Collectors: Norman SpangSPANG WULFENITE

Norman Spang (1843–1922) was one of the few 19th-century businessmen from western Pennsylvania who became prominent mineral collectors. Financial gain was not the main motivation for Spang’s interest in mineralogy; rather, he possessed a genuine curiosity about the aesthetic and scientific properties of his collection. He was unusual among his breed due to the fact that he actually sought out specimens in the field if he could not purchase them. His collection was admired by scientists and collectors of all backgrounds.

Spang was born in Etna, Pennsylvania, in 1843. After completing an education in engineering, he joined the family iron smelting and manufacturing business. He inherited a large portion of his collection from his father, Charles Spang, and continued to build upon that base for most of his life. At one point he had more than 8,000 specimens in his possession, and his collection was among the most valuable in the nation.

Norman Spang was an associate of Andrew Carnegie, and in 1906 he donated more than 100 specimens to Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Additional donations included a hematite geode and a large quartz crystal from Switzerland. The sulfate mineral spangolite was named in recognition of Norman Spang, who supplied the first known specimen for study. It was found near Tombstone, Arizona, and is often associated with copper-containing minerals such as azurite, malachite, and cuprite.


Natrolite crystals from the Bergen Hill railroad tunnel, New Jersey
Photo: Debra Wilson 

At top right:
Wulfenite crystals from the Albion mine in Eureka, Nevada
Photo: Debra Wilson