John Ross Browne

During two brief Nevada sojourns, John Ross Browne, traveler, author, and artist, created an invaluable portrait of the territory's early development. He was born near Dublin, Ireland, in 1821, where his father edited a nationalist paper, inspiring British authorities to imprison him. They exiled the elder Browne and his family to America in 1833.

In 1842, the younger Browne signed onto a whaling ship, traveling much of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The New York firm Harpers and Brothers published his Etchings of a Whaling Cruise in 1846. The book influenced Herman Melville and earned Browne international notoriety as an author and artist. He went to California during the 1849 Gold Rush, and worked at a number of government positions. Further travels to Europe and the Middle East yielded more Harpers publications in 1853.

In 1860, Browne came to the newly-discovered Comstock. He left Virginia City after a few days complaining of stomach pain caused by bad water. Harpers published his unflattering A Peep at Washoe, leaving many Comstockers angry.

After more travels in Europe, Browne returned to the West in 1863, publishing Washoe Revisited, which describes his observations of a maturing Comstock. His two Nevada-related essays and illustrations provide important documentation of early development.

Browne's cutting wit and keen observations exploited a western genre of writing that would later inspire reporters including Dan De Quille, Mark Twain, and Fred Hart. He died in 1875.

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