.  They included, in script, “W. Clarence Leach,” “Blair, Nevada,” “Please Exchange.”

Leach also had a rubber stamp made was in all upper case block letters with his postcard membership number included, “W. Clarence Leach. C.C.C. 5683.”

Another rubber stamp was a circle within a circle.  In the space between the two circles was ‘POSTCARD UNION OF AMERICA REGISTERD MEMBER” In the center of the inter circle is the phrase ‘WE CIRCLE THE GLOBE”

[1] Shamberger, Hugh A.,  Silver Peak, Early History, Development, Water Supply, page 50

[2] The Goldfield Review, July 5, 1906

[3] Shamberger, Hugh A.,  Silver Peak, Early History, Development, Water Supply, page 54

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