||Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems
Mineralogy Exhibit History
One of the first
mineralogy exhibits at the museum was produced by Professor
Gustave Guttenberg, a curator at the Academy of Art and Science, who loaned
his entire personal mineral collection of 550 pieces to the academy.
After his death in 1896, the museum purchased these pieces and they
became the core of the permanent mineralogical collection.
early as 1897, the museum accessioned its first world-class mineral
specimen–a pseudomorph of hemimorphite after calcite. This
Joplin, Missouri, specimen was a gift of A. L. Means.
During its first
years, the mineral collection expanded principally through gifts.
The museum acquired ores and metals representing the industries of
the Pittsburgh region—the ores and manufactured products of
tin, lead, copper, antimony, and bismuth. Local examples of steel
products, specimens of oil-bearing rock and crude petroleum, and of
coal, coke, and graphite also were included.
added to the growing collection with several gifts, the most important
in 1904 when he purchased the extraordinary mineral collection of William W.
Jefferis of West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Jefferis had started
collecting in 1837 and for sixty years had devoted himself to developing
one of the finest private collections in the country at that time.
A friend and constant correspondent of noted mineralogists such as
George J. Brush, James D. Dana, Isaac Lea, and Benjamin Silliman,
Jefferis furnished specimens for illustrations in many mineralogical
publications and textbooks, in particular, James D. Dana’s famous System of Mineralogy.
large collection contained countless calcite, fluorite, and barite
specimens from classic English localities as well as particularly
fine suites from other European locales, and from New York and
Pennsylvania. After 1900, important collectors and institutions
maneuvered to obtain his collection before it was put on the market.
But Carnegie was not to be denied, and in 1904 he purchased the
collection for the Carnegie Museum for approximately $20,000.
The records show
that another institution offered more at the last moment, but Jefferis,
a banker, honored his previous agreement with Carnegie. Two boxcars
transported the approximately 12,000 specimens by railroad to Pittsburgh.
With the acquisition of the Jefferis Collection, the museum attained
stature as a mineral museum and repository. In 1906, Jefferis died
shortly after he expressed in a letter to George F. Kunz his pleasure
and gratification that the Carnegie Museum of Natural History had
acquired his life’s work.
the first part of the twentieth century, the museum’s mineral
collection grew largely through donations, with some purchases.
Between 1900 and 1905, Douglas Stewart (the presiding caretaker
of the mineral collection from 1901 to 1926) acquired a donation
of 2,600 gem specimens from the president of Lewis Foundry & Machine Company, John L. Lewis, and purchased over 1,000 mineral specimens from
the noted mineralogist and dealer George L. English.
Between 1906 and
1908, the prominent Pittsburgh collector Norman
Spang donated approximately
100 specimens, one being a 75-pound, perfectly terminated quartz crystal
from Switzerland. By 1907 Stewart had installed exhibit and storage
cases allowing 4,500 specimens to be exhibited in a Hall of Mineralogy
and 9,000 to 10,000 specimens to be stored systematically for reference.
In 1919 the pioneer of petrographic microscopy in the United States,
Dr. M. E. Wadsworth, Dean of the School of Mines at the University
of Pittsburgh, gave his collection of rocks to the museum.
sole position at the museum for many years was as the Custodian of
Mineralogy. In 1923 he also became Director of the Carnegie Museum,
a position he held until his death in 1926. For decades after Stewart's
death, responsibility for the mineralogical collection fell to several
professional and amateur mineralogists. For years, in a pattern unfortunately
familiar to many natural history museums, no need was felt for a separate
curator of mineralogy; the mineral collection was administratively
grouped with related areas such as Geology and Paleontology.
In 1927 geology
professors Charles R. Fettle of the Carnegie Institute of Technology
and Henry Leighton of the University of Pittsburgh were appointed
Honorary Curators. In 1937 Invertebrate Paleontologist Dr. I. P. Tolmachoff
was named Acting Curator of Mineralogy and then Curator of Geology
and Mineralogy in 1943. David M. Seaman, an assistant to Tolmachoff,
succeeded him from 1945 to 1949 and Invertebrate Paleontologist E.
R. Eller followed Seaman until 1969. During these four decades, the
collection developed very slowly, with the addition of specimens acquired
through field collecting, trading, and purchase.
the exhibit specimens and the gallery space (Mineral Exhibition Hall)
had been the primary focus during Seaman’s tenure in the 1940s,
his successor dismantled the exhibit hall in the early 1950s and most
of the specimens were placed in storage. A decade later, under the
same curator, the collection's emphasis shifted back to the acquisition
of exhibit-quality specimens as well as gem materials. Some specimens
were placed on public exhibit. In the latter part of the 1960s, geologist
Delbert L. Oswald, working as a Research Associate under Eller’s
guidance, assisted in the development of a small exhibit of minerals.
Also during this time, the museum administration began discussions
about establishing a major mineral exhibit: Hillman Hall of MInerals and Gems.