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Music-makers of early Nevada

Homemade instruments fashioned from household items by a pioneering Nevada family will be on display through October at the Nevada Historical Society.

“The Ambrose family was one of founding families of Empire, Nevada,” said Sheryln Hayes Zorn of the Nevada Historical Society said. “Nicholas ‘Dutch Nic’ Ambrose helped create the town.”

Empire, also called New Empire City, was a small community east of Carson City that developed after the 1859 discovery of gold and silver in nearby Virginia City. Empire mills along the Carson River processed the ore from Virginia City’s Comstock Lode, according to a post in the Backyard Traveler blog by former Nevada Magazine publisher Rich Moreno. The mines eventually played out, and by the turn of the century, most of the town’s residents had left.

But some stories — and artifacts — remain.

Nicholas Ambrose’s son, Charles, and his family were traveling musicians who performed in Nevada and California. In the early 1920s, Nicholas and Charles donated five of the family’s musical instruments — a zither, a xylophone, a homemade washtub base, an oilcan ‘cello’ instrument and a banjo made from a Seth Thomas clock —to the Nevada Historical Society, Hayes Zorn said.

 Visitors can view the instruments through October at the historical society, 1650 N. Virginia St. on the University of Nevada, Reno, campus. The historical society is open Wednesday through Saturday; for more on exhibits and programs at the historical society, click here.

For more on historic Nevada, visit TravelNevada.com/things-to-do/historic-sites.

(Photos provided by the Nevada Historical Society.)

 

  • Posted by Chris Moran on October 03rd, 2012