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Nevada Writers Hall of Fame: Alfred Doten

Alfred Doten

Alfred Doten
Nevada Writers Hall of Fame 1995

Alfred R. DotenAlfred Doten (1829-1903) is noted for his daily diary,  considered by historians to be one of the most unique and valuable documents on the social history of the American West. A native of Plymouth, Massachusetts, Doten briefly apprenticed as a carpenter and worked as a fisherman before sailing for the gold fields of California in 1849. Over the next 14 years, he was a gold prospector, farmer, and rancher. He became an occasional correspondent for a Plymouth newspaper, and moved to Nevada's Comstock district in 1863, where he became a newspaper journalist. He was briefly a colleague of Mark Twain writing for the Virginia Daily Union and the Gold Hill Daily News, and was a close friend and drinking companion of Dan De Quille. He was the editor for the Gold Hill Daily News from 1867-1881. After buying it in 1872, he was its publisher until 1881.

Doten was active in the Republican Party in Nevada. He married Mary Stoddard in 1873, and the couple had four children. After losing the Gold Hill Daily News due to financial problems, he relocated to Austin, Nevada, and briefly edited the Reese River Reveille newspaper.

Doten began writing detailed and candid personal diaries in 1849 and continued the practice until the day he died. His journals portray the life and times of the mining frontier. They are straightforward, blunt, and often mundane, but bursting with real life. The journals fill 79 leather-bound volumes containing over a million and a half words. They were acquired by the University of Nevada, Reno in 1961. The University selected Walter Van Tilburg Clark  to edit the journals, and the University Press published them in 1973. Doten was inducted into the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame by the Nevada Press Association in 2017.

The Special Collections Department of the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries owns Doten's personal copies of Mark Twain's The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches (1868 ed.), The Gilded Age: A Tale of To-day (1874 ed.), Roughing It (1872 ed.), Sketches New and Old (1875 ed.), and A Tramp Abroad (1880 ed.).

Bibliography for Alfred Doten


"Alfred Doten [1829-1903," in Literary Nevada: Writings from the Silver State. Edited by Cheryll Glotfelty. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008; pp. 125-129. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center and its Special Collections, the Basque Library, Western Nevada College-Carson City, and Great Basin College-Elko: PS 571 .N3 L57 2008]

Clark, Walter Van Tilburg, ed. The Journals of Alfred Doten, 1849-1903. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1973. [Available: Knowledge Center: F 841 .D6 Vols. 1-3; also at Western NV Community College, Carson City and Fallon campuses, and Great Basin College, Elko]

Como Sentinel (newspaper). Dayton, Nevada Territory.

Doten, Alfred, comp. & ed. Donation of the Cabinet Property of the Society to the State and Its Acceptance by the Legislature of 1887. Carson City, NV: Nevada State Printing Office, 1887. [Available: Knowledge Center, Special Collections: F596 .D68 1887]  (Society of Pacific Coast Pioneers)

Doten, Alfred. The Journals of Alfred Doten, 1849-1903. Clark, Walter Van Tilburg, ed. Online Edition.

"Eternal Repose," in In Memoriam: John Booth. Reese River Reveille. Austin, NV, 1884? [Available: Knowledge Center, Special Collections: F 849 .A9 I5; the newspaper is also available in Research Microfilm: N11 for 1869-1926]

Gold Hill Daily News (newspaper). Gold Hill, Nevada Territory, 1863-1882. [Available: Knowledge Center, Research Microfilm: N7 (1863-1882). Its alternate titles: Evening News, Gold Hill News]

"In Memoriam: John Booth." Reese River Reveille. [1884?] [Available: UNR Libraries: Special Collections: F 849 .A9 I5]

"The Inquisitive Traveler." New York Times (Feb. 28, 1890), p. 2. [Available: Knowledge Center, Research: Microfilm N5 and online via New York Times~Proquest Historical Newspapers] (a reprint of a Territorial Enterprise item)

Territorial Enterprise (newspaper). Virginia City, NV. [Available: Knowledge Center, Research Microforms: Microfilm N506, 1861,1865-1916,1946]

Virginia City Daily Union (newspaper). Virginia City, NV. [Doten was local editor until Oct. 17, 1865]

Song Lyric:

"From the valley to the summit (first line)," (Class song) in Plymouth High School. Class Day. 1892. Plymouth, Massachusetts: 1892.

Biographical Sources & Critical Response:

Anonymous. "Great Gold Rush Days." in Life (April 27, 1959) Vol. 46, pp. 78-90+. [Available: Knowledge Center: AP 2 L547 1959] (includes excerpt from Doten's diary)

Anonymous. " The 'Mock Robbery' of Mark Twain (Letters of Mrs. Alf Doten and Steve Gillis)." Twainian (Jan.-Feb. 1955) Vol. XV, pp. 2-4. [Available: Knowledge Center, Special Collections]

Berkove, Lawrence I. "Doten, Alfred." in American National Biography Online database.

Blackburn, George M. and Ricards, Sherman L. "The Prostitutes and Gamblers of Virginia City, Nevada: 1870." Pacific Historical Review (1979) Vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 239-258. [Available: Knowledge Center: F 851 P18 1979]

Bremer, Lynn and Kay Sanders. "Doten taught in Gold Hill." Reno Gazette-Journal (March 31, 2009), p. D1.

Cafferata, Patty. "Doten's Thanksgiving Day celebrations on the Comstock." Reno Gazette-Journal (November 24, 2013), p. 5D.

Christen, William J. Pauline Cushman: Spy of the Cumberland, an accounting and memorandum of her life. Roseville, Minn.: Edinborough Press, 2006.  [Available: Knowledge Center's Special Collections: E 608 .C98 C48 2006]

Clark, Walter Van Tilburg. "Alf Doten in Como." Nevada Highways and Parks. Carson City, NV: State of Nevada, Dept. of Highways, 1964. pp. 26-29, 34-37. [Available: Knowledge Center, Special Collections: PS 3505 .L376 A443 1964]

Cobb, Ty. "Who Was Alf Doten?" Nevada State Journal (April 20, 1975): p. 9.

Davis, Samuel P., ed. The History of Nevada. Reno: Elms Pub., 1913. [Available: Knowledge Center & DeLaMare Library: F 841 H5 1913]

Doten, Alfred. Papers, 1849-1903. (archival material) [Available: Knowledge Center, Special Collections: NC08]

Drury, Aubrey. Aubrey Drury Notes on Alf Doten and Other Nevada Pioneers. University of California, Berkeley. (archival material) 1959.

Drury, Wells. An Editor of the Comstock Lode. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, [1936]. [Available: Knowledge Center: F 849 V8 D73]

Duval, M. A., ed. Skirts that Swept the Desert Floor: One Hundred Biographical Profiles of Nevada Women in History. Vol. One. Las Vegas, NV: Stephens Press, 2006. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center and its Special Collections: F 840 .S65 2006]

Egan, Ferol. "The Journals of Alfred Doten, 1849-1903 (review)." American West (Nov/Dec 1976) Vol. 13, p. 52. [Available: Knowledge Center: F 591 A1 A4 1976]

Egan, Ferol. "The Journals of Alfred Doten, 1849-1903 (review)." California Historical Quarterly (Spring 1976) Vol. 55, pp. 90-91. [Available: Knowledge Center: F 856 .C24 1976]

Ford, Jean; Glass, Betty J.; and Martha B. Gould, eds. Women in Nevada History: An Annotated Bibliography of Published Sources. [Reno]: Nevada Women's History Project, 2000. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, its Special Collections; Western Nevada College: HQ 1438 .N3 W66 2000]

Glass, Mary Ellen and Al Glass. Touring Nevada: a Historic and Scenic Guide. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1983. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center and its Special Collections: F 839.3 .G53 1983]

Glotfelty, Cheryll. The Comstock's Literary Mother Lode. [videorecording]. Series: Comstock Conversations. Reno, NV: Teaching and Learning Technologies, University of Nevada, Reno, [2009]. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center's Special Collections: PS 561 .C65 2009]

Glotfelty, Cheryll. "State Pieces in the U.S. Regions Puzzle: Nevada and the Problem of Fit" in Regionalism and the Humanities. Edited by Timothy R. Mahoney and Wendy J. Katz. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008; pp. 237-250. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center: E 179.5 .R44 2008]

Haille, C. C. The Family Jules: the Life and Times of Julia C. Bulette. Virginia City, NV: Susy and Livy Publishers, 2011. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center's Special Collections: HQ 145 .N3 H355 2011]

Haraway, Fran (2006). Mary Stoddard Doten. In: M. A. Duval (Ed). Skirts that Swept the Desert Floor: One Hundred Biographical Profiles of Nevada Women in History (pp. 58-59). Vol. 1. Las Vegas, NV: Stephens Press. [Available: Knowledge Center: F 840 .S65 2006]

Hegne, Barbara. Harlots, Hurdies & Spirited Women of Virginia City, Nevada. Sparks NV: Barbara Hegne, 2001. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center's Special Collections: HQ 146 .V55 H44 2001]

Hulse, James. "The Writings of Mary S. Doten: Rediscovered Nevada Nuggets" in From This Land of Sagebrush and Alkalai: The Collected Writings of Mary Stoddard Doten. Vol. 1; pp. viii-x. Bremer, Lynn, ed. Reno: Black Rock Press and Nevada Historical Society, 2014. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center' and its Special Collections: PS 1549 .D538 2014]

Jackson, Joe. "Clark completed huge history before death." Reno Evening Gazette (Nov. 13, 1971), p. 16.

Jackson, W. Turrentine. "The Journals of Alfred Doten, 1849-1903 (review)." Western Historical Quarterly (Jan. 1976) Vol. 7, pp. 73-74. [Available: Knowledge Center: F 591 .A1 W36 1976]

Jacobson, Yvonne. Passing Farms, Enduring Values: California's Santa Clara Valley. Los Altos, CA: W. Kaufmann in cooperation with the California History Center, De Anza College, Cupertino, California, 1984. [Available: Knowledge Center, Special Collections: S 451 .C2 J3 1984]

The Journals of Alfred Doten (advertisement) in Nevada State Journal (Nov. 26, 1975)

Lerude, Warren. "Nevada history lives in Alf Doten diaries." Reno Evening Gazette (April 5, 1975), p. 18.

Lingenfelter, Richard E. The Newspapers of Nevada: A History and Bibliography. San Francisco: John Howell-Books, 1964. [Available: Knowledge Center: Z 6952 N49 L5]

Lonie, Shiela. Crissie Caughlin: Pioneer. Reno, NV: Shiela Lonie, 2004. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center and its Special Collections: F 849 .R4 L645 2004]

The Mark Twain Papers & Project. Berkeley, CA: Bancroft Library, University of CA-Berkeley. (archival material)

Moreno, Richard. A Short History of Reno. 2nd ed. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2015. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center and its Special Collections, and at Western Nevada College-Carson City: F 849 .R4 L35 2015]

"Nevada Correspondence." in Glotfelty, Cheryll, ed. Literary Nevada: Writings from the Silver State. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008. [Available: Knowledge Center, Special Collections]

"Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame adds 4." Reno Gazette-Journal (October 9, 2017), p. A4.

Roberts, Brian. "Alfred Doten: Diversity and the Anglo Forty-niner." in Davis, Clark and Igler, David, eds. The Human Tradition in California. (Series: The Human Tradition in America, no. 14) Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2002. [Available: Knowledge Center: CT 225 .H86 2002]

Rocha, Guy. "Julia Bulette: A Comstock legend grows." Reno Gazette-Journal (April 23, 2006), p. B10. [Available: Knowledge Center, Research Microforms: N9]

Shafton, Anthony. The Nevada They Knew: Robert Caples and Walter Van Tilburg Clark. [Place of publication not identified]: America Through Time, 2017. [Available: Special Collections: ND 237 .C25 S53 2017]

Simmons, Alexy. Red Light Ladies: Settlement Patterns and Material Culture on the Mining Frontier. (Anthropology Northwest, No. 4). Corvallis, OR: Dept. of Anthropology, Oregon State University, 1989. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center's Special Collections: HQ 145 .A17 S54]

Smith, Grant H. The History of the Comstock Lode, 1850-1997. Reno: NV Bureau of Mines and Geology, 1998. [Available: Knowledge Center, its Special Collections and University Archives, and DeLaMare Library: TN 413 .N2 S55 1998; and at Great Basin Clg., Elko]

Sohn, Anton P. and Robert M. Daugherty. 150 Years of Nevada Medicine (and More): Nevada's Men & Women Healers. Reno, NV: Greasewood Press, 2014. [Available: Savitt Medical Library: WZ 70 .AN2 .S685 2014]

Watson, Anita Ernst. Reflection, Recollection, and Change. The Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners. Reno: University of Nevada Oral History Program, 1996. [Available: Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center's Special Collections: RA 399 .A4 N38 1996 and Savitt Medical Library: WZ 70 .AN2 W323 1996]

Please direct questions about this bibliography to Betty Glass

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