Vincent Paul Gianella Papers

Identifier: 85-01

Scope and Contents

The Vincent Paul Gianella Papers comprise of materials that document his career as a geologist and Professor at the Mackay School of Mines, as well as his personal life and interests outside of academia.

Series 1 consists of correspondence, primarily professional, describing Great Basin geology and the mining industry, intermixed with personal letters. Series 2 contains his personal and financial documents, including diaries and daily accounts. The third series documents Gianella’s work with the Federal Emergency Administration on behalf of the Nevada Emergency Relief Administration, through reports for federal drought relief. The fourth series consists of notebooks and field notes of various geographic locations made during Gianella’s academic studies. Series 5 includes geological reports written by Gianella as a consultant for various clients, while Series 6 consists of geological reports collected by Gianella written by others. The seventh series are subject files compiled by Gianella from various sources to support his research and teaching. Series 8 is made up of materials related to Gianella’s role as a student as well as his notes and papers from courses Gianella taught. The ninth series contains materials related to Gianella’s historical research on John C. Fremont and locations within the Oregon and Nevada to which he traveled. Finally, the collection contains books and maps annotated by Gianella related to his geological research and photographs taken by Gianella in the course of his work.


  • 1859-1982


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical Note

Vincent Paul Gianella was born on February 9, 1886, in Marysville, California to Vincenzo and Mary Hagan Gianella. He received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1910 and a Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering in 1911 from Oregon State University. From 1911-1920 he worked in the mining industry in Alaska, Arizona, California, and Nevada. During that time he also married Catherine Thiele whom he met in California. They had three children: Faith, born in 1918, Catherine Agusta, born in 1919, and Vincent Paul, born in 1922.

By 1915 Gianella and his family had moved to Reno, Nevada, where he taught metallurgy at the Mackay School of Mines at the University of Nevada, Reno. While there, he also took course work toward a Master’s degree which he received in 1920. Gianella taught at the University until 1925 when he and his family left for the east coast of the United States so that he could undertake graduate studies in geology, first at Yale, and then at Columbia University. His dissertation on the geology of the Silver City and southern Comstock region of Nevada was completed in 1936; he received his Ph. D. in 1937. Meanwhile, he returned to Reno where he was a professor in the Mackay School of Mines and chair of the Department of Geology and Geography from 1935-1952 when he retired as Professor Emeritus of Geology.

Gianella also worked as the geologist for the Nevada Bureau of Mines, geologist and mineralogist for the Mining Analytical Laboratory, curator of the Mackay School of Mines Museum, and consultant in seismology in Nevada for the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. He published some forty papers on seismology, economic geology, and mineralogy. Both before and after his retirement he acted as a geological consultant to individuals and companies. He was active in professional organizations, serving as Vice-Chair and Chair of the Cordilleran Section of the Geological Society of America, on the Executive Committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and many others.

Gianella was also interested in history and became a recognized expert on the early exploration of the west, retracing the exact routes of many early explorers of the Great Basin, including John C. Fremont. He served as a director of the Nevada Historical Society, was a member of the Advisory Board of the Nevada Centennial Commission, and frequently spoke to civic and historical groups about his interests and research. He was also an expert beekeeper known for the quality of the honey his hives produced.

Gianella was recognized throughout Nevada for his unselfish assistance to prospectors and mine operators. He liked nothing better than to tramp the hills in the isolated Black Rock Desert country or a shady canyon in the Sierra foothills. He believed that the Great Basin was a force that had shaped the destiny of the west and enthusiastically passed along his knowledge and appreciation of that region, whether to his students, colleagues, or community. He received the Distinguished Nevadan metal in 1962 in recognition of his scientific contributions.

Dr. Gianella died in Auburn, California on July 9, 1983, at the age of 97.

For more information on his career, consult his oral history, Recollections of Geological Work in the West, the University of Nevada, and Following Western Trails (Oral History Program: University of Nevada, Reno, 1973).


12.542 Linear Feet (17 boxes, 7 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



Vincent Paul Gianella (1886-1983) was a professor in the Mackay School of Mines at the University of Nevada, Reno from 1915-1925 and again from 1935-1952. The collection contains correspondence, field notes, subject files, geologic reports, printed materials, maps, photographs related to Gianella's research in Nevada geology and earthquakes, his work at the Mackay School of Mines, and to routes of John C. Fremont and other early explorers of Nevada.


The Vincent Gianella papers are arranged into the following series: 1) Correspondence; 2) Personal Files; 3) Drought Relief Completion Reports; 4) Field Notebooks; 5) Reports by Gianella; 6) Reports by Other Authors; 7) Subject Files; 8) Gianella's College and Teaching Materials; 9) John C. Fremont and Early Emigrant Routes through Nevada; 10) Books; 11) Maps; 12) Photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Willed to the University of Nevada, Reno by Dr. Gianella. Papers, field notes, geologic reports, correspondence, photographs, and maps donated by Mackay School of Mines on January 28, 1985 and transferred to the Special Collections Department in the same year.

Separated Materials

Several thousand slides, photographs, and negatives transferred to the Special Collections Department photo archives as collection number UNRS-P1993-04.

Guide to the Vincent Paul Gianella Papers
Susan Searcy
March 1991
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)