Francis Baker Laney Papers, 1867-1938

Overview of the Collection

Laney, Francis Baker, 1875-1938
Francis Baker Laney Papers
1867-1938 (inclusive)
2 c.f.
Collection Number
MG 002 (collection)
Correspondence of Dr. and Mrs. Laney, materials collected by Laney, including letters to J.R. DeLamar regarding mining in Silver City, Idaho, and letters to geologists J.W. Finch, W.C. Kerr, F.A. Thomson, and L.F. Ward, memorabilia dating from 1893-1928, and over 800 photographic negatives relating to World War I and European travel. Also included is a scrapbook, 1927-1938, compiled by Laney's son, F.T. Laney, a University of Idaho student.
University of Idaho Library, Special Collections and Archives
Special Collections and Archives
University of Idaho Library
875 Perimeter Drive
MS 2350
Moscow, ID
Telephone: 2088850845
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public. Researchers must use the collection in accordance with the policies of the University of Idaho Special Collections and Archives.

This collection is in English.
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

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

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

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.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Consult Head of Special Collections and Archives on permission for use.

Preferred Citation

Francis Baker Laney Papers, MG 002, Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


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.

Location of Collection

Special Collections and Archives of the University of Idaho Library. Cage area, range 66a.

Acquisition Information


Processing Note

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.

Separated Materials

MG 5031, correspondence and notes about a meteriorite that fell in northern Idaho on December 24, 1930.

PG 64, Francis B. Laney Nez Perce Indian photograph collection, [188-?]-1936.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series I:  Inventories, 1980-1989Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
2 items

Series II:  Correspondence, 1902-1938Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
A: Francis B. Laney
Box Folder
1 2
84 items
1 3
65 items
1 4
92 items
1 5
26 items
1 6
13 items
1 7
19 items
B: Minnie Laney
Box Folder
1 8
24 items
1 9
Condolences, 1938
6 items
1 10
Personal invoices, 1937-1938
63 items

Series III:  Geological Material, 1867-1930Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
A: USGS Reports
Box Folder
1 11-13
United States Geological Survey reports, 1-21, 1911-1912
21 items
B: Doctoral Thesis and Other Items
Box Folder
1 14
Laney, Francis Baker. "The Gold Hill Mining District of North Carolina," thesis, 1908
1 item
1 15
Miscellaneous geological material, 1904-1918
16 items
C: Letters of Other Geologists
Box Folder
1 16
DeLamar, Joseph R, 1880-1889
88 items
1 17
Finch, John Wellington, 1921-1930
17 items
1 18
Kerr, W.C., 1867-1884
64 items
1 19
Thomson, Francis A., 1917-1921
11 items
1 20
Ward, Lester F., 1889-1898
26 items
1 21
Miscellaneous correspondence, 1885-1918
11 items

Series IV:  Memorabilia and Photographs, 1879-1934Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
A: Memorabilia
Box Folder
1 22
Advertisements and advertising tags, n.d.
18 items
1 23
Baggage tags, n.d.
3 items
1 24
Bookplates, n.d.
2 items
1 25
China, 1933
1 item
1 26
Early printing, 1879-1912
25 items
1 27
George Washington Bicentennial, 1932
2 items
1 28
Handbills in card form, 1926-1933
43 items
1 29
Hotel and theater literature, 1932-1933
9 items
1 30
Liquor bottle labels, n.d.
20 items
1 31
National Recovery Act emblems, 1933-1934
123 items
1 32
Olympic games, 1932
3 items
1 33
Patriotic material before World War, 1898-1901
3 items
1 34
Political campaign material, 1932
10 items
1 35
Old prohibition literature, 1904-1932
5 items
1 36
Profit sharing and guarantee coupons, n.d.
26 items
1 37
Ribbons (prize and event), 1916-1931
14 items
1 38
Seals and trademarks, n.d.
248 items
1 39
Stamps, n.d.
6 items
1 40
World War, 1917-1919
42 items
1 41
Worlds Fairs prior to 1933, 1893-1923
8 items
1 42
IWW and red material, 1900-1928
8 items
B: Photographic Negatives
Box Folder
1 43
Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, ca.1921-1925
162 items
1 44
Holland, Italy, Black Hills, Cambridge, Washington, D.C., Mt. Washington, c.1921-1925
125 items
1 45
Unidentified, c.1921-1925
158 items
1 46
World War, United States and France, 1917-1919
397 items
1 47
Howard passport photo, n.d.
1 item

Series V:  Scrapbook, 1927-1938Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 48
Souvenirs of the life, travels, trials, tribulations, & good times of Francis T. Laney, 1927-1938
1 item

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Europe--Description and travel--Photographs
  • Geologists--Idaho
  • Mines and mineral resources--Idaho--Silver City
  • World War, 1914-1918--Photographs

Personal Names

  • DeLamar, Joseph R.
  • Finch, John Wellington, b. 1873
  • Kerr, W. C.
  • Laney, Francis Baker, 1875-1938--Archives
  • Laney, Francis Towner
  • Laney, Minnie D. Towner
  • Thomson, Francis Andrew, b. 1879.
  • Ward, Lester F.

Corporate Names

  • University of Idaho--History


  • Professor of geology, University of Idaho, 1920-1938