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Special Collections & Archives

Manuscript Group 2


Papers, 1867-1938

2 cubic feet

The papers of Francis B. Laney were first processed in May 1980 by Judith Nielsen, and were assigned to Manuscript Group 2 (Mg 2). In May 1984 Margaret Walker donated memorabilia and photographs belonging to Laney to the University of Idaho library; these were processed as MG 153 in September 1989. Thirty seven pieces of Laney correspondence were added to the original manuscript collection from the vertical file in 1986. In November 1993 Ms. Nielsen combined these two groups and reprocessed them using the original MG 2 designation.


Francis Baker Laney was born near Springfield, Missouri, on April 9, 1875, the son of John Baker and Jane (Alexander) Laney. Early in life he served as an apprentice cabinet maker, and even after obtaining his degree in geology he continued his interest by collecting rare masterpieces of cabinet work and old rare woods.

Laney received his B.S. degree from Drury College, Springfield, Missouri, in 1902, his M.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1905, and his Ph.D. in geology from Yale University in 1908. In September 1910 he married Minnie D. Towner of Milan, Pennsylvania; they had one son, Francis Towner.

Dr. Laney began his career in geology in 1903 as an assistant geologist in North Carolina. During the 1905/06 school year he was associated with the geography department at the University of California, Berkeley. From 1908-1910 he was the assistant curator of the applied geology division of the National Museum, Washington, D.C. In 1914 he began work with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); at the same time he was a microscopist and mineralogist for the U.S. Bureau of Mines where he worked until 1919. It was while working as a metalographist for the Central Checking Laboratory of the Ordnance Department of the U.S. Army in Pittsburgh from 1917 to 1918 that he made analyses of prematurely exploded shells and developed a more efficient jacket for bullets.

In September 1920, while working on a joint USGS-Idaho Bureau of Mines project in the Seven Devils area of Idaho, he was appointed to the staff of the University of Idaho, Moscow, as head of the Geology Department, a position he held until his death 18 years later. On Sunday, April 24, 1938, Francis Laney suffered a fatal heart attack while working in his garden.


The papers of Francis Baker Laney span the years 1867-1938, with the bulk of the material covering the years 1902-1938. Included are correspondence of both Francis and Minnie Laney; geological material including USGS reports, several written by Laney; his doctoral thesis; and letters of other geologists. Memorabilia, photographic negatives, and a scrapbook of Francis Towner Laney are also included.


The papers in the three accessions of Laney material were combined and rearranged to form fewer and broader series.

The first series contains the original inventories for MG 2 and MG 153.

The second series contains correspondence of both Francis and Minnie Laney, and invoices. The correspondence of Francis Laney spans the years 1902 to 1938, with the bulk of the letters being between 1910 and 1913. Arrangement is alphabetical by last name of correspondent. A majority of the letters are incoming, with an occasional carbon copy of an outgoing letter included. Most are concerned with geological surveys and field work in North Carolina and Virginia, although a couple of letters contain employment offers. Mrs. Laney's correspondence includes material concerning the Daughters of the American Revolution of which she was state regent, letters germane to the operation of schools in Moscow, Idaho, while she was a member of the school board (1926-1933), some miscellaneous correspondence including a letter from J. Edgar Hoover, and letters of condolence received after her husband's death in 1938. The invoices are for the years 1937 to 1938 and are arranged alphabetically by store.

The third series contains material related to geology. The first items are Geological Survey reports 1-21; Laney wrote numbers 12, 19, 20, and 21. Other items include Laney's 1908 doctoral thesis and letters to other geologists which he collected. The letters to Joseph R. DeLamar of Silver City, Idaho, were written by Christian and Louis Wahl of Chicago in 1886 and 1887 and concern mining in the Silver City area. These were discovered in Silver City by Dr. Laney. John Wellington Finch was a consulting geologist, a widely recognized authority on the mining regions of the world, and a former investigator of fraudulent mining promotions for the U.S. Department of Justice. In 1930 he was appointed Dean of the School of Mines at the University of Idaho; in 1934 he resigned that position to become Director of the U.S. Bureau of Mines. W.C. Kerr was, in 1880, the North Carolina State Geologist; in 1882 he was the geologist in charge of the Southern Appalachian Division of the United States Geological Survey. An outstanding mining authority, Francis A. Thomson was Dean of the University of Idaho School of Mines from 1917 to 1928 when he resigned to become president of the Montana School of Mines in Butte. In 1919 he was instrumental in the creation of the Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology. Lester F. Ward was associated with both the USGS and the Smithsonian Institution.

Memorabilia and photographic negatives, originally MG 153, make up the fourth series. Included are a miscellaneous collection of baggage tags, items on the George Washington Bicentennial, liquor bottle labels, National Recovery Act emblems, old prohibition literature, seals and trademarks, and worlds fair memorabilia dating from 1983 to 1928. Also included are over 800 photographic negatives of Europe and World War I.

The final series is a scrapbook kept by Laney's son, Francis Towner Laney. It includes report cards, programs from high school events, sports tickets, newspaper clippings, and material relating to DeMolay. From his years at the University of Idaho he kept several handbooks, programs, grades, sports notes, R.O.T.C. material, restaurant menus and signed napkins, plus graduation programs. After graduating from the university in 1935 he entered Kinman Business University in Spokane and included menus, theater ticket stubs, letters, and post cards among the memorabilia of this period.


I. Inventories, 1980-1989. Box 1

II. Correspondence, 1902-1938. Box 1

A. Francis B. Laney, 1902-1938

B. Minnie Laney, 1926-1938

III. Geological Material, 1867-1930. Box 1

A. USGS Reports, 1911-1912

B. Doctoral Thesis and Other Items, 1904-1918

C. Letters of Other Geologists, 1967-1930

IV. Memorabilia and photographs, 1879-1934. Box 1

A. Memorabilia, 1879-1934

B. Photographic Negatives, 1917-1925

V. Scrapbook, 1927-1938. Box o.s.



Box Folder Description Items

I. Inventories, 1980-1989

Box 1 1. Inventories, 1980-1989. 2 items.

II. Correspondence, 1902-1938

A. Francis B. Laney, 1902-1938

2. 1902-1909. 84 items.

3. 1910-1911. 65 items.

4. 1912. 92 items.

5. 1913-1914. 26 items.

6. 1918-1929. 13 items.

7. 1932-1938. 19 items.

B. Minnie Laney, 1926-1938

8. 1926-1937. 24 items.

9. Condolences, 1938. 6 items.

10. Personal invoices, 1937-1938. 63 items.

III. Geological Material, 1867-1930

A. USGS Reports, 1911-1912

11-13. United States Geological Survey reports, 1-21, 1911-1912. 21 items.

B. Doctoral Thesis and Other Items, 1904-1918

14. Laney, Francis Baker. "The Gold Hill Mining District of North Carolina," thesis, 1908. 1 items.

15. Miscellaneous geological material, 1904-1918. 16 items.

C. Letters of Other Geologists, 1867-1930

16. DeLamar, Joseph R, 1880-1889. 88 items.

17. Finch, John Wellington, 1921-1930. 17 items.

18. Kerr, W.C., 1867-1884. 64 items.

19. Thomson, Francis A., 1917-1921. 11 items.

20. Ward, Lester F., 1889-1898. 26 items.

21. Miscellaneous correspondence, 1885-1918. 11 items.

IV. Memorabilia and photographs, 1879-1934

A. Memorabilia, 1879-1934

22. Advertisements and advertising tags, n.d. 18 items.

23. Baggage tags, n.d. 3 items.

24. Bookplates, n.d. 2 items.

25. China, 1933. 1 items.

26. Early printing, 1879-1912. 25 items.

27. George Washington Bicentennial, 1932. 2 items.

28. Handbills in card form, 1926-1933. 43 items.

29. Hotel and theater literature, 1932-1933. 9 items.

30. Liquor bottle labels, n.d. 20 items.

31. National Recovery Act emblems, 1933-1934. 123 items.

32. Olympic games, 1932. 3 items.

33. Patriotic material before World War, 1898-1901. 3 items.

34. Political campaign material, 1932. 10 items.

35. Old prohibition literature, 1904-1932. 5 items.

36. Profit sharing and guarantee coupons, n.d. 26 items.

37. Ribbons (prize and event), 1916-1931. 14 items.

38. Seals and trademarks, n.d. 248 items.

39. Stamps, n.d. 6 items.

40. World War, 1917-1919. 42 items.

41. Worlds Fairs prior to 1933, 1893-1923. 8 items.

42. IWW and red material, 1900-1928. 8 items.

B. Photographic Negatives, 1917-1925

43. Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, ca.1921-1925. 162 items.

44. Holland, Italy, Black Hills, Cambridge, Washington, D.C., Mt. Washington, .ca.1921-1925 125 items.

45. Unidentified, ca.1921-1925. 158 items.

46. World War, United States and France, 1917-1919. 397 items.

47. Howard passport photo, n.d. 1 items.

V. Scrapbook, 1927-1938

48. Souvenirs of the life, travels, trials, tribulations, & good times of Francis T. Laney, 1927-1938. 1 items.

mg002.htm / November 1994

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