Why Is Nevada Called the Silver State?

J.E. Holloway

Each American state has one or more nicknames. Some of these are unofficial, such as "Uncle Sam's Pocket Handkerchief" for Delaware, while others are approved by the state's government, including California's "Golden State." The official state nickname of Nevada is "the Silver State." This state nickname refers to the silver mining industry, which was a vital part of Nevada's early history. Other state nicknames include "the Sagebrush State" and "the Battle Born State."

The discovery of silver in Nevada during the U.S. Civil War helped the Union army's cause.
The discovery of silver in Nevada during the U.S. Civil War helped the Union army's cause.

Nevada's silver mining history began prior to statehood. In 1858, gold prospectors working in western Nevada discovered rich deposits of silver ore in the Comstock Lode, near present-day Virginia City. At the time, Nevada was part of the Utah Territory, not a state. As news of the discovery of silver became more widely known, prospectors began to arrive in the area. Silver mining became one of Nevada's largest industries, contributing to the region's economy and to the Union war effort during the Civil War.

Las Vegas is probably the most popular destination in Nevada.
Las Vegas is probably the most popular destination in Nevada.

Nevada became a state in 1864, during the Civil War, partly to bolster the pro-Union cause in the 1864 presidential election. Nevada predominantly supported the Union cause, although support for the north was not unanimous. Since it gained statehood during the war, Nevada is sometimes also known as the "Battle Born State." This motto appears on the state flag and served as an official state nickname well into the 20th century. This was only one of a number of nicknames, including "the Silver State," in use during this period.

After statehood, silver mining continued to play a vital role in Nevada's economy. The Comstock Lode went into decline around 1874, but new mines opened in other areas of the state. Silver mining continued to be an important industry in Nevada into the 21st century.

In the 1980s, "the Silver State" gained new momentum as a state nickname for Nevada. The phrase appeared on state license plates, making it one of the most instantly-recognizable terms for Nevada. This endorsement of "the Silver State" meant that it surpassed other nicknames to become the most prominent name for Nevada.

Although "the Silver State" is now associated strongly with Nevada, another state has also used this nickname. Colorado, which also has a significant history of silver mining, used "the Silver State" as a nickname, although it is no longer used. The official nickname of Colorado is "the Centennial State," commemorating Colorado's entrance into the Union in 1876, 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

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Discussion Comments


It is kind of ironic to me that Nevada is the "Silver State". While I know the real reason is mining, now I can't help but think about Las Vegas and all of the money, silver and gold, and other valuables that pass through the gambling world every single day.

While "Silver State" is an old nickname, "Entertainment Capital" is the new one I've heard for Nevada. If you are doing especially poorly at a casino, though, I can imagine neither nickname seems all that fitting.


What I love about the western states, including Nevada, is that they are so very different from the east coast where I mostly grew up.

I love the tourism and history about Nevada's mining, as well as its desert and "wild west" past. All of these together make it really exciting to me.

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