Alfred Merritt Smith Papers

Identifier: NC100

Scope and Contents

The Alfred Merritt Smith Papers are divided into twenty-seven series. A majority of the papers are from his professional life, including projects on which he worked while he was a Nevada state engineer, survey books from when he first started work for the state, correspondence as a state engineer and correspondence from the time he spent as an administrative assistant to United States Senator George Malone. Also included in the correspondence are personal letters to friends and family including his brother, Cassius, and his parents, Morris and Rosina.

Of interest in this collection are the many series of information on different water related issues, including dams, rivers, and especially the Colorado River and Hoover/Boulder Dam project. Smith served on the Colorado River Commission and was able to secure a good deal of rights for the state of Nevada. Correspondence files should also be checked for additional information concerning some of this work. The court case Arizona vs. California comprises a large amount of Series 6.

Smith also accumulated a large amount of mineral information and histories of Nevada counties. He put these together for Senator George Malone during his time as his administrative assistant. They are contained within Series 23, 24, and 25.

The survey books of Series 27 have been dated approximately and include locations, when possible. The survey books cover Nevada, California, and Oregon, with some locations unidentified. The survey books are handwritten mostly in pencil and many contain township, range, and section identification.


  • 1908-1961


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

Alfred Merritt Smith was born on August 19, 1876 in Butterfly Valley, California to Morris Smith and Rosina Indermuhle Smith, a school teacher. He was raised in Butterfly Valley on the family ranch for roughly eight years before moving to Susanville, California. Over the next ten years, his mother, father and brothers, Cassius and Carl, lived in many towns in California where his mother taught school and his father began and ended multiple businesses, including a law firm.

In 1894, Smith began schooling at the University of Nevada (Reno) where he entered the Commercial School and later the School of Mines. Each summer, Smith would return to California to work as a ranch hand for local ranchers. While at school, he participated in activities such as football and journalism. He also joined a fraternity, THPO, which was later absorbed into Sigma Alpha Epsilon in the national Greek-letter fraternities of which he was a charter member. In 1900, Smith graduated from the University of Nevada with a Bachelors of Science in Mining Engineering. He also received his Degree of Mining Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1908.

After graduation, Smith took jobs in mining which eventually led him to work in Costa Rica at the Mina Tres Amigos Mine in 1903. This began his time traveling and working for different mining companies. In the mid-1910s, Smith began working for the Nevada Bureau of Mines in 1916 where he spent much time and many years, until 1933, surveying Nevada, parts of California, Oregon, and possibly Arizona.

In 1933, upon the completion of his time with the Nevada Bureau of Mines, Smith began work in the office of the Nevada State Engineer. As part of his job in the State Engineer’s office, Smith worked to promote the availability and use of Nevada's natural resources and minerals, including the utilization of Boulder Dam power. Smith became a State Engineer in 1935 and served in that post until 1952. In 1952, he became an administrative assistant to United States Senator George Malone until his retirement in 1960.

Smith had a special interest in Nevada and served on the Nevada State Planning Board as a board member for 12 years, as well as serving as the Director of the Nevada Division of the National Reclamation Association for 16 years. He was also a life member of the American Institute of Mining Engineers and a member of the Nevada State Board of Registered Professional Engineers. As well as serving professionally in mining and minerals, he also served on the Colorado River Commission. He was hailed by Governor Paul Laxalt as an important part of the state and a person whose service stood out as an example to those who followed him.

Smith married Ivan Sessions on August 16, 1905 in Reno. They had three sons and one daughter, Thor M. Smith, Brigadier General Dale O. Smith, Drew Merritt Smith and Jean Catherine Doby. Mrs. Smith preceded her husband in death in May 1964.

Alfred Merritt Smith died in Los Altos, California on November 3, 1968.


9 Linear Feet (22 boxes)

Language of Materials



Alfred Merritt Smith (1876-1968), received both his Bachelors and Masters in Mining Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno. He served as Nevada State Engineer from 1935-1952, was an administrative assistant to Senator George Malone (1952-1960), served on the Colorado River Commission, Atomic Power Utilization Committee (1952-1959), and served on various committees regarding water in Nevada and California. The majority of the papers are from his professional life and includes materials on State Engineer projects, survey books, personal and professional correspondence.


The papers of Alfred Merritt Smith are arranged into the following series: 1) Personal and Professional Correspondence as State Engineer; 2) Papers as Administrative Assistant to Senator Malone; 3) State Board of Registered Professional Engineers; 4) Atomic Power Utilization Committee; 5) U. S. Public Works Administration; 6) Colorado River Commission; 7) Truckee River Channel Improvements; 8) Boulder Canyon Project-Water and Electrical Power; 9) Carson River Dam; 10) Rubicon River; 11) American River; 12) Humboldt River Project; 13) White Narrows and Moapa Project; 14) Lake Tahoe Development; 15) Washoe Project; 16) Newlands Project; 17) Delmue Dam; 18) Henderson Hearing; 19) Shasta Dam Power; 20) Eureka Reactor Project; 21) National Reclamation Association; 22) Water Rights; 23) Nevada Mining and Minerals; 24) Nevada County Histories; 25) Nevada Industries and Resources; 26) Miscellaneous; 27) Survey Books

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Alfred Merritt Smith in 1965.

Guide to the Alfred Merritt Smith Papers
Jessica Maddox
February 2011
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)