Solomon W. Conrad
Solomon White Conrad, a descendant of Thones Kunders (later Anglicized as Conrad) was born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania on July 31, 1779, the son of John Conrad, a blacksmith. Nothing is known of his early life but he was probably apprenticed to a printer or bookseller. Even as a youth he had a strong inclination toward scientific study, including the collecting of minerals. He was also a strict Quaker and became an authorized minister.
Around 1801 Conrad established a printing and bookselling firm in Philadelphia, and a year later married Elizabeth Abbott (1785-1884). In 1805 he formed a partnership with Emmon Kimber at 93 Market Street, but Kimber ruined him financially, and the company was bought out in 1815; thereafter he operated his own shop independently at no. 87 Market Street.
Conrad's house, filled with his natural history collections, was a favorite gathering place for scientific notables of the city and became the first natural history salon in Philadelphia. He was a member of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences (serving also as librarian), the American Philosophical Society and the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture. He founded the Agricultural Almanack in 1816; it lasted until 1829 and had a wide circulation distributing information on husbandry. Unfortunately his business suffered because he really preferred to be out in the field collecting specimens of plants, shells and minerals. He developed a wide reputation as a mineralogist and botanist and, judging by his commercial mineral labels, which read "Sold by S. W. Conrad," he was also a dealer in mineral specimens--the earliest known dealer in America. His profession as a printer no doubt helped in the preparation of his labels.
In 1814 Conrad published an article on "Zircon from Trenton, New Jersey" in his friend Archibald Bruce's new American Mineralogical Journal, and in 1815 he published a broadside entitled "Table of the Constituent Parts of Earthy Minerals," listing 150 minerals and rocks. In the Philadelphia Academy's journal he published a "Notice of a mineral which approaches to the bildstein of Werner; with a few remarks on the connexion of bildstein with feldspar." In 1816 he was acknowledged by Parker Cleaveland for his assistance in Cleveland's Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology, the first such book published in America. In 1823 he was giving lectures in mineralogy at the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1829 he was appointed Professor of Botany there.
Solomon Conrad died October 2, 1831. His herbarium and probably also his mineral collection ended up with the Academy of Natural Sciences. His son, Timothy Abbot Conrad (1803-1877), became a prominent naturalist, paleontologist and illustrator.
FLETCHER, S.W. (1959) The Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, 1785-1955.
GREENE, J.C., and BURKE, J.G. (1978) The science of minerals in the age of Jefferson. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 68 (4), 1-114.
SCHOOLCRAFT, H. R. (1851) Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers.
SMITH, J. (1867) A Descriptive Catalog of Friends' Books. London.
YOUMANS, W.J. (1896) Pioneers of Science in America. Appleton, New York.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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