Black and white portrait of Mark Twain

The Sagebrush School

2009 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Inductee


The term "Sagebrush School" refers to a group of writers in the Virginia City area during the time period 1859-1914. Although they were primarily journalists, they frequently branched out into other creative forms and sometimes gained fame in their later literary careers. The most famous was Mark Twain, who developed his trademark style on the Comstock under the tutelage of accomplished and versatile Nevada writers.

Sagebrush writing reflects and often embellishes the Nevada experience of cosmopolitan mining booms, frontier justice, and harsh and dramatic landscapes. It is a principled literary movement that often reveals the writers' comradery. Sagebrush journalism upheld a code of honor in crusading against corruption and injustice. According to the scholar Dr. Lawrence Berkove, characteristics of the Sagebrush School are "fascination with hoaxes, delight in wit, audacity, and an irreverent attitude towards inflated authority and outworn tradition."

Sagebrush writers Mark Twain, Dan De Quille and Alfred Doten have been previously inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. 2009 celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Comstock Lode and a revival of interest in the Sagebrush School of writers. In recognition of the significant contributions of the authors Samuel Post Davis, Joseph Thompson Goodman, Rollin Mallory Daggett, Charles Carroll Goodwin, James W. Gally, Fred H. Hart, Arthur McEwen, Henry Rust Mighels, Denis E. McCarthy, James Townsend, Thomas Fitch, and the many other writers whose work has yet to be excavated from the archives, the Sagebrush School has been selected to be inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. They were an extraordinary cast of characters who created a distinctive early voice in our national literature -- with lasting (if hitherto unacknowledged) influence.